Nestled high in the Virunga Mountains and formed of bamboo and montane forests, and an alpine zone, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is strikingly beautiful. Covering 33.7 km², Uganda’s smallest national park offers a rich bounty of wildlife, culture and dramatic scenery.
Encircled by three conical, inactive volcanoes – Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabyinyo – Mgahinga’s dense forests are home to Uganda’s famed mountain gorillas and endangered golden monkeys, as well as leopards, elephants and buffalo.
A startling 79 varieties of bird nest within Mgahinga’s varied ecosystems, including the Rwenzori turaco, crowned hornbill and crowned crane.
Mgahinga gorilla national park’s most notable creatures are the Mountain gorillas and the endangered golden monkeys.
There is a whole host of other forest creatures to see including buffaloes, elephants, giant forest hogs, bushbucks, leopards, spotted hyenas, black fronted duikers, South African porcupines, bush pigs, golden cats, side striped jackals.
In total there are about 79 bird species, such as the handsome francolin, dusky crimson-wing, red-throated alethe, Kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, collared apalis, mountain masked apalis, Archer’s ground robin, stripe-breasted tit, blue-headed sunbird, regal sunbird, strange weaver, montane nightjar, red-faced woodland warbler, Grauer’s swamp warbler.
Activities and Culture
The Virunga Mountains
This amazing range offers magnificent scenery and opportunities for hiking to travellers visiting the park, whether you are a seasoned mountain climber or starter. There are three peaks:
- Mt. Sabyinyo (3669m) ‘Old man’s teeth’ – Like an old man’s teeth, time and weather have 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 involves walking a ridge with breath-taking plunges into the gorges of Rwanda and Uganda.
- Finally, the hike up to the peak can get steep with several ladders involved and some determination required. You are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to the summit!
- Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The journey takes about eight hours round trip to cover the entire 14km stretch.
- Mt. Gahinga (3474m) – On your way to the park, look out for small piles of stones in the garden fields that the local people call a ‘Gahinga’. The name Gahinga was also the reason for the naming of the National Park within which it is situated.
- Mount Gahinga is far bigger than the average ‘gahinga’ but standing at the top of Mount Muhavura will make it look small in comparison. 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. The distance to the swamp is 8km.
- Mt. Muhavura (4127m) ‘The 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 other 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.