Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga national park
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga national park: Mountain gorillas are the main attractions in Mgahinga forest national park and gorilla trekking is the main activity carried out there. Mgahinga national park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda and it’s one of the national parks within the country. Mgahinga is the smallest national park in Uganda covering 33.9sq.km.
Mgahinga national park was declared a game sanctuary in 1930 by the British administration and in 1991 it was gazetted as a national park. The national park was gazetted by the government of Uganda to protect the endangered mountain gorillas as well as the forest.
Mgahinga national park is found in Kisoro district and it neighbors two national parks that are home to mountain gorillas. Mgahinga national park has Volcanoes national park of Rwanda in the south and Virunga national park of DR Congo in the west. The mountain gorillas of Mgahinga national park used to move to Rwanda but they now concentrated in one park.
Mgahinga national park is a very small national park of 33.9sq.km with over 90 mountain gorillas. There is one mountain gorilla family that has been created within this park and some members are still wild. About 12 mountain gorillas have been habituated to form Nyakagezi gorilla family in Mgahinga national park.
Nyakagezi gorilla family is popular because it is the only mountain gorilla family in Mgahinga national park. The members of Nyakagezi family were habituated for a period of 3 years until they got used to the human presence around them. Nyakagezi gorilla family was gazetted in 1991 and was opened for trekking in 1994.
When visiting Nyakagezi mountain gorilla family, a gorilla trekking permit is a must. Tourists must have gorilla trekking permits from Uganda Wildlife Authority to qualify for the gorilla trekking activities in Mgahinga national park. The gorilla trekking permits for Mgahinga national park are issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority and can be still got from local tour operators.
To get a mountain gorilla trekking permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority, you need to be aged 15 years and above. There are circumstances when a child below 15 years can get a mountain gorilla trekking permit but that will be a story in another article. A traveler to get a gorilla permit for Mgahinga national park requires dates of the month and year they want to travel and they will be used to check for availability.
Once the permits are available, all you have to do is pay and get your gorilla permit to trek the endangered mountain gorillas of Mgahinga national park. The gorilla trekking permits for Mgahinga national park costs $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents, and UGX250,000 citizens of East African member states.
With a gorilla trekking permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority, you can visit Mgahinga national park and be part of the gorilla trekking exercise where you will meet apes that are said to be having 98% DNA with human beings. A gorilla trekking permit is presented to the rangers at Ntebeko which is the meeting point.
Gorilla trekking experience in Mgahinga national park
Encountering mountain gorillas of Mgahinga national park is the main done activity of the day in Mgahinga national park. The activity is carried out every morning and it starts at 7:45 with a briefing at Ntebeko. This is where all tourists that are going for mountain gorilla trekking gather and hear what the rangers have to say. With your gorilla permit, you will be allowed to be part of the study about the rules and regulations of the activity.
At 8:00 am or 8:30 am, the trekkers that don’t exceed 8 people go for the trekking, and they are always led by armed ranger guides. The armed ranger guides know the best trails and areas to visit when searching for these mountain gorillas. The search goes from 1-4 hours and the time taken to meet the apes depends on their movement and the speed of the trekkers which is normally determined by the nature of trails.
Before meeting the mountain gorillas, the trekkers are able to meet different wildlife species that live within the forest, and among these include forest elephants, buffaloes, giant forest hogs, leopards, bush pigs, duikers, golden monkeys, olive baboons, bushbucks, and birds among others.
When the trekkers meet the endangered mountain gorillas, they are given 1 hour to be around the members and this gives them an opportunity to know about the history of members, learn about their habits, take photos and watch them do daily activities like nesting, hunting, grooming, playing, and coupling among others. After a successful gorilla trekking, you trek back and get your trekking certificates at Ntebeko.
What to pack for gorilla trekking in Mgahinga national park?
Mountain gorillas of Mgahinga national park live deep in the forest so tourists that are intending to trek them should come with waterproof hiking shoes, long cotton stocks, a pair of gaiters, long-sleeved shirts, long-sleeved shorts, gardening gloves, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellents, a light backpack, a camera, a pair of binoculars, energy giving snacks and a drinking water bottle to mention but a few.
Best time to visit Mgahinga for gorilla trekking
Tourists can visit Mgahinga national park for gorilla trekking at any time of the year. Certain months like the dry season are the best to trek Mgahinga gorillas and this is because they have little or no rainfall. The dry season months have got dry and passable trekking trails, vegetation is short and thin with good views of wildlife, and roads leading to the park are in very good condition.
Budget travelers can do Mgahinga national park gorilla safari during the dry season from March to May and October to November and this favors them because the lodge owners and tour operators have discounted rates. The rainy season never attracts a lot of travelers simply because the trekking trails are muddy and slippery, vegetation is thick with unclear views of wildlife and the roads leading to the park are in very bad states.
Where to stay on a gorilla safari in Mgahinga national park
Mgahinga national park has accommodation facilities that are enough for all travelers that visit the park. The accommodation facilities are of budget, mid-range, and luxury options, and where to stay depends on the traveler’s budget. The lodges to use while on your gorilla safari in Mgahinga include Mgahinga Gorilla Triangle Lodge, Tiloreza Volcanoes Lodge, Mgahinga Safari Lodge, Mountain Gahinga Rest Camp, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mutanda Safari Lodge, and many others found in Kisoro town which is just 14km from the gate of Mgahinga national park.