Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is Uganda’s smallest national park located in the southwestern corner of Uganda in Kisoro district.  The park is situated in the great Virunga ranges shared between three neighboring countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic republic of Congo.

Bestriding on the northern slopes of the three northernmost Virunga Volcanoes namely; Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m), Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m), Mgahinga National Park was gazetted in 1991 to protect the species of the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.

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Spanning on 33.7 sq. km of protected land, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. The Gorilla Park consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes and has greatest biological importance because throughout the climatic changes of the Pleistocene ice ages, the Virunga Mountains strategically situated in the park provided a refuge for mountain plants and animals, which moved up or down the slopes as climate became warmer or cooler.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the parks in Uganda with an exceptional diversity of habitats, ranging from Afro-montane vegetation; plentiful bamboo vegetation to Lobelia Haegenia which supports the survival of at least 39 species of mammal and 79 birds found in the park. The Larger mammals supported natural diverse habitat includes elephant, leopard, buffalo and bush pig but these are rarely seen. The famous ape species supported by the habitat involve the mountain gorilla and the less famous but equally rare and deserving of protection is the golden monkey which is found only in the Virungas and in one other forest in Rwanda. Notable bird species include the Rwenzori turaco, crowned hornbill, black kite and crowned crane.

Mgahinga’s slopes are covered with a series of distinct altitudinal bands of vegetation. The lowest zone is an area of grass and bush which was formerly encroached and cleared by farmers and is now regenerating. Undisturbed vegetation starts with montane woodland, followed by the bamboo zone, montane forest and the Ericaceous zone which contains giant tree heathers. The sequence culminates with the spectacular alpine zone which occurs only on East African Mountains above 3000m and includes bizarre giant forms of lobelia and groundsel.

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The park contains at least 39 species of mammal and 79 birds. Larger mammals include elephant, leopard, buffalo and bush pig but these are rarely seen. Mgahinga’s most famous resident is the mountain gorilla. Less famous but equally rare and deserving of protection is the golden monkey which is found only in the Virungas and in one other forest in Rwanda. Notable bird species include the Rwenzori turaco, crowned hornbill, black kite and crowned crane

Besides being important for animal and plant life, the park also has a huge cultural valve particularly for the indigenous pygmies (Batwa) and the Bafumbira local people who live near the park. The Batwa local people who are hunter-gatherers were the forest’s “first Inhabitants”, and their traditional knowledge of their hidden aspects remains unrivalled.

  • Mountain Gorillas as a tourist attractions in Mgahinga Gorilla national park

    Mgahinga is home to the habituated Nyakagezi gorilla group – a fairly nomadic bunch that has been known to cross the border into Rwanda and the Congo. The family includes the lead silverback Bugingo who is around 50 years old and father to most of the group; his silverback sons, Mark and Marfia; and two blackbacks, Rukundo and Ndungutse, who love to pose and play in the trees. The two females, Nshuti and Nyiramwiza, both have babies Furraha and Nkanda respectively. Out of the twelve habituated gorilla groups, eleven are found in Bwindi and only one is found in Mgahinga Gorilla Park.

    Characteristics of Mountain Gorillas in Mgahinga.

    Gorillas display many human-like behaviors and emotions, such as laughter and sadness. They even make their own tools to help them survive in the forest. In fact, gorillas share 98.3% of their genetic code with humans, making them our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos. Physically the fur of the mountain gorilla is often thicker and longer than of other gorilla species, enables them to live in colder temperatures. The gorilla is massive, with a short, thick trunk and broad chest and shoulders. Its eyes and ears are dwarfed by its large head and hairless, shiny black muzzle. Older males develop a crown of muscle and hair that makes the head look even longer. The arms are longer than the stubby legs. The fully adult male mountain gorilla is twice as large as the female.

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    Adult males are called silverbacks because a saddle of gray or silver-colored hair develops on their backs with age. The hair on their backs is shorter than on most other body parts, and their arm hair is especially long. Fully erect, males reach 1.9 m (6 ft. 3 in) in height, with an arm span of 2.3 m (7 ft. 7 in) and weigh 220 kg

    The mountain gorilla inhabits the cloud forests and of the Virunga Volcanoes, ranging in an altitude from 2,200–4,300 meters (7,200–14,100 ft.). Most are found on the slopes of three of the dormant volcanoes: Karisimbi, Mikeno, and Visoke. The vegetation is very dense at the bottom of the mountains, becoming sparser at higher elevations, and the forests where the mountain gorilla lives are often cloudy, misty and cold.

    The mountain gorilla is primarily an herbivore; the majority of its diet is composed of the leaves, shoots and stems (85.8%) of 142 plant species. It also feeds on bark (6.9%), roots (3.3%), flowers (2.3%), and fruit (1.7%), as well as small invertebrates. (0.1%). Adult males can eat up to 34 kilograms of vegetation a day, while a female can eat as much as 18 kilograms.

