Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is of a larger ecosystem, the Virunga Conservation Area (434sq km) which includes two adjacent parks in Rwanda and Congo. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. It was formed to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.

It is almost striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga conservation area which includes adjacent parks in these countries.

The park offers a soothing aura of majesty with cool temperatures owing to the mountainous nature of the park. Its home to part of the 480 gorillas located in the Virunga massif. It is indeed where gold meets silver where gorillas are house with the same habitat of the golden monkeys. The cultural heritage featuring folklore and traditional healing practices for local people covers the north slopes of the three northern Virunga volcanoes- Muhavura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo.

The park derives its name from “Gahinga” a Kinyarwanda word for a pile of volcanic lava stone heaps around which cultivation is carried out. On the other hand, Muhavura means guide and Sabyinyo means the old man’s teeth. The park is bordered to the south by Rwanda and to the west by Democratic Republic of Congo. While Sabyinyo is deep gorges and ravines, Gahinga has a swamp filled- crater about 180km wide and Muhavura has a small crater lake about 36m wide at its summit.

While at the top of the Sabyinyo, you get to be set foot in all the three countries of Uganda, DRC and Rwanda at the same time. Its view of the volcanoes and gorges with the cool breeze of freshness is unrivalled. On some of the steep mountain slopes are caves formed by lava tubes, one of them being the famous Garama cave located near Ntebeko, the park headquarters.

How to get there

Mgahinga Gorilla national park is 510 from Kampala; the most commonly used route passes through Kabale and Kisoro. The 434km journey from Kampala to Kabale can be completed in 8 hours on good tarmac. It is then a further 76km to Kisoro town on a mountainous tarmac road with steep ascents and descents. An attraction, alternative route leaves the main road at Kabale and follows the shoreline of the superbly scenic lake Bunyonyi to re-join the Kabale- Kisoro main road at its halfway point at Muko.

Ntebeko, the main entrance to Mgahinga gorilla national park is 14km from Kisoro at the end of a dirt road with some steep and rocky sections.

Air travel, Mgahinga can also be reached by air using the daily flights from Entebbe international airport to Kisoro airfield.