Is it possible to start the safari from Mbarara to Mgahinga National Park? Yes, at safari vacations and travel services, this is very possible to go for Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park from Mbarara Town and you will need a minimum of 3 days for this visit. Mbarara is 5-6 hours’ drive (227.8 km) via Kabale – Mbarara Road and Kabale-Kisoro Road. Mbarara town is the largest city in the sub-region, are located approximately 290 kilometers by road, southwest of Kampala. Mbarara City is a city in the Western Region of Uganda. It is the main municipal, administrative, and commercial center of Mbarara District and the site of the district headquarters.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is among the Virunga volcanic mountain chain of Rwanda, Congo and Uganda famous for Mountain gorilla safaris. The park is Uganda’s smallest national park which is boarded by Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Bwindi Forest National Park in Uganda.
Mgahinga gorilla national park has the three volcanoes namely Mountain Gahinga, Mountain Sabyinyo and Mountain Muhabura all of which are part of the six Virunga Mountains. Mgahinga National Park harbors the endangered mountain gorilla and the Golden Monkeys. The park is a tropical rain forest comprised of lowland equatorial evergreen forest, tropical seasonal forest, montane rain forests and mountain Bamboo.
Mgahinga national park is worth your time and visit as it has a lot to see and do, you will require to spend one or two nights near Mgahinga to do activities in Mgahinga National Park as detailed below.
To see mountain gorillas the in Mgahinga National Park is highlight of your safari started from Mbarara. Gorilla trekking is a life time experience that refers to visiting the rare mountain gorillas in their natural environment as you watch me move, feed, and live. The gorillas are known to have 99% of the human DNA and are amazing to Watch. Mgahinga National Park has one habituation gorilla family known as Nyakagezi gorilla family available for trekking every day. Only eight visitors are allowed to visit per pay for only one hour of Viewing and taking photography’s once you find the gorillas.
Golden monkey trekking is another activity to do in Mgahinga National Park from Mbarara town. Golden Monkeys are also rare primates in the world and Uganda is lucky to have them remaining in Mgahinga national park. Golden monkey tracking is one of the primary activities in the park that make Mgahinga gorilla national park a distinct destination. There are two communities of golden monkeys habituated for trekking, golden monkey trekking permit costs USD100 as per the Uganda wildlife Authority Tariff of 2020-2021.
The trek starts early morning at 7:00am with briefing at the park headquarters about the Dos and Don’ts while in the forest. Later you start your walk into the forest with park guides and Rangers until you find the golden Monkeys and you are allowed to view them for one hour. In East Africa, the golden monkeys are only found in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.
Mgahinga national park has three of the six Virunga mountain chain namely; Mountain Sabyinyo, Mountain Gahinga and Mountain Muhabura and you can make a choice of climbing one of the mountains depending on your fitness. Mountain Sabinyo is at 3,669m and takes about eight hours to cover the round trip, following a steep ridge up to the peak, Mountain Gahinga which is the smallest with 3474m takes around six hours to ascend and descend, topped by a swamp-filled crater and giant lobelia.
Mountain Muhavura is the highest peak at 4,127m, and this 12km round trip takes around eight hours. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded on a clear day with views of the Virunga Volcanoes, Lake Edward, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the peaks of the Rwenzori Mountain. Volcano Hiking experience gives you an opportunity to see different tree species, spot birds, Forest Elephants, Primates and Gorillas if you are lucky enough in Mgahinga National Park.
Cultural experience is one of the highlights to do in Mgahinga National Park from Mbarara town, Mgahinga national park used to harbor the Batwa Pygmies in the forest who were evacuated as a conservation measure of the endangered apes and primates. The Batwa cultural encounter will expose you their unique culture, dance, way of life, the food they eat as they introduce you to their traditional forest life.
In the trail, The Batwa will lead into the forest in which they demonstrate their traditional forest life such as hunting, fruit gathering, collecting honey and performing rituals among others. These Batwa trails are organized to appreciate culture and also support the livelihoods of the communities around the park by paying a fee. Donations to children, women groups are much appreciated and also buying souvenirs supports the community.
Mgahinga National Park has about 79 bird species have thus far been recorded including several species endemic to the East Congo Montane region where Mgahinga is part. Some of the birds you can spot are 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, the Chubb’s Cisticola, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Banded Prinia and Doherty’s Bush-shrike among others are inconspicuous inhabitants of the tangled vegetation at the forest’s edge. Birding takes place at the gorge between mountain Sabinyo and Mountain Gahinga as well as at the forest Age, the birding trail is about four hour walk as guides help you to identify the sounds and the birds
For Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park from Mbarara Town, you will need to spend more than one night near Mgahinga to participate in the activities, Mgahinga National Park has a number of accommodation choices where you can stay while on your visit. Most of the lodges are found in the out skirts of the forest with a clear view of the forest and the mountain ranges.
The Lodges range from Budget to Luxury and these include; Gahinga Lodge which is a luxury hotel, Lake Chahafi Lodge, Lake Muhele Lodge which can serve as for both Midrange and Budget. There is also an option of staying in hotels in Kisoro town, the town is just 30 minutes’ drive to the park headquarters.
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