Mgahinga Gorilla National Park covers 33.7km2 in size, is Uganda’s smallest National Park and is part of the bigger Virunga Conservation Area, which is a jointly protected area with Congo and Rwanda. It includes three extinct volcanoes: Mount Sabyinyo (3,669 m), Mount Gahinga (3,474 m) and Mount Muhavura (4,127 m). Mgahinga was gazetted in 1991.
The park which is a cultural heritage featuring the history, folklore and traditional healing practices of local people, covers the north slopes of the three northern Virunga volcanoes Muhavura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. The park derives its name from “Gahinga” Kinyarwanda word for a pile of volcanic lava stone heaps around which cultivation is carried out. “Mgahinga” is named after Mount Gahinga plus the initial of Mount Muhavura.
Species in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The vegetation is typical of Afro-montane areas, with a consistent bamboo forest. There are 76 mammal species recorded in this park which may be rarely seen but are present in the thick vegetation of this park, the two which it’s most famous for include the mountain Gorillas and the Golden monkeys, the Gorilla family in Mgahinga is transboundary and finds a home in Rwanda as well as Congo. Mgahinga has a total of 115 bird species including Ruwenzori Turaco, crowned hornbill, black kite and crowned crane.
Activities in the National Park
Each of the three volcanoes can be climbed with a day trip hike. Without special mountain equipment. Visits are organized to the Garama Cave, near the Park Headquarter in Ntebeko, which is 432m. In length and was once inhabited by the pygmies’ population. The main attraction is the “Gorilla tracking” to the only one habituated family of mountain gorillas which is not reliable due to its crossing the three countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Congo). A number of one-day nature walks are available from the gate at Ntebeko (the Sabyinyo Gorge trail and Rugezi Swamp trail), especially for bird watching activities, visit the Batwa Cultural Center and the Golden monkey trekking is now famous.
Accessibility to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park can be accessed by road or air transport. Kisoro Town at the foot of Mt. Muhavura is about 540 km from Kampala and takes about 8 hours via Kabale on an excellent paved road surface. Public transport by bus is available on a daily basis. Mgahinga is located 13 km from Kisoro town and can be accessed by public transport. Kisoro Town can also be accessed by air. The town boasts of a bitumen runway Airfield at Nyakabande.
Accommodation facilities in the National Park
For clients who want to visit this park for Gorilla tracking, Batwa trail or Volcano climbing, accommodation can be organized from the basic Campsite to the luxurious full board hotels; these include Traveler’s Rest, Sky Blue, Mt.Gahinga Rest Camp, Virunga Hotel, Mgahinga Safari Lodge, Rugigana Campsite and Mubano Hotel.