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When it comes to gorilla trekking in Uganda, Mgahinga gorilla national park is hardly mentioned. However, the national park is a hidden treasure, which few have discovered. Despite its small size (33.7square kilometers), Mgahinga gorilla national park is a unique tourism destination in Uganda, rewarding travelers with experiential, and adventurous travel experience. The gorilla national park occupies Uganda’s share of the Virunga conservation area bordering volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The national park is divided into different vegetation zones with the bamboo zone covering roughly 60% of the park along with the subalpine zone, moorland zone and the afromontane belt. Among things each travelers should see and do in Mgahinga gorilla national park include:
This is the most done activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park. Nyakagyezi is the only habituated gorilla group in Mgahinga gorilla national park comprising of 9 members, which include 2 silver backs, 3 adult females, 2 infants and 2 juveniles. Unlike in the past years when the family would cross over to the neighboring Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, Nyakagyezi has presently settled in Mgahinga making it reliable for trekking. Just like in the adjacent Bwindi impenetrable forest national park, a gorilla permit a at a cost of 600usd and 450usd in the high and low season respectively is a must have for all trekkers. On each day, eights are available meaning that eight people are allowed to trek Nyakagyezi family every day. The unpredictable forest weather requires travelers to carry rain jackets, sweaters, hiking boots and hand gloves to ensure smooth hiking vi the steep slippery grounds. While with the gorillas, trekkers are reminded to keep a distance of seven meters away, keep a low tone, move at a low rate and littering in the park.
Golden monkey trekking
Mgahinga gorilla national park is the only destination to see golden monkeys along with volcanoes national park in Rwanda. Just like mountain gorillas, golden monkeys are one of the critically endangered species differentiated from other monkeys by the golden hair at the back. Travelers are reminded to be alert while taking photographs since golden monkey are playful animals, which jump continuously across tree branches. Physical fitness is very important since golden monkeys live up in the bamboo trees. Travelers spend four hours with golden monkeys, which provide them with extensive knowledge about the rare species. Interestingly, golden monkeys are trekked at a lower cost of 140usd for the permit including park entrance fee but the experience is memorable.
Mgahinga gorilla national park shelters 3 of the eight Virunga volcanoes in the Virunga conservation area. The three volcanoes are Mt Muhabura, which is the highest and most strenous at 4,127 meters above the sea level and is translated as “guide” in Kinyarwanda. At the summit of Mt Muhavura is a crater lake surrounded by a swamp which sot many birds. The other volcanoes are Mt sabyinyo translated as “old man’s teeth” standing at an elevation of 3,645meters above the seal level. Mt sabyinyo has three peaks each of which has different levels of difficulty and wooden ladders have been put along the hiking trail and the final peak is the border between Uganda, Rwanda and the democratic republic of Congo. It takes roughly 8 hours to and from the summit of my Sabyinyo. The third volcano is Mt Gahinga which means “a small pile of stones” standing two at an elevation of 3,474 meters above the sea level and is the most hiked being less strenuous which take roughly 5-6 hours to and from the summit.
Interestingly, each volcano can be hiked to the summit in a single day with the help of porters who help to carry baggage. Hiking permits are accessed from the park headquarters on the day of hiking. For safety cautions and advice while hiking, a simple briefing is done before the start of the hike.
Batwa cultural trail
This is an interesting event in which travelers are introduced to Batwa pygmies and their traditional forest life. The Batwa were permanent dwellers of the forest and were mainly fruit gatherers, hunters and warriors who depended fully on the forest for a livelihood. While in the experience, travelers are led into the forest by the Batwa pygmies who demonstrate their forest life and their traditional way of life. The demonstration include hunting, fruit gathering, hiding in Ngarama caves, collecting honey, making bush fires and singing which together provide travelers with great understanding of the Batwa. While in the cave, travelers are reminded to switch off their flashlights as listen to the ghostly singing. Interestingly, travelers are allowed to take part in some activities such as dancing, and hunting which make them feel as part of the community hence an experience for a lifetime. Also, taking part in the Batwa cultural trail is a way of supporting the local communities since 20% of the total among collected from traveler’s goes back to local communities.
Sheltering over 115 bird species, Mgahinga gorilla national park is a paradise for birders. There are also migratory birds, which are only seen in the months of April, May, October and November, which make birding in the area interesting. The most spotted bird species in Mgahinga gorilla national park include white necked raven, pin-talled whydah, black kite, paradise flycatcher, ibis, speckled mouse birds, grey capped warbler, Double-collared sunbird, waxbills, alpine, Blue-headed Coucal, Archer’s Robi-chat, Yellow-vented bulbul, Olive pigeon, Olive woodpecker, kivu ground thrush, blue-headed coucal and Rwenzori night jar. More still, travelers enjoy the sweet sounds and melodies of birds singing up in the trees. The afro montane vegetation and the cool weather provide a convenient environment for birds.
Nature walks/forest walks
Here travelers follow different trials into the forest guided by an armed experienced park ranger as they explore different forest zones. Nature walks provide travelers with a fresh feeling of a natural forest as well as providing them with an opportunity to encounter animals such as golden monkeys, gorillas, baboons, giant forest hogs, elephants, side-striped jackals and bush pigs among others. Forest walks last for roughly 5 hours depending on the fitness of an individual.
When to visit Mgahinga gorilla national park
The national park can be visited through out the year and all activities done. However, the dirty season between the months of June, July, august, September, December, January and February is the best time associated with less rains. The dry season is the best time for most activities such as hiking, gorilla and golden monkey trekking. However, wet season is the best time for budget travellers.
Conclusively therefore, visit Mgahinga gorilla national park rewarding you with a phenomenal experience.