Can I trek Mgahinga National Park gorillas twice?
Can I trek Mgahinga National Park gorillas twice? Mgahinga National Park in the southwest part of Uganda is the smallest park in Uganda, found in the Kisoro district at the border of Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park). Mgahinga is a famous destination for gorilla trekking and has one gorilla family that can be trekked throughout the year.
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The national park covers over 33.7 square kilometers. It is home to numerous wildlife species, including L’Hoest’s monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, the endangered golden monkeys, and the main attraction, the endangered mountain gorillas. The Nyakagezi gorilla family is the only habituated family in Mgahinga open to the public for trekking with 9 members, including 4 silverbacks.
Can I trek gorillas in Mgahinga twice?
The answer is yes. While It is not possible to trek gorillas in Mgahinga on the same day for many reasons, and these are that the gorillas are already endangered species that need to be protected, it is possible to see them twice on different days as long as you book gorilla permits for different days depending on availability.
Each gorilla permit you buy will entitle you to see gorillas for one hour daily, ensuring you achieve your dream of trekking gorillas in Mgahinga Twice or more, depending on the booked gorilla permits. For more information about trekking Mgahinga gorilla permits twice or more, kindly contact us by email or WhatsApp.
There is. However, another solution to trek twice in Mgahinga and any other gorilla national park can be done by joining your Rwanda gorilla trek in the Volcanoes National Park with a gorilla trek in either Mgahinga Gorilla National Park or Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Border crossings between the two countries have been made easy for tourists traveling from Rwanda who would wish to do a double trek in the two countries, especially if you have an East African Visa, which goes for $100 per person. The beauty of double gorilla trekking is that you get to visit and explore two countries cheaply.
Top activities to do in Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National offers several activities, including gorilla trekking, bird watching, golden monkey trekking, hiking, and cultural tours. You can also join your gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga with Queen Elizabeth National Park, home to various wildlife, including the tree-climbing lions in the Ishasha sector.
This is the main activity that is carried out in Mgahinga National Park, and the activity involves trekking through the rain forest in search of the endangered mountain gorillas that are trekked in three other destinations: Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gorilla permits in Mgahinga
When planning a gorilla safari to Mgahinga National Park, the essential thing to consider is the gorilla permit. A gorilla permit is a document purchased from the Uganda Wildlife Authority that will give you access to the Mountain gorillas in Mgahinga. Gorilla trekking permits can be bought directly from the Uganda Wildlife Authority, but we highly suggest that you purchase the permit through a trusted tour operator for a smooth safari. Gorilla permits must be booked in advance because they are always in high demand, and booking early ensures your slot in the gorilla trekking experience. The cost of a gorilla permit does not change whether it is during the peak or low season, and the cost is $800 for foreign non-residents, $700 for foreign residents and 300, 000 UGX for East African citizens. Gorilla permits grant you an hour with the gorillas, which are only valid for the day.
Gorilla trekking has rules and regulations that need to be followed by every tourist visiting Mgahinga, and some of these include not eating and drinking when with the gorillas; a maximum of 8 people is allowed to trek a gorilla family per session spending an hour with them, do not litter the park when you feel like going to the toilet, dig a 30 cm hole and cover it properly after use, avoid making noise during the trek and when with the gorillas, as you take photos, shut off the flashlight because it scares off the gorillas, avoid smoking while with the gorillas, do not smoke, do not feed the gorillas and in case a gorilla charges at you, crouch down in a submissive manner, do not run away and avoid looking at the gorillas in the eye, do not put on sunglasses and put a distance of 7 to 10 meters between you and the gorillas.
Mgahinga has over 300 recorded bird species, both endemic and migratory birds, including the Albertine endemics, making it one of the best birding spots in the country. Bird watching can be carried out in the different parts of the Mgahinga, but the best parts are through the bamboo forest and between the Sabinyo and Mgahinga mountains. Birding in Mgahinga is best carried out during the wet season, October to November and March to May, although it can still be carried out all year round. A professional guide will accompany you on your bird walks. Don’t forget your camera and binoculars. Some of the bird species that can be seen include the pin-tailed whydah, Rwenzori Batis, Kivu ground thrush, brown crowned Tchagra, Olive woodpecker, red-faced woodland, paradise flycatcher, double collared sunbird, chubbs Cisticola, streaky seedeater, cape robin chat, olive pigeon, branded Prinia and black kite among others.
Golden monkey tracking
This is the second most participated activity after gorilla trekking in Mgahinga and is carried out in the Volcanoes National Park found in Rwanda. Golden monkeys can easily be identified by their golden coat that runs around the back and then around their faces, and they are easily trekked since they live in the lower parts of the national park compared to the mountain gorillas that prefer the higher areas in the national park.
Golden monkey trekking takes between 30 minutes to 4 hours, and all this timing depends on the movement of the monkeys. Since they dominantly feed on bamboo shoots, leaves, and fruits, follow the trails of the bamboo shoots to find the golden monkeys, or you can follow the guide to where the monkeys were last seen. After finding the golden monkeys, you get to spend an hour with the monkeys, studying their behavior, watching them jump from one tree to the next as they care for their young ones and hunt for their food before moving on to the next spot in search of food.
Golden monkey trekking also comes with rules and regulations. These include spending a maximum of one hour with the monkeys when taking photos, making sure that you turn off the flashlights, not littering the national park, avoiding feeding the monkeys, keeping a distance of 7 meters from the golden monkeys, following everything that the guides tell you to do, you are not allowed to eat, drink and smoke around the monkeys, dig a hole of 30 cm deep if you want to use the toilet and cover it up after, if you feel sick, you are not allowed to trek the golden monkeys, and you are to use low tones and not make noise while with the golden monkeys.
Just like gorilla and chimpanzee trekking, you will not need a trekking permit to access the golden monkeys, and you will need to follow all the rules and regulations set up to protect the already endangered golden monkeys. A golden monkey permit costs $100 per person and $140 for the golden monkey habituation experience, where you can spend more time with the monkeys.
Hiking the volcanoes Muhabura, Sabinyo, and Gahinga
Mgahinga National Park is part of the Virunga region. It is home to three Virunga volcanoes, including Mount Sabinyo, rising to 3669 meters above sea level; Mount Gahinga, at 3474 meters; and Mount Muhabura, at 4157 meters above sea level. Hiking up Muhabura takes about 8 hours on a round trip, and when you get to the top, you will have great views of the Rwenzori peaks, Bwindi, Virunga Volcanoes, Lake Edward, and the surrounding areas; hiking Gahinga is 6 hours round trip and you get to see the crater atop the mountain filled with lobelia, and it will take you 8 hours to hike up Mount Sabinyo on a round trip. When you get to the peak, you have views of the three countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It would be best if you were fit to be able to climb mountains and pack well.
Take on the Batwa trail.
The Batwa trail is one of the most interesting activities in Mgahinga National Park, and Batwa guides lead it. The Batwa trail allows you to interact with the Batwa locals who have been inhabitants of the park before it was gazetted off to protect the gorillas. The Batwa people are pygmies that now live in the communities around the national park and earn a living by helping tourists as porters during the gorilla trek. During the Batwa hike trail, you will be able to learn more about the Batwa people and their life when they lived in the forest, there will be a demonstration of the Batwa hunting skills, making fire using sticks, getting to know about the different medicinal trees within Mgahinga, the guides will tell you stories about the Batwa culture, teach you how to make cups from bamboo trees, enjoy a traditional dance from the locals and also learn more about the Garama cave which the king used, food store and hiding place during the war.
Packing list for a safari to Mgahinga National Park
For a successful gorilla safari to Mgahinga, you must pack right and not excessively because this is key to enjoying a safari. The list should at least include insect repellent, sunscreen, a sunhat, strong hike boots, sandals, neutral-colored long-sleeved shirts and trousers, refillable water bottle, snacks, a day backpack, a camera with an extra lens, binoculars, extra batteries, a raincoat, warm sweater, garden gloves, gaiters, and warm socks among others.
Where to stay in Mgahinga
Mgahinga National Park has several accommodation facilities ranging from budget/basic, mid-range to luxury. These include Kisoro Tourist Hotel, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Landmark Guest House, Mount Gahinga Rest camp, Kisoro Travelers Rest, Mutanda Island Lodge, 3 Way Gorilla Resort, Muhabura Motel, Amajambere Lwacu community camp, Mucha Hotel Kisoro, and Mgahinga safari lodge among others. All accommodation facilities are supposed to be booked in advance for better and proper planning.
Traveling to Mgahinga National Park
Located in the southwest of Uganda, traveling to Mgahinga can be done by flying or driving to the National Park. Charter flights from Entebbe International Airport and Kajjansi Airstrip can be arranged and booked at least three days before the trek date, so the plane is available on that specific day. Flying to Mgahinga is expensive, but the fastest way to get there will land at either Kihihi or Kisoro airstrip, where your tour operator will arrange a safari vehicle to take you for the rest of the journey.
Driving to Mgahinga might take time, but getting to the National Park with the various hills and fascinating things seen along the journey, including the Equator monument, is scenic. 4×4 safari vehicles are used because of the road conditions in the country, and it will take 9 to 10 hours to get to Mgahinga.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga is an exciting experience. Still, you want to enjoy your safari. In that case, you will need to book in advance, especially when it comes to the gorilla permit because since Mgahinga only has one gorilla family, a maximum of 8 permits are printed per day, and if this is your destination, make sure that you book and pay early to be part of the trekking group.
Contact us for more information.