Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga is part of a larger ecosystem, the Virunga Conservation Area (434Sqkm) which includes two adjacent parks in Rwanda and Congo. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. It was formed to protect the rare mountain gorilla that inhibit its dense forest and is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.
Its most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area which includes adjacent parks in these countries.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers a soothing aura of majesty with cool temperatures owing to the mountainous nature of the park. Its home to part of the 300 gorillas located in the Virunga Massif. It is indeed where gold meets silver where gorillas are house with the same habitat of the golden monkeys. The cultural heritage featuring folklore and traditional healing practices for local people covers the north slopes of the three northern Virunga volcanoes – Muhavura, Gahinga and Sabinyo.
The park derives its name from “Gahinga”, a Kinyarwanda word for a pile of volcanic lava stone heaps around which cultivation is carried out. On the other hand, Muhavura means guide and Sabinyo means the Old man’s teeth. It is bordered to the south by Rwanda and to the west by DR Congo.
While Sabinyo is deeply eroded with jagged crown and deep gorges and ravines, Gahinga has a swamp filled – crater about 180m wide and Muhuavura has a small crater lake about 36m wide at its summit. While at the top of the Sabinyo, you get to be set foot in all the three countries of Uganda, DRC and Rwanda at the same time. Its view of the volcanoes and gorges with the cool breeze of freshness is unrivaled. On some of the steep mountain slopes are caves formed by lava tubes, one of them being the famous Garama cave located near Ntebeko, the park headquarters.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 510km from Kampala; the most commonly used route passes through Kabale and Kisoro. The 43km journey from Kampala to Kabale can be completed in 8hrs on a good tarmac. It is then a further 76km to Kisoro town on a mountainous tarmac road with steep ascents and descents.
An attractive, alternative route leaves the main road and Kabale follows the shoreline of the superbly scenic. Lake Bunyonyi to rejoin the Kabale – Kisoro main road at its halfway point at Muko.
Ntebeko, the main entrance to Mgahinga Gorilla National park is 14km from Kisoro at the end of dirt road with some steep and rocky sections.
Mgahinga can also be reached by air using the daily flights from Entebbe International airport to Kisoro airfield.
The best birding in Mgahinga also takes in some of its most beautiful scenery in the gorge between Mts Gahjinga and Sainyo, through the bamboo forest, and in the montane forest where the beautiful Rwenzori Turaco may be observed.
For generation, Mgahinga’s dense forest were home to the indigenous Batwa – hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine. Now they lead visitors through the forests and introduce them to their old home and the techniques the used to survive in it.
The guide leads you through the gorillas’ world, surround by wild forest and impressive birdlife, explaining the gorillas’ behavior along the way. Tracking excursions leaves from Ntebeko Entrance Gate at 8am daily and last between two and four hours.
HIKING AND NATURE WALKS
Hiking around the foothill of the Virunga Volcanoes gives visitors the chance to spot forest birds, the Rugezi Swamp, wild vegetation, bamboo forests and glorious views of the surrounding lakes and agricultural villages.
MOUNTAIN/ VOLCANO CLIMBING
All three volcanoes in this park can be summited, taking a full day each Views from the peaks are well worth the effort-taking in Rwanda, DR Congo, and the Virunga, the Rwenzori, Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Lake Edward.
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