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Gorillas at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

The mountains along with thick forest cover influence climatic conditions in the park bringing frequent rains and a cool breeze.  Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a vital water catchment area. Several streams flow from Crater the Lakes and swamps on the mountain summit to the rivers and lakes on the floor. On the slopes of the mountains, there are rivers like Ntebeko, Nyabirerema and Kabiranyuma which supply water to the indigenous tribes living next to the park.

Silverback at Mgahinga Naional Park.

The main attractions in the park are the mountain gorillas but Mgahinga National Park is also home to the endangered golden monkeys, Vervet monkeys, Spotted hyenas, Serval cats, Red tailed monkeys, Patas monkeys, Mangabeys, Leopards, Golden cats, Forest hogs, Elephants, Bushbucks, Bushbabies, Buffaloes, Blue monkeys,, Baboons, African porcupinesBlack and white Colobus monkeys. The reptiles in the park include snakes, geckos and chameleons to mention but a few. We will discuss more about the birds shortly.

The Bafumbira, Batwa and Bakiga are the main indigenous tribes living on the edges of the forest. They rely mainly on subsistence farming on the slopes of the mountains using terracing. Population pressure and resulting lack of alternative ways of earning income has over the years resulted in human encroachment and pressure on the park land and forest leading to deforestation in areas close to human settlements. The bamboo and sub-alpine vegetation on the foot and higher up the mountains remain relatively intact. Although the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has contained poaching, continued population group among communities living outside the park remains a threat. UWA has come up with community tourism programmes that have created a harmonious relationship between the local tribes, park authorities and creatures therein.

How to get to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga National Park can be reached by road or air from Kampala or Entebbe. The distance from Kampala is about 509 kilometers through well paved tarmac roads. Driving to the park from Kampala through the Mbarara-Masaka-Kampala highway takes about 9 hours. Lone travelers can hire the daily buses from Kampala to Kisoro town. From Kisoro town, there are special hires and even motorcycles taking passengers up to the park gate. The road from Kibale town to Mgahinga National Park is made of Murram hence dusty, and bumpy. One needs a good 4X4 car to comfortably navigate through this stretch of road. Whereas the distance by road from Kampala seems long, the journey is worth it because of the beautiful scenery and opportunities to make short stops to check out hidden spots and even the equator crossing. One can also access Mgahinga National Park by using the shorter road from Kigali international airport through either the Katuna or Cyanika border with Uganda. This route takes less than 4 hours and is highly recommended. Ever since the government of Rwanda increased the price of gorilla permits to $1500, Mgahinga receives more tourists from the Rwanda side who are more comfortable with the $600 charged in Uganda.

Those on a tight schedule can choose to take a chartered flight from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airstrip (in Kampala) to Kisoro airstrip near the park. Flights from Eagle Air between Entebbe and Kisoro are arranged every Monday and Friday of the week. Tickets for the local flight need to be booked in advance. Tour companies can help you book the local flight and arrange ground transportation from the Kisoro airstrip to the park.

Things to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

One of the advantages of visiting Mgahinga national park is that there are fewer crowds.  The whole park can be discovered in peace and quiet. Some of the activities don’t need to be booked in advance. Many of the activities don’t need to be booked in advance.

There are several activities that travelers can engage in while at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park including gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, mountain climbing, nature walks, cultural visits and bird watching among others. The best way to start is by looking at our 3 Days gorilla tour in Mgahinga package. Most of these activities start from the visitor center in Ntebeko. The activities are:-

Gorilla tracking: In Bwindi and Mgahinga, Uganda is lucky to have two national parks where mountain gorilla trekking can be done. About 80 mountain gorillas are found in Mgahinga National Park. Because they stay in high altitudes, the gorillas in Mgahinga have developed more fuzzy coats than those in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Only the Nyakagyezi gorilla group is open to tourism in Mgahinga. The Nyakagezi group is one of the two largest habituated mountain gorilla groups in Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. The group used to be very mobile with a tendency to cross to Rwanda and even Congo but have for the past five years settled in Uganda. It takes a shorter time locating the Nyakagyezi group than some families in Bwindi.

Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga starts at 8 am with briefing. After the briefing, visitors are led by the park rangers to find the group. While tracking the gorillas expect to encounter pristine forest, primates, birds and other forest creatures. The time taken tracking the gorillas will depend on the location of the group that day and can take anywhere between 2 to 3 hours. Go prepared with a good camera to capture one of the most amazing wildlife experiences. Will you see the primates? Well, the chances of seeing mountain gorillas is pretty high. There is a packing list for gorilla trekking and rules for gorilla tracking that every tracker needs to be conversant with. The cost of a gorilla permits in $600 and can be acquired from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kisoro or through a tour operator. The best time of the year for gorilla trekking is between June and August.

Golden Monkey Tracking: Golden monkeys are subspecies of blue Monkeys. The primates are endemic to the Albertine Rift and Virunga ranges in Uganda, Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo. They look cute with beautiful golden coats. Golden monkeys are rather small monkeys with an adult weighing about twenty pounds. They are very playful and active primates living in large groups that can contain 80 individuals. They spend most of their time on top of trees feeding off bamboo shoots or insects on the slopes of the volcanoes. Their chief predator is the African Eagle.

Golden monkeys are one of the most sought out primates by tourists in Africa. It is only Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park) and Uganda (Mgahinga National Park) that have habituated groups open to tourists. Golden monkey tracking takes between thirty minutes to three hours. The activity starts at 8am with briefing. Because they can’t hear eagles coming when it’s raining, the monkeys tend to hide away during downpour making the chances of finding them 85%. After finding the monkeys, visitors are only allowed 1 hour to observe the behavior of the group while also taking photos. There is a possibility of going for the longer golden monkey habituation experience with researchers but at an extra cost. Golden Monkey Permits cost $100. You can find out more information about the 2 days golden monkey trekking in the Volcanoes National Park.

Mountain climbing: One of the attractive activities in Mgahinga is climbing one of the three volcanoes found in the park – Sabyinyo, Gahinga (3474) and Muhavura (4127m). Sabinyo is thought to be the oldest and Muhavura the youngest. These three volcanoes sit at the borders of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. At 3669 meters high, Mount Sabyinyo is the most popular volcano among hikers. Reaching the summit of Mount Sabyinyo provides a unique opportunity of standing in Uganda, Congo and Rwanda at the same time. The easiest climb is Mount Gahinga taking about six hours.

\It is possible to hike to the top of all the three volcanoes in a period of three days. Climbing to the top of the three volcanoes will reward hikers with amazing views of all the three countries, the Virunga ranges of mountains, crater lakes, swamps, rare alpine vegetation, the Rwenzori Mountains, Bwindi impenetrable forest and Lake Edward. One needs to be mentally prepared and in good shape to complete hiking any or all of the volcanoes. Seasoned hikers may find hiking to the summit of these mountains easy but inexperienced hikers need to be well prepared. It is important to travel with packed food, water, a sleeping bag and a tent in case you end up spending a night at the top. The cost of climbing each of the volcanoes is $80.

Bird Watching: Mgahinga National Park is one of Uganda’s best birding spots. Over 110 species of birds can be found in the caves, forests, lakes and mountains of Mgahinga National Park. The best time for birding in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is during the months between April and May and October to November. Most of the birds nest from November to April while the migrants from Europe come around November to April.  Among the species to look out for are the Yellow-Vented Bulbul, yellow-throated long claw, White-starred Robin, White-necked raven, White-naped Raven, White-naped Raven, White Starred Robin, Western Green Tinker bird, Wax Bills, Thrush and Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Striped breasted Tit, Streaky Seedeater, Stray seedeater, Stone Chat, Speckled Mousebird, Southern Red Bishop, Shelly’s Dusky Crimsonwing, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Nightjar, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Rufous chested swallow, Regal Sunbird, red-throated alethe, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Red necked spur fowl, Pin-tailed whydah, Paradise Fly-catcher, Olive woodpecker, Olive Thrush, Olive Pigeon, Mountain masked apalis, Montane nightjar, Malachite Sunbird, Scarlet-tufted Sunbirds, Kivu-ground Thrush, Ibis, Handsome Francolin, Grey Capped Warbler, Greater Double collard Sunbird, Grauer’s swamp warbler, Fly eagle, Firefinch, Fire Finch Stonechat, Dusky Turtle Dove, Dusky crimson wing, Double-collared sunbird, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Crowned Hornbill, Crowned Crane, Collared apalis, Chubb’s Cisticola, Cape Robin-chat, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Brown Woodland Warbler, Bronze Sunbird,  Blue-headed Sunbird, Blue-headed Coucal, Black-headed Waxbill, Black Kite, Banded Prinia, Archer’s ground robin, Archer’s Robin Chat and Alpine chat.

