Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest of all Uganda’s national park. This less known national park is situated in the south western part of Uganda in Kisoro district. It was created to protect the Virunga gorillas that are resident in the park and it’s the smallest national park of the 3 national parks in the Virunga conservation area. The other two parks are Virunga National park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Volcanoes National park in Rwanda. The Virunga Region form 434 sq. km of this conservation area and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is just 33.7 sqkm. The national park was established in 1991 and it’s governed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority with a size of 33.7 sq. km and it lies between the altitude of 2227m and 4,127m. The park covers 3 of the Virunga volcanoes which are Mt.Muhavura, Mt Gahinga and Mt. Sabinyo.
The name Mgahinga was derived from the Kinyarwanda word Gahinga that means pile of volcanic lava stone heaps where cultivation is carried out. The sabinyo word means “the old man’s teeth” and Muhavura means “Guide”. The park was established majorly to protect the mountain gorillas and it also harbors Golden monkeys.
The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is really a stunning place with three volcanoes where hiking is carried out which gives unforgettable experience. These volcanoes are Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes. All these volcanoes can be hiked from the Mgahinga National Park headquarters. The Gahinga has got a very beautiful swamp at the top, a crater lake on Muhavura and the sabinyo gives you the best and amazing adventure ever whereby climbing to its summit you set a foot in 3 countries; Rwanda, Uganda and DRC. And along the slopes, there are great scenic views of vegetation.
Wildlife in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga national park has got 39 mammals and some of these include;
- the rare mountain gorillas – Mgahinga is proud to be one of the only 4 national parks in the world that host the mountain gorillas.
- the endangered golden monkeys, rare primates that are endemic to the Virunga Region
- Other big mammals in the park include buffaloes, and the elephants, bush bucks, giant forest hogs, spotted hyenas, black fronted duikers
- Over 79 bird species have been recorded to be existing in the park.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks is a prime location for gorilla trekking. This extension of the Virunga Forests of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are most famous for being home to the endangred mountain gorillas that roam through the region. Currently, there is only one habituated gorilla group called Nyakagezi gorilla group. The group is known to be mobile – it always roam from one country to another. This is the reason as to why most guidebooks establish gorilla tracking in the park to be unreliable. Since 2012 the Nyakagezi Gorilla Family has settled in the park and has called it home thus making gorilla tracking to be the number 1 adventure that travelers look for from the park. There are 8 permits available for gorilla tracking and it is advisable to book your gorilla safari well in advance.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 510km away from Kampala which is the capital city of Uganda. You can get to the park by both Road or Air.
Using the road network, a drive to the park is approximately a 9 -10 hours’ drive from Kampala to Mgahinga National Park. The park is located around 8 hours to Kabale covering 434km and there are about 76km to Kisoro town. The route is well tarmacked and a bit mountainous and so steep. You can have an alternative of using a route from Kabale town passing near the beautiful lake Bunyonyi and joining again Kabale – Kisoro tarmac.
From Kisoro to the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park it’s around 14km to Ntebeko the park’s main entrance. The same national park can also be accessed by air whereby you can make earlier bookings on flights that move from Entebbe international Airport to Kisoro air field, Using of flights saves more time and it’s less tiresome.