ahimbe@myattractionsafrica.com
PO Box 303, Mbarara, Uganda

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park gets its name from Gahinga; a local word for the Bafumbira tribe that means a pile of volcanic stones they retrieve from their farms.

It was declared a game reserve by the British administration in 1930, however, farming was allowed in the lower altitudes.

In 1989 specialized studies were initiated, game rangers trained, trees planted and settlers relocated.
It was gazetted as a national park in 1991 and is home to the habituated Nyakagezi mountain gorilla group. This park has other mammals that include black fronted duikers, buffaloes, bush bucks, elephants, forest hogs, the endangered golden monkeys, leopards, spotted hyenas among many. It also a sanctuary to over 79 bird species.

At 13 square miles in size, it is the smallest of the ten national parks in Uganda and is governed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers a stunning view of three extinct volcanic mountains that are part of the Virunga ranges which are in the border region shared by Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The park is of immense cultural importance to the Batwa pygmies who are the indigenous inhabitants of this area. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the first to live in the forests there, and deeply understand the mountain peaks and slopes; the biological diversity and ecosystems.

 

Location of the Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in Kisoro district, in the south western part of Uganda. It covers the Ugandan slopes of three of the Virunga volcanoes of Gahinga (that means pile of volcanic land stones), Muhavura (that means guide) and Sabinyo (that means the old man’s teeth)

The distance from Entebbe airport via Mbarara town to the park is approximately 490 kilometers by road. The journey can take 9 to 10 hours depending on driving speed and the duration of the stop overs. The main stop overs on this route are at Mpambire drum makers, the Equator at Kayabwe, Lake Mburo National Park, Igongo Cultural Centre and Lake Bunyonyi.

Air travel from Entebbe to the national park is also possible by scheduled or chartered aircrafts. A scheduled flight at 7:00am from Entebbe airport can get you to Kisoro at 9:30am at a cost of $271.00. From the airport to Ntebeko – the park’s headquarters is about 15 kilometers.

The Best Time to Visit

The national park experiences no major dry seasons but has two wet rainy seasons of February to May and September to November. It is one of the coldest places in the country.

Though you can visit the park all year round, the trail get easier to maneuver during the months June, July and August.

Adventure Tourism Activities

When you set foot at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, be rest assured of having a good time with a variety of activities.

Bird watching

The park has a variety of bird species estimated to be about 79. Bird watching can be carried out through the bamboo forest that is in the gorge between mountains Gahinga and Sabinyo; as well as in the montane forest where you can easily see the Rwenzori Turaco – a beautiful African bird.

Gorilla tracking

This is the premier and most spectacular activity of this park. There is only one family, the Nyakagezi gorilla group that has nine members. Gorilla tracking starts from national park headquarters – Ntebeko – in the morning with the guidance of park rangers. This family stopped its migratory tendencies so it easy to track it down.

The duration of the tracking could be dependent on the location of the mountain gorillas since in most cases they move to search of food.

The fact that this is the only group in the park, only eight permits are issued per day; therefore, booking is very important in order to make it on the tracking list.

Mountain climbing

In just one day, you can be able to climb to the three summits of the mountains and it’s as thrilling as it is adventurous.

It takes 6 hours, through a bamboo forest to get to the top of the 3,474 meter high Gahinga Mountain; there you will find a 180-meter wide caldera.

Mount Muhavura, which is 4,127 meters high has a crater lake at the top after 8 hours of climbing 12 kilometers of the mountain. At the top you can also see Bwindi forest, Lake Edward, Virunga volcanoes and Mountain Rwenzori peaks.

Mount Sabinyo gives you a unique experience whereby at its summit, you set foot in three countries; the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.

Hiking and Nature walks

These are enjoyable and fascinating activities that are carried out around the edges of the mountains through the bamboo forests, wild vegetation and the Rugezi swamp. During the hikes and nature walks, you encounter forest birds, beautiful scenic views of hills with agricultural activity, and the surrounding Lake Mutanda.

Golden monkey tracking

This Park is a natural habitat to the endangered golden monkeys which live in groups and feed on young bamboo leaves, shoots and branches. They enjoy fruits and insects.

Cultural Engagements

The Batwa have stayed, hunted, fed in the forests of Mgahinga. A visit to the Batwa’s homesteads is a unique experience; to observe their cultural values not see anywhere in the world.

Key Facts to have in Mind

Your travel bag should have equipment such as drinking water, packed food, surgical masks, light clothes and a waterproof camera. Surgical masks are used while in the presence of gorillas.

It also necessary to carry a tent and sleeping gear to enjoy a night at the base camp.

There are good accommodation facilities to choose from that include Ikoro Hotel,
Clouds mountain gorilla lodge, Nkuringo safari lodge, Traveler’s nest hotel, Mt. Mgahinga rest camp and Mount Mgahinga lodge among many.

The costs for the activities are as below.

