Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga is located in South Western corner Uganda, bordering Republic of Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo, 10km south of Kisoro. Each of these countries protects its own portion of the Virungas, in the Parc National des Volcans and Parc National des Virunga respectively. The three parks together form the 434-sq. km. ‘Virunga Conservation Area’ or VCA. It is 33 Sq Km with an altitude range of 2227m-4127m. It covers the northern slopes of the three northern most Virunga Volcanoes: Mt. Muhavura(4,127m), Mt. Sabinyo (3,645m), and Mt.Gahinga (3,474m). The entire Park is in Bufumbira County of Kisoro District. Kisoro is about 540 km (8-9 hours) from Kampala. A 4WD vehicle is recommended.
Mgahinga Gorilla NP consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes. When you reach the park you can get a great overview of the area by walking up the viewpoint, just 15 minutes from Ntebeko Gate. The Virungas are home to a large variety of wildlife, including about half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.
- Volcano Climbing
- Gorilla Trekking
- Batwa Cutural Trail
Mt. Muhavura (4127m) – ‘The Guide’
Seen from all over Kisoro, this volcano acts as a guide. The typical cone-shaped Mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Much of the climb passes a rocky surface covered by grasses and small shrubs. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded with the view of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the peaks of Rwenzori Mountain. The hike takes approximately 8 hours round trip covering 12km.You are advised to camp at the Muhavura base camp the night before the site has no facilities so you need a tent, water, food and sleeping gear.
Mt. Sabinyo (3,645m) – ‘Old man’s teeth’
Like an old man, time has eroded Mt. Sabyinyo’s crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to climb. A climb up the mountain takes one up a ridge along the eastern side of the climb to peak. If you are to continue, the climb to the peak 11 involves walking a ridge with breath-taking drops into gorges of Rwanda and Uganda, a dual experience you will achieve here. Finally, the hike up to the peak 111 is steep with several ladders and mush scrambling. You are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to peak111! Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, what a triple experience this is!!! The journey takes about eight hours round trip to cover the 14km stretch.
Mt. Gahinga (3474m)
On your way to the park, look out for small piles of stones in the garden fields. The local people call such a pile a ‘Gahinga’. Mount Gahinga is quite bigger than the average ‘gahinga’ but sitting next to Mount Muhavura does make it look small. A hike, which takes you about, six hours round trip, goes through a good example of a pure Bamboo forest. Gahinga once had a Crater Lake on top but time has changed it into a Lush swamp. Distance to the swamp is 8km.
This is the most exhilarating tourist activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The adapted gorilla in this park is called the Nyakagezi, which consists of 9 members, 3 adult females, 2 silverbacks, 2 juveniles and 2 infants. However, due to their constant movement it is advisable to check the current location of the gorillas first.
The guide leads you through the gorilla’s world, explaining aspects of their ecology and behavior along the way. Gorilla tracking can be tiring and may take the whole day. We must stress that, while you have a very good opportunity of seeing gorillas, success is NOT certain. They are wild creatures with no fixed routine, and finding them requires the skill and familiarity of your trackers and guides, as well as luck. The trackers and guides have helped to habituate the gorilla groups and know them closely. While walking, please feel free to ask guides to slow down if they are going too fast and if you need to rest. Take time to stop and enjoy the trees, flowers and birds. Gorilla Tracking can be physically demanding, so go prepared. Take time to read through the Gorilla trekking rules prior to your trip.
The Park is set apart with a unique bird fauna; 79 bird species have been recorded within the park, including several species prevalent to the East Congo Montane region. For the Virunga Conservation Area as a whole, over 295 species in the Virungas are prevalent to the Albertine Rift Afromontane region representing 59% of the total of known endemic species.
Batwa Cutural Trail
The dense forests at the foot of the Virunga Volcanoes were home to the Batwa people: hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine thanks to ancient knowledge passed down for generations.
When Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was established, the Batwa were suddenly evicted from the forest and forced to abandon their low-impact, nomadic lifestyle. Now landless, they work when they can for local farmers, and the only time they are permitted to re-enter their cherished forest is as tour guides on The Batwa Trail, where they invite visitors to discover the magic of their old home.
During this trail tour, the Batwa exhibit hunting techniques; gather honey; point out medicinal plants and show how to make bamboo cups. Guests are finally invited to the sacred Ngarama Cave, once home to the Batwa King, where the women of the community perform a sorrowful song which echoes eerily around the depths of the dark cave, and leaves guests with a striking and moving sense of the richness of this fading culture.
Kisoro town offers a wide range of accommodation facilities ranging from basic campsites to luxurious full board hotels, including:
- Gahinga Rest Camp,
- Nkuringo Safari Lodge,
- Virunga Hotel,
- Traveler’s Rest and
- Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge.
- Lake Mutanda Resort
- Cameleon Hill Lodge
- Mucha Hotel & Guest House
There is ample space for camping at the park gate and Mt. Gahinga Rest camp. As well there are traditional bandas managed by the local community.