    The mountain gorilla is highly social and lives in relatively stable, cohesive groups held together by long-term bonds between adult males and females. Relationships among females are relatively weak. These groups are nonterritorial; the silverback generally defends his group rather than his territory. In the Virunga mountain gorillas, the average length of tenure for a dominant silverback is 4.7 years .61% of groups are composed of one adult male and a number of females and 36% contain more than one adult male. The remaining gorillas are either lone males or exclusively male groups, usually made up of one mature male and a few younger males Group sizes vary from five to thirty, with an average of ten individuals. A typical group contains: one dominant silverback, who is the group’s undisputed leader; another subordinate silverback (usually a younger brother, half-brother, or even an adult son of the dominant silverback); one or two black backs, who act as sentries; three to four sexually mature females, who are ordinarily bonded to the dominant silverback for life; and from three to six juveniles and infants.

    The gorilla is shy and retiring rather than ferocious and treacherous. It usually seeks no trouble unless harassed but will valiantly defend its family group if threatened. Family groups are close-knit and may have up to 30 members, but even if smaller, the group usually consists of at least one older male, one or more females and a few juveniles.
    Gorillas have strong attachments to members of their own group and even when groups meet and mingle and then subsequently part, each animal tends to remain with its respective unit. An adult male called a silverback named for the silvery gray hairs on its back normally leads each group, serving as its chief protector and defender. Gorillas continually wander through their home ranges of 10 to 15 square miles, feeding and resting throughout the day. Because gorillas are nomadic, they build new nests each day at dusk, constructing them of bent branches in a tree or of grasses on the ground.
    A group’s hierarchy, ritualized behavior and bluff charges between males prevent conflict among and between groups. Gorillas scream, grab foliage and stuff it in their mouths, stand erect on their hind legs, tear up and throw plants, drum on the chest with hands or fists, stamp their feet, strike the ground with the palms of their hands and gallop in a mock attack on all fours.

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    In terms of reproduction, Mountain gorillas have a slow rate of reproduction. Females give birth for the first time at about age 10 and will have more offspring every three or four years. A male begins to breed between 12 and 15 years, when he is in charge of his own group. Able to conceive for only about three days each month, the female produces a single young.
    Newborn gorillas are weak and tiny, weighing in at about 4 pounds. Their movements are as awkward as those of human infants, but their development is roughly twice as fast. At 3 or 4 months, the gorilla infant can sit upright and can stand with support soon after. It suckles regularly for about a year and is gradually weaned at about 31/2 years, when it becomes more independent.

    Though strong and powerful, gorillas are generally gentle and shy. Severe is rare in stable groups, but when two mountain gorilla groups meet, the two silverbacks can sometimes engage in a fight to the death, using their canines to cause deep, gaping injuries. The entire sequence has nine steps: (1) progressively quickening hooting, (2) symbolic feeding, (3) rising bipedally, (4) throwing vegetation, (5) chest-beating with cupped hands, (6) one leg kick, (7) sideways running, two-legged to four-legged, (8) slapping and tearing vegetation, and (9) thumping the ground with palms to end display.

    Bird Species in Mgahinga Gorilla national park

    The varied habitats of Uganda’s smallest park make it home to a variety of birds with 179-184 species recorded. The list includes the Ibis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Speckled Mouse bird, Stone Chat, Grey-capped Warbler, Wax Bills, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Fire finch, White-napped Raven, Black Kite, Rwenzori Turaco, Blue-headed Coucal, Paradise Fly-catcher, Rwenzori Batis, Double-collared Sunbird, and Rwenzori Nightjar.

    Caves as an attraction in Mgahinga Gorilla national park

    Some of the steep mountain slopes contain caves formed by lava tubes, one of them being the famous Garama Cave located near the park headquarters. This is a sacred place for the Batwa, and during the Batwa Trail you can discover how it was used as a shelter during battles and as a place to store looted treasures.

    Cultural Encounter in Mgahinga Gorilla national park

    The Batwa Trail-, Mgahinga’s dense forests were home to the indigenous Batwa: hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine.

    When the national park was established, the Batwa were evicted from the forest and abandoned their low-impact, nomadic lifestyle. The only time they are permitted to re-enter their cherished forest is as tour guides on the Batwa Trail, on which visitors will discover the magic of the Batwa’s ancient home while enjoying nature walks and learning about the cultural heritage.

    The Batwa Trail leads from the base of Muhuvura to Garama Cave. This walk is conducted by Batwa guides who provide insights into their traditional forest life and culture.

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    During Batwa trail tour, the Batwa demonstrate hunting techniques, gather honey, point out medicinal plants and demonstrate how to make bamboo cups. Guests are invited to the sacred Garama Cave, once a refuge for the Batwa, where the women of the community perform a sorrowful song which echoes eerily around the depths of the dark cave, and leaves guests with a moving sense of the richness of this fading culture.

    Note: this tour involves hiking at an altitude of around 2,500m for at least 4-5 hours and hence it takes half day or whole day to explore the Batwa trial experience.

