Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda – Gorilla Safari in Mgahinga Uganda Tour
Established in 1991, Mgahinga National Park stretches to 33.7km2 qualifying it as Uganda’s smallest National Park. Mgahinga National Park is the second home for the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda after Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Mgahinga National Park adjoins the other eight volcanoes in the region to form the greater Virunga massif that forms a natural boundary between the three states of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Besides, mountain gorillas, Mgahinga National Park is also a home to the world’s rare and endangered golden monkeys which only exist in the Virunga volcanoes. The park is situated 14km south of Kisoro town and 519km about 11hours drive south west of Kampala the country’s capital. The entire Mgahinga National Park is located in the county of Bufumbira in Kisoro District at the extreme tip of south western Uganda. The three volcanic peaks exist in Mgahinga National Park that is Mount Muhavura, Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga. First established in 1930 as a gorilla game sanctuary with the eviction of 2,000 people, Mgahinga is now a fully established National park with 76 species of mammals including the rare golden monkey, black and white colobus, leopard, mountain gorilla, giant forest hog, elephant, buffalo, bush pig, black-fronted duiker, bushbuck alongside species of rodents, bats and small predators. Besides wildlife, Mgahinga has 115 species of birds of which 12 are endemic to the Albertine rift.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda – Gorilla Safari in Mgahinga Uganda Tour Attractions
880 Mountain gorillas exist in the wild and 480 of these exist in the Virunga Volcanoes of which Mgahinga National Park is among. The park is a home of Nyakagyezi gorilla family which has been fully habituated for trekking by Uganda gorilla safari undertakers. The dense vegetation that covers the slopes of the Volcanoes provides a fertile ground for survival of Mountain gorillas.
Nyakagezi Gorilla Family: Nyakagyezi gorilla family contains 10 members with 1 silverback. It is the only gorilla group in Mgahinga National Park. Nyakagyezi gorilla family is led by silverback Mark and is an adventurous gorilla that tends to cross to Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the group has tried to settle on the Ugandan side since November 2012. Nyakagyezi gorilla family was lucky after receiving anew born gorilla in May 2013 which increased the group to ten (10) members. Due lack of confidence about the availability of this gorilla family, the gorilla trekking permits are booked at the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Mgahinga.
Two main ethnic groups inhabit Kisoro district and these include; the Bafumbira and the Batwa. The Bafumbira are traditionally farmers relying on crop cultivation while the Batwa were forest people that lived a hunter gatherer life amidst the forests of Mgahinga. The Mgahinga National park contain rich heritage of the indigenous Batwa including the famous Garama cave. These local people’s heritage expressed in terms of values and practices, music dance and drama, life style among others is an attraction in its self.
Three Volcanic peaks of Mount Muhabura (4127m), Mgahinga (3474m) and Sabyinyo (3669m) are in Mgahinga National Park. Muhabura is a local word that literally translates to a guide and its sky rising peak was used for directions in the pre-colonial Africa. The Muhabura’s crater still glowed in the 19th century to provide natural light house for migrating communities. Due to denudation forces, Sabyinyo Mountain was weathered away leading to formation of stubby peaks that have earned it a name of Old Man’s teeth. Mount Gahinga the shorter of all these derives its name from the local practice of tidying volcanic rocks into small pile of stones or gahingas.
Mgahinga National Park supports 115 species of birds of which 12 are endemic to the Albertine rift. Among these birds include; Dusky Turtle Dove, Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, White-starred Robin, Equatorial Akalat, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Red-throated Alethe, Kivu Ground Thrush, Grauer’s Warbler, Banded Prinia, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Collared Apalis, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Rwenzori Batis, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Strip-breasted Tit, Blue-headed Sunbird, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Regal Sunbird, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Montane Oriole, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Strange Weaver, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Dusky Crimsonwing, among other bird species.
The dense tracts of Mgahinga National Park support a range of wildlife ranging from the critically endangered mountain gorillas to golden monkeys, buffaloes, elephants, giant forest hogs, bush pigs, bushbuck among other wildlife.
Mgahinga National Park has varied eco-system and the vegetation cover changes with change in altitude. The lower zones of the Mgahinga volcanoes are characterized by grass land and characterized by forest regeneration after human encroachment. The rising landscapes offers the lush montane woodland followed by the Bamboo zone where golden monkeys tend to dwell, montane forest and eventually the Ericaceous zone marked by giant tree heathers. The vegetation alignment is topped by the Alpine zone which characterize the 3000 and above East African highlands.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda – Gorilla Safari in Mgahinga Uganda Tour Tourist activities
Gorilla trekking is one of the prime Uganda safari activities not only in Mgahinga but also at national grid. The gorilla trekking activity starts at the park headquarters Mgahinga and eight (8) gorilla trekkers per day who are supposed to have one (1) hour direct encounter with gorillas. Tracking gorillas start at 8am with short briefing at the respective Uganda Wildlife Headquarters before gorilla trekkers set off to the impenetrable forest covered by mist for a 2 – 8 hours activity depending on the gorilla movements. To track gorillas in Bwindi, one needs a gorilla trekking permit issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority at a cost of $600 in the peak season or $350 in the low season for foreign nonresidents, $500 in the peak season or $250 in the low season for Foreign residents, 250,000/= in the peak season or 100,000/= for East African citizens in the low season. The UWA park ranger guides you through the whole exercise. The Nyakagyezi gorilla family tends to cross to Democratic Republic of Congo which means it can be tracked when available. The permits can be acquired from the park headquarters in Mgahinga.
