One of the less known destinations for gorilla tracking in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This amazing forested park is found in the south-western at the corner of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It sits high in the clouds and lies just astride the borders of Rwanda and Congo. It covers an area of about 33.7square kilometers, making it the smallest conservation area in Uganda. Despite its size, it is one of the most scenic places in East Africa.
This park is an abode for man’s closest cousins, the mountain gorillas, second to only Bwindi national park as the only parks where gorilla trekking can be done in Uganda. The Mgahinga national park is one of the few destinations in the world where the endangered mountain gorillas live and these attract lots of people from many different countries to come and experience this lifetime encounter.
Harboring over 39 mammal species, it is without any doubt that Mgahinga gorilla national park is one of the most leading tourism destinations in Uganda. Other iconic wildlife species here include, elephants, buffaloes the elusive golden monkeys, baboons, monkeys, the forest hogs, forest leopards and reptiles like chameleons and lizards.
Visitors always wonder why gorilla safaris should mainly be done in Mgahinga gorilla national park and not in any other places, but the special secret behind it is that this park has got a thick rain forest with a wide variety of tree species and the gorillas which are well known to be vegetarians feed on these to survive.
This actually means there is enough food for them in this park and this is the very reason why some of the gorillas even migrate from Rwanda and Congo to this particular park. The gorillas in Mgahinga national park are easily seen in their natural habitat and this surely makes the trekking very easy as compared to other parks.
While in this park there is only one group that is fully habituated and open for tracking and this is the Nyakagezi group. Before this group, mountain gorillas could move from one country to another until they made Mgahinga their permanent habitat.
Gorilla tracking is most breathtaking activity done in this park and it is only Nyakagezi gorilla group trekked by travelers. The gorilla tracking normally starts at 8:00am in the morning where trackers start from the Ntebeko visitors’ center after a briefing.
There are always park rangers and guides who are well informed about the gorillas and the park at large so always feel free to ask any questions while with them. People doing this activity need to possess average level of physically fitness because the experience is quite challenging, characterized by moving in the dense forest, marshy valleys and steep slopes.
The trackers are expected to plan for their time while they are with a gorilla family since the maximum time allowed to spend with a family is one hour. The maximum time period for tracking is 1 hour and four hours for habituation experience.
Park rangers and the guides always make sure that trekkers have enough equipment like water proof cameras, Light clothes, packed lunch and surgical masks are wore while in the presence of gorillas and any other stuff in case the park authorities advise to have them.
The best time to visit Mgahinga national park and trek gorillas is during the dry seasons when this park is easily accessible and navigable. This is because during this period of time, the thick forests can be easily penetrated and the paths are not muddy as it is the case during rainy season. The two dry seasons in mid-December to the end of February and June to October are the best for making gorilla trekking tours in Uganda.
Road transportation is the most common mean to access the Mgahinga national park by driving from Kampala via Kabale to Kisoro and this journey takes around 8-9 hours.
One can as well use a plane from Entebbe international airport to Kisoro airstrip which is nearer to the park and the quickest mode of transport taking about one hour. There are daily scheduled and chartered flights and these must be booked long in advance with a trusted local travel agency.
One should worry not about the accommodation while in the park; there are numerous lodges very suitable for overnight and relaxation.
Some lodges are found near the Ntebeko gate like Mount Gahinga safari lodge and Amajambere Iwacu camp, others at Lake Mutanda, including Lake Mutanda resort and chameleon hill lodge. There is also traveler’s rest hotel and Mucha hotel in Kisoro town.
Gorilla trekking is an amazing activity as one goes through the forests and the visitors are able to listen to sounds of the birds in the trees, monkeys and many other animals making everything in Mgahinga national park so spectacular and memorable.