Mgahinga National Park
The local word, ‘Gahinga’, refers to the array of volcanic rock found dotted around the various bases of the park’s three extinct volcanoes. Forming part of the Virunga Conservation Area, Mgahinga National Park is one of only two places in Uganda that is home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla.
It may be Uganda’s smallest park, but every ranger will be sure to tell visitors that dynamite comes in small packages. The park’s three volcanoes and surrounding landscapes are home to an impressive amount of birdlife and rare wildlife including the endangered golden monkey, the blue monkey, golden cat, leopard, bushbuck, and duiker. The original native people of the forest, the Batwa pygmies, still live in Mgahinga to this day.
Mgahinga National Park is located in the Virunga Mountains and encompasses three inactive volcanoes, namely Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Sabyinyo. In altitude, the national park ranges from 2,227 to 4,127 m (7,306 to 13,540 ft) and is part of the Nile River watershed area. It is contiguous with Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and the southern sector of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Mghaginga’s volcanoes serve as a scenic backdrop to the quaint market town of Kisoro, only 15km from the park, which offers accommodation options ranging from hotels and lodges to B&Bs. Visitors to the park can enjoy gorilla tracking, nature trails, mountain climbing, birding, and cultural encounters with the local Batwa.
Gorilla Tracking in Mgahinga
Mgahinga’s habituated gorilla group is known as Nyakagezi. Nyakazi is made up of 9 members, of which 2 are male silverbacks, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles and 2 infants. However, due to their constant movement, a sighting is not guaranteed.
Hiking the Volcanoes in Mgahinga
Mt. Sabyinyo (366m)
Sibinyo means ‘Old Man’s Teeth’ in the local language. Like an old man, the time has eroded Mt. Sabyinyo’s crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to climb. A climb up the mountain takes one up a ridge along the eastern side of the climb to the peak. If you are to continue, the climb to the peak 11 involves walking a ridge with breath-taking drops into gorges of Rwanda and Uganda, a dual experience. Finally, the hike up to the peak 111 is steep with several ladders and mush scrambling. You are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route! Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, with a stunning 360 view. This 14-kilometre stretch takes about eight hours round trip.
Mt. Gahinga (3474m)
On your way to the park, look out for small piles of stones in the garden fields. The local people call such a pile a ‘Gahinga’. Mount Gahinga is quite bigger than the average ‘gahinga’ but sitting next to Mount Muhavura does make it look small. A hike, 6-hour return trip, goes through the pure Bamboo forest. Gahinga once had a Crater Lake on top but time has changed it into a Lush swamp that is 8km away.
Mt. Muhavura (4127m) – ‘The Guide’
Seen from all over Kisoro, this volcano acts as a guide. The typical cone-shaped Mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Much of the climb passes a rocky surface covered by grasses and small shrubs. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded with the view of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the peaks of Rwenzori Mountain. A round trip hike takes approximately 8 hours covering 12 kilometres. You are advised to camp at the Muhavura base camp the night before the site has no facilities so you need a tent, water, food and sleeping gear.
- Mgahinga National Park was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit the dense forest.
- Top Activities include Golden Monkey Tracking, Gorilla Trekking, Birding and Hiking the Mountain Peaks
- It also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.
- Mgahinga National Park has three striking features; conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that liies along the border of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda.
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