Cyanika border, nestled snugly between Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, serves as the perfect gateway for an unparalleled gorilla tracking adventure. This unique location allows you to effortlessly explore gorilla habitats in both Uganda and Rwanda, with brief and scenic drives between the two countries. From the border, it’s a mere 45-minute drive to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and a one-hour journey to the park headquarters in Kinigi, Volcanoes National Park. Trek Africa Expeditions can arrange seamless gorilla tracking safaris in either country, ensuring a hassle-free experience. It’s a double blessing, as you can choose between Rwanda at $1500 per person per trek or Uganda at $700 per person per trek.
Volcanoes National Park, known as “Parc National Des Volcans” in French and “Pariki y’igihugu y’ibirunga” in Kinyarwanda, graces the northwestern parts of Rwanda. Sharing borders with Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, this park is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes. Volcanoes National Park is the birthplace of five of the ancient eight volcanoes that grace the Virunga Mountains: Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhavura, Gahinga, and Sabyinyo. Encompassing 160 square kilometers, the park is adorned with rainforests and bamboo vegetation. It is the sacred home to the critically endangered Mountain gorillas and golden monkeys.
The park’s history dates back to 1925 when it was gazetted as a small area, initially encompassing only Bisoke, Karisimbi, and Mikeno. Its purpose was to protect gorillas from poachers, making it Africa’s first national park. Today, Volcanoes National Park stands as Rwanda’s premier tourist destination, alongside sister parks like Nyungwe and Akagera.
A visit to Volcanoes National Park promises an array of unforgettable experiences. You can embark on a remarkable hike to Dian Fossey’s tomb. Dian Fossey, an American primatologist, arrived in Rwanda in 1967 to study Mountain gorillas. She dedicated nearly two decades to her research before tragically falling victim to poachers in 1985. Tracking the magnificent golden monkeys, a rare species to behold, adds another layer of adventure. However, the pinnacle experience is undoubtedly Mountain gorilla tracking. These gorillas are critically endangered, with fewer than 1000 remaining in the world. The tracking adventure begins at Kinigi, the park headquarters, where 11 habituated gorilla families reside. Each day, a group of eight fortunate individuals can track one of these gorilla families, with each gorilla permit priced at $1500 USD.
Additionally, Volcanoes National Park offers the unique opportunity to trek the enchanting golden monkeys in the highlands of the Virunga Mountains. This is a delightful activity that typically takes just a few hours, making it less strenuous compared to gorilla tracking.
For mountain enthusiasts and hiking aficionados, the park beckons with mountain climbing and hiking opportunities. Mount Bisoke, with an elevation of 3,700 meters above sea level and a crater lake on top, presents an exciting challenge. No mountaineering gear is required, just a good level of fitness to ascend into the mountains. The journey takes about 5 to 7 hours. Additionally, Mount Karisimbi, the second-highest volcanic peak in the Virunga Mountains, awaits avid climbers.
For a different kind of adventure, you can explore the captivating world of bike riding in Rwanda. The park also offers guided nature walks, such as a stroll to Musanze market for a taste of local life, a nature walk to the stunning Twin Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo, and a guided tour of the Nyange community, providing insights into the locals’ socio-economic lifestyle. A visit to Iby’Iwacu Cultural Villages provides a glimpse into Rwanda’s traditions, featuring a tour of a local king’s traditional house, herbal mixtures by an authentic medicine man, Kinyarwanda traditional dance and music, and more captivating cultural experiences.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, established in 1991, is one of Uganda’s most exceptional national parks and a must-visit destination in the Pearl of Africa. Covering approximately 33.7 square kilometers, it is the smallest protected area in Uganda. This park is a sanctuary for endangered Mountain Gorillas, rare Golden monkeys, various bird species, and more.
Home to an estimated 80 rare Mountain Gorillas, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park features one habituated gorilla group ready for visitors to track. Situated in southwestern Uganda, the park encompasses an altitude range of about 2,227 meters to 4,127 meters. The park shares its boundaries with three of the eight Virunga Mountain ranges: Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Muhabura. These Virunga volcanoes extend into the Virunga Volcano range of East Central Africa, Albertine Rift in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Uganda border.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, with its lush vegetation, serves as a vital catchment area for rainfall. It boasts several crater lakes on Mount Muhabura and a swamp crater at the summit of Mount Gahinga. The park is also home to fascinating swamps nestled within the three volcanoes. Nearby, you’ll find the Batwa people, also known as pygmies, who have resided in these forests for over 500,000 years.
To reach Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, you can embark on a road trip from Kampala via the Kabale-Kisoro highway, which takes approximately 8 to 10 hours. Alternatively, you can opt for a flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield, landing at Kisoro Airstrip. From there, it’s a short drive of less than an hour to your chosen lodge, hotel, or the national park, depending on your accommodations.
For travelers coming from Kigali, Rwanda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is easily accessible, requiring only a four-hour drive instead of the 10-hour journey from Kampala. Many visitors choose to fly into Kigali International Airport and then cross into Mgahinga National Park through the Cyanika border, a drive of approximately four hours. This route has gained popularity, especially for short trips like a 2-day Gorilla Safari through Rwanda-Kigali.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park promises a once-in-a-lifetime adventure with its Mountain Gorilla Tracking Experience. This extraordinary journey through the natural forest captivates about 75% of travelers worldwide, drawing them to witness these rare apes in their natural habitat. As the second Gorilla destination in Uganda after Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Mgahinga offers the opportunity to track the Nyakagezi Habituated Gorilla family, the only group ready for visitors in this park.
For those seeking a deeper connection with nature, guided nature walks and volcano climbing expeditions await at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Hiking through the thick forest leads to Sabyinyo gorge, an exceptional birding spot, with a chance to spot the Rwenzori Turaco. These hikes typically last around 4 hours and offer glimpses into the transcending vegetation zones along the Congo border, revealing several calderas. The park also boasts other remarkable wildlife, including the rare Golden monkeys inhabiting the Bamboo jungle.
Following your Mountain Gorilla encounter, don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the cultural communities neighboring the park. Interact with the Batwa people, renowned forest dwellers, hunters, and gatherers. Explore their ancient lifestyle and immerse yourself in their world. A visit to one of their caves provides an unforgettable experience, leaving you with a desire to return and explore further. Contact Trek Africa Expeditions to book gorilla tracking tours from the Cyanika border and embark on an extraordinary journey of discovery.