Why Few Tourists Trek In Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National park is one of the four homes of gorilla trekking but it is the least famous amongst all the four. Its size is also the smallest but offers some of the most outstanding activities within untouched environment.
In terms of size, Mgahinga National Park occupies about 33. 7 square kilometers of land. The park is shielded by three distinctive volcano that is Mountain Muhavura, Mountain Sabyinyo and mountain Gahinga that mark the southern end of the Albertine rift valley.
This park has some of the rarest virgin sceneries which you can clearly appreciate when you hiking to the top of one of the above mountains. One interested in a day’s hike can do try this on any of these mountains in about 8 hours of return trip. While at the summit of Gahinga Mountain, you get to stand simultaneously in Uganda, Rwanda and D.R.Congo.
Other than gorilla trekking, Mgahinga national Park hosts about 115 bird species but this list is still increasing. Some of the Birds of Mgahinga National Park include Rwenzori turaco, black kite, crowned hornbill, crowned crane and many more.
To know and appreciate the true life of the Batwa pygmies who were the forest masters before 1991, Mgahinga National Park is the place to choose. At the moment, the Batwa Pygmies are homeless because there ancestral ground were takeover by conservation. Through demonstrations like traditional dances, folk songs, skits, the Batwa get to showcase their jungle life to visitors. This is one of the ways the Batwa use to support themselves.’
Although Mgahinga National Park is a primate haven, its most famous primates are the mountain gorillas and Golden monkeys. In the entire world Mountain gorillas are only residents to three African countries that is Uganda which is the pearl of Africa, Rwanda-Country with a thousand hills and the Democratic republic of Congo (Rich country but politically unstable).
Habituated mountain gorillas are in four national parks of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Volcanoes National Park.
Much as Uganda has habituated mountain gorillas in Mgahinga National Park, very few tourists are willing to trek this great apes in this national park. Mgahinga has one habituated gorilla family named Nyakagezi with about 7-14 members that can be tracked.
There several reasons as to why tourists do not prefer trekking gorillas in Mgahinga as explained below.
- Mobile Gorilla trekking family
- Limited Gorilla families Open For Tourism
- Gorilla Permit Booking Time
- Competition from neighboring gorilla trekking Parks
- The Political Instability In D.R.Congo
- Accessibility of Mgahinga National park
- Limited accommodation choices in Mgahinga National Park
- Quick access to Other National parks in Uganda From Mgahinga National Park
Mobile Gorilla trekking family
For quite sometime, Nyakagezi gorilla family has been very mobile until now. This gorilla family used to migrate to either Rwanda’s Volcanoes National park or Virunga National Park in Democratic republic of Congo and spending most of the time in these countries instead of Uganda.
This therefore has scared away tourists who are never sure if these gorillas will be in Mgahinga the day they trek. Mountain gorillas live a free life that cannot be controlled by anyone like in the zoos. The mountain gorillas have no idea about political boundaries or why they should not cross beyond certain areas. The good news is that the family has been stable for some years now without changing locations as it used to do.
Limited Gorilla families Open For Tourism
Being the only habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga National Park, tourists are never guaranteed of the presence of the mountain gorillas. Some used to feel insecure that in an event that they fail to see or find it, there is no alternative family that they can turn too. For a very long time, Mgahinga National park has been known to host only one gorilla family called Nyakagezi yet very unreliable too. In the past, the gorilla permits for this park were sold at the park other than the Uganda wildlife Authority headquarters where its counterpart Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Permits are sold.
In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where so far 19 habituated gorilla families can be found, when one fails to find one gorilla family, they can try out another gorilla family so that clients/tourists get to see these great apes. This therefore acts as a hindrance to gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park.
Gorilla Permit Booking Time
Gorilla permits for Nyakagezi family are not booked in advance. Whoever wishes to trek gorillas in Mgahinga must have to pay for his or her gorilla permit on ground. This is challenging in that, you will never have any guarantee of going gorilla trekking. In most cases tourists book gorilla permits in advance just because they are sure of seeing them. The cost of a gorilla permit is quite high to just go on ground without assurance.
The fact that before you buy your ticket, you need to book accommodation and make all your travel arrangements, you need assurance that your gorilla permit has been booked. The reason why Uganda Wildlife Authority is not accepting advance payment to Nyakagezi gorilla family is that this family can decide to move to Rwanda or Congo so they do not want to commit themselves on this. It is still an uncertain gorilla family
Competition from neighboring gorilla trekking Parks
Mgahinga National Park faces steep competition from the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable national park. That is Nkuringo gorilla trekking area and Rushaga gorilla trekking area. This side is located in Kisoro district same as Mgahinga National park.
There are high chances of seeing gorillas in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National park compared to Mgahinga National park due to the reasons mentioned above.
Even Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is one of Mgahinga National park’s strongest competitors. Volcanoes National Parkin Rwanda so far has about 13 habituated mountain gorillas. Tourists find it a more reliable destination for gorilla trekking because there is a variety of gorilla families to choose from.
For these reasons one finds no reason as to why he/she should risk to trek gorillas there.
The Topography Of Mgahinga National Park
Compared to Mgahinga National park counterpart Bwindi Impenetrable National park, its topography is a steeper. Mgahinga National park is made up of three distinctive dormant volcanoes that is Gahinga Mountain, Muhavura Mountain and Sabyinyo Mountain. They form a regional backdrop but make gorilla trekking quite tedious too.
Since mountain gorillas have free movement, during gorilla trekking you actually do not know where they are feeding that day. Locating them is dependent on the proximity of there food or conditions prevailing in the forest. You can never know when and where to find them.
The Political Instability In D.R.Congo
Mgahinga National park is closer to D.R.Congo’s Virunga National Park where endless civil wars have been noted to happen. This unstable political atmosphere puts gorilla trekking in this park at a probability despite the fact that Ugandan forces are on place to protect Uganda boundaries. This however does not mean that unrest in D.R.Congo is extended into Uganda.
Accessibility of Mgahinga National park
Although both Mgahinga National park and Bwindi National park have long road trips taking between 8 hour to 10 hours, Mgahinga has the longest drive time. The park lies in the far southwestern corner of Uganda with a distance of about 540 km from Kampala the capital of Uganda.
The roads leading to Mgahinga National park are generally steep and curved out of highland slopes. The routes too Mgahinga National park are limited too. But whichever way, visiting Mgahinga National park is like touring a virgin land that has never been altered.
In case you choose to use air transport, the flights to Kisoro airstrip are arranged upon request and have specific time because of the strong foggy conditions of this area.
Limited accommodation choices in Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National park has some of the limited numbers of accommodation facilities close to the park. This may be attributed to the limited number of visitors who tour this park is calling for less demand for accommodation.
Some of the lodges in Mgahinga National Park include Gahinga Volcanoes lodge. Others facilities can be accessed in Kisoro town, which is about 14 km from Ntebeko, gate the main headquarters of Mgahinga national Park.
Quick access to Other National parks in Uganda From Mgahinga National Park
After or before gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National park one may wish to do other activities like game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National park, Visit Amabere ga Nyinamwiru stagmites and stalactites and others. Mgahinga National park is a little far from all these activities compared to after or before gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable national park.
In conclusion, it is a fact that Mgahinga National Park have one habituated gorilla family that can be accessed and trekked by tourists, the