Mgahinga National Park
Where Silver meets Gold
Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National Park is the smallest, but one of the most beautiful of Uganda’s parks. Set in the clouds amid the magnificent Virunga volcanoes at the confluence of the Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo borders, it is part of the larger Virunga Conservation Area that includes the Rwandan Parc National des Volcans and the Congolese Parc National des Virunga. Mgahinga National Park takes its name from Gahinga, the local word for piles of volcanic stones was first declared a game sanctuary in 1930 before being gazetted as a national park in 1991 to protect the endangered mountain gorillas that inhabit its afro-montane forests.
The world’s only golden monkeys can be found in the bamboo forests of the Virunga Mountains and visitors can now track and take part in habituating them. Although Mgahinga National Park is home to 76 species of mammals including giant forest hogs, bush pigs, forest buffaloes and elephants, they are hard to spot in the dense forest.
Mgahinga National Park’s most striking feature is the three extinct conical volcanoes; Mt. Sabinyo at 3,645m, Mt Gahinga at 3,474m and Mt. Muhavura at 4,127m above sea level. Hikers will enjoy the long treks to all three peaks that offer panoramic views of Margherita in the Ruwenzori’s, Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park and the neighbouring Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. At Mt. Sabinyo’s summit, visitors can curiously stand in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC at the same time!
Only about 80 mountain gorillas live in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and they frequently wander between Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. The fairly nomadic 9-member Nyakagezi family with 2 Silverbacks, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles and 2 infants have been habituated to humans and can be tracked in the bamboo and montane forests.
However, in mid-2019 the Hirwa Family crossed over from Rwanda and is currently residing in Mgahing National Park, giving the park two gorilla trekking options.
Golden Monkey Trekking
Golden Monkeys can only be found in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC where about 5,000 inhabit the Virunga Volcanoes area. An endangered species because of the gradual destruction of their habitat, golden monkeys live in social groups of up to 30 and feed on mostly bamboo and fruits that they migrate to find as the seasons change.
Approximately 60 golden monkeys in Mgahinga have already been habituated to humans and can be tracked on the Gahinga Trail with visitors getting a full hour to watch these small and playful primates with the signature long golden hair on their backs.
On the golden monkey habituation experience, up to 6 visitors escort researchers and trackers through the bamboo forest that is also inhabited by the mountain gorillas, as they follow a group of about 100 golden monkeys, observing their interactions and activities for 4hours. While the parks in Rwanda and Uganda both offer golden monkey trekking, only Uganda offers golden monkey habituation experiences.
The foothills of the Virunga Mountains make for an exciting landscape for walks and hikes, through 5 vegetation zones; farmland, montane woodland, bamboo, montane forest, tree heathers and afro-montane. Hikes and nature walks start at the Visitors Centre at Ntebeko
Sabinyo Gorge Trail – This 4 hour, 6km hike passes through the Rugezi swamp and dense afro-montane forest to culminate at the Sabinyo Gorge, a massive gash on the side of Mt. Sabinyo. It is a fantastic hike for birders who have the best opportunities to sight the Rwenzori Turaco, with the backdrop of Mt. Sabinyo. Golden monkeys and duikers are also commonly sighted on this track.
Border Trail – This 5 hour trail runs along the park’s extreme western boundary along the border with the DRC and hikers cross the dense montane forest on Mt. Sabinyo on both sides of the border and can also be followed to the beautiful Lake Mutanda in Kisoro. It is very rewarding for birders and forest elephants, buffaloes and duikers are can sometimes sighted. On a clear day, the view includes the peak of Mt. Sabinyo and the serene, island-dotted Lake Mutanda in Kisoro.
Uganda has many Hiking and Mountaineering experiences to explore.