    What to Bring

    Packed lunch and plenty of drinking water

    Good hiking shoes or boots, sun screen and a hat

    The weather varies greatly at this altitude – we recommend bringing layers, including a waterproof jacket

    Tips for the guides and performers

    Guide lines to follow when exploring the Batwa Trail.

    Switch off your flashlight in the Ngarama Cave, as ghostly singing begins to echo in the pitch darkness.

    Watch your Batwa guides create fire to smoke out bees

    See a traditional Batwa grass hut – quick to build and to demolish which was essential for this nomadic culture

    Enjoy the lively dance at the cave´s entrance as the Batwa women sing a traditional song to welcome their guests

    Walk through the pristine Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, with spectacular views of the

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    Cave Exploration .The Garama cave is 342 meters long and 14 meters deep several years ago, this cave was inhabited by the pygmy Batwa people whom warriors attacked their neighboring communities, but in the present-day it is inhabited by bats. The distance from the park headquarters to this cave entrance, is approximately 3km, and the guide will give history to visitors how these Batwa survived and even made attacks basing from this cave.
    There is a viewing platform 800m from the Park’s gate. Immediately visitors reach at it, they’ll be paid back with splendid views of the Park as well as its surrounding and activity is free of charge since it does not need a guide. Additional information regarding this spot can be obtained from the display panels found at the hill-point.

    Golden Monkey as a tourist attractions in Mgahinga Gorilla national park

    It’s  a species of Old World monkey found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, including four national parks: Mgahinga, in south-west Uganda; Volcanoes, in north-west Rwanda; and Virunga and Kahuzi-Biéga, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is restricted to highland forest, especially near bamboo.

    This species was previously thought to be a subspecies of the blue monkey and the two are similar overall, but the golden monkey has a golden-orange patch on the upper flanks and back. Not much is known about the golden monkey’s behavior. It lives in social groups of up to 30 individuals. Its diet consists mainly of young bamboo leaves, fruits, bamboo branch lets, bamboo shoots, invertebrates, flowers, and shrubs. However, the golden monkey is an opportunistic feeder and diet can easily be influenced by the availability of fruit.  Due to the gradual destruction of their habitat and recent wars in their limited habitat, the golden monkey is listed as endangered on the IUCN and therefore called the endangered species.

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    Due to its diet the golden monkey prefers a habitat with abundant fruit and bamboo. The golden monkey will move in between areas depending on the season. During the season where ripe fruit is available they will remain in those areas. When the rainy season begins this causes bamboo shooting to occur and the golden monkeys are found more in these areas. Studies have found that if there is an area consisting of mixed fruit and bamboo, the monkeys will tend to frequent that area more than an area of just bamboo. One study reported that golden monkeys are most frequently seen in forests with bamboo, and this may suggest that this is one of the major preferences of the species.

    The endangered golden monkey is endemic to the Albertine Rift, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers a rare chance to track these striking creatures, high in the dense bamboo forests on the Gahinga trail. There is an estimated 3000-4000 individual in the Virunga area which 42-60 are habituated in Mgahinga.

    The Park’s varied medicinal plants and fascinating Ngarama Cave can be explored with a Batwa guide – this tribe of hunter-gatherers was the region’s original inhabitants, and their ancient knowledge of the forest remains unrivalled. When you visit this important park, the guide will know which areas are most frequented by each species of animal.

    Other Wildlife as an attractions in Mgahinga gorilla national park

    Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has 76 identified mammal species, although they are difficult to glimpse in the wild forest vegetation. They include giant forest hogs, bush pigs, forest buffaloes, elephants, bushbucks, golden cats, side striped jackals, black fronted duikers and South African porcupines.

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    The Virunga Volcanoes as a tourist attraction in Mgahinga gorilla national park

    Mgahinga has three volcanic peaks, Muhubura (4127m), Sabyinyo (3669m) and Mgahinga (3474m). These can all be climbed. Though no specialist equipment is required, a reasonable level of fitness is necessary if you intend to enjoy the experience.

    The names of the three peaks come to life in translation. Muhabura means ’the guide’ and its towering cone is a prominent landmark. During the 19th Century its crater still glowed to provide a natural lighthouse for travellers. The rim of the older Sabyinyo has weathered into a ring of stubby peaks, earning it the title ‘Old Man’s Teeth’. These imposing cones overshadow the stumpy Mt. Mgahinga which is named for the local practice of tidying the volcanic rocks that clutter farmland into ‘small piles of stones’ – or gahingas.

