Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga is part of a larger ecosystem, the Virunga Conservation Area (434sqkm) which includes two adjacent parks in Rwanda and Congo.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.
Mgahinga’s most striking land features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area which includes adjacent parks in these countries. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.
Mgahinga at a glance
Size: 33.7km2, making it Uganda’s smallest National Park.
The park takes its name from “Gahinga” – the local word for the piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmland at the foot of the volcanoes.
The British administration declared the area a game sanctuary in 1930; it was gazetted as a National Park in 1991.
Mgahinga has one habituated trans-boundary gorilla group, the Nyakagezi gorilla family.
The Batwa were self-sufficient – and visitors can see how during a fascinating tour with a Batwa guide to learn the secrets of the forest.
UGANDA SAFARI DESTINATION
THE GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Current Time in Kampala – Uganda
RECOMMENDED MGAHINGA GORILLA SAFARIS
All our tours are born out of a desire to share authentic African Safari experiences. Offering travellers individual journeys, designed to match your interests, tastes and budget, we provide tailor-made tours to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Enquire with our team of experts to start your journey.
Mountain/ Virunga Volcano Climbing
The Virungas are a chain of eight volcanoes which dot the borders of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Three of the conical peaks are in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and can be summited, taking a full day each. Views from the peaks are well worth the effort.
At 4,127m Muhavura is the highest of the peaks in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The name means guide, and the Batwa used to look for its high peak to help orient them in the forest. Muhavura has a crystal clear crater lake about 36m wide at its summit. The top commands panoramic views far into Uganda, Rwanda and along the length of the Virunga chain
Mount Gahinga (3,474m)
Mount Gahinga is the smallest of the Virunga volcanoes. It is named after the local practice of tidying the volcanic debris that clutters local farmland into neat cairns- or Gahinga. Its swamp-filled crater is around 180m wide.
Sabinyo means old man’s teeth, a reference to its jagged summit which is dissected by deep gorges and ravines. The countries that share the Virungas – Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo – meet on the highest of Sabinyo’s stumpy peaks.
Hiking and Nature walks
Hiking around the foothills of the Virunga volcanoes gives visitors a chance to spot forest birds, the Rugezi swamp, wild vegetation, bamboo forest, glorious views of the surrounding lakes and agricultural villages.
The best birding in Mgahinga also takes in some of the most beautiful scenery in the gorge between mount Gahinga and Sabinyo, through the bamboo forest, and in the montane forest, where the beautiful Rwenzori Turaco may be observed.
Let your guide lead you through Gorillas’ world surrounded by impressive birdlife, explaining gorilla behavior along the way. Trackers set off from Ntebeko entrance gate daily at 8am for hikes that last between two to four hours.
As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivalled. Exploring the Batwa trail of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park brings all this to life.
Some of the steep mountain slopes contain caves formed by lava tubes, one of them being the famous Garama Cave located near the park headquarters. This is a sacred place for the Batwa, and during the Batwa Trail you can discover how it was used as a shelter during pre-independence battles and as a place to store looted treasures.
Ntebeko Visitors’ Centre
The Visitor Centre at Ntebeko is the starting point for nature walks, volcanoes hiking, golden monkey and gorilla tracking and the short (4km) Batwa Trail. The trailhead of the long Batwa trail is at the base of Mt Muhavura. Exhibits inside the building explore themes relating the Virunga environment. A trail along the stone Buffalo Wall – built to keep animals out of neighboring farmland – provides good birding and views of the volcanoes.
TO NOTE: Air Travel Mgahinga can also be reached by air using the daily flights from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro airfield.
Other Attractions Outside Mgahinga
A worthwhile diversion on the route to Mgahinga from Kabale, Lake Bunyonyi is dotted with at least 20 small islands and encircled by steep terraced hills. Africa’s second deepest lake is unforgettably scenic and visitors can take canoe rides on this lake or drive to the many stunning view points where they can see all the islands from a vantage point.
There are a number of lakeside resorts where guests can stay overnight or simply follow the lakeshore road to Kisoro and Mgahinga.