Mgahinga National Park covers a total area of 33.7km2. It is Uganda’s smallest National Park. This Park is part of the larger Virunga Conservation area.
Located about 10 km south of Kisoro, Mgahinga is bordered by Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda to the south and to the west by DR Congo’s Virunga National Park. These three parks together form the 434 square kilometers Virunga Massif which spans over the three countries.
Its natural habitats consists of Albertine Rift montane forests, Rwenzori Virunga montane moorlands, an alpine zone and bamboo forests boasting a diverse range of Wildlife species.
The available flora is favored by the average rainfall received by the Park during two wet seasons (February to May and September to December). The Park’s average rainfall per month range from 250mm in October to 10 mm during the month of July.
Of the highly inhabited Wildlife Species, the rarely seen Mountain Gorillas and Golden monkey species are the most notable. Besides apes and primates, Mgahinga is also recorded with plenty of different bird species including the Albertine Rift endemic.
Some of the commonly sighted species include Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, collared apalis, mountain masked apalis, handsome francolin, stripe-breasted tit, blue-headed sunbird, regal sunbird, dusky crimson-wing, red-throated alethe, Kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori batis, Archer’s ground robin, strange weaver, montane nightjar and more.
How to get there.
By Road – This Park is about 510km from Kampala. It takes about 8-9hours for the drive (434km) from Kampala to Kabale town on good tarmac. From Kabale its 76km to Kisoro where you continue to the suburbs of the Park.
Alternatively, you can go by the route which leaves the main Kabale road towards the shorelines of Lake Bunyonyi to rejoin Kabale-Kisoro main road’s halfway point at Muko. Mgahinga’s main entrance “Ntebeko” is 14km from Kisoro town.
The 434km journey from Kampala to Kabale can be completed in 8 hours on good tarmac. It is then a further 76km to Kisoro town on a mountainous tarmac road with steep ascents and descents.
The usual route for those travelling from Kampala to Mgahinga is Kampala – Masaka – Mbarara highway including stop over at the equator and in Mbarara town for lunch. After lunch the Journey continues till you reach the Park suburbs.
Mgahinga can as well be accessed from Bwindi. From Nkuringo and Rushaga sector, Mgahinga National Park and Kisoro town lies 14km and 28km respectively.
Then from Buhoma, it’s about a four hours’ drive. Dirt roads from Buhoma sector pass through Ruhija to join Kabale- Kisoro road.
By Air – If not road transport, you can go by air means. Private charters are arranged from Kajjansi to an airstrip in Kisoro. From here, transfer by road using a suitable safari vehicle to the Park.
Activities to do in the Park
This is the main activity done in the Park. It is arranged on daily basis by the park officials. It usually involves moving in a group with ranger guide following the well-established routes heading to the Jungle in search of these apes. Only a group of eight people are allowed for a gorilla family per day.
After locating them, you are allowed to stay in their presence for only one hour while seeing them playing, feeding, laughing and more. You are also free to take photos and videos of them but cameras with flush light are not allowed for use. After one hour session next step is to head back to the Park offices, then to your lodge.
There are three summits for Mountain climbing in the Park including Mountain Muhavura, the highest peak at 4127m, Sabyinyo and Gahinga.
Muhavura hiking adventure takes about 8 hours covering about 12km to the summit. While at the top, trekkers are inspired by eye catching views of stunning sceneries such as Lake Edward, Virunga Volcanoes, Bwindi Forest and peaks of Rwenzori mountains.
Mountain Sabyinyo at a height of 3669m has a steep ridge of 14km to hike up. It takes about 8 hours for the journey.
Mount Mgahinga is another volcano to hike. It is 3474m high. Climbers pass through bamboo forested areas where sights of Golden monkey primates are possible. It takes about 6 hours for a hike to and from the summit.
Batwa Trail Experience.
This is a full day experience. It includes walking around the villages or local communities of the Batwa people. A local guide is available to feed you with every information about the Batwa. Besides that, you are also entertained by their cultural performances including dancing, use of their hunting tools and more. You also visit the ruins of their ancient homes like Garama caves.
Golden Monkey Tracking.
For this experience you meet the Golden monkey primates in the Jungles. Similarly the trekking is done in a group following the already established trails.
Since golden monkeys are mostly found in Mountainous areas, it requires you to be physically fit. The permit for Golden monkey tracking costs $50 USD per person.