Located in the Kisoro district of southwestern Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a popular destination for gorilla enthusiasts. The park shares its borders with Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Established in 1991, the park’s primary objective is the preservation and protection of the endangered mountain gorillas.
Although the park is one of the smallest in Uganda, covering an area of only 33.7 square kilometers, it is one of the most frequently visited due to its primate population. The park is home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, and gorilla trekking is the most popular activity here. Visitors can venture into the jungle in search of these gentle giants and spend an hour observing them in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is also available in other destinations, including Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Kahuzi Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a sanctuary to two habituated gorilla families: Nyakagezi and Hirwa. The park initially hosted only Nyakagezi until October 2019, when the Hirwa family migrated from Volcanoes National Park and joined them. The trek commences with a morning briefing at Ntebeko park headquarters, which covers the trekking expectations, guidelines, and regulations. The groups, each comprising eight visitors, are sorted based on their physical aptitude and age. During the trek, a park guide escorts each group, providing information and answering questions about the mountain gorillas.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park generally takes between two to six hours, depending on the gorilla location. The gorillas are usually on the move, searching for food. Once found, visitors can spend an hour observing the gorillas in their natural habitat, including their lifestyles, behaviors, and habits. Flashless cameras are allowed, and visitors can also record their experience.
After spending time with the endangered mountain gorillas, visitors return to the park headquarters or starting point to obtain a gorilla trekking permit. The permit is a reminder of the unforgettable experience of trekking gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
A gorilla trekking permit is a mandatory document that permits visitors above the age of fifteen to trek the endangered mountain gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for one hour. The cost of a single gorilla trekking permit varies based on the visitor’s residency status.
As of 2023, the cost of a gorilla trekking permit in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is $700 for a foreign non-resident, $600 for a foreign resident, and UGX 250,000 for an East African citizen. Gorilla trekking permits are issued for a maximum of one hour with a gorilla family in their natural habitat. These permits are limited to a certain number per day to protect the gorillas from overexposure to human presence. The cost of the permits goes towards conservation efforts in the park and surrounding communities.
The fees for gorilla trekking permits are high but are used for the conservation and protection of the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The revenue generated from the sale of these permits is used to fund conservation efforts, support local communities, and enhance tourism infrastructure in the region. It is, therefore, essential for visitors to obtain the permits from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) or through a licensed tour operator.
If you are planning to go gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park, it is recommended to book your permit 3 to 4 months ahead of your desired trekking date. This is because the park only issues 16 gorilla trekking permits each day, making them highly competitive and quickly sold out, especially during the peak season from June to September, and December to February. By booking in advance, you can avoid disappointment and secure your spot to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
To book a gorilla trekking permit in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, you can contact Uganda Wildlife Authority directly via telephone or email, or you can choose to book through a reputable tour operator like Trek Africa Expeditions. The latter option is often preferred as it can save you time and hassle, and allows for the planning of your entire gorilla trekking safari, including accommodations, transportation, and meals.
To book with a tour operator, you would provide them with the date, month, and year you wish to engage in gorilla trekking, and they will check for availability of permits matching your requested dates. Once availability is confirmed, you will be asked to make a deposit for the permit and send scanned copies of your passport, which will be used to register your permit. The tour operator will then pay for your gorilla trekking permit and send you a scanned copy of the receipt as confirmation. It is recommended to book 3 to 4 months in advance to ensure availability, especially during peak season from June to September and December to February when permits can sell out quickly.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers a range of accommodation options for visitors on a gorilla trekking safari, catering to all budgets and preferences. Among the options are Mgahinga Rest Camp, Travelers Rest House, Virunga Hotel, Mgahinga Community Camp, Mgahinga Gorilla Lodge, Amajambere Iwacu Camp, Volcanoes Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge, and Mt Muhabura Climber Resort. These lodges provide comfortable amenities including en-suite bathrooms with hot and cold water, sitting areas, gardens for relaxation, restaurants serving local and international cuisine, and stunning views of the park and its wildlife. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious stay or a budget-friendly option, there is something for everyone in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
If you’re planning a gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga National Park, you can do it at any time of the year. However, the best time to visit is during the dry season, which occurs from June to September and December to February. During this period, there is less rainfall, making the gorilla trekking trails and access roads to Mgahinga gorilla national park more accessible. While most visitors prefer to visit during the dry season, it’s important to note that it can rain anytime due to the tropical rainforest climate of the park.
If you’re planning a gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, it’s important to pack wisely to ensure that you have everything you need for a safe and enjoyable experience. The park is located in southwestern Uganda and is home to endangered mountain gorillas, so visitors are advised to bring essential items to protect themselves and the gorillas. In this guide, we’ll explore some of the essential items you should pack for your gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, located in southwestern Uganda, is accessible by both road and air transport means. Visitors can opt for road transport by driving from Kampala through Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro, and then to the park headquarters, which takes about 8 to 9 hours. Alternatively, visitors can access the park from Kigali, Rwanda, by flying to Kigali International Airport and then connecting to the park by road via the Katuna or Cyanika border, which takes about 3 to 4 hours. However, it is not recommended to use public means of transport. For a quicker option, visitors can choose to travel by air, as domestic companies like Aerolink Uganda Limited offer scheduled and chartered flights from Entebbe Airport or Kajansi Airfield to Kisoro Airstrip.