Mgahinga National Park is the smallest Park in Uganda. It is the only national park in Uganda with Virunga’s three volcanoes all assembled on a border creating an intersection of Rwanda, D.R Congo and Uganda. Mgahinga National Park covers 33.7 square kilometers and is situated in the very south western tip of Uganda.
The closest town is Kisoro and from here one travels to Ntebeko where the main entrance of Mgahinga National Park is found. Mgahinga National Park is a beautiful conversation area and it’s majorly known for its presence of mountain gorillas. There’s equally a biodiversity of flora species estimated at about 1,000 of such species mixed of both high growing plants and low ground ferns. The National Park isn’t short of fauna such as mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, buffalos, and many other smaller creatures. Birds have a presence of over 200 bird species with some endemic to the Albertine region.
It was formally declared as a National Park in 1991. Before the declaration, the area had initially been a game reserve with a lot of human activity from the indigenous Batwa people in the area. In 1989, rangers were trained and hired and the authorities at the time embarked in large-scale tree planting to have a considerable extension of the area’s forest lands. A year before declaration, the Batwa settlers within the game reserve were relocated to the Park’s neighborhood and have since established livelihoods there.
Ø Mountain Gorillas.
This is the main fascinating attraction in Mgahinga National Park. The mountain gorillas in Uganda as situated in only two destinations to which Mgahinga National Park follows after Bwindi. Mgahinga National Park has a measurable number of the mountain gorillas and tourists are welcome to tour these primates.
Mountain gorillas live in families and have an awesome unit of leadership. Each family has a silverback which assumes the responsibility of leadership. The mountain gorillas within Mgahinga National Park can therefore be trekked which can take about 2 to 5 hours of trekking, and mountain gorilla habituation.
Ø Golden monkeys.
These are also in hundreds and not so common species to find. They can only be trekked in Central Africa. Mgahinga has many of these and their striking physical appearance is the most attractive feature of their existence.
Other attractions within Mgahinga National Park are the hundreds of bird species within, buffalos, Garama Cave, Batwa people and their culture, and the three volcanoes of Virunga i.e. mountains Sabinyo, Gahinga, and Muhabura.
Ø Mountain Gorilla trekking.
This is the most typical activity carried out within the mountain gorilla areas. The trekking goes on for hours and it includes tracking the mountain gorillas to where they are converged. The mountain gorilla trekking is a lifelong experience which includes finding one’s way into the Mgahinga jungles.
Most times, the jungles are thick and thus create complications in penetration but with the help of rangers and guides, easier routes are found to enable the tourists navigate the Park. The mountain gorillas keep shifting from late night nests to new areas and because of this, there’s no specific location of the mountain gorillas. That’s another reason for the need of the guides besides provision of security for the safety of the tourists.
Mgahinga National Park attained its name from one of its giant volcanoes Gahinga Mountain. The Park is comprised of 3 of the lone standing volcanoes of the Virunga i.e. Mountain Gahinga, Mountain Sabinyo, and Mountain Muhabura. They are all situated at the border points of Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda. They are generally giant landforms that have distinct flora and fauna on their slopes.
These volcanoes are also available for hiking. The hiking however is usually combined by tourists engaged in the mountain gorilla trekking. However, tourists can opt for merely hiking any of these volcanoes with hopes of viewing additional ecosystems while ascending to their summits.
Ø Cultural expedition of the Batwa people.
This is mainly carried out along the Batwa trail. The Batwa people are registered as original inhabitants of the area. However, their livelihoods have had significant interruptions since Mgahinga was gazetted as a National Park in 1991. The Batwa trail was officially let to tourists in June, 2011 and since then, it has registered hundreds of tourists exploring the Batwa culture. The Batwa are generally nomadic people with an addition of food gathering and mild hunting that they’ve carried out in the national park for decades. Tourists get an opportunity to explore the Batwa rare culture, music and dance, folklore, herbs, and other related traditions.
Ø Golden Monkey trekking.
This is carried out along one of the most beautiful monkey species in the world. The golden monkeys are known for their rarity and can only be trekked in the Central region of Africa. Mgahinga National Park has a considerable population of these which are also available for the trekking.
Mgahinga National Park being a mountainous region with chunks of land covered with tropical rainforests attracts hundred of bird species. Majority of the bird species within however, are Albertine Graben birds. Some of these birds are endemic to Mgahinga and other migratory. Mgahinga National Park is a great spot for birders due to the large concentration of over 100 bird species. Some of these include the blue turacos, kites, eagles, Rwenzori batis, tropical boubou, and many others.
Ø Garama Cave exploration.
This cave is situated about 3 kilometers from Ntebeko. It’s 342 meters long that lies under the plateau Northern edge of Mgahinga National Park. It’s historically known to have belonged to the Batwa people that used it for chamber council congregation. Its outlay is beautiful and the tourist shouldn’t miss the opportunity of exploring this cave while in Mgahinga National Park.
How to get there?
From Kampala, it’s approximately 8 hours on road to Kisoro town. It’d take the tourist another 2 hours to travel to Mgahinga National Park from Kisoro town. Alternatively, the tourists in need of flight services can get that arranged at Kajjansi Airstrip or Entebbe International Airport. On landing ay Kisoro Airstrip, car transportation can then be booked to Mgahinga National Park or one’s accommodation of choice. The main entrance into Mgahinga National Park is at Ntebeko and it’s about 14 kilometers to get there while travelling on road from Kisoro town.
When to visit?
Beat period to visit Mgahinga National Park are from late June to September, and later in December to February. While Mgahinga National Park is situated in the tropics, these periods are the dry seasons of the area.