Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is Uganda’s smallest National Park, at 38 square kilometers in size, yet is representative of the larger ecosystem that is a part of – Virunga Conservation Area (434 square meters). There are two adjacent parks; one in Rwanda and the other in the Congo. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was formed to protect both the rare mountain gorillas and the endangered golden monkeys that inhabit its dense forests. This park is home to par of the 300 Gorillas that are located in the Virunga massif.
Its most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes which are part of the spectacular Virunga range that forms the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo. The cultural heritage of folklore and traditional healing practices covers the north slopes of these 3 volcanoes, Muhavura, Gahinga and Sabinyo. The name, Mgahinga comes from the Kinyarwanda word, Gahinga, meaning “a pile of volcanic lava stone heaps, around which cultivation is carried out”. Muhavura means “guide” and Sabinyo means “the Old Man’s Teeth”.
Sabinyo is deeply eroded, with a jagged crown and deep gorges and ravines. Gahinga has a swamp filled crater about 180 meters wide; Muhavura has a small crater lake about 36 meters wide at its summit. On top of some of the steep mountain slopes are caves formed by lava tubes, the most famous of which is Garama cave, located near Ntebeko (the park headquarters).
The dense forests of Mganinga Gorilla National Park is also home of the Batwa hunter-gatherers, who were famous for being fierce wariors. The Batwa depend on the forest for shelter, food, and medicine.
This is the most popular activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Park Rangers guide you through the “Gorilla’s World”, which is surrounded by wild forest and magnificent bird life. Tracking excursions leave from Ntebeko Entrance Gate at 8 am daily and last between 2 and 4 hours.
Hiking and Nature Walks:
At the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes, trails give the visitors great opportunity to view not only the forest birds, but the Rugezi Swamp, wild vegetation, bamboo forests and magnificent views of the surrounding lakes and agricultural villages.
Each of the extinct volcanoes can be climbed successfully, taking about a full day each. From the peaks, once has magnificent views of Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the Virungas, the Rwenzoris, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Lake Edward. Many of the slopes are dotted with caves, the most famous of which is Garama Cave, near the park headquarters at Ntebeko.
In the gorge between the Gahinga and Sabinyo mountains, some of the most beautiful scenery can be viewed. This takes you through the bamboo forest and in the montane forest, where many unique species of birds can be observed, such as the Rwenzori Turaco.
Mgahinga’s dense forest has been home of the Batwa hunter and gatherers for generations. Having a Batwa lead you through their forest can be a most eye opening, exhilarating experience. Seeing their old homes and viewing the survival techniques they employ will introduce you to a totally different world.
The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park gate at Ntebeko is 510 kms from Kampala. There are two access points for the park:
1) The most commonly used route is through Kabale and Kisoro.
2) An alternate route is leaving the main road at Kabale and follow the shoreline of Lake Bunyony to Muko and then rejoin the main road to Kisoro.
Foreign Non Residents: $40 US for Adults, $20 US for Children
Foreign Residents: $30 US for Adults, $10 US for Children
Vehicle Entrance Fees: Saloon Cars $10 US, Minivans $15 US and 4 WD vehicles $15 US
Gorilla Tracking Permits:
Foreign Non Residents: $600 US per person (April, May and November $450)
Foreign Residents: $500 US per person (April, May and November $400)