Nature walks: The pristine forests, lakes, rivers, swamps and mountain slopes of Mgahinga National Park offer perfect spots for nature walks. One of the walking trails lead up to the beautiful village plantations for a close encounter with some of the local folks like the Batwa.

The border trail on the slopes of Mt. Sabyinyo leads to a point where the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo meet. The trail takes about five hours to complete going through different vegetation types providing opportunities to see primates like the golden monkeys and the caldera on the Gisozi hill. The top of Gisozi hill also offers great views of the park, Bwindi impenetrable forest and the greater Virunga ranges of mountains. Some of the trails like the 5 hour Sabyinyo gorge walk are strenuous. This trail leads to steep areas of the park and will require good fitness levels to complete. The Sabinyo gorge involves completing a meandering walk on the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo to marvel at the different vegetation zones, birds and the volcanoes. While going for nature walks or using any of the trails, always be alert and listen to the sweet melodies coming from the resident birds and loud calls of monkeys as they jump from tree to tree. You might even encounter one of elusive large mammals like antelope and elephants.

The Batwa Trail and Cultural Visit: There are a number of tribes living in the areas surrounding Mgahinga gorilla national park but the most interesting are the Batwa people. Why? Because their history is closely linked to the park. The Batwa lived in Mghinga forest for thousands of years as hunters and gathers before their eviction in 1991 and resettlement on the outskirts of the forest. While still in the forest, everything was easy and in plenty. All they needed to do each morning was wake up and go harvest honey, pick fruits, hunt animals or pick forests leaves for medicine. They could move about freely in the large forest without any restrictions. The Batwa rarely had conflicts with other tribes because few of them would dare invade them the forest.

This life of plenty abruptly came to an end when the forest was turned into national park. The government concluded that their continued presence in the forest was hindering conservation activities and a threat to the mountain gorillas. Hunting was now considered poaching by the government. The government evicted them out of the forest and resettled them in areas around and beyond the park. Unfortunately their resettlement was not entirely successful because the Batwa have struggled to adapt to life outside the forest. Suddenly they had to deal with tribes they had avoided for thousands of years. They had to learn new ways of survival like agriculture and trade. The Batwa are marginalized by other tribes and seen as encroaching on their land. All these challenges have worsened the situation of the Batwa leaving them very poor in comparison to other tribes. Several local and international organizations have responded to the plight of the Batwa and initiated several livelihood projects and programmes. These projects help them identify new ways of generating income like rearing goats, chicken and bee keeping. Some of the organizations have even gone ahead to acquire land (with tittles) for the landless Batwa.

The Batwa Cultural trail is an immensely enriching experience and a chance to encounter a true indigenous African tribe. It is supported and encouraged by organizations like USAID. During this cultural experience, visitors get to learn about their past way of life and current challenge of dealing with a new life outside the safety of the forest. The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga is more comprehensive than the visit in Bwindi. It is led by the Batwa themselves and within the forest. These Batwa guides will endeavor to explain their history by taking you to the forest to understand how they used to live in the forest as hunters, warriors and gatherers. They will take you to the ancient Ngarama caves where their leaders held war meeting and made sacrifices to their gods.

After exploring the forest, you are led to their community for cultural entertainment including listening to sorrowful songs about their lost life, fading culture and an unfamiliar new world. Being with the Batwa can be very touching and may make you question whether their resettlement was well managed. The Batwa trail costs $80. Part of the money goes directly to the Batwa entertainers and guides while the rest goes to the community fund helping acquire books and paying fees for Batwa children.


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Customer Reviews

Ngoni Safaris Uganda

Customer Reviews

Michael T 06/June/2021

Above & Beyond
Review of: 3-Day Gorillas trekking and Batwa Experience
Sedrick went above and beyond to accomodate our request for an itinerary alteration due to our compressed time in Uganda. He also compeltely took care of scheduling our covid 19 testing and drove us to the site on arrival.

Our driver/guide Ben was also outstanding!

