Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
This gorilla park covers 33.7KM2 with an altitude between 2,227m and 4,127m. This park was conserved as an asylum to protect the endangered mountain gorillas. It derives its name “Gahinga” from a local word that means Volcanic pile of stones cleared from farmland at the foot of the volcanoes. This park is not only home to Mountain gorillas buts it’s also home to the beautiful graceful golden monkeys. Unlike the other gorilla parks; Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Virunga National park, Mgahinga forest has only 1 habituated gorilla group with 19 individuals tracked. Therefore, only a maximum of 8 people are allowed to track gorillas in Mgahinga, making it a maximum of 8 permits to be sold per day.
Despite the fact that this is a gorilla park, it was also home to the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers also known as “people of the forest” who were later displaced in 1991 after the the Government of Uganda declared this forest as a gazetted area.
Mgahinga can also be recognized from its three extinct volcanoes that lie along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. This park is also blessed with a striking gorgeous scenery.
Activities in the park;
Gorilla trekking; Escape To Africa specializes in organizing Gorilla tracking Safaris. When in Mgahing,a Gorilla tracking is a must do activity! With maximum 8 permits to be issued daily, it is not guaranteed that all of the 8 permits will sale out each day. Therefore trackers can be less than 8 but never moe than 8 people. This activity starts at the park entrance at 7:00 am, after briefing by the rangers.
Possession of a gorilla permit is a guarantee of tracking, BUT it’s not a guarantee of one’s sighting. However the chance of gorilla viewing is high – 95%. For one to be allowed to track, he must be above the age of fifteen years. Only 1 hour is allowed in the company of gorillas at 7 meters distance. Always leave the lodge with packed lunch as the tracking time is unpredictable. And remember that gorillas are wild animals and their movement is influenced by many factors apart from search for food.
Hiking Volcanoes; Escape To Africa organises hikes to the three Volcanoes; Mount Gahinga, Mount Sabinyo & Mount Muhavura. Hiking any of these volcanoes is an energetic activity that species up the safari. These are short hikes that can be done in 1 day in the company of the park rangers and an experienced Hiking Safari guide
- Mount Gahinga; At 3474m, Mt. Gahinga is a beautiful volcanoe that is hiked for 6 hours. While on the hike enjoy the beautiful scenery as you pass through former homesteads that are now part of the protected area. On your way to the Gahinga summit look out for the different bird species.
- Mount Sabinyo; Mt. Sabinyo is at 3669m above sea level and it provides an opportunity of being in 3 countries at once; Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. This mountain is made up of 5 peaks and it’s a full day’s hike including the descending. Hiking Sabinyo is a physically challenging hike and one should be in good health and in shape.
- Mount Muhavura; With Escape To Africa, enjoy this 4127M hike that takes about 7 hours. Enjoy the beautiful view and the Crater Lake at 20m in diameter. This is a very challenging hike and we advise a high level of physical fitness for one looking at hiking this forest.
Guided walk – 3 to 4 Hours; Enjoy the walk to the Garama cave which is 342m long and 14 deep. This is the battle ground for the people of the forest, the Batwa during the Batwa Bantu war. Enjoy the walk to this cave that is now inhabited by bats and evidence of tribal war remains.
Bird watching; Enter the park with a ranger and guide and enjoy birding to your fullest. As this park is known to have over 80 bird species include Ibis, Whydah, and Speckled Mouse birds among others.
Batwa Trail – 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours; With Escape To Africa, this trail takes us through that part of Mgahinga with remains of the Pygmies the Batwa; also known as “people of the forest”. In 1991 they were displaced from the forest as its was declared home to Gorillas only. This activity is run by the local community and all the funds go into developing the Batwa community. It involves the Batwa acting out their pervious life in the forest inform of traditional dance and drama. This walk involves some slippery walk but it can be done by both experience and un experienced hikers.