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Mgahinga National Park

Mgahinga protects the Ugandan slopes of the majestic Virungas, a range of freestanding volcanoes that rises to a maximum altitude of 4,507m on the border with Rwanda and the DR Congo.

It is an alternative destination to Bwindi for mountain gorilla trekking. Other attractions include hikes to the summit of three of the park’s volcanic peaks and golden monkey trekking.

Mgahinga is best known as an alternative destination to Bwindi for mountain gorilla trekking, but it also offers good birding, and an opportunity to spent time with the localized golden monkey.

The Nyakagazi group is the only habituated gorilla troop here. This means only eight permits a day are available resulting in a very exclusive experience on the day of trekking.

Over 180 bird species have been recorded, and several are localized forest birds – 12 of which are considered endemic to the Albertine Rift (birds restricted to this area).

There are several guided mountain hikes on offer where birders get an opportunity to tick of some Afro-alpine endemics such as the scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

Mgahinga Gorilla NP lies 14km from the small town of Kisoro along a rough ascent road (allow 45 minutes). A 4WD vehicle is recommended for this road at all times and is essential in the Wet seasons (from February to May and September to November).

The park is 510km/317mi from Kampala (at least nine-hour’ drive) and it can be reached by road from Queen Elizabeth NP (around six hours) or Lake Mburo NP (five to seven hours). It is possible to take a domestic flight from Entebbe to Kisoro.

Mgahinga Gorilla NP is open for gorilla trekking the whole year, but the best time is during the drier seasons from June to August and December to January. At this time the trails tend to be easier to navigate and spending a precious hour with the gorillas might be more pleasant when it isn’t raining.

What to Do in Mgahinga

Gorilla Trekking

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to some of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas making gorilla trekking a must do activity while at the park. The trek commences at about 8am and lasts 2 to 4 hours, which duration is mostly dependent on the location of the gorillas or how far they moved in their search for food.

There are a few guidelines to keep in mind before you go gorilla trekking which you will be acquainted with at the orientation but we picked a few to keep in mind before then. Gorillas can catch human diseases so if you have a cold or other infectious diseases, it is wise that you save the adventure for after your recovery.

If you have to ease yourself while gorilla trekking, all waste must be buried 30cm deep. Flash photography should not be used and all trekkers should be at least 15 years of age. Only 8 people per trekking group are allowed.

Golden Monkey Trekking

You can shoot two birds with one stone by using your gorilla trekking experience to simultaneously trek golden monkeys. These primates are small and fast which makes golden monkey trekking a rather active adventure.

The activity takes about 4 hours per session during which you are allowed the opportunity to view, take photos of the primates before heading back to your lodge or camp.

The habituated family of these monkeys is about 6 in number and they have due to the habituation process grown fond and less evasive of human presence in their sanctuary. The route you take to find the monkeys may be akin to that which they tread looking for young bamboo branches; a hike through the bamboo forest.

Birding for Albertine Rift Endemics

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is said to have about 180 bird species. Birding in this park can be an all year round. You will enjoy a good list of the Albertine rift endemics in this area especially on the gorge trail. Be ready to bird the whole day and therefore you should carry packed lunch.

Batwa Trail Experience

Before the area on which mgahinga gorilla national park was set aside for the purpose of being a gorilla national park, the Batwa or African pygmies lived and thrived in these forests and mountains as hunter gatherers.

They were later displaced but some of them still live around the park to participate in the tourism industry as porters and guides. They are also entitled to a portion of the tourism proceeds and a tip for their guide services will be welcome.

A Batwa trail experience is an activity that takes you through their history and transition over time. The Garama Cave, a very sacred piece of Batwa history is a good place to start.

Volcano Hiking or Mountain climbing

There is something in the landscape of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park that your eyes will not miss; Volcanoes, a whole three volcanoes! They form part of the Virunga Ranges found in Rwanda, Democratic republic of Congo as well as Uganda.

For each name given to these mountains is a literal translation: Sabinyo to mean Old man’s teeth, Gahinga to mean Pile of stones and Muhavura means a guide.

Mount Muhavura is the highest of them all with the advantage of seeing the other Virunga Mountains from its peak. It can be seen from as far as Kisoro town and is justifiably called the guide given how it leads one to the rest of the mountains in the ranges.

Where to Stay

Mount Gahinga is an exclusive Uganda adventure lodge that has the impressive backdrop of three of the volcanoes themselves. Its rustic charm creates an absorbing atmosphere of tranquility and history. The lodge is wonderful to stay in and the trek to the top of the mountain is beautiful to start from this lodge.

Travellers Rest Hotel

Located in Kisoro, 4.5 miles from Lake Mutanda, Travellers Rest Hotel has accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking, a bar and a garden.

Travellers Rest Hotel consists of 12 en-suite rooms, tastefully decorated with a unique selection of Congo art. The spacious rooms overlook a well groomed courtyard and have the magical Virunga volcanoes as a backdrop.

The lounge with its big fireplace become the perfect spot in the evening, to wind down from a day filled with experiences. If however, you prefer a colder spot, you can enjoy your aperitif in the oasis of our garden from where you can enjoy the views on the magical Virunga volcanoes.

Virunga hotel and camp site

A noticeable difference is met at Virunga hotel Luxurious Self-Contained rooms, fitted with digital television, water heaters with other necessary amenities; make you shade away all the day’s hectic and tedious atmosphere from either a day’s long journey or troublesome work.

An affordable menu is set for your test where a variety of traditional tropical dishes and snacks awaits you, Therefore your taste and appetite guide your choice.