Mgahinga National Park – Mountain Gorillas, Golden Monkeys, Batwa trail, Volcano Climb and Gorge Walk.
Located in South Western Uganda, Mgahinga National Park is comprised of three dormant volcanoes that straddle Uganda’s border with Rwanda and Congo. Covering 33.7Km2, it is Uganda’s smallest park, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has less to offer.
Each of its three vegetation zones (forest zone, bamboo zone, and alpine zone) hosts over 20 plant species that in turn attract countless birds, mammals and butterfly species. The Park is separated from the neighbouring community by a wall fence that is built out of volcanic ash.
Thanks to this boundary, it is quite impossible for wild animals to invade crops farms of locals. This has limited inter-human wildlife conflict and positively impacted on the conservation of the park’s biodiversity.
For most primate lovers, it is Mgahinga’s Nyakagezi gorilla family that is a star attraction and most sought-after safari experience of the park. Setting out early in the morning, this habituated family of 12 members is tracked in groups of no more than eight people and, when situated, you will have one hour in their company.
Sightings typically are clear since the gorillas prefer to reside in the bamboo zone which is less dense compared to the forest zone. Their captivating playfulness makes the half day forest trek all the more worthwhile. In comparison with the silverbacks, the solitary males and less dominant males are not allowed to mate with the female.
One of the best things about Mgahinga is the tranquility and harmony it offers. This is usually due to a lack of other tourists. On the day of your visit, there might be no more than a handful of you sharing these rolling rain-forest hills.
Mgahinga National Park also offers thrilling golden monkey treks. Their aggregations number several hundred monkeys in a single troop: quite a jaw-dropping sight to behold. They spend much of their day in a forest that is largely vertical and dense. Its growth of foliage, however, makes the trails seem like tunnels. It crosses small rivers and winds over hilly terrains that offer a great climbing challenge.
If you love mountaineering, Mgahinga’s three mountains will leave you wanting for more. Lying at an altitude of 2,227m to 4,127m above sea level, they are Sabinyo, Mgahinga and Muhavura. Each offers a perfect opportunity for you to stretch your muscles.
Each of them has trails for novices and tourists in need of extreme hikes. Along the way, you will be treated to views of nearby villages, from where children’s songs and laughter carry up the mountainside. The summit of each mountain is a lovely picnic and camping site.
Top among the things you shouldn’t miss here is the Batwa cultural experience. It entails spending the day with natives from the Batwa tribe as they show you their ancestral home, Mgahinga National Park. Before it was gazetted in 1994, it was everything to them: home, source of food, source of medicine, shelter.
During your half day cultural experience, you will be treated to their electrifying dances as you discover their traditional ways of life and visit caves that used to shelter them.
What to carry when coming here; gloves, good hiking shoes and warm clothing. If possible, tag along with a rain coat. Mgahinga is a rain forest where it can start raining any minute.
Best time to visit
In general, most people prefer to hike in the dry months from June to August and December to January. During this time, the park has less undergrowth, making it easier to take pictures.