Mgahinga gorilla national park is located in the south western part of Uganda in Kisoro district and it is the smallest National park of the 3 national parks in the Virunga conservation area the other two parks are Virunga National park in DRC and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and all form 434-sq.km of this conservation area. The park was established in 1991 and it is governed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority with a size of 33.7-sq. km and it lies between altitudes 2,227m and 4,127m. It covers 3 of the Virunga volcanoes which are Mt. Muhavura (4,127), Mt. Gahinga (3,474), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645).
The name Mgahinga was derived from the Kinyarwanda word “Gahinga” that means “Pile of volcanic lava stone heaps where cultivation is carried out”. To add on “Sabinyo” means “the old man’s teeth” and “Muhavura” means “Guide”. Mgahinga National park was established majorly to protect the mountain gorillas and in this same park also endangered Golden monkeys have made it their habitat.
It is really a stunning place with the three volcanoes as earlier mentioned where by hiking to the top of them gives an unforgettable experience. The Gahinga has a beautiful swamp at the top, Muhavura has a crater lake and the Sabinyo gives you the best and amazing experience ever whereby climbing to its summit you set a foot in 3 countries; Uganda DRC and Rwanda. Also along the slopes there are great scenic views of vegetation.
Mgahinga National Park is has about 39 mammals of these including the Mountain gorillas, buffaloes and elephants, also endangered golden monkeys. Others include; giant forest hogs, bushbucks, leopards, spotted hyenas, black fronted duikers among others. It also has around 79 bird species.
While in the park there is only one group that is tracked which is the Nyakagezi gorilla group, years before this group of Gorillas could move from country to country until it has to make Mgahinga its home, now also permits for tracking gorillas in this park are now available in Uganda and you are advised to book in advance.
This is the most breathtaking activity done in the park, and it is only Nyakagezi gorilla group that is tracked in this park. Gorilla tracking starts the morning where by the trackers start from Ntebeko to track these giants. There are guides and park rangers that are well informed about the gorillas and the park at large so the trackers are advised to be free with them and ask questions. Doing this activity needs when you are physically okay since its quite challenging such as moving in the forest, valleys and the steep slopes.
The length of tracking could be 2 hours, 4 hours or a day since it is dependent on the location of the mountain gorillas since in most cases they move to search of food. Make sure you have enough equipment such as light clothes, water proof cameras, packed lunch, enough drinking water, surgical masks for wearing while in the presence of Gorillas and any other thing just in case guides advise to have them.
This is an incredible activity, as you move through the forests you will hear the sound of birds in the tree, monkeys, and other animals, something memorable!
The park is 510km away from Kampala the capital of Uganda and you can get there by Road or Air.
On road, it is approximately a 9-10hours drive from Kampala to Mgahinga, that is around 8 hours to Kabale town covering 434km and there are more 76km to Kisoro town, this route is tarmacked and a bit mountainous and steep.
There is also 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 park it’s around 14km to Ntebeko the park main entrance.
The park can be accessed by air whereby you can make earlier bookings on flights that move from Entebbe International airport to Kisoro air field, using flights saves more time and it is less tiresome.
Clouds Mountain Gorilla lodge: This lodge is found in Kisoro and in the Sothern part of Bwindi Impenetrable, it lies on the Nteko Ridge, this lodge provides luxurious services.
Nkuringo safari lodge: This is located on the shores of Lake Mutanda and it is near Mgahinga National park, while at this lodge there are impressive views of the volcanoes.
Traveler’s Nest Hotel: This is found just outside Kisoro in south western Uganda, it is among the oldest hotels in Uganda, it is a quiet place also offering spectacular views of the Virunga volcanoes; it has a fire place and nice comfortable rooms.
Mt. Mgahinga Rest Camp: It is located near Mgahinga national park, it is comprised of 9 grass thatched Bandas and 3 tents with private facilities most of the cottages face lake Mutanda and are en suited and have private balconies.
Mount Mgahinga lodge: This lodge is located on the edges of the virunga volcanoes, and it provides a great ambiance together with great spectacular views.