Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in southwestern Uganda and is part of the larger Virunga Massif conservation area, which also includes parks in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. While the park is primarily known for its mountain gorilla population, there are several other tourist activities and attractions in and around the park. Here are some of the popular tourist activities you can enjoy in and around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park:
The park is home to a small population of mountain gorillas, and gorilla trekking is the main attraction. Visitors can join guided treks to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Permits are required and should be obtained in advance through the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a remarkable wildlife experience that allows you to get up close to endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to go gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park:
In addition to gorillas, Mgahinga is also home to the endangered golden monkeys. You can go on guided treks to track and observe these unique primates.
Obtain a Golden Monkey Tracking Permit: Just like gorilla trekking permits, you’ll need a permit to participate in golden monkey tracking. These permits are also issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Ensure you book your permit in advance, as availability is limited.
Arrival in Kisoro: As with gorilla trekking, most visitors arrive in Uganda via Entebbe International Airport and then travel to Kisoro, which is the gateway to Mgahinga National Park.
Pre-Tracking Briefing: On the day of your golden monkey tracking experience, you will need to arrive at the park headquarters in Kisoro for a pre-tracking briefing. During this briefing, you’ll receive information about the golden monkeys, safety guidelines, and the specific tracking group you will be assigned to.
Group Allocation: You’ll be assigned to a specific tracking group for golden monkeys. The park authorities take into consideration your fitness level and preferences to match you with a suitable group.
Golden Monkey Tracking: Golden monkey tracking typically starts after the briefing. You’ll be accompanied by experienced guides and trackers as you venture into the forest to locate the golden monkeys. The trekking terrain may vary, but it is generally less challenging than gorilla trekking and may involve shorter hikes.
Observing the Golden Monkeys: Once you find the golden monkey group, you’ll have the opportunity to observe and photograph these playful primates. Like gorilla trekking, there is a one-hour limit for your visit to minimize disturbance to the animals.
Return to Park Headquarters: After enjoying your time with the golden monkeys, you’ll trek back to the park headquarters, where you will receive a certificate of participation in golden monkey tracking.
The park is known for its stunning volcanic landscapes. You can hike to the summits of three volcanoes within the park: Mount Sabinyo, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Muhabura. These hikes offer not only breathtaking views but also the opportunity to explore diverse ecosystems.
The park’s diverse habitats, including bamboo forests, montane forests, and wetlands, provide a home to a variety of bird species, including some rare and endemic ones. Here’s a guide on birdwatching in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park:
Season and Timing: The best time for birdwatching in the park is during the dry season, which typically runs from June to September and December to February. During these months, the birds are more active and easier to spot. However, birdwatching can be enjoyable year-round.
Guides: It’s highly recommended to hire a knowledgeable local bird guide or join an organized birdwatching tour. These guides are experienced in locating and identifying the park’s avian residents, making your birdwatching experience more rewarding.
Bird Species: Mgahinga is home to over 180 bird species, some of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift region. Notable bird species to watch out for include the Rwenzori turaco, handsome francolin, Kivu ground thrush, dusky turtle dove, white-starred robin, and many more. Keep an eye out for colorful and elusive birds like the scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird and the blue-headed sunbird.
Birding Trails: There are several birdwatching trails and areas within the park where you can spot various bird species. Some popular birding spots include the Gorge Trail, Bamboo Trail, and the bamboo and montane forest areas around the volcanoes.
Equipment and Attire: Bring a good pair of binoculars, a field guide to the birds of Uganda, a notepad, and a camera if you’d like to capture the beautiful bird sightings. Wear muted and comfortable clothing to blend in with the natural surroundings and sturdy hiking boots for walking along trails.
Patience: Birdwatching often requires patience. Be prepared to spend time quietly observing the birds as they go about their activities. Listen for bird calls and songs, which can help you locate them.
Respect Nature: As with any wildlife activity, it’s important to follow ethical guidelines. Maintain a respectful distance from the birds to avoid disturbing them, and do not attempt to approach nests or disturb their habitats.
Combine Activities: You can combine birdwatching with other activities like gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, or nature walks to make the most of your visit to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
The Batwa people, also known as the Pygmies, are indigenous to the region around Mgahinga. You can learn about their traditional way of life, including hunting and gathering skills, through guided cultural experiences and interactions.
There are several nature trails in the park that allow you to explore its diverse flora and fauna. The Gorge Trail and the Sabinyo Gorge are popular options for nature walks.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is situated on the border of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Depending on the current political situation and park regulations, you may have the opportunity to cross into one of these neighboring countries for additional experiences.
This guided cultural trail allows you to learn about the Batwa people’s history, culture, and traditions. It’s an educational and cultural experience that provides insights into the lives of this indigenous community.
Lake Mutanda, located near the park, is a beautiful spot for canoeing, fishing, and boat rides. The lake is surrounded by lush scenery and offers a peaceful setting for relaxation.
While not within the park itself, the Virunga Massif region is home to a group of active volcanoes, including Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamuragira in the Democratic Republic of Congo. If conditions permit, you can arrange volcano trekking and lava lake viewing tours in the neighboring Virunga National Park.
The district is home to several ethnic groups, and its population is diverse. Here are some of the major ethnic and cultural groups found in Kisoro:
Booking a gorilla permit for Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda is a necessary step to secure your opportunity to go gorilla trekking in this beautiful park. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to book a gorilla permit:
Welcome to this wildlife and Gorilla tracking trip to Uganda for gorillas and chimpanzees sounds like an incredible adventure! Uganda is known for its rich biodiversity and offers some unique opportunities to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitats.