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Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is situated in the far south western corner of Uganda and smallest of the conservation areas. The 34km national park is a continuation of the Virunga mountain range and was first gazetted as a national park in 1991 as a way of protecting the mountain gorillas. It is the only place to find golden monkeys in Uganda and small as the park might be, it is the most regularly visited beautiful park in the country with panoramic views of the southern skyline of the steep Virunga volcanoes. The main attraction of the park is the Nyakagezi gorilla family being it’s only resident, gorilla trekking is the major park highlight other activities include golden monkey tracking, a day’s hike to Muhabura, gahinga or sabinyo, guided forest and nature walks, the Batwa cultural community, boat cruise on lake mutanda and Mulehe, bird watching.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is characterised by an afro-montane forest, bamboo forest, swampy marshy areas, bog and a semi-alpine vegetation, the parks top features are the three volcanoes mountain Ghahinga, Sabinyo and Muhabura, at least a check list of 76 mammal species has been recorded in the national park, known mammals are Mountain gorillas and golden monkey an Albertine rift endemic whose number has been restricted to the Virunga eco-system others include the Black and white colobus monkey, leopards, elephants, black fronted duiker, bush buck and small predators to mention a few. A bird list of 180 species 14 of which are Albertine endemics represents the national park for example the Rwenzori turaco, Kivu ground thrush and other localised forest birds.

Gorilla trekking is a major reason to visit the national park, it is home to one gorilla family known as the Nyakagezi eight permits are issued every day for the gorilla group currently consisting of four silverbacks, two adult females and three young ones, the dominance of many male silver backs makes it interesting to track in Mgahinga as the gorillas usually stick to the open vegetation, however the chances of seeing the family are not guaranteed as they keep moving from place to place or even cross borders to Rwanda. Gorilla trekking begins at 8:00am lasting for 2 or more hours depending on how far they have moved, it is a tedious activity that will have you panting throughout but over whelming as you finally meet the species, they don’t live in captivity so a 7 meter distance rule is put in place by the Uganda wildlife authority to avoid close contact.

Golden monkey of Mgahinga national park, are listed as endangered on the IUCN red list, there are only two populations endemic to the Virunga region in Mgahinga and Volcanoes National Park on Rwanda, they are characterised by their bright golden colour decorated with a little black on the limbs. Excursions to see the monkey begin at 8:00am at the Ntebeko visitor centre, however these can be seen on any hike through thee mountain bamboo region, a hike to the golden monkeys entitles a 60-90 minutes’ walk and a team of people is allowed to do the activity however it may not be as strict as the mountain gorilla.

Mountain hikes there are guided hikes on a daily basis to the three volcanoes present within the national park (Gahinga 3474m, muhabura 4127m, sabinyo 3669m), hiking needs an extra level of fitness as it takes 8to 9 hours to reach the summit, it is possible to hike all of them in a period of three days, mountain sabinyo (3669m) is the most popular for the activity it uniquely presents an opportunity to be in three countries at the same time it being shared among the democratic republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The upper parts of the mountain are always misty and colder at higher altitudes it is important to take warm clothes. Movements depend on the slowest person and just in case one fails to reach the summit, you can request to come back, a beautiful vegetative cover zone await on a down slope.

Batwa trailthe initiative of Batwa trail provides an opportunity to experience the traditional community of the last short structured people in Uganda (pygmies) the event follows a trail along the lower slopes of the Virunga to Garama cave it involves Batwa guides demonstrating a range of practical traditional skills for example lighting the fire by rubbing together sticks, target practice with a bow and arrow, local medicinal use among others. The activity is done two times a day at 8:00am and 9:00am the shorter trail takes 3 hours and the longest is up to 7 hours.

Lakes around the park area Lake Mulehe and Mutanda are a compelling attraction around the national park, Lake Mutanda is a narrow flooded valley area believed to have been formed thousands of years ago, Mulehe is a little shallower compared to the other lake, recently a number of tourist activities has been developed on the two lakes for example canoeing. The two are strategically placed en-route to the gorilla tracking area with a large concentration of accommodation facilities. Lake chahafi is one of the crater lakes hidden in Kisoro, its beauty is breath-taking it is an unpopular tourist destination but lovable ounce visited.

The park is placed in the southwestern corner of the country approximately 9 hours’ drive from Kampala by road, charter flights can be organised to Kisoro airstrip from Entebbe of Kampala Kajansi by the localised airlines.

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