Mgahinga gorilla national park is located in south western part of Uganda in Kisoro district. The park was established in 1991 and it is under the Uganda Wildlife Authority and lies between altitudes 2,227m and 4,127m. The park is the smallest park in the Virunga conservation area and the other two parks are Virunga National park in DRC and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The name Mgahinga was derived from a Kinyarwanda word “ Gahinga” that means “Pile of Volcanic lava stone heaps where cultivation is carried out”.
The most attractive features in this park are the extinct volcanoes, part of the Spectacular Virunga Range that lie along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda.
The park is a home to the habituated Nyakagezi gorilla group. This gorilla family is mostly nomadic as they at times cross the borders of Rwanda and DRC.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is also known as a home to the largest number of the endangered golden monkeys. The park offers a rare chance to trek these golden monkeys, high in the dense bamboo forests on the Gahinga trail. Currently there is an estimated number of 3000-4000 golden monkeys in the Virunga mountains of which 50-60 are in Mgahinga.
Also, Mgahinga is a home to 76 species of mammals which include the giant forest hogs, bush pigs, forest buffaloes, elephants, golden cats, bushbucks, black fronted duikers, side striped jackals and the south African porcupines. But these animals are difficult to spot in this wild forest vegetation.
Gorilla trekking is the most desired activity in this park as it is in Bwindi Impenetrable national park. a gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs USD600.00 and the visitors are allowed to spend one hour with the shy apes. It is of no doubt that this park is one of the leading parks attracting mountain gorillas in the whole world. The gorillas seem to move in the whole park in search of food. Gorillas have settledin this park because it is a tropical rainforests with plenty of leaves and trees and yet these primates are vegetarians. Therefore there is plenty of food and this explains why some gorilla groups migrate from Rwanda and DRC to Mgahinga national park.
The park can easily be accessed during the dry season when the forest is not too thick and the trails are less muddy as in the wet season. The best months are; mid- December to end of February and June to October. But also tourism in this park is possible throughout the year as long as you carry the proper gadgets and clothes.
NOTE: Booking a gorilla trekking permit should be done earlier like 3 months before the actual trekking date so as to avoid disappointments on last day bookings
Mgahinga national park is a small park but with various bird species of about 185 of the recorded recently. Some of these birds include the Black Kite, Rwenzori Turaco, Blue-headed Coucal, Paradise Fly-catcher, the Ibis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Stone Chat, Grey-Capped Warbler, Wax Bills, and the Yellow- Vented Bulbul.
There is also Mountain/ Volcanoe climbing in Mgahinga. It takes around six hours to ascend and descend Mt. Gahinga ( 3474m). Mountain Muhavura is the Highest peak at 4127m and the trip here takes around 8 hours. There is also Mt. Sabinyo at 3669m and takes about 8 hours to cover the 14km trip round following a steep ridge up to the peak.
Cultural Encounters in Mgahinga. For so many years, Mgahinga was a home to the Batwa-hunter-gatherers and they were fierce worriers who depended on the forest for shelter, medicine and food. These people are usually visited by tourists and they get to know their way of living.
Mgahinga National park can easily be accessed by road from Kampala via Kabale to Kisoro and it takes about 8 hours but the journey is so enjoyable as you will pass the different communities and witness the different Uganda’s vegetation type.
Another option is boarding a plane from Entebbe to Kisoro Airstrip which is near the park. it takes about one hour to the reach the park on air. The flights are daily and must be booked in advance with the local operator.