**We highly recommend using a porter during gorilla trekking as their are some complex parts to the trail/terrain. This also benefits the local people by providing them work.**

David 24/June/2021

Seeing Lots of Animals and Uganda
The schedule suited my time in Uganda exactly and was a great opportunity to view some of the top wildlife and natural wonders of the country. Lodgings range from mid-range to near upscale and are in beautiful locations. Food is good and ample. My driver, Stanley, was expert at spotting wildlife and, very importantly on the Ugandan roads, a careful and skilled driver. You see various parts of the country on this tour, and due to distances, be aware you'll spend quite a few hours on the road. One thing they might add is an itinerary going into more detail ahead of time on each day's activity and suggested things to bring. I was concerned about the needed COVID test for return home, but they took care of arranging that, and it turned out successfully. Overall the tour was a real highlight and is highly recommended.

Justo Nov 18, 2019

I went on an 11 day safari visiting Kampala, Jinja, Lake Mburo NP, Bwindi NP, Queen Elizabeth NP and Kibale NP. Communications with Ngoni were prompt and easy from the start. As soon as I made my booking, Sedrick contacted me through WhatsApp and guided me through the rest of the process. Leading up to the tour he made sure I was well-prepared to begin. He was always very clear and friendly. Service was exceptional. I had the pleasure of going on this safari with three members of Ngoni's staff - Sedrick, Nelson and Joel. These guys made my comfort their priority from the moment we met. Whether it was checking if I was okay with the accommodations or making sure I always had a bottle of water, I always felt like I was being well taken care of. Nelson is an excellent guide. His knowledge about the flora and fauna of Uganda was extensive, always able to answer any questions I had and was eager to teach - it's obvious that he has a great love for his country and it's environment and is eager to share this love with his clients. My experience with Ngoni and Uganda surpassed all expectations I had. Absolutely amazing, and thanks to the guys at Ngoni it feels like a new home - can't wait to come back and visit. Webale, brothers!

Stephany Aug 13, 2019
Sedrick was unique and stood out from the rest in the high quality communication he provided since the first inquiry. He called me to provide information about the itinerary and see if I had any questions even before booking the tour. We communicated through WhatsApp for any other questions that came to mind after that call. After picking me up from the airport, he and Pilot (additional tour guide) provided plenty of information about the country to give me some context and we started our long drive to the impenetrable forest. The food was delicious with many options; the accommodation was very clean with exceptional service; and the transportation from Entebbe to Bwindi park was very comfortable (although long). As a solo female traveler, both tour guides (Sedrick and Pilot) did an exceptional job at enduring I accomplished everything intended to in Uganda, and always made me feel safe. I highly recommend to book your safari with this company because the quality and professionalism will not let you down.

Shakira Dec 14, 2018

Ngoni safaris uganda is the best tour operator in Uganda. A few weeks back we traveled to Bwindi impenetrable with sedrick to explore the beauty that is Uganda. This company took care of us . with most comfortable car , Great guide .We highly recommend it to the next travelers

Winnie Dec 19, 2018
I was going on a gorilla safari with my friend and this was going to be the first ever safari for the both of us. Luckily, the communication with the office was super easy and we got answers to all of the questions we needed. The driver / guide (Sedrick) was very professional and funny and made our time very pleasant. Also, he had a proper knowledge of the local area close to the Mgahinga national park and he promptly spoke some 7 languages which we thought was super positive. The safari was surely the highlight of out East African trip!

Ritah Jan 2, 2019
My Team and I did a five day trip, including Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Murchison Falls and Kidepo. It was truly an incredible experience. Our guide, Sedrick, was knowledgeable, skilled in driving in some challenging settings and just plain fun to hang out with for five days. The lodging was perfect, especially Savannah Lodge. The tents and beds were high quality. The views were spectacular. Meals were delicious and varied. I recommend Ngoni safaris Uganda with all my heart and soul!

Pilot May 28, 2019
Our six days trip was amazing. The driver/guide had an incredible knowledge of animal and bird-life and are so interesting to talk to. His driving skills through lashing rain and massive puddles was admirable! The cooks managed to produce varied and delicious meals from the kitchen, which we ate both at accommodation or roadside when we were travelling from one place to another . At all times we felt safe and well-looked after. All in all, an incredible experience, due not only to the abundance of wildlife we were lucky enough to see, but also to the great efforts put to have our Safari a better one . The safari was full of fun. Traveling with ngoni safaris is my life time memorable experience and I highly recommend it to travellers who would love to visit uganda or EastAfrica for holidays, vacations or Adventure.. Even five stars are too small .