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    Muhavura volcano dubbed Volcan Muhabura is an extinct volcano at the easternmost end of the Virunga Mountains in east central Africa. It lies northeast of Lake Kivu on the border between Uganda and Rwanda. It is more than 13,500 ft. high, and its crater contains a lake. The volcano forms part of the Virunga National Park that rises to 4127 m at the NE end of the Virunga Range. It is a relatively youthful stratovolcano with a small 40-m-wide lake in its summit crater. The 3474-m-high Gahinga (Mgahinga) volcano is joined to Muhavura on the west by a broad saddle. The two volcanoes have produced basanitic-to-trachyandesitic lavas. A small parasitic crater has been recently active, but the age of the latest eruption of Muhavura is not known. It has a crystal clear crater lake about 36m wide at its summit. The top commands panoramic views far into Uganda, Rwanda and along the length of the Virunga chain.

    Mount Gahinga (3,474m) is the smallest of the Virunga volcanoes. It is named after the local practice of tidying the volcanic debris that clutters local farmland into neat cairns – or Gahinga.  Its swamp-filled crater is around 180m wide.

    Sabinyo also called Volcan Sabinyo, is an extinct volcano (3,505 m) in the Virunga Mountains of east-central Africa. It lies northeast of Lake Kivu and south-southeast of Rutshuru, Congo (Kinshasa). Its summit marks the junction of the Congo (Kinshasa)–Rwanda–Uganda borders. It forms part of the Virunga National Park, which is the home of the mountain gorilla. Sabinyo which also means old man’s teeth is a reference to its jagged summit which is dissected by deep gorges and ravines. The countries that share the Virungas – Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo – meet on the highest of Sabinyo’s stumpy peaks.  This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to climb. A climb up the mountain takes one up a ridge along the eastern side of the climb peak 1. If you are to continue, the climb peak 11 involves walking as ridge with breath- taking drops into gorges of Rwanda and Uganda. Finally, the hike up to the peak 11 is steep with several ladders and mush scrambling. You are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to peak 111. Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, DRC and Uganda at the same time. The journey takes about 8hrs round to cover the 14km stretch.

  • Volcano Climbing as a tourist activity in Mgahinga Gorilla national park

    Mt. Sabyinyo (366m) dubbed ‘Old man’s teeth’ like an old man, time has eroded Mt. Sabyinyo’s crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to climb. A climb up the mountain takes one up a ridge along the eastern side of the climb to peak. If you are to continue, the climb to the peak 11 involves walking a ridge with breath-taking drops into gorges of Rwanda and Uganda, a dual experience you will achieve here. Finally, the hike up to the peak 111 is steep with several ladders and mush scrambling. You are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to peak111! Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, what a triple experience this is!!! The journey takes about eight hours round trip to cover the 14km stretch.

    Mt. Gahinga (3474m)-On your way to the park, look out for small piles of stones in the garden fields. The local people call such a pile a ‘Gahinga’. Mount Gahinga is quite bigger than the average ‘gahinga’ but sitting next to Mount Muhavura does make it look small. A hike, which takes you about, six hours round trip, goes through a good example of a pure Bamboo forest. Gahinga once had a Crater Lake on top but time has changed it into a Lush swamp. Distance to the swamp is 8km.

    Mt. Muhavura (4127m) – ‘The Guide’-Seen from all over Kisoro, this volcano acts as a guide. The typical cone-shaped Mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Much of the climb passes a rocky surface covered by grasses and small shrubs. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded with the view of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the peaks of Rwenzori Mountain. The hike takes approximately 8 hours round trip covering 12km.You are advised to camp at the Muhavura base camp the night before the site has no facilities so you need a tent, water, food and sleeping gear.

    Birding in Mgahinga as a tourist activity in Mgahinga Gorilla national park

    Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is blessed with a unique bird fauna; 79 bird species have thus far been recorded within the park, including several species endemic to the East Congo Montane region. For the Virunga Conservation Area as a whole, over 295 species in the Virungas are endemic to the Albertine Rift Afromontane region representing 59% of the total of known endemic species.
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    The three to four hour Gorge Trail between Gahinga and Sabinyo provides a spectacular sightings of the Dusky turtle Dove, Cape Robin-chat, Kivu-ground Thrush, Olive Thrush, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bronze Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Black-headed Waxbill and Streaky Seedeater.

    Other good birding areas in the park are at the bamboo belt at about 2,500m above sea level, and the tall montane forest at 2,660m. The Rwenzori Turaco is mostly sighted at around 2,700m. Along the Uganda-Congo border and on level ground, the Chubb’s Cisticola, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Banded Prinia and Doherty’s Bush-shrike are vocal yet inconspicuous inhabitants of the tangled vegetation at the forest’s edge.

    Golden Monkey Trekking

    The endangered golden monkey is endemic to the Albertine Rift, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers a rare chance to track these striking creatures, high in the dense bamboo forests on the Gahinga trail. There is an estimated 3000-4000 individual in the Virunga area which 42-60 are habituated in Mgahinga.

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    Hike through stunning bamboo forests to see this attractive and endangered primate. The golden monkey track is a gentle steep but an interesting two-hour trek through former farmland to the forest full of bamboos. On bright daylight, visitors are likely to view the Virunga Volcano range and come across buffalo and duiker.

    Note that, the process of trekking golden Monkey in Mgahinga is the same as Mountain gorilla trekking hence the same rules apply to all the two activities.

    Hiking and Nature Walks in Mgahinga Gorilla

    A hike through the forest to the deep Sabinyo Gorge – a massive gash in the flank of Mount Sabinyo – provides good birding opportunities and the chance to find the Rwenzori Turaco. This walk takes four hours, and passes through the Rugezi Swamp which is fantastic for bird watchers.

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    The walk to the Congo border transcends through different vegetation zones. Hikers can sight the calderas on top of the Gisozi hill, look out for Kisoro and Bunagana towns and be captivated by Lake Mutanda.

    The golden monkey track is a gentle steep but an interesting two-hour trek through former farmland to the bamboo forest. On a clear day, you may view the Virunga Volcano range and come across buffalo and duiker.

    Mountain Gorilla Tracking

    With a diverse collection of tourism activities, gorilla tracking stands out to be the leading activity at Mgahinga Gorilla national park and 75% of Mgahinga’s visitors come to view the primates. With Uganda left with about 400 mountain gorillas, the park is one of the two places where a visitor is guaranteed to have a glance at the endangered species. It is the best point to trek the Nyakagezi gorilla group which frequently moves adjacent in the forests of Conga and Rwanda. The other park where gorillas are found is Bwindi Impenetrable and these two parks are near each other making it possible for one to trek through both of them on most of Uganda safaris.

    Where Gorilla trekking starts from.

    Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga  starts from Ntebeko Entrance gate at around 8:00am in the morning daily taking between  2- 8hours.It is done under the direction of a well-trained guide who explains the gorillas’ behaviors along the way . A visitor is expected to budget for his/her time well while with a gorilla family since the maximum time allowed to spend with them is one hour.

    How gorilla trekking is done

    The most thrilling tourist activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park starts by trekkers reporting to the Park Headquarters to meet their experienced ranger guides for the day.

    The ranger guides will brief trekkers about the etiquettes to follow when trekking the mountain gorillas in the hilly -forested areas of Mgahinga national park.

    After briefing, experienced guides will lead the trekkers to trail heads to start an early morning trek into the dense rain forest on the mountain slopes. The journey, through dense foliage and up steep climbs, is abundantly rewarded with the lifetime experience of viewing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

    When trekkers get close to the apes, they are allocated one hour to spend with the mountain gorillas. During this time, trekkers have an opportunity to view the magnificent apes, sharing in their daily lives and experiencing their day-to-day activities.

    After the one hour, return to your to the starting point and drive back to accommodation and, if time allows, take a guided afternoon forest or community walk. Please note: tracking may be fairly strenuous with treks lasting between 2-8hours depending on the movement of the apes. Also note that mountain gorillas are wild animals and, as such, sightings cannot be guaranteed. However viewing success rates are over 90%.

    Gorilla trekking Rules

    Before departing on your gorilla trekking or gorilla tracking tour

    A maximum number of 8 visitors may trek to visit one habituated mountain gorillas group per day. This minimizes behavioral disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.

    Always wash your hands before you go gorilla trekking.

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    On the way to the gorillas

    Please always keep your voices low. You will also be able to observe the great bird life and other wildlife in the forest.

    DO NOT leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest on your gorilla safari should be carried back out with you.

    You will be taken to where the guides have observed the Mountain Gorillas the day before.

    From there you will follow the gorilla’s trail. Look out for the gorillas’ nesting sites along the way!

    As you approach the mountain gorillas, the guides will alert you.

    When you are with the gorillas

    A 7 meter (21 feet) distance from the gorillas should be observed at all times. The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be.

    You must stay in a tight group when you are near the gorillas.

    Keep your voices down at all times but feel free to ask your ranger guide questions.

    Do not smoke, drink or eat when you are near the gorillas. Eating or drinking will inevitably increase the risk of morsels of food or droplets of drink being left behind. Even the tiniest leftovers could increase the risk of transmission of disease to the gorillas.

    Move slowly and carefully. Do not point or wave your arms.

    Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals.

    Occasionally the gorillas charge. Don’t panic. Follow your ranger guide’s example: crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes; wait for the animals to pass. Do not attempt to run away.

    Your subjects are black animals in dim light so use the right camera settings. Flash photography is not permitted under any circumstances.

    The maximum time you can spend with these wonderful animals is one hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide may decide to finish the visit early. This is for your safety and for the safety of the gorillas.

    After the visit, you are bound to be excited! But please keep your voices down until you are 200 meters away from the gorillas.

    Gorilla trekking General Health Rules

    Remember that mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following rules are ways to minimize the risk your visit might pose to the mountain gorillas

    Respect the limits imposed on the daily number of visitors allowed with the mountain gorillas. These limits minimize the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.

    If you are feeling ill, or you are carrying a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind. An alternate gorilla trekking opportunity will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded the cost of your gorilla permit.

    If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.

    Always stay 7 meters (21 feet) away from the gorillas. This is to protect them from catching human diseases.

    Do not leave any rubbish (such as food wrappers or drink bottles) in the park; foreign items can harbour diseases or other contaminants.

    If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the ranger guide to dig you a hole. Make sure the hole is 30 cm deep. Please ensure the hole is filled after you are finished.

    What to bring on your gorilla trekking safari

    Wear comfortable hiking shoes with good traction, suitable for climbing steep muddy slopes.

    Carry a packed lunch and plenty of drinking water.

    The weather can be unpredictable so carry rain gear, sunscreen lotion and a hat.

    Pack insect repellent.

    Bring binoculars – or hire a pair from the Uganda Wildlife Authority office in the park.

    Bring spare batteries and an extra memory card for your digital camera. Using your camera flashlight is prohibited. If you are photographing using film, we recommend using 400-800 ASA film.

    How to get Gorilla Permit for Mgahinga Gorilla Park.

    A gorilla permit is a document issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority in Uganda to enable you trek mountain gorillas in Mgahinga. A permit allows you to view gorillas for only one hour but the trekking itself can take you between 2-8 hours when searching for the mountain gorillas in the ancient Impenetrable forest.

    Note that, you need one to trek mountain gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Usually you have to obtain a gorilla permit several months in advance.

    We always advise at least 5 months in advance or prior to your visit. While booking a gorilla tour, always pay your gorilla permit fee in advance to enable us acquire it for you. Gorilla trekking is guaranteed when you acquire a permit.

    They are very competitive and scarce most especially during peak seasons. Sometimes gorilla tracking permits get sold out four months in advance.

    Gorilla permit costs USD 600 per day per person. You can get the permits in Kampala -the capital City of Uganda at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquarters. We do organize and book gorilla permits for our clients at no extra costs provided you book a full safari with us.

    Please contact us with date/month and year when you want to trek gorillas in Mgahinga, we will then check availability of gorilla permits and inform you. Once you have transferred your funds on to our account, we will pre purchase your permits and send you scanned copies. To help us do this, you need to send us your passport details which are needed by Uganda Wildlife Authority in order to print and issue your gorilla permits.

    When to go for gorilla tracking in Mgahinga Gorilla national park

    The best time to visit the place for tracking is during the two dry seasons when the park is easily accessed. It is during this time that the thick forests can be penetrated easily and when the paths are not as muddy as it is in the rainy season. The two dry Seasons best for Gorilla Safari are; mid-December to end of February and June to October. However, gorilla tracking tourism is possible throughout the year.

    Volcano Climbing

    Mt. Sabyinyo (366m) dubbed ‘Old man’s teeth’ like an old man, time has eroded Mt. Sabyinyo’s crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to climb. A climb up the mountain takes one up a ridge along the eastern side of the climb to peak. If you are to continue, the climb to the peak 11 involves walking a ridge with breath-taking drops into gorges of Rwanda and Uganda, a dual experience you will achieve here. Finally, the hike up to the peak 111 is steep with several ladders and mush scrambling. You are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to peak111! Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, what a triple experience this is!!! The journey takes about eight hours round trip to cover the 14km stretch.

    volcano-climbing

    Mt. Gahinga (3474m)-On your way to the park, look out for small piles of stones in the garden fields. The local people call such a pile a ‘Gahinga’. Mount Gahinga is quite bigger than the average ‘gahinga’ but sitting next to Mount Muhavura does make it look small. A hike, which takes you about, six hours round trip, goes through a good example of a pure Bamboo forest. Gahinga once had a Crater Lake on top but time has changed it into a Lush swamp. Distance to the swamp is 8km.

    Mt. Muhavura (4127m) – ‘The Guide’-Seen from all over Kisoro, this volcano acts as a guide. The typical cone-shaped Mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Much of the climb passes a rocky surface covered by grasses and small shrubs. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded with the view of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the peaks of Rwenzori Mountain. The hike takes approximately 8 hours round trip covering 12km.You are advised to camp at the Muhavura base camp the night before the site has no facilities so you need a tent, water, food and sleeping gear.

  • The park lies in the south-western corner of Uganda, 540km from Kampala.

    By road, one can access the park by use of a car from Kampala via Kabale to Kisoro. This journey takes about 9-10 hours.

    By air, one can board a plane from Entebbe to Kisoro Airstrip which is near the park. This is the quickest mode of access and it takes about 1 hour. There are daily scheduled flights which must be booked long in advance with your local Uganda safari operator.

    maps-mghahinga

  • Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge (Volcanoes) – Luxury
    mount-gahinga-safari-lodge

    Mt. Gahinga Safari Lodge is situated at the foot of the Virunga chain at Uganda’s smallest park Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Rounded by Mounts Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhuvura, this unique lodge has stunning scenery around it and its nine Banda huts. Every room’s design is got from ancient traditional Batwa culture paired with world class comfort and beautiful garden with rustic styles setting.
    The lodge is the best place to relax yourself after your Uganda adventure and what makes it different from others is that it has a massage room, warming open fireplace where visitors can chill in the evening hours, delicious three course meals and blissful views of the mighty volcanic peaks, this lodge is a wonderful place to recuperate after your Ugandan adventures.
    Guests are guaranteed a great night’s sleep in the comfortable separate cabins, surrounded by nice-looking terraces and gardens to make the most of the views and native birds and butterflies.
    The Lodge provides number of Amenities and these include; Restaurant and bar, Open fireplace, Laundry service, On-site wildlife viewing, Outdoor sitting area for bird watching, surrounded by wild plants, A sunroom facing the volcanoes and Solar power. The Lodge’s room description is that it has eight attractive bandas which are nestled in the wild gardens at the foot of the Virunga Volcanoes.
    All bandas have their own specific seating area with even privates’ bathroom, composting toilets and bush showers.
    Lighting is solar powered, making them extremely environmentally friendly. Mountain Gahinga Safari Lodge has a variety of activities to Guest as seen below. Guests can spend the day climbing the Muhavura Volcano. (Elevation 4137 m). Guests can take part in a full day Batwa pygmy experience. This cultural walk begins at the base camp, which is located almost 30 minutes from the lodge. Members of the Batwa community and Ugandan Wildlife Authority guides help take to take visitors through the dense forest and educate visitors on the Batwa ways of life. You will see traditional dwellings, shoot with bows and arrows, learn about medicinal and edible plants, and visit the Garama Cave for a song and dance performance.

    While at this lodge, guests can spend their day climbing the Gahinga Volcano. (Elevation 3473 m)  A hike, which takes you about 6 hours round trip, goes through a good example of a pure bamboo forest. Gahinga once had a crater lake on top but time has changed it into a lush swamp.

    Accommodation rates

    High Season Low Season
    Single $401 Single$354
    Double $330pp Double $295pp

    Kisoro Tourist Hotel -Luxury
    tourist-hotel-kisoro

    Kisoro Tourist Hotel is situated in Kisoro town just 14 kms to the park main gate. It is the best option for anyone visiting the southwest part of Uganda, on the way to Rwanda, Congo and Mgahinga and Bwindi for gorilla tracking.

    The hotel boasts a strategic location which is at the foothills of Mount Muhavura, and guests can enjoy a good panoramic view of the nearby mountains and volcanoes along the borders with Rwanda and the Congo.

    While at the lodge, one can enjoy the warm atmosphere of the lounge provided by a true fireplace. When visitors get done with their daily activities in the nearby area, they can relax with a romantic massage done by well trained workers and also steam bath. The hotel has one of the best restaurants recognized in country for the high-standard food preparation in both traditional and international dishes.

    The hotel provides the following amenities on-site are; On-site restaurant, Tour/Travel desk, Conference Facilities, Internet Access, Gift shop, On-site Bar, Fitness Room/Gym, Laundry/Dry Cleaning, Library/Reading Area. The hotel rooms also have TV-Cable/Satellite were visitors can watch international and local updates, The TV can get Local Stations clearly, Fans, Hot water, Private Bathroom are also provided to ensure that visitor get better stay.

    The table shows the prices charged by Hotel for both Bed and Breakfast and Full Board.

    Room Type Bed and Breakfast Half Board Full Board
    single USD 60 USD70 USD80
    Double USD75 USD95 USD115
    Triple USD135 USD165 USD1195

    Kisoro Travelers’ Rest Hotel –Mid-Range
    travellers-rest-hotel

    Travellers Rest Hotel is a colonial-style hotel located just 14km from Mgahinga Gorilla National Park outside Kisoro Town, in the extreme southwestern part of Uganda, providing a perfect point for trips into Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. When the visitor is just entering, he or she is welcomed by the ibis typical sound. The wonderful-green surrounding garden is the home of various birds species. When the guest is just seated on the terrace he is paid by nice smell of the sweet perfume from the honeysuckle, and in the cool evenings one can experience a warm atmosphere which is provided by the fireplace in the lounge, surrounded by unusual African artifacts and a huge collection of Congolese masks.
    The surrounding landscape, dominated by the peaks of the Massifs of Virunga Volcanoes has very interesting beauty. The volcanoes offer spectacular views of the Rift Valley and the emerald-green Lake Mutanda in the distance.

    In the sixties the famous American ‘gorilla-woman’ Dian Fossey visited Travellers Rest many, many times to do paperwork, relax or meet people. Fossey said of the hotel: “It was my second home.”

    The Lodge Amenities in this precious hotel are; Restaurant,, Travel desk, Bikes to rent, Lounge area with fireplace, bar and large meeting table Internet access, Massages, Laundry service, Gift Shop, Enclosed garden, Huge selection of Congolese masks

    All the Spotless private rooms lead out onto the pleasant garden and have private bathrooms with hot water. Available rooms include single, twin, double, triple and a suite.

