Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Safari suitability: 6/10Find your tour
No big five sightings, but gorilla trekking is a phenomenal experience. This is done on foot/hiking and can take 3-8 hours.
What YAS members think
- Mgahinga National Park is the smallest park in Uganda
- The park encompasses the peaks of the extinct Virunga volcanoes
- The park is home to over 150 bird species and 75 mammal species, providing a refuge to the endangered mountain gorilla
- The most common route to the park requires a full day’s travel
- June, July and August are the driest and best times to visit
About Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Located in the farthest southwestern corner of Uganda, at an altitude between 2,227 meters (1.4 miles) and 4,127 meters (2.6 miles) above sea level, Mgahinga National Park is the country’s smallest park, covering only 33.7 km² (13 miles²). Set against a breathtaking backdrop of the three northernmost peaks of the now extinct Virunga volcanoes—Mount Muhavura, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Sabinyo—Mgahinga National Park is made up of heath vegetation, montane forest and savannah woodland.
In the past, much of the park’s natural habitat was destroyed as a result of population growth and poaching. In 1930, Mgahinga National Park was declared a game sanctuary and in 1991 it was gazetted and made a part of the Virunga Conservation Area. The park is one of only two locations in the country that offers refuge to the endangered mountain gorilla. Over the course of history, the park has also been considered to be of great biological importance for its ability to provide shelter for mountain plants and animals that migrate along the slopes due to climatic changes. Mgahinga National Park is home to over 75 species of mammals, including elephants, side striped jackals, forest buffalo and the endangered golden monkey. It is also recorded to have over 150 bird species, including the crowned crane, blue-headed coucal and white-naped raven.
There are different options of travel to the park; however, the most common route runs through Kibale and Kisoro from Kampala (540 km, or 335 miles, away) at an estimated 8 hours of travel time—including 80 km (50 miles) stretch of winding mountainous roads. There are also air travel options from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro.
When to visit Mgahinga National Park
The park has two wet seasons, one from February through May and the second from September through December, during which temperatures are generally cooler, averaging 15 C (59 F) and dropping to about 10 C (50 F) at night. The drier months are the best times to go, especially for gorilla trekking.
The park takes its name from "Gahinga" the local word for the piles of volcanic stones at the foot of the volcanoes. We came to view the mountain gorrilas, but one of the locals advised us that most family of gorillas in Mgahinga like to split their time in neighbouring Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)and it was rare to find them in the park. The only option we had was to visit the only habituated gorilla group in Mgahinga known as Nyakagezi but there were so many tourist groups visiting that Gorilla group it dampened our moods. We wanted a unique spontaneous adventorous experience , not a pre-planned average visit, with large groups of persons . We were told of how many members the Nyakagezi Gorilla group had, time it takes to get there and what to expect when we get there by one of the park guides. This wasnt the unique experience We had signed up for, nevertheless we decided to stay for one day so as to try other attractions in the park. After debating with the locals on the best experience we could have we decided to do a day day hike on the Gahinga trail which normally take's about six hours and climbs to the base of Mt Gahinga .These picturesque, conical volcanoe straddle Ugandas borders with Congo and Rwanda, and on a clear day the peaks offer an unravelled view of all three countries. We began our hike at the park station with a short briefing about the hike, the park and the environment with our guide. An armed guard was also provided to us to provide support should we encounter elephants or buffalo's on the trail. The trail starts in a reclaimed farm land and winds up to the edge of the dense forest. The hike was steep in places but not challenging for the average hiker ,along the hike it did get damp as fog crept in and over the mountain. The scenery was both picturesque and breathtaking from the swaying branches of then giant bamboo trees, animal footprints across the trail and colorful variety of birds across the sky that joyfully chirped as if to encourage us to finish the trail, it was a sight to behold. It wasnt the experience we had come here for but it did offer a good alternative.
Had a great day encountering the Nyakagezi family of mountain gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. I highly recommend a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is good for people who want to make last minute arrangements for seeing the gorillas. We arrived in the evening and had a night at Chameleon Hill Lodge at Lake Mutanda with the most beautiful views of the Lake Mutanda and great Virunga mountains. This view is unbeatable!!We arranged the gorilla tracking at Mgahinga National Park that same evening, and went out tracking the gorillas the morning after! The gorilla permit in August (high season) was US$ 600. There are 8 people allowed per day (one hour with the gorilla group), but the day we went there were only 4 people I had traveled with. The gorilla trek can be long, but we were lucky and found the gorillas after only 15 minutes. The track starts at one of the park headquarters, depending on where the gorillas was last spotted. The group that is habituated in Mgahinga consist of 10 individuals, 5 Silver back, 2 females, 1 black back, 1 juvenile and 1 infant. Especially the juvenile and the infant is very playful and curious, and can get very close if something catches their attention. The experience of seeing these fascinating animals in their natural environment is indescribable! The view of the volcanoes in the back also make this a very scenic park . We would highly recommend doing a tour here! Besides, its only here you get to have 5 silver backs in the same family! Note that the park stretches between Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, and the gorilla group migrate between Rwanda and Uganda. It has, however, remained on the Uganda side of the volcano for the last 3 years.
