The park is shared by neighboring Congo(Parc National des Virunga) and Rwanda(Parc National des Volcans), Mgahinga is the country’s smallest national park and protects the Ugandan part of the ‘Virunga mountains;a range of extinct and active Volcanoes that straddle the border.A tropical rainforest, much of the lower slopes have been depleted by the encroachment of farms,however,the bamboo and alpine forests remain largely intact and offer refuge to visiting gorilla groups from neighboring Congo and Rwanda mgahinga mountain gorilla safaris and tours. These Gorilla groups frequently ‘pop in’ and take temporary residence for a couple of months at a stretch. Additional wildlife includes Blue Monkeys, Black & White colobus monkey, leopard, forest elephant, giant forest hog as well as numerous species of birds. As well as being famous as a refuge for ‘Gentle Giants’ Mgahinga is also a favorite with hikers who come to explore the many caves and the three volcanoes, which lie partly within the park’s borders.
Mountain gorillas form the main attraction at Mgahinga National Park, which protects the Ugandan portion of the Virungas, an imposing string of nine freestanding extinct and active volcanoes that runs along the border with Rwanda and the CongoMgahinga gorilla forest tour.
It can be accessed by road and by air.
By Road from Kampala to Kisoro it’s about 520kms drive about 8-9 hours.
By Air: You can get a charter plane from Entebbe or Kajansi to Kisoro Airstrip from where you can connect to Mgahinga national park. You can also access this park from Rwanda and Congo
Most people sleep in kisoro, but there are other choices just outside the park gate like the mt gahinga lodge, amajembere lwacu community campsites and others. Despite premium views of virunga volcanoes, this area just doesn’t get many visitors due to its out side of the way location; but for some people, the peace and quiet is a bonus.
ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES IN MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK
Flora and fauna
The scenery of mgahinga’s slopes is at all time covered with a series of distinctive altitudinal bands of vegetation. The lowest zone is occupied by grass as well as bush which was formerly encroached in addition to cleared by farmers and is now regenerating. For those interested in undisturbed vegetation, its starts with montane woodland, followed by the bamboo zone, montane forest as well as the Ericaceous zone which further contains giant tree heathers. The sequence culminates with the spectacular alpine zone which usually occurs only on East Africa Mountains above 3000m along with includes bizarre giant forms of lobelia and groundsel.
The most exciting thing about the park is that it has at least 39 species of mammals as well as 76 birds. Larger mammals are also present and these include elephant, leopard, buffalo and bush pig although these are rarely seen.Mgahinga’s most well known resident is the mountain gorilla. less famous although equally rare and deserving of protection is the golden monkey which is found only in the virungas and in one other forest in Rwanda.citedly bird species include the Rwenzoria turaco, crowned hornbill, black kite as well as crowned crane
Kisoro District is largely populated with just about 331 people/km2.The area has two main ethnic groups. The most common are the Bafumbira who are originally farmers. The Batwa, who once practiced a subsistence hunter-gather life in the forest, form a minority group.
Ntebeko Visitor Centre
The park has various activities that are arranged from the visitor centre at Ntebeko.With an accessible viewing platform,800M uphill from the visitor centre, gives wonderful views of the park as well as the surrounding areas. For those worried about the guide, it is not necessary and access is free.
Mgahinga has three volcanic peaks,muhubura (4127m), sabyinyo (3669m) as well as mgahinga (3474m).These may well be climbed even though no specialist equipment is needed, keep in mind that a reasonable level of fitness is necessary whenever you intend to enjoy the experience.
The names of the peaks happened to come to life in translation.Muhabura means ‘the guide’ as well as its towering cone is a very prominent landmark. During the 19th century its crater more still glowed to give a natural lighthouse for travellers.Furthermore the rim of the older sabyinyo has weathered into a ring of stubby peaks, thus earning it the title ‘old man’s teeth’.Thes imposing cones overshadow the stumpy mountain. Mgahinga which is cited for the local practice of tidying the volcanic rocks that clutter farmland into ‘small piles of stones’-or gahingas.
Sabinyo has three peaks. An ascent leads first to Peak 1 prior to climbing towards Peak 2 along a narrow ridge that overlooks breathtaking drops into deep gorges on each side. Peak 3 is further reached by as well as muddy scramble. The borders of three countries converge on this summit and so you will find yourself simultaneously in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda. The 14km round trip takes about 8 hours.
An ascent of Mountain. Gahinga climbs through bamboo forest to reach a lush swamp which lies in the crater at the summit. The round trip from Ntebeko takes just about 6 hours.
This classic volcanic cone is capped by a small lake; a modest reward for a 5 hour trek that rises 1700m to over 4100m. The real incentives for the mountain’s marvelous alpine vegetation. The Muhuvura trail gives the quickest as well as shortest route to experience these dramatic plants while the View includes the five other Virunga volcanoes, the rift valley, Lake Edward and (in clear weather) the Rwenzori mountains. The 12km round trip takes around 8 hours. whenever you have your own equipmer you ought consider camping at the ranger post at the base of the volcano to make an early start (and improve your chances of clear views).
Buffalo Wall and Bird Watching
Farmland along the northern edge of the park has a dry stone wall that keeps buffalo in the park and birds. The trail along the wall is ideal for birding. Guide is between 17.00-18.00 if you book by 10.00 the a stroll towards the Democratic Republic of Congo through a wetland area where the fire finch are found.
Batwa Trail and Garama Cave
The Batwa Trail leads from the base of Muhuvura Cave. This walk is conducted by Batwa guides who offer insights into their traditional forest life as well as culture.
The 342m long Garama Cave lies beneath a plat northern edge of the park, 3km from Ntebeko. It is set in the former farmland zone although in earlier times, the cave forest when it was occupied periodically by Batwa who used it as a council chamber and a retreat after raiding their neighbours. At the moment, the cave provides an atmospheric a performance of Batwa music at the end of the Batwa.