Gorilla Safaris in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Seeing the magnificent gorillas is an experience of a lifetime. Spending an hour with them, watching their interactions with each other and with the silver backs is undeniably a thrilling experience you should not miss on your Uganda safari. Those who have trekked gorillas before review gorilla trekking as a priceless activity every traveler should enjoy. Much as gorilla tours in Uganda are mainly done in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park, Mgahinga gorilla national park is a hidden gem. The national park is Uganda’s smallest park, which spread over 33.7 square kilometers located in kisoro district. The park derives its name (Mgahinga) from the piles of volcanic stones, which filled the area in the formation of the Virunga volcanoes. Much as gorilla trekking takes a lot of strenuous efforts, an hour spent with these magnificent creatures in their natural habit is life changing. Mgahinga gorilla national park is one of the three counties that make up the Virunga conservation area together with Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Together with the sister Bwindi impenetrable forest national park, Mgahinga gorilla national park was established in 1991 purposely to conserve the endangered mountain gorillas and promote gorilla tourism in the area. The park is also a home to the other wild animals such as golden monkeys, forest elephants, baboons and monkeys all available for travelers. The vegetation cover in the park comprise of bamboo forest, grasses, lichens, liverwort and mosses, which provide habitat and food for wildlife in the park.
Initially, Mgahinga was a permanent home for the Batwa pygmies who fully depended on the forest for a livelihood by collecting honey, hunting and gathering fruits from the forest with no restriction. These people were later evicted from the forest in 1993 when gorilla tourism was introduced into the park. Today, batwa live in the boundaries of the park and are also available to receive visitors and take them through their former forest life, which expand travelers understanding of who the Batwa are.
Mountain gorillas are the key attractions in Mgahinga gorilla national park and a reason why the park is assuredly treasured. 1 gorilla family named Nyakageyzi has been habituated for trekking and eight permits are available everyday to allow travelers enjoy this experience of its own kind. In the past years, Nyakagyezi family would move freely crossing over to neighboring Rwanda and Congo, which made trekking time unpredictable and difficult. The good news is that the family has now fully settled in Uganda and is available to receive visitor’s everyday. Luckily, the size of the family has continued to grow big day by day with the birth of newborn gorillas. Nyakagezi family is led Mark and the family altogether comprise of 12 members, 3 mature silverbacks, 2 adult females, 2 juveniles, 2 black backs and 2 infants. Just like in other gorilla parks, gorilla trekking in Mgahinga starts with a simple briefing in which travelers are introduced to trekking rules and regulations after which a hike into the forest commences. Travelers must follow all trekking rules and regulations especially keeping a seven-meter distance from the gorillas and remaining within their group to avoid any trouble. A gorilla permit is a must have by all travelers and can be accessed through any tour operator of Uganda wildlife authority at a cost of 600usd just as in Bwindi impenetrable forest national parl. The interaction with gorillas is for an hour and all travelers are required if possible to hire porters who help in carrying baggage. Also, travelers are advised to dress appropriately in hiking boots, long-sleeved shirts, hand gardening gloves and rain jackets to ensure an enjoyable trekking experience.
Besides gorilla trekking, Mgahinga gorilla national park offers a variety of activities to visitors. These include among other:
Golden monkey trekking
If you want to fully enjoy what Mgahinga national park offers, take part in golden monkey trekking. The national park is a home to roughly 3000-4000 golden monkeys, which are hardly found, else where in Africa except in Rwanda’s volcanoes national park. This tells you that Mgahinga and volcanoes are the only prime destinations where golden monkeys are trekked. Fortunately, golden monkeys are trekked at a relatively low cost (100usd) but the experience is memorable. Also, these monkeys live in low altitude areas hence easily to reach by even the unfit travelers. Golden monkeys are lively animals, which most time up in the bamboo trees and are differentiated from other monkey species by the long golden hair on their backs.
Besides wildlife, Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home to three extinct volcanoes hence the best place for volcano climbing. A hike to the summit of any volcanic mountain in Mgahinag is undeniably an experiential adventure every traveler should relish. The volcanoes in Mgahinga are Mt Muhavura (4,127meters), Mt Sabinyo (3,669 meters) and Mount Gahinga (3,474 maters) above the sea level. Each volcano is different from another in terms of history, location and the height. The three volcanoes are part of the Virunga volcanoes, which together form a chain of Virunga volcanoes together with Mt Bisoke, Mt karisimbi, Mt Mikeno, Mt Nyiragongo and Mt Nyamuragira in Rwanda and Congo respectively. The slopes of these volcanoes shelter the endangered gorillas and other wild animals, which is an added advantage for travelers to meet these animals adding to the total experience. Some of these volcanoes such as Sabyinyo share borders with both countries and can therefore be hiked from any country but the summit is in Uganda.
Batwa cultural trail
This is the best way to celebrate the traditional forest life of the batwa pygmies. The experience is fully led and demonstrated by the batwa who take travelers into the forest and demonstrate the way they lived in the forest doing different activities such as fruit gathering, honey collecting, hi=ding in cars and hunting. T6ravelers are allowed to take part in the activity, which extend their understanding of the batwa and their traditional forest life. Also, batwa lead travelers to Ngarama cave where they offered sacrifices to their ancestors.
In conclusion therefore, Mgahinga gorilla national park is a suitable place for you to visit. Book a gorilla safari to Mgahinga, trek golden monkeys and meet the batwa pygmies rewarding you with a memorable experience.