With 115 species of birds of which 12 are endemic to the park, Mgahinga has a lot of birding opportunities. Birding is done in the gorge between Gahinga and Sabyinyo mountains for 3-4 hours and birds like; Olive Thrush, Dusky turtle dove, Bronze sunbird, Cape Robin-chat, Regal sunbird, Kivu ground Thrush and an opportunity to spot Rwenzori Turaco along the Bambo belt. Bird walk along the north edge of the park along the dry stone wall between 17:00 and 18:00 exposes you to a range of birds though it requires booking the guide in advance. Towards the Democratic Republic of Congo boarder through a wetland, birders are exposed to speckled mouse bird, fire finch and Ibis.
Before the establishment of Mgahinga National Park, various people inhabited the forest as their traditional homeland. Among these were the Batwa forest people who lived a hunter gatherer life in the forests of Mgahinga. After their eviction, the Batwa settled along the forest margins but with an opportunity to access their traditional heritage sites within the protected area. In return, the famous Batwa walk was launched and travellers on Uganda safari can encounter the heritage of these forest people. To explore on this 6 – 7 hour activity are the Batwa’s techniques of survival including wild fruit and root gathering, wild honey harvesting, medicinal plants, crafting of bamboo cups and their ancient Garama cave where their traditional performances are done including songs of remembrance that will give you a glimpse of this fading culture.
Three Volcanic peaks of Gahinga (3,474m), Muhavura (4,127m) and Sabyinyo (3,669m) are in Mgahinga National Park. Summiting mount Sabyinyo takes eight (8) hours for 14km round trip while Gahinga takes six (6) hours round trip and Muhavura takes eight (8) hours for 12km round trip. The volcanic peaks of Mgahinga offers impressive views of the entire Virunga Volcanoes, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Lake Edward.
The walks through Mgahinga National Park expose you to great scenery and biodiversity. The Sabyinyo gorge walk offers good sight-seeing opportunities and birding encounters with species like Rwenzori Turaco. The walk takes four (4) hours traversing Rugezi swamp another birders’ haven. The walk along the Congo border exposes you to various vegetation zones with sights of Gisozi hill caldera, Kisoro and Bunagana towns and the overlooking views of Lake Mutanda. The walks through the Bamboo zone offer opportunities of spotting golden monkeys.
Accommodations in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Safari Lodges in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park – Safari Hotels in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Ntebeko Area; Amajambere Iwacu Camp; This is a budget accommodation establishment positioned at the entrance of Mgahinga National Park 14km south of Kisoro town. Accommodation is offered in five (5) bandas, dormitories and a campsite. The Camp features dining facilities, well stocked canteen that serves eats and drinks and a restaurant.
Volcanoes Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge: Volcanoes Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge is an upmarket accommodation establishment positioned at the boundary of Mgahinga National park. The lodge features an open fireplace, three course meals, massage room, and scenic views of Virunga volcanoes. Its accommodation is offered in eight (8) bandas that feature seating area, en suite washrooms along with bush showers equipped with hot water on request and composting toilets. The rooms feature solar powered electricity while the lodge features bar, restaurant and laundry.
Kisoro Tourist Hotel: Kisoro Tourist Hotel is situated in Kisoro town 14km from Mgahinga National Park. The hotel offers self-contained rooms, lounge and fire place. It also has a health club while the rooms feature Satellite TV, fireplace, Hot water, Fans and Private Bathroom. Lodge Amenities: Tour/Travel desk, On-site restaurant, Conference Facilities, Gift shop, Internet Access, On-site Bar, Library/Reading Area, Laundry/Dry Cleaning, Fitness Room/Gym
Kisoro Travelers’ Rest Hotel: Kisoro Travelers’ Rest Hotel is situated in Kisoro town 14km from Mgahinga National Park. The hotel used to be like a second home of Dian Fossey – the leading gorilla conservationist that the world is proud to have had. Accommodation is offered in its single, twin, double, triple and a suite all with en suite bathrooms with hot water. Lodge Amenities; Lounge area with fireplace, bar and large meeting table, Travel desk, Restaurant, Bikes to rent, Internet access, Massages, Huge selection of Congolese masks, Gift Shop, Laundry service, Enclosed garden
Countryside Guesthouse Kisoro: Countryside Guesthouse is positioned along Bunagana road about 500m from the Bus and Taxi Park and a few minutes’ walk from the town Centre. Accommodation is offered in fourteen (14) rooms some of which are single and double rooms. The guesthouse has a provision for self-camping with 6 – 10 people occupancy capacity tents. Lodge Amenities; On-site restaurant & Bar, Conference Facilities, Tour/Travel desk, Internet Access, Fitness Room/Gym, Gift shop, Laundry/Dry Cleaning
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