MGAHINGA GORILLA SAFARIS & TREKKING TOURS
What Gorilla Safari Attractions & Tour Activities To Experience During Your Mgahinga Visit?When planning your safari holiday itinerary in the famous Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that, despite its small size, the reserve offers an interesting range of potential activities. Typically, guests plan their Mgahinga trip around two main attractions: tracking down the rare and magnificent mountain gorillas, and taking a trek to spot the unique golden monkeys that thrive in the bamboo forests. The park has just one habituated gorilla group, the Nyakagezi family, which is known to wander around the Virunga Conservation Area, which spans three countries: Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. Uganda has been their primary residences for many years now.
- Excursions to track the Nyakagezi family of mountain gorillas
- Spotting the unique golden monkeys that live in the bamboo forests
- Spotting some of the 115 species of birdlife that thrives in the park
- Opportunity to interact with the Batwa Pygmy people known to live here for centuries
- Nature hiking treks to Sabinyo Gorge and Mgahinga swampy caldera
You can also sign up for dedicated birdwatching excursions, where an experienced Ugandan naturalist will direct you to the prime locations for finding the birds you are looking to view. While the wildlife of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is truly fascinating, its human inhabitants are a vital part of the ecosystem, too. They can share in-depth knowledge of the reserve garnered through centuries of living in harmony with this place. The Batwa Pygmies, known as one of the shortest tribal communities on Earth, have long led a hunter-gatherer lifestyle that is deeply intertwined with nature and her bounty. You will have the opportunity to visit them in their village, and also travel to the locations that have special cultural significance for them, such as the Garama Caves. This location was used as a tribal warrior hideout in ancient times.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has a stunningly beautiful landscape dominated by three extinct volcanoes in each neighbouring country: Mount Gahinga (Uganda), Mount Sabinyo (Rwanda), and Mount Muhavura (Congo). The slopes of these cones host a thriving biome containing an incredible variety of flora. You can choose to go on hiking tours on the slopes to revel in their natural beauty and, perhaps, enjoy a breathtaking vista from the peak. Each of these cones has something unique to offer.
For instance, Muhavura has a gorgeous crater lake at the top, while the marshlands on the crest of Mgahinga enthrall you with their scenic beauty. Scale Sabinyo and you’ll be treated to fabulous panoramas that make the effort totally worthwhile. However, this mountain has more to offer. If you are on a birdwatching safari vacation, you can’t miss exploring Sabinyo Gorge, a depression on the side of the mountain that is home to a stunning array of avian life. Also, plan an expedition to the Kisozi Caldera and Uganda-Congo Border Trail, which offers the possibility of scaling the Gisozi hill for superb 360-degree panoramas that extend all the way into the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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Our Top 6 Safari Activities In Mgahinga - Things You Can Do & See
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1. Gorilla Trekking Safari – The Highlight Of Your Mgahinga Tour In Uganda
- Virunga Conservation Area spanning three countries and the last habitat for the rare mountain gorillas
- Reserve home to the Nyakagezi gorilla family that prefers the lush rainforest
- Wide range of tree and plant species that provide ample nutritional nourishment to the primates
How Does The Trek Progress At Mgahinga?
- Each gorilla-tracking expedition may last for 6 to 8 hours depending on their location
- Following trails abounding with small mammals and gorgeous birds
- Opportunity to spot indigenous insects, amphibians, reptiles, and other creatures
Spending Time With The Gorilla Family In Mgahinga
- Each excursion begins at 7 a.m. at the Ntebeko Gate of the park
- Opportunity to spend 60 minutes in the company of the primates observing their activities
- Visitors required to remain at a distance of 7 meters or 22 feet from the primates to protect them from human diseases
Some Information About The Nyakagezi Family
- Dominant silverback, Mark who is supported by Ndugutse in caring for the family - total 8 members
- Habituation process starting in 1991
- The family officially opened to visitors in the year 1994 after the completion of the habituation
2. Birdwatching Tours In Mgahinga Forest
- Reserve home to a stunning 115 species of birdlife of which 14 are native to the Albertine Rift Valley, and 39 are indigenous Afrotropical mountain varieties
- Best season to spot migratory birds is in the months from November to April when many species arrive from the northern hemisphere to spend the winters
- Indigenous species may nest during the months from March to mid-May during the short wet season when food is plentiful
The long and short wet rainy seasons of April to early May and October to early November respectively is also a very good time to visit Mgahinga Park for your birding safari in Uganda. Although you may find that the rains make navigating the roads and forest pathways more time-consuming, bird watching is at its finest. Most species nest during the months of May and June, since food is most plentiful from May through September i.e. after the rains. But if you hope to spot migratory birds, you may want to take your trip between November and April, when northern species spend time in these warmer climes.
