MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK
This is the smallest Uganda’s National Park, covering an area of about 36sq. km and located in the far south west of Uganda, Kisoro District. Mgahinga National Park protects part of Ugandan Virunga Mountains and its three main peaks. The Virungas are home to more than half of the world’s populace of the rare mountain gorillas; one notable gorilla group in the Park is the Nyakagezi group consisting of 9 members with 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles and 2 infant Uganda Gorillas. The park protects 76 mammal species, including the mountain gorillas, golden monkey, black and white colobus, leopard, giant forest hog, elephant, bush pig, bushbuck, buffalo, black-fronted duiker and several varieties of rodents, bats and small predators. Mgahinga also offers climbing activities along the slopes of Mgahinga, Muhabura and Sabinyo. The park has two wet rainy seasons; February-May and September – December of each year. The maximum amount of rainfall in a year is 250mm (October) and minimum is 10mm (July).
The Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla brengei) are the most awe-inspiring animals to be found in Africa. Unfortunately, man has not been merciful to them. Poachers have decimated them, and man has destroyed their natural habitat. They have faced extinction, but today sound conservation policies have slowed down their decline, and in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park they are able to establish their family groups untroubled by predatory man. Here on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains, in south west Uganda, the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (33.7 sq.km) has been established to provide a secure habitat for these massive, but gentle creatures.
Mgahinga protects around 76 mammals’ species, including the golden monkeys (a localized and distinctive race of blue monkeys), Black and white colobus monkeys, mountain gorillas, leopards, elephants, giant forests hog, bush pigs, buffalo, bush bucks, black-fronted duiker and several varieties of rodents, bats, and small predators.
Bafflingly, only 115 bird species have been recorded probably a reflection of the park’s small size. Ecosystem and wild life; being a mountainous area, the park vegetation is afro montane with in a cool climate. The abundant type of vegetation is the bamboo (60%), which is a delicacy to the mountain gorilla. Other types of flora include the lobelia, Haegenia etc.
This is the most exciting and unforgettable experience, which might take one through a thick jungle. One gorilla group, Nyakagezi is currently habituated and available for tourist. It has 11 members; 2 silver backs, 3 adult females, 4 juveniles and 2 infants. Book at least 3 months earlier.
Mgahinga Gorilla National park offers three extinct volcanoes for physically fit hikers although they do not require special mountaineering gear. The three volcanoes are Sabinyo, Gahinga, and Muhavura.
Garama Cave excursion
This is one of the caves where the batwa (who were warriors) once lived and fought their neighbors, the Bantu. The range guide will show you how the batwa lived and fought out of the cave. The cave is 342m in length and 14 m deep, and is now in habited mainly by bats.
Birding along the edge of the park is available on request. You will be taken out by the guides from 1700 hours to 1800 hours. A stroll along the buffalo wall towards democratic republic of Congo yakes you through a wetland area where ibis, speckled mouse birds and fire finch are found.
Viewing plat form
This is about 800metresfrom the park gate. Once on top, you will have a good view of the park and the surrounding areas. A guide is not necessary and the activity is free.
How to get there:
To get to Mgahinga from the national park’s office in Kisoro, follow the main road towards the DRC for about 100m, turn left at the first main junction, immediately before the Travellers Rest Inn, then turn right about 100m further. Ntebeko Entrance Gate lies roughly 14km from Kisoro along a dirt road. The other option is to walk because it should not take you much longer than 3 hours to get there.
The Up market accommodation is the Mount Gahinga Rest Camp which is situated a few hundred meters from the Ntebeko Entrance gate. The Camping accommodation type is the Mgahinga Community Campground just outside the entrance gate to Mgahinga.