Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is Uganda’s smallest yet most scenic national park situated in the remote South-western district of Kisoro, close to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. At 33.7 km2 , the Park forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area which includes the neighbouring Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mgahinga is famed for sheltering 3 of the 8 Volcanoes in the Virunga Massif including Mount Sabinyo standing at 3 674 m, Mount Gahinga, at 3474 m and Mount Muhabura at 4127 m above sea level. There are a number of caves with the major one being the Garama Cave set located 4 km from the Ntebeko visitor center.
The extremely rare Mountain Gorillas, the main reason behind the establishment of the Park, and other endangered apes, are housed at the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The Park also plays host to over 39 species of mammal that include more than 10 primate species.
Birdlife is also abundant with 180 bird species recorded in this small Park. These include the Rwenzori Night Jar, the Rwenzori Bati, the African Hill Babbler, the Regal Sunbird, the Rwenzori Turaco, the Western Green Tinkerbird, the Red-faced Woodland Warbler, the Olive Woodpecker, the Stone Chat, the Kivu Ground Thrush, the Chubs Cisticola, the Handsome Francolin, the Sooty Babou and the Crowned Hornbill.
Mahinga Gorilla National Park can be reached either by road or by air. The Park is almost a four hour drive from the main trailhead at Buhoma with the dirt roads from Buhoma passing the Ruhija trailhead to join the Kabale-Kisoro tarmac road. To get there by air, there are daily flights from Entebbe International Airport to the Kisoro airfield.
There is a wide variety of lodge and camps set up in Mgahinga for visitors to the Park, offering accommodation and food with services offered ranging budget, mid-range and luxury.
At the Mount Gahinga Lodge, situated at the foot of the Gahinga volcano, visitors are offered self-contained rooms with private balconies, seating areas with fireplaces as well as hot water bottles for use during the cold nights.
The Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp, set at the entrance of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is budget Camp that offers moderate food and sleeping services. Activities offered by the Camp include bird watching, trekking the Nyakagyezi Gorilla family, forest walks, Golden Monkey tracking and volcano climbing.
The Travelers Rest Hotel, a mid-range hotel is lying about an hour’s drive from the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has on offer 11 self-contained rooms that can be arranged as single, double, twin, and triple rooms depending guests choices. Also on offer at the Hotel is a restaurant, a gift shop, laundry services, bikes for rent, a travel desk and a beautiful garden to pass time in.
Best times to visit
Though Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is open to visitors all year round, the best time to visit for gorilla trekking is during the months of December to March and June to October where it is the warmest and driest.
Weather and climate
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park experiences a mild to cold and wet climate with the high altitude of 2 227 to 4 127 m making it one of the coldest destinations in Uganda. Average daily temperatures are usually around 20°C with evening temperatures dropping to around 9°C.
Other safety considerations
The main danger in this area is that of malaria and visitors are urged to take the necessary precautionary measures to stay safe. These include take anti-malarial pills, covering bare skin at dusk, sleeping under treated nets as well as using insect repellent sprays.