Visiting the mountain gorillas has been my life-long dream, and thanks to KWSS, the experience was thrilling and full of wonder for me, my husband, and two teen sons. We walked for about 1 hour and spent 1 hour observing 10 gorillas grazing, climbing, playing, relaxing, and generally doing what they like to do. One of the gorillas actually approached my husband's camera to touch the microphone. The gorillas are incredibly gentle, human-like, and comfortable with their human observers. I am so happy KWSS suggested we visit the gorilla family in Mgahinga--a well kept secret. Many books suggest that the Mgahinga family moves into Rwanda and the DRC, but the extremely knowledgeable park ranger informed us that is no longer the case due to the family acquiring a new female from the other two wild gorilla families that live in the same park. As with Bwindi, a siting is "guaranteed." Our only regret is that we did not plan another night or two at Travelers Rest to go on the Mgahinga Batwa Trail or track the Golden Monkeys. This was one of our favorite places on our 15 day Kenya/Uganda safari. The many benefits of Mgahinga--close to Travelers Rest, borders Rwanda and the DRC, at the foot of the Virunga Mountains, easy walk to the gorillas, friendly family and rangers, still feels "undiscovered"
This was my lifetime Gorilla trekking park. This is the most beautiful park in Africa for the family human revolution. Great people of Uganda. Thank you very much.
We visited this park after visiting Volcanoes in Rwanda. Its close proximity to Rwanda allowed us to add this on. I really enjoyed this small park. It was more personal, it had AMAZING bird life and the views of the volcanoes were unparalleled. I highly recommend this park if you want to see gorillas and golden monkeys. You will not be disappointed.
Wow..what an adventure! Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest but one of the most amazing parks in Uganda and Africa.Situated in South Western Uganda in Kisoro District, the park lies on slopes of volcanic Mountains Muhavura, Mgahinga and Sabyinyo. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is eminent for being among the few parks in Uganda, Africa and on Earth which offer habitat for the endangered Mountain gorilla and Gorilla tracking is one of the most exciting activity at the Park. More exciting around the Park are Peaks which include; Muhavura, Mgahinga and Sabyinyo, Ntebeko Visitor Center where park activities are organized and 800m uphills from the center provides scenic views of the park and surroundings and Mountains.
Mgahinga National Park For all the years I had been in boarding schools with very strict rules and regulations. So joining the university was one of my dreams come true because there was no one to control my movements. The very first long trip I took was to Mgahinga national park which is located in the far south of western Uganda. We moved under the umbrella of the students association from my home area. The ten hour drive from Kampala was so amazing to the extent that I did not even want to dose in the bus. We used public means because we could not afford private means. I had always had stories about Kisoro where the park is located because of its meandering roads, cliffs and cold weather, beautiful scenery, the little people who live in the mountains and depend on bush food and this time I was going to see all these things myself. The amazing things started when we reached Kabale which is the nearest big town to the park because the weather changed drastically, the hills were so amazing , the way they carry out their agriculture because of the topography of land and everything was new all together. These people carry out terracing, something that I used to study in school but had never seen before. We reached in this town around 4pm since we started our journey as early as 6 in the morning. Since the buses those days would stop in that Kabale, We made a stop over to have some eats and interact with people. Life was not hard there because we could all speak and understand the language and the food was familiar because we are also from that region though from another district which is in the heart of western Uganda. At around 5pm we left Kabale for kisoro aboard a pickup truck because they are the only vehicles that could go through those impassable roads. Watching those meandering roads pass each other was a great experience though at some points we would close our eyes in order not to see those very sharp cliffs. Those roads are so identical to the extent that you think your still at the same spot even if you see the car moving. Then finally after three hour we reached Kisoro town where by we got accommodation and in the morning we used bicycles to the National park which was also a great experience. The language there is a bit different and communication was not that smooth. When we reached we were given a guide who took us around as we watched those mountain Gorillas whose behavior is 90% human. It was interesting to watch them, carry, feed and protect their babies. It was such a refreshing experience up there.
Mgahinga is contiguous with Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and is easily accessible from this park. It is about 1.5 hours away, in car, not including border crossing times. The nearest international airport is in Kigali, Rwanda.