If you are planning for your gorilla safari to Uganda, make sure that you visit Mgahinga Gorilla National Park; a famously smallest park. It covers only 33.7 square kilometers and lies in extreme south-western part of the country. Despite its size, the park is rich in terms of biodiversity and it is becoming one of the loveliest national parks visited by travelers exploring Western Uganda. The park protects the three of the eight great Virunga Mountains and it is the annex of Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A part from its rare mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, the park is also acknowledged for its 76 mammal species much as it isn’t easy to find them in the dense forest. These comprise of giant forest hogs, bush pigs, elephants, bush bucks, forest buffaloes, golden cats, side stripped jackals, black fronted duikers and African porcupines. For visitors in Rwanda, there is no need to worry on how to reach the park; you can choose to drive or fly from Rwanda to Kisoro airfield. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is also interlinked with Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Lake Bunyonyi and Lake Mutanda that reward travelers with extra ordinary experiences of a life time. Visiting the park proves the reality about Authentic African experiences for hikers, climbers, birders and primate lovers.
Things to See in Mgahinga
Below are some of the attractions that can be seen in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park;
The Virunga Volcanoes
There are three volcanoes that are located within the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. These three scenic volcanoes offer visitors with the great opportunity to go hiking in the park. These are;
Mt. Sabinyo; (3669m)
As locally known literally meaning ‘Old man’s teeth’ has an eroded Mt. Sabyinyo’s crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to expert climbers. Climbing up this mountain takes 0ne up a ridge along the eastern side of the climb to the first peak. If you want to continue, the climb to the peak 2 involves walking along a ridge with breath-taking drops into Rwanda and Uganda`s gorges, a life time memorable dual hiking safari experience one can only achieve here in the world!.
Finally, the hike up to the steep peak 3 steep that has several ladders and mush scrambling, here you are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to this peak. Once on top, you will be in three countries; Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda at the same time!!, yet an exclusive experience to only this destination. This hike takes about eight hours to cover the 14km stretch round trip.
Mt. Gahinga; (3474m)
This Mt`s name (Gahinga) literally means a pile of small stones according to the native people. On your way to Mgahinga National park, these small piles of stones are visible in the garden fields.
Mount Gahinga is reasonably bigger than the average ‘Gahinga’ but her proximity to Mount Muhavura makes her look small. This trek that takes you about six hours round trip goes through a good sample of a pure Bamboo forest. Mt.Gahinga had a Crater Lake on top some time past, but this has changed into a Lush swamp. This 8km Distance swamp is one of Gahinga`s attractions.
Mt. Muhavura; (4127m) (as called by natives literally meaning ‘The Guide’)
This mountain is seen from all over Kisoro and it acts as a guide. This typical cone-shaped Mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Much of the climb traverses a rocky surface covered by short grasses and small shrubs. Once hikers reach the top, they get rewarded with the view of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the Rwenzori Mountain peaks. This 12km hike takes approximately 8 hours all rounds. Hikers are advised to camp at the Muhavura base camp the night before, the site has no facilities so one needs a tent, personal water, food and sleeping equipment.
Things to Do in Mgahinga
This cave is 342m in length and 14m deep, long ago, in this cave lived the crafty Batwa people who were warriors as they pursued their neighbors but now inhabited only by bats, From the park head-quarters to the cave entrance, is 3 km long and it takes about 4 hours. Your guide will narrate to you how the Batwa lived and made their attacks out of the cave.
This point is about 800 meters from the Park gate. Once one gets to the top, you will be rewarded with a good view of the Park and the surrounding environment. The activity is free and doesn`t require a guide. Information about this spot can be gotten from the displaying panels at the hill point.
Border Trail; – Visa Not Required
This 5 hours hike covers 10km a distance. It takes you first toward Sabinyo and climbs up the base of Sabinyo for a while through fine montane forest before turning toward the Congo. Along the trail you will get a great view of Mt. Sabinyo’s gorge and peaks. When you get to the Congo you get back along the international border. The route back to the Park Head Quarters is a great section for birding with a wide range of bird species. There are 2 rest huts along the way that are good places for taking a break. Common on the same route are the golden monkeys and elephants.
BIRDING IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK UGANDA
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a prime birding safari spot in Uganda blessed with 79 unique bird species that have been recorded within the park; these include several species endemic to the East Congo Montane region. Over 295 species have been recorded in the Virunga Conservation Area as a whole and are endemic to the Albertine Rift Afro-montane region representing 59% of the region`s total of known endemic species.
Please contact the Park Management for a guide who will take around and tell you all about these birds. Ensure you carry binoculars for the best view!!!
Free Birding IN MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK;
Now available on request is free birding along the edge of the park . The guides are always happy to take you out from 5-6 p.m (in the evening) if you book by 10:00 a.m. the morning of the day you wish to go for this activity. You have a choice to go for a long walk or simply relax in the campground. If one takes the long buffalo wall toward the Congo you get to a wetland area where you have a splendid view of a wide range of birds such as Fire Finch, Stonechat, Grey Capped Warbler, Ibis, Whydah, Speckled Mouse bird, Waxbills, and Yellow-Vented Bulbul. Do it at your own pace-relaxed and your guide can show you the best spots are.