Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the most interesting activity done in this park as travelers flock the park to explore mountain gorillas. Mgahinga National Park is one of the two mountain gorilla parks in Uganda, located 9 to 10 hours away from the Ugandan capital Kampala in the south western part of the country bordering Rwanda in the south and DRC in the west. Mgahinga National park is one of the most picturesque parks in the nation with 3 volcanoes in the park and diverse vegetation that includes the bamboo, subalpine, afromontane and moorland sections all in one park, you never regret visiting the park. The park is considered the smallest among national parks in Uganda and sits on a total area of 33.7 sq km with altitudes between 2227 metres and 4127 metres.
Mgahinga National park is home to the famous and endangered mountain gorillas together with other primates like the golden monkeys. The park is in close proxy with Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which is also a habitat for mountain gorillas. These two parks are the only mountain gorilla parks in Uganda and Bwindi National Park harbors over half of the world’s mountain gorilla population.
Mgahinga National Park is part of the Virunga Conservation area that spans over Uganda, Rwanda and the democratic republic of Congo. The conservation area consists of 8 Virunga volcanoes namely Mt Bisoke, Mt Karisimbi, Mt Mikeno, Mt Nyiragongo, Mt Nyamuragira, Mt Gahinga, Mt Sabinyo, and Mt Muhavura. Mgahinga being home to three of these volcanoes that is mount Gahinga, Mount Sabinyo, and Mount Muhavura.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga is the main activity done in the park all year round; however, the park also has other activities that done all year round on top of mountain gorilla trekking, the activities are golden monkey trekking, mountain hiking for either or all of the three volcanoes and Batwa trail experience.
Gorillas are trekked in families and the only gorilla family trekked in Mgahinga National Park is Nyakagyezi. This gorilla family is the only habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga National Park for purposes of mountain gorilla trekking. The family has 9 members currently including 2 silverbacks, 3 females and 4 young ones. The family trekked whole year round and mountain gorilla permits for trekking the family can be purchased through a tour operator or directly from Uganda Wildlife Authority at 600 USD currently and at 700 USD starting from July 2020.
Each day the gorilla family receives 8 people that interact with the gorilla family for one hour. The Mgahinga National park trekking trails are fairly easy to trek but some points are steep so they make the trek a bit challenging, however, the park management has put some handmade ladders to help you climb the steep points, these give you support and help you balance as you climb hence making it easy. So though physical fitness is important for this trekking experience, even first-timers can trek this trail.
The trekking experience starts at 8:00 am at the park offices where you are briefed about the gorillas and gorilla trekking guidelines, you’re then grouped in cohorts of 8 persons assigned a ranger then you head into the forest for the mountain trekking experience.
You will be on the trek, for between 5 to 6 hours with one hour spent with the gorillas. After your trek, you will be at the park offices for your trekking certificates, and then you will head back to your accommodation or engage in other activities in the park; it entirely depends on your preference and the time you have in the park.
Mountain gorilla trekkers are advised to have some water and snacks for the trek, the right attire for the trek would include waterproof hiking shoes or boots, long sleeves clothes, walking sticks, insect repellents, gloves, rain jackets and any other thing that you dim necessary for the trek. There are porters available at the starting point of the trek, the porter helps you carry your stuff as you climb up the trek.
The guidelines for the entire gorilla trekking in mgahinga experience include keeping a 7-meter distance between you and the mountain gorillas, not trekking while you are ill, always following the ranger’s guidelines, avoiding direct eye contact, don’t use flashes while taking photos, don’t litter the gorilla habitat, don’t cough or sneeze directly in the gorillas among other things. These guidelines and more are normally communicated to you by your tour operator, Uganda Wildlife Authority and by the park management at briefing session before you start your trek. Also, you don’t need to cram all these guidelines, your trekking ranger will help you to keep them during your trek; just be sure to follow his instructions while on the trek.
The accommodation facilities around Mgahinga National Park are well-vanished and equipped to meet all you’re sleeping and feeding needs on your trekking safari; and the prices range from budget, midrange, and luxury. So you have a variety to choose from. The accommodation choices include Mt Gahinga Rest Camp, Mt Gahinga lodge, Kisoro Traveler’s Rest, Mgahinga Safari Lodge, Muhabura Motel, Montana Guest House, Kisoro Travelers Lodge and many more.