Volcano climbing is one of the most interesting activities you should not miss out on your gorilla safari to Mgahinga gorilla national park. Situated in kisoro district southwestern Uganda, Mgahinga is Uganda’s smallest national park (33, 7km2) covering Uganda’s share of the Virunga conservation area bordered by Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo. Much as most travelers to Mgahinga focus on gorilla tours and golden monkey trekking a hike to the summit of any one volcano is an experience of its own kind. Mgahinga is fortunate to shelter three volcanic mountains, which overlook the neighboring communities, other Virunga volcanoes and attractions Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Concerning vegetation cover, Mgahinga national park comprise of a rain forest, bamboo forests, marshes, swamps, grasses, liverwort, lichen and mosses among others. Volcano hiking in Mgahinga gorilla national park is done as follows:
This is the highest peak standing at 4127meters above sea level and is translated in Kinyarwanda as “guide”. As its name says, Mt Muhabura serves as a guide for travelers to Mgahinga with its summit being seen right from Kisoro town. The summit of Mt Muhabura reward travelers with great views of other Virungas in Rwanda and Congo, Rwenzori ranges, lake Edward, Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and the neighboring countries. Hiking to the summit of the volcano takes roughly 8 hours hence the most strenuous but exciting adventure.
Translated in Kinyarwanda as the old “man’s teeth”, Mt Sabyinyo stands at an elevation of 3,647 meters above the sea level hence the second highest after Mt Muhabura. Though shared by the three countries, Sabyinyo is best hiked in Mgahinga where hiking ladders and trails have been built to ease the hiking unlike in other countries. The slopes of mount Sabyinyo are covered by forests which shelter the endangered species hence an opportunity for travelers to meet and interact with these endangered species.
This is the simplest and most hiked volcanoi in Mgahinga standing at an elevation of 3,474 meters above the sea level. In local Kinyarwanda, Gahinga means a “pile of stones” which is found in people’s gardens. It takes 6 hours reach the summit of mount Gahinga through bamboo forests and marshes. In the past years, the summit of Mount Gahinga had a crater, which has presently dr5ained into a wetland that host various bird species hence the best site for bird watching. Juts like other volcanoes, the top of mount Gahinga reward you with spectacular views of the neighboring communities, entire Mgahinga gorilla national park and other attractions in Rwanda and Democrati Republic of Congo.
This trails is at the slopes of mount Sabyinyo crossing over to Uganda’s border with Democratic Republic of Congo. The hike is through sabyinyo gorge, which is also a home to a variety of bird species for you to see. The trail is five hours walk covering 10 kilometers distance. The trail stops at the border of Uganda and Congo hence a chance for a traveler to step into DRC on Uganda’s safari. Expect to see other animal species such as mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, buffalos, and elephants, black and white Colubuses among others.
Besides, volcano hiking, Mgahinga gorilla national parks offers much more attractions and activities which include among others:
Covering Uganda’s share of the Virunga conservation area, Mgahinga is a home to Nyakagyezi gorilla family. The family lives in the virgin forested area of the park and is believed to have over 30 members led by mark a dominant silverback. Unlike in the past years when gorilla safaris were uncertain in Mgahinga due to constant movements of Nyakagyezi family to Rwanda and Congo, the family has presently settled for trekking in Mgahinga. All travelers eight gorilla permits are issued out everyday at a cost of 600usd each permit. Interestingly, gorilla permits in Mgahinga are accessed at the national park headquarters on the day of trekking. Gorilla trekking is not as strenuous as in Bwindi but the experience is worth doing.
Golden monkey trekking
This is yet another interesting activity you should not miss out in Mgahinga gorilla national park. It’s only in Mgahinga and volcanoes national park can see these endangered species in the whole of east and central Africa. Golden monkeys are beautiful animals in that the mixture of golden hair, orange and black limbs make them look beautiful. Fortunately, golden monkey trekking is done at 100usd, which is relatively cheaper compared to 600usd for mountain gorillas. Hiking starts I the early morning after briefing concerning the trekking rules and regulations.
Batwa cultural trail
Here travelers are introduced to the traditional forest life of the Batwa pygmies the initial dwellers. The trail is guided by the Batwa who entertain travelers with their traditional dances and songs, which relate to their history, beliefs and norms. On reaching the forest, travelers are led to different sites such as the Ngarama cave where batwa would offer sacrifices and other caves for hiding. Also, Batwa demonstrate their forest life such fruit gathering, collecting honey herbal medicine and hunting which make it so interesting. Also, travelers are allowed to take part in any of these activities which make them part of the batwa community an experience they live to remember.
Besides wildlife and volcanoes, Mgahinga gorilla national park is a shelter to over 115 bird species some of which are endemic to the albertine region. Expect to see a variety of birds which include White necked raven, Black kite, Pin-tailed whydah, Double collared sunbird, Speckled mouse bird, Ibises, Paradise flycatcher, Fire finch stonechat, Grey capped warbler, waxbills, Alpine, Archer’s robin-chat, Olive pigeon, Olive woodpecker, Ruwenzori nightjar, Kivu ground thrush and Ruwenzori Batis among others. Bird watching is well done during a forest/nature walk and experienced birding guides help in spotting these birds. Travelers enjoy the sweet sounds of birds, which sing continuously up in the trees.
In conclusion, Mgahinga gorilla national park offers it all to meet and exceed all travelers’ interests. Book a gorilla tour to Mgahinga, hike any of the volcanoes, spend time with the batwa pygmies, take part in bird watching and trek golden moneys all rewarding you with a phenomenal experience.