    The activities organized by the hotel are, Paying visits to the a local primary school where the deaf children study from and here willing guests are welcomed to make donations, also the hotel organizes traditional performances done by the local orphan group and some of the activities also include having cycle ride to lake Mutanda, visiting the local market mainly on market days, Batwa Forest Trail through the National Park among others.
    Most of food prepared by the rest Hotel is sourced from Kisoro market, which is supplied by the local Bafumbira and Bakiga communities. The hotel staffs are mostly from Kisoro. Staff training and career development of the staff members is of great importance to the Hotel management.

    Prices

    Room Type Room Only Half Board Full Board
    Single USD70 USD85 USD95
    Double/twin USD80 USD110 USD130
    Extra bed USD25 USD40 USD50

    Amajambere Iwacu Camp –Budget.
    amajambere-iwacu-camp

    The Community Camp is situated by the entrance to Mgahinga National Park and is only 12 km from the southwestern town of Kisoro near the Rwandan border.

    At the camp, visitors can enjoy the magnificent views of the famous Virunga Volcanoes and take part in monkey trekking. The camp is built at a best beginning point for golden monkey trekking through the national park.

    The following Amenities are provide to the clients at the Camp

    Camping facilities and 4 bandas, Spacious gathering shelter with indoor and outdoor dining

    Well-stocked canteen serving beers, sodas, snacks and basic essentials and Restaurant serving typical Ugandan meals

    The camp has variety of Rooms and this means that Guests can choose between bandas, dormitories or campsites. It has a large area for camping as well as five well-built bandas, which too serve as dormitories and they provide accommodation facilities for back packers, students.

    Amajambere Iwacu Camp has a lot of activities provided to Guest and among these involve , Guided walks through the village and to a nearby lava tubes ,caves and Crater Lake. Traditional performances in form of cultural dances which are organized by the local women’s group and the Batwa people and Guided climbs of the Virunga volcanoe as well as having community walk.

    RATES BED ONLY BED AND BREAKFAST FULL BOARD
    Double $40 $50 $80
    Twin $30 $40 $70
    Dormitory $10 $15 $30
    Cam( ten provided) $10 $15 $30
    Self-camping $5 $10 $25

     

    Nkuringo Safari Lodge -Budget

    Travel to Kisoro and discover the rustic Nkuringo Safari Lodge. This magical paradise on the shores of Lake Mutanda overlooks the magnificent Virunga Volcanoes. Here you can experience the best of both worlds the modern

    The lodge is one two levels. The main Lodge n the lower level is designed with tradition at its heart. A combination of local stone and hard wood structures creates a warm environment for the chilly evening on the lake. The top desk area commands sensation views of the Virunga Volcanoes and Lake Mutanda. Here you will find restaurant and bar where you relax next to warm fire. The lower desk is predominantly used during the day for early breakfast lunch buffets. There is Lounge, bookshop and well stoked library which provides plenty of reading materials foe lazy afternoon at the lodge.

    The lodge offers accommodation to all budgets travelers and has seven well sited selfcontained tented rooms – These self-contained tents are built on the shores of the lake. They are constructed with a permanent stone bathroom at the rear and raised-decking supporting the vast tent in front. Each tent has its own private front porch where guests may spend a quiet evening.

    The lodge organizes different activities for the Guests and among these includes the Sun Downer Cruise. A small pontoon boat that takes guests on sun downer cruises around the islands located on the lake. The guides and drivers are well acquainted with the local bird species in the district and have vast knowledge of the local traditions in the area and the other activity prepared by the lodge is

    Lake Canoe Safari – Canadian style canoes takes up to 4 guests and a guide on tours of the lake shores. One of the most unique ways of viewing birds in the region.

    Golden Monkey Guest House -Budget
    golden-monkey-guest-hotel

    The Guest House is ranked among the best Budget lodges in Kisoro town and it is a home away from home. They also offer a wide range of delicious food menu with meat and vegetarian options. The Guest House offers a wide range of accommodation options ranging from single and double, self-contained rooms to dormitories. Visitor’s choice of accommodation should be dictated by visitor’s personal travel budget but also guest’s own interests to give guest a total relaxation and peace of mind to make guest feel at home.

    Golden Monkey guest house provides an excellent base for trekking the Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi, Golden monkeys and volcano hiking at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. They also arrange canoe trekking trips to the beautiful lake Mutanda, which is just an hour away on foot. Community activities like market visit or village walk can be arranged.

    Golden Monkey Guest House can be accessed by Road, Travel from Kampala crossing the Equator through Mbarara – Kabale onto Kisoro. Golden monkey Guest house is behind the Uganda wildlife information office in Kisoro town and well sign posted. And our newly open Rafiki guesthouse is along Bunagana road a few meters next to the famous Travelers Hotel
    By Road: Travel from Kigali to Cyanika Boarder then proceed onto Kisoro town

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