The bird species present in Mgahinga include the white-necked raven, Pin-tailed whydah, speckled mousebird, firefinch stonechat, waxbills, archer’s robin-chat, dusky crimson wing, olive pigeon, Ruwenzori nightjar, and black kite. Also, look for the double-collared sunbird, paradise flycatcher, yellow-vented bulbul, Rwenzori batis, grey capped warbler, Alpine chat, ibis, blue-headed coucal, olive woodpecker, Kivu ground-thrush, and Ruwenzori turaco.
3. The Unique Hiking Trails Of Mgahinga Park
- Hiking to the Garama Caves for an understanding of the ancient military strategies used by the Batwa people
- Traveling to the valleys that abound with an amazing diversity of flora, trees, and plants
- Scaling Mount Gahinga for fabulous views of the surrounding landscape with the Democratic of Congo in the distance
Sabinyo Gorge Hike
- Hiking to Sabinyo Gorge which is a deep vale carved into the side of Mount Gahinga
- Trek taking five to six hours through bamboo forests over clear pathways and bridges
- Rugezi Swamp well-known for a stunning variety of avian life
- Reveling in the vistas of the Virunga Volcanoes, and other sights
- Visitors requested to come prepared with proper hiking supplies, food, and beverages
The Sabinyo Gorge trail is somewhat taxing but rewards your efforts with breathtaking views of the Bwindi Forest, Virunga volcanoes, and other forest panoramas. As the expert safari consultant at AfricanMecca will advise, you will want to wear proper hiking clothing and footwear, and bring along plenty of drinking water and fortifying snacks to keep up your energy levels.
Hike To The Kisozi Caldera
- A short, moderately strenuous hike to Kisozi Caldera
- Reveling in the fabulous views from the top of the small elevation
- Accessible with a hike over just one kilometer
Trek To The Uganda-Congo Border
- Trekking to the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo
- A moderately taxing hike that takes about 5 hours to complete
- Traveling through various vegetation zones and sighting small animals and perhaps, a forest elephant
Walk Inside The Legendary Garama Cave
- Trekking to the Garama Caves which are located at a distance of 3 kilometers from the park headquarters at Ntebeko
- Caves extending to 342 meters and running 14 meters below a plateau that was once covered with lush forests
- Considered sacred by the Batwa people and used for holding war councils by the tribe’s elders
- Opportunity to learn about the cultural history of the Batwa and their traditional arts and crafts
- Sighting the current inhabitants of the caves, a colony of bats
The Garama Cave walk is an immersive and experiential experience where you will learn about the historic culture of the Mgahinga region and how the Batwa lived before being evicted from the park. Learn some of their secrets for making medicines from herbs, making fire, collecting water using bamboo pipes, smoking pipes, and conflict strategies. You may also get the opportunity to meet the current inhabitants of the cave—a colony of bats—before emerging again into the sunlight. End your safari vacation excursion by participating in a cultural dance performance performed by some of the local artists.
4. Batwa Cultural Trails & Tour Visits To Tribal Communities In Mgahinga
- Opportunity to meet the Batwa Pygmy people who have lived in the mountains since before written history
- Traditionally have a deep respect for the forest and have lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle for centuries
- Known to be a hardy warrior clan having earned the title, “keepers of the forest”
Keepers Of The Forest - The Batwa
- Followed eco-friendly principles since centuries with a lifestyle having a minimum impact on the forest
- Collected fruit, hunted small animals, and lived in temporary shelters made with branches and leaves
- Forced to move out of the forest after the reserve was given the gazetted status
The Batwa Today
- Setbacks faced by the community because of the loss of access to traditional sources of livelihood
- Efforts in progress to rehabilitate them by offering alternate means of securing a living
- 10 acres of land allocated for their homes and farming
- Around 18 Batwa families comprising about 100 individuals displaced
- Opportunity to visit their villages and learn about sustainable methods of living using the forest resources
Mount Gahinga Lodge via Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT) is also helping to uplift the community by building homes on 10 acres of land just outside the reserve. Some of this land will be allocated for farming purposes also. Once the permanent structures in this village are ready, 18 Batwa families comprising about 100 individuals will be able to move out of the tiny rocky area at Musasa that they had occupied since their eviction from the park.
The Batwa people have retained their culture and knowledge of the natural environment and its wildlife, despite their departure from ancestral lands in the park. On your visit to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, you can take a side trip to their village to better understand how they have long lived off natural resources without leaving an impact. You can learn how to harvest natural honey, make medicines from plants, collect edible berries, roots, fruits, and leaves, make utensils from bamboo, and much more.
Exploring The Batwa Way Of Living
- Taking village walks to participate in their music and dance performances
- All proceeds from purchases of handicrafts or hiring guides for gorilla-tracking used for community upliftment
- Batwa Vocational School established to train tribals in the skills that can help them earn a livelihood
5. Climb The Extinct Virunga Volcanoes Of Mgahinga Park
- Region famous for the incredible beauty of the extinct volcanoes, Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhavura, and Mount Sabinyo
- Full-day hikes starting at 7 a.m. with a drive to the foot of the mountain
- Choice of hiking trails according to individual fitness levels
Mount Sabyinyo - 3669 Meters
- Called “Old Man’s Teeth” by the locals because of the serrated tips eroded over time
- Opportunity to scale any of the three peaks of the cone
- Treks can take around eight hours to complete over a distance of 14 kilometers
- Porters available to help climbers carry gear and other supplies
- Climb rewarded by 360-degree panoramic views of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo
Once you arrive at the apex, the breathtaking 360-degree panoramas reaching into three nations—Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo—make the effort every bit worth it. You can expect the trip to take eight hours or more, and to cover a distance of 14 kilometers. Make sure to bring at least two to three liters of water to keep your body hydrated, and wear altitude clothing that covers you completely for protection from the cool and damp environs of the mountain. Porters are also available to assist you by carrying your equipment for this vacation excursion.
Mount Gahinga - 3474 Meters
- Takes its name from the term for “piles of volcanic stones”
- Trek up the inclines of the mountain takes around 6 to 7 hours and takes you to a marshland that was once a beautiful lake
- An 8-kilometer hike that meanders through farmlands, bamboo and montane forests, and other vegetation
Mount Muhavura - 4127 Meters
- Overnight excursion requiring hikers to arrive at the base in the evening and start the ascent in the early morning
- The complete trek may take 8 to 10 hours covering a distance of 12 kilometers
- Porters available to carry camping equipment, food, beverages, and other supplies
- The tallest peak in the reserve having a conical shape and visible from a distance
- Scenic vistas of Queen Elizabeth Park, Lake Edward, and Virunga Volcanic Massif
Being the tallest mountain of Virungas, Muhavura is also called “the Guide” because its conical shape is clearly visible from a distance. Most of the trail takes you through rocky expanses, with most of the vegetation comprising small bushes and grasses. At the top, you will be enthralled by magnificent views of Queen Elizabeth Park, Lake Edward, and other parts of the Virunga Volcanic Massif. On a clear day, you might even see the Rwenzori Mountains towering in the distance.
6. Trekking to See The Endangered Golden Monkeys Of Mgahinga
- Hiking to see the golden monkeys declared as endangered by the World Conservation Union
- Species featuring brilliant colors of black, orange, and gold
- Last surviving numbers thriving in the bamboo forests of the Virunga Volcanoes
Where To Locate The Golden Monkeys Of Mgahinga?
- Most commonly found in the higher reaches of the forest canopy where they are safe from eagles
- Not common to be found on the forest floors and prefer to remain in specific areas of the bamboo forests
- Non-nomadic in behavior and do not build nests
The Diminishing Habitats Of Mgahinga’s Golden Primates
- Only 4,000 to 5,000 individuals left in the world, mainly found only in Mount Gahinga reserve
- Group of 40 to 60 members habituated to the presence of humans
- Opportunities to see spoor and droppings of other wildlife
There have been reports of possible sightings of the golden monkeys in the Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda. When hiking along trails hoping to sight primates, and if lucky, you will also have the opportunity to spot some of the other mammals that call Mgahinga home, or at least their spoor and droppings. Look out for forest elephants, Cape buffalos, duikers, giant forest hogs, porcupines and various others, along with an array of amphibians, reptiles, and birds.
