Mgahinga Gorilla National Park -a gem in an unspoiled corner of Uganda
Approaching Mgahinga and the Virunga volcanoes from Kisoro. From left are: Mount Muhuvura, Mount Gahinga and Mount SabinyoMgahinga Gorilla National Park is Uganda’s smallest National Park, measuring 33.7 km². In a beautiful country of great geographical diversity, this is nonetheless one of the most scenic, unspoiled spots. No-one can fail to be taken in by the majesty of the Virunga volcanoes.
About half of the world’s estimated 880 mountain gorillas are located in Uganda’s far south-west corner. The majority of these are in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to the north of Mgahinga. The first mountain gorilla was sighted by Captain Oscar von Beringe in 1902 in what is now known as Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Since the park borders Rwanda and the DR Congo, the “gorillas without borders” wander freely between the three countries. One particularly engaging habituated gorilla family is resident in Mgahinga. TIP: if you want a more personal encounter with the gorillas, go to Mgahinga. You are unlikely to have many other trackers in your party.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is part of the much larger transboundary Virunga Conservation Area and borders national parks in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park contains the northern slopes of three volcanoes: Mount Sabinyo (3,634m), Mount Gahinga (3,474m) and Mount Muhuvura (4,127m). Mgahinga is one of the best places in Uganda for hiking and walking.
The volcanoes’ slopes are home to around 75 mammal species, including buffalo, forest elephants and leopard. (The muzungu even saw a wild tortoise on one trip to Mgahinga!) It is one of the few locations in Uganda where you can trek to see the charming Golden Monkeys. It’s a lovely (and underrated) wildlife experience. Birdwatching, especially in Sabinyo Gorge, is highly recommended.
Mgahinga is home to the Batwa Heritage Trail and a number of other small but excellent community tourism initiatives. Mount Gahinga Lodge is the muzungu’s highly recommended base for all activities in Mgahinga. It is out of this world!
The hilly, often wet, marram road leading to Mgahinga can be tricky, but the ride is well worth it.
Did you know… ? A gahinga is a piece of molten lava that has hardened. Gahinga are scattered for many miles and are evidence of volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago.