Mgahinga National Park is Uganda’s smallest and probably most scenic National Park is situated in the extreme south western corner of the country ,forming part of the a large conservation area of about 33 square kilometers that straddles political boundaries to include Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Three extinct Volcanoes part of the spectacular virunga range ,lie within the boundaries of the Ugandan portion of this biologically rich area. Mountain Gorillas form the main attraction of Mgahinga National Park, which protects the Ugandan portion of the Virungas , an imposing string of nine freestanding extinct and active volcanoes that runs along the border with Rwanda and Congo.
WHAT TO DO IN THE PARK
Gorilla Tracking .in this Park only one group has been habituated for visitors to visit (Habituation means that these gorillas are used to people) this process takes two years to complete. A maximum of 8 people are allowed to visit the gorillas . The Nyakagezi is the habituated gorilla group and it consists of 11 members .Gorilla tracking is a vigorous activity that can take a full day. During this tour , you are led by a guide through the gorillas empire /tracks as he /she explains all about gorillas such as their ecology , movements and general behavior.
Success of seeing gorillas is not guaranteed despite the high chance of seeing them . since they are wild animals living in the jungle , they don’t have a fixed routine . Therefor finding them requires luck and the experience of your guides. These guides know gorillas intimately since they habituate them , they will hence take you to the area they saw them last. They may also be able to suggest how long the hike might take at the journey start.
Please note that you are free to ask guides to slow down if they are going too fast or if you have a rest, look at the birds / flowers your guide shall wait for you.Permits must be pre-booked at the Uganda Wildlife Authority in kampala.
Not only is a tour around the Park an exciting opportunity to see rare animal ,but is is possible to meet another interesting attraction.The batwa or the Pygiemies. It is a tribe of hunters and Gatheres and were the Forest first people and used to call this their home .one can do a nature walk and can be able to see these people who used to live in the forest’s caves how they do their things it is really interesting to watch them .they now live outside of the park .
Mountain climbing is another activity that one can do in Mgahinga National Park .the three volcanoes from the Ugandan side can be climbed , Mount Muhavura is 4127m high, gahinga is 3475m high and sabinyo is 3645m.you can book for this activity at the Mgahinga offices in kisoro .
MOUNT. SABINYO (3645M)
As locally known literally meaning old man`s teeth has an eroded Mt. sabinyo crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to expert climbers .climbing up to this mountain takes one up the 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 lifetime memorable dual hiking safari experience one can 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 hands dirty enroute to this peak.
Once on the top , you will be in three countries ,Rwanda ,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
MOUNT. GAHINGA (3474M )
This Mount’s name (gahinga) literally means a plie 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 proximity to mount Muhavura makes her to 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 Gahinga’s attractions.
MOUNT. MUHAVURA(4127M )
As called by the 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. M uch of the climbers traverse 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 round , 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 equipments
CAVE EXPLORATION IN MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK
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 3km 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 800m 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 turning toward the congo. Along the trail you will get a great view of Mountain sabinyo’s gorge and peaks . when you get to the congo you get back along the international border. The route back to the park headquarters ia 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.
DOS AND DON’TS
- It’s advisable that you put on jungle shoes best for steep muddy slopes .
- The weather is unpredictable and it can change any time , please carry your rain gear , sunscreen , a hat, and sunglasses.
- You are advised to carry enough water and food because this activity is lengthy and tiresome especially to first time trackers .
- Once tracked , ensure that you keep a 7m distance from Gorillas . if approached by one , move back slowly.
- Avoid pointing or waving your arms this can scare away annoying gorillas. Please move slowly and keep your voices low/ better keep silent for better tracking.
- You may carry binoculars , these help you see far features and creatures in detail.
GETTING TO MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK
From kampala it is 8 hours drive via kabale to kisoro town using 4WD cars as recommended .for those without private transport , one can take the daily bus transport services, that sets off at 0700 hours. From kisoro town , you hike or take a special hireto the park gate.
By air; one can fly to kisoro, flight arrangements can be made with eagle Air . this company has flights on Mondays from Entebbe to kisoro.
WHERE TO STAY IN MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK UGANDA
Kisoro town has a wide range of accomodationfacilities ranging from basic- campsites( for the go camping tourists)to theluxurious full board hotels, such as Travellers rest camp, mgahinga safari lodge, sky blue , virunga hotel, Mt, Mgahinga rest camp , mubano hotel, Rugigana campsite, from these you can make your preference.
At the park gate and Mt Gahinga is, a community campground with ample space foe do it yourself –camping.
The local community also manages excellent traditional bandas . these are affordable and recommendable.
Golden monkeys can also be trekked from this park.a number of over 4000 Golden monkeys have been recorded and they are also habituated.