Tracking Down The Mgahinga Golden Monkeys
- Request tour consultants at AfricanMecca to procure the mandatory permit ahead of arrival at the reserve
- Each permit costing US $60 and allowing a single visitor aged 12 years and above
- Hikers required to arrive at the base camp at 7:30 a.m. after which a half-hour orientation session is held
- Hikes undertaken twice a day, in the morning or evening with each trip taking around 4 hours
- Opportunity to spend 60 minutes observing the primates and their activities
Tracking the golden monkeys in the Mgahinga is not a particularly taxing experience since the primates live on the lower inclines of the mountain - around 3-4 km hike. Once you locate the habituated family, you can spend 60 minutes in their presence, observing their activities and taking pictures. Unlike gorilla tracking excursions, children as young as 12 years are allowed to visit the golden monkeys. You will also enjoy the natural beauty of the park, with its lush gorges, moors and heaths covered with low bushes, shrubs, and bracken.
Spending Time With The Golden Monkeys Of Mgahinga
- Choice of signing up for the tracking activity or habituation experience, each of which is a unique excursion
- Weather conditions and locations of the primates can make the expeditions unpredictable
- Preferred habitat is 2500 meters above sea level and shrouded in mist making sightings challenging
The preferred habitat of the golden monkeys is at 2500 meters above sea level, which means you may encounter strong winds and cold, damp weather. Although the moisture appears mainly as mist—which adds to the stunning beauty of Mgahinga—it hampers primate sightings. The monkeys take shelter from the rain and cold in the forest canopy and stay still and quiet in the cover, making it challenging to spot them.
The Golden Monkey Habituation Experience In Mgahinga
- Participation in the Golden Monkey Habituation Experience where a research guide spend time studying the primates
- Each excursion lasting for 4 hours with the permit costing US$ 100
- Opportunity to watch diverse behaviors of golden monkeys
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GUIDE ON MGAHINGA PARK
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is part of the greater Virunga Conservation Area, a 434-square-kilometer (167 square miles) swath of protected land that encompasses parts of Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo.
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WHERE & BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MGAHINGA
Mgahinga only has one proper tourist accommodation that AfricanMecca Safaris can recommend i.e. Mount Gahinga Lodge which offers a deluxe, rustic ambiance with just 8 rondavel-style banda rooms.
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BEST TIME TO VISIT MGAHINGA
The long dry season in Mgahinga is the best time to visit and starts in June to August. The short dry season occurs in the months of January and February, and is again a very good time for gorilla safaris.
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GORILLA FAMILY GROUPS IN MGAHINGA
Should you plan a gorilla viewing safari to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, you will learn that the park has only one resident gorilla family that is habituated to the presence of humans.
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I just returned from a month in Africa, specifically Rwanda & Kenya. I am left breathless with my experience. AfricanMecca Safaris coordinated the entire trip for me and left no detail, nothing for me to do.
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We have returned from our African adventure and would like to thank you very much for your part in making this such a wonderful experience. We were lucky enough to time the Great Migration from the Serengeti, which was amazing.
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EAST AFRICA SAFARI BOOKING TRIP IDEA FOR MGAHINGA IN UGANDA
When visiting Mgahinga Park for your gorilla safari trek, we recommend combining it with Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, and Kibale (chimpanzee safari) alongside your city tour visits of Kampala and Entebbe.
You may optionally extend out to other wilderness areas such as Bwindi to track down gorillas in a different park, Jinja for whitewater rafting on the Nile River, and Semliki, Lake Mburo or Kidepo for an offbeat wildlife tour.
You can end your vacation on the beach at Lake Victoria or even extending out to the exotic spice island of Zanzibar or Lamu, or even Mombasa.
Best Safari Planning Ideas & Trip Experiences For UgandaBelow are guide references on how to plan each of the below safari experience in Uganda. Alternatively, go to the summary section for a quick overview of each trip planning experience.READ MORE
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