Golden Monkey in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest park in Uganda covering an area of 33.7 km2. It is located in the Southwestern tip of Uganda in Kisoro district. The park adjoins Rwanda’s volcano and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Parks and is part of the Virunga conservation area. The park takes its name from “Gahinga” — the local word for piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmlands. It covers an altitude between 2227 m and 4127 m above sea level. While in the park, you will experience six vegetation types, Afromontane, tree heathers, montane forest, bamboo, montane woodland, and former farmland.

The Virunga ranges have eight volcanoes and three of the conical peaks are in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Muhavura is the highest at 4,127 m — the name is translated ‘guide’ in the local language, they used it as a reference to give direction because it towered above everything else. It has panoramic views of Rwanda and Uganda with a clear lake at its summit 36 m wide. Mount Gahinga at 3,474 m is also the smallest of the Virunga volcanoes; its name is derived from the ‘piles of rock’ that are cleared from farmlands. It has a swamp-filled crater on the top that measures about 180 m wide. Finally Sabyinyo at 3,669 m is translated ‘old man’s teeth’ because of the deep gorges and ravines that dissect it. On the highest peak of Sabyinyo is where you find the intersection between Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. You can take a hike to all these peaks in one day; you will be rewarded with magnificent viewsand great photographic moments.

The main attraction in the park is gorilla trekking just like its names suggests. It has one habituated gorilla family that moves between Uganda and Rwanda — it needs no visa as it calls both countries home. The other main activity is golden monkey trekking. In Uganda, this is the only place you can track golden monkeys, which are also endangered and endemic to the Albertine rift valley. There is an estimated 3000 – 4000 individuals in the Virunga area of which 40 – 65 are habituated in Mgahinga.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to about 180 bird species, which include yellow-vented bulbul, paradise fly-catcher, Rwenzori batis, and double-collared sunbird etc… It hosts 76 mammal species that are difficult to see in the wild forest; Elephants, bush pigs, forest buffaloes, bushbucks, golden cats and South African porcupines.

You can reach the park from Kampala via Kabale to Kisoro. You can also take scheduled or chartered flight from Entebbe to Kisoro.

Activities in this park include: Gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, bird watching, nature walks, mountain and volcano climbing, cultural experiences — Batwa trails, community walks and caves.

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Uganda’s National Parks