A Gorilla tracking permits is for USD 600 and UgShs 250,000 for members of the East African Community.

For a Gorilla Habituation Experience it is USD 1,500 and UgShs 750,000 for members of the East African Community.

Golden Monkey tracking is for USD 50 and UgShs 20,000 for members of the East African Community.

Golden Monkey Experience is for USD 100 and UgShs 100,000 for members of the East African Community.

The entrance fee are for foreigners is USD 40 for adults and USD 20 for children and that for members of the East African Community, it is UgShs 20,000 for adults and UgShs 5,000 for children.

Conclusion

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a key destination I recommend in 2019. It is only place you will find the Golden monkey and the Silver back.

40 thoughts on “Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda

  1. Hello Edgar,

    Africa is a fantastic tourist attraction any day. It’s really a good escape from the winter cold in the northern hemisphere at the moment. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda would be a beautiful place to visit. Especially being able to see the gorillas and reconnect with mother nature. Would be nice if you also write an article on a resort to stay during the visit to Uganda.

    Thanks for sharing this Edgar,

    Kind regards

    1. Louis, I will be sharing about resorts soon.  Angama Mara in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya is a nice place to start. After visiting Mgahinga Gorilla NP, you can check out Munyonyo Common Wealth Resort, Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa, Speke Resort among many. These places are a perfect escape from the winter cold.

  2. Hi. Mgahinga Gorilla NP sounds great. The small size of it interests me. Being able to climb 3 peaks in one day is great.
    I’m not sure why the tourists have to wear surgical masks while viewing the gorillas? I guess it’s something to do with facial recognition?
    If I get to Uganda I’ll be sure to add this park to my list of things to do. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Andrew, I appreciate the fact that you will be visiting this park when IN Uganda. I hope you will enjoy the climate and beautiful scenery.
      We share 98.4% of our DNA with mountain gorillas, making it easy for them to catch our diseases.
      Tourists have to wear surgical masks as a way of preventing of the common cold to these gentle creatures (gorillas). When we sneeze, the germs causing the common cold can travel up to 7 metres. When the gorillas catch a cold, they can easy die from it since their bodies do not have the needed immunity.

    1. Thank you Marian for reading this post and expressing your desire to visit Africa some day.
      I am sure your wont be disappointed since there are many options to choose from. Whatever choice you make will be the right one.

  3. I can’t even imagine being in the presence of a silver back! Uganda sounds so beautiful! The landscape alone sounds so intriguing with the 3 inactive volcanoes and all the bamboo in the park. I think it would be wonderful to experience camping out at the base camp like you mentioned. I would love to see all the different species of birds. I cannot wait to look this park up and find out even more info! Thank you for the hotel recommendations and for bringing such a lovely place to my attention.

    1. Jennifer, I am glad you like birds and bird watching would be the thing for you. You may get more information about the park and I am sure you will like what you read.
      It will good to hear you make the booking and come relieve yourself of the fear of the silver back.
      I appreciate your comment.

  4. What a great post man. I loved this. Since I am African I am more interested in visiting this national park so I will be able to go to Kisoro district, in the south western part of Uganda.

    You really sold me well on this national park. I love all the activities you get to par-taking in.

    Can I ask why do you need to wear a surgical mask when you are going to see Gorillas?

    1. Hello Thabo, I am glad you have liked this post. Kisoro is a wonderful place indeed.
      Gorillas share the same DNA as humans so they easily contract our diseases and one that can put down a gorilla is the common cold. The surgical glasses are worn to prevent the spread of any air borne diseases including the common cold.

  5. Hi Ahimbe,
    Great information on Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
    This sounds like a good place to visit on holiday, especially summer holiday. I haven’t been to many Africa countries.
    When the time is right, I will make sure I do. The continent is beautiful and there a lot things about nature to experience there.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Stephen, I am glad you find this information helpful. You wouldn’t want to have your summer holiday in some place else and not In Mgahinga.
      It combines many attractions in one place.
      I appreciate your comment.

    2. You definitely need to try to visit Africa Stephen. There are a lot of very nice locations to visit. This particular national park is a place I have not yet visited but I have visited other places and they were just amazing. I would put the Mgahinga national park
      into my to-do list as a place I would definitely visit.

      1. I cannot agree with you more Ajiri, I look forward to Stephen and you visiting this national park and joining me in making reviews about it.
        This national park is on many people bucket list this year and it would be amazing to have you be part of visitors.

  6. Mgahinga national park sounds absolutely brilliant both in terms of wildlife and in terms of the landscape, it being volcanic. You have absolutely sold it to me I had never heard of golden monkeys, so you have already expanded my horizon without stepping foot on the land. But being there in person must be something else. This is on my to do list as someone who loves to travel, bless you

    1. Thank you Ann for dropping this wonderful comment. I am sure you will like it here.
      Since you are a traveler, brace yourself to have a moment to see many eye-catching scenery as you head over to this national park.

    2. I totally agree with you because this was actually also the first time I heard about golden monkeys. That was something I definitely did not know about. Such an amazing place that I would definitely love to visit and be able to see amazing creatures that don’t exist where I come from

      1. Ajiri, I am glad I have made this fact known to you too. These animals are rare and are regarded endangered species due to their very low numbers and being located in just a few areas.
        You will one day have to make a trip and come over and see them. You will have contributed to their extended existence.

    1. Josephine, finding this read interesting is highly appreciated. More information on bookings can be found on the official website of the National Park. You can follow this link https://bit.ly/2Uq0osz for more details.
      Gorillas easily catch diseases from humans especially the air borne ones. So it is advisable to cover ourselves with masks when in their presence mainly to prevent the spread of diseases to them. A common cold can demobilize a full grown gorilla.

  7. I love Africa! I try to visit it as often as I can. Your article reminded me that it’s been a long time since I traveled to an African country. Uganda will be my next destination. Edgar, I usually travel alone. Is Uganda a safe country for backpack traveling, especially when the traveler is a woman? And something else: could you please give me some more information regarding the Gorilla Habituation Experience? What exactly is it?

    1. Effie, I am glad you love Africa and you rightly should. Uganda should be your next destination indeed and it is totally safe to travel alone no matter the gender. There are many backpackers’ hostels and low budget accommodation facilities. There are travel resources in the capital city Kampala and the outskirts; and Kampala’s nightlife is wonderful. A good tour guide should offer excellent services if you want to have activities out of town, as that’s where the real action happens. However, it is easy to get around using public transport such as buses, taxis and boda bodas (motorcycles but ensure to use a helmet).

      Gorilla habituation is the act of training wild gorillas to become used to the sight of humans. Different groups of people are involved in gorilla habituation like the conservationists, rangers, researchers and trackers like you and I. This experience only restricts a maximum of four people each day.

  8. WOW! what an amazing place. I have a student from Uganda and he just got back from his holiday few days ago and was telling me how amazing the country is. But this place I have to visit after reading your review.

    Habib

    1. Habib, it is nice to know that this article has triggered your interest to visit Uganda and Mgahinga in particular. I hope you will bring the student along. It is an experience you will live to tell for a good number of years.

  9. Wow – that’s so interesting – so the gorilla tracking actually involves one gorilla family that tends to stay in the area? With the rangers and tourists tracking are they also accustomed to commonly seeing people in the area? Sounds like a truly unique experience.

    1. Benjamin, it is right. The tracking involves one habituated gorilla family; so these gentle beasts are accustomed to seeing people and are not dangerous at all. It is an experience to behold.

  10. One of my greatest desire is to visit an African country. Reading this post makes me want to visit even more. One of my friend’s visited Uganda a couple years ago and he told me about the beauty and the richness of the environment. I hope I’ll get to visit soon.

    1. Carol, it will be a pleasure hosting you in the Pearl of Africa. You need to also get the opportunity to experience first hand the beauty of Uganda and the sites it has. It will be the perfect opportunity to update your friend of the new things; because every visit offers a unique experience.

  11. First of all, i must commend the graphics of the design of your website. I love the way you showed the shape of the earth with such a catchy image.Though i have never heard about Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, in Uganda, but from the way you described the park, it will really be adventurous visiting and seeing real life Gorillas. Thanks so much for these eye-opening post. It was really helpful

    1. Dapoach, thank you for your remarks about the website.
      Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest National Park in Uganda known for gorillas. It has been growing in popularity and soon many will know about it. 
      I appreciate your comment.

  12. The mountain climb would definitely be up my alley here. An eight hour climb makes for one heck of a workout, so I’d look forward to it. The gorilla tracking seems to be unique and also an experience I wouldn’t pass up. Ditto for the nature walks. As someone who’s into fitness and nature scenery, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has a little bit of both, which to me would make for a perfect vacation spot. 

    1. Todd, if it is a workout you want, you will get one. As a matter of fact, for those that are unfit or do not do regular exercises, it is advisable you make a few drills before the mountain climb. It can be steep in some areas and the change in altitude checks your resilience. 
      Based on your love for fitness and nature scenery, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the best place for you indeed.

  13. Wow!  Thanks for sharing this well detailed article. Never knew there is a place like Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda Africa where a person can reconnect with nature and have an adventurous experience. Birdwatching, Gorilla tracking and 6hours mountain climbing of Mgahinga mountain would be an awesome experience to have. I love nature sightseeing and it will be a memorable experience to see the golden monkey and silver back which I have never heard or seen before. Africa would be a lovely continent to visit. I will plan to visit this historic place in my next vacation. 

    1. Fortune, it is wonderful that you have considered visiting this national park when you travel. You will have the opportunity to see animals that are not any place else in the world. The scenery of the volcanic peaks is breathtaking too. You will also confirm the phrase “where gold meets silver”.

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