Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National Park is the smallest of Uganda’s conservation areas situated in the southwestern part of the country. It forms part of the great Virunga volcanic region stretching to Rwanda and the democratic republic of Congo. Of the 8 series of the mountain region 3 of these are present in the national park namely; Gahinga, Sabinyo, and Muhabura.
Mgahinga was gazette in 1991 as a way of protecting the critically endangered species of mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, it covers an area space of approximately 33.7 square kilometers. The conservation area gets its name from Mountain Gahinga’ a local word to mean a pile of stones cleared from the farmlands it is elevated between 2,227m and 4127m above sea level.
Mgahinga national park is home to one transboundary gorilla family known as the Nyakagezi gorilla group however recently they have been quite static and even one of the groups from Rwanda is said to have joined them. The other striking features of the park are the distinct volcanoes surrounded by a growing angelic forest along the slopes these are habitats to wildlife including the forest buffaloes, elephants, mountain duikers, bush pigs, golden monkeys and vervet monkeys. Over 180 bird species have been recorded here some of which are endemics of the Virunga region, and the Albertine, notable is the great blue turaco.
The Batwa community used to live in the forest, however, due to conservation purposes, they were evicted and continued living in the surrounding areas. Originally in the forest they were hunters and fruit gatherers, and their unique culture is one of the most endangered and to near extinction.
Gorilla tracking one of the activities in the park starts with briefing at the park headquarters by the park rangers. Tracking takes between, it takes 4-8 hours depending on how far the gorilla family has moved, these gentle brown-eyed species are special to the highland areas of the Virunga. They live in families of up to 20 members led by a male silverback permit are purchased through your tour operator from the Uganda wildlife authority. Trekking is allowed in groups of only 8 members and is done once a day.
Golden monkey tracking, Mgahinga national park is the only place to find golden monkeys in Uganda, these are endemics of the Virunga living in the bamboo forested region of the park. Unlike gorillas it takes a shorter time to find golden monkeys.
A visit to the Batwa community the last remaining short people in Uganda will lease you humbled. Their cultural performance and traditional music is quite interesting. Birding can be done in this conservation area. The surrounding places offer highlight canoe boat cruises along Lakes Mutanda and Mulehe.
Volcanic climbing along the mountains Muhabura, Gahinga, and Sabinyo, each of these offers a unique experience all hikes are accompanied by the Uganda wildlife authority team, they can be one day hike, or 2 days depending on the time the guest has.
Mgahinga national park is about 8-9 hours drive from Entebbe by road, charter flights can be arranged or even scheduled flights to the Kisoro airstrip. Travelers have a wide choice of accommodations ranging from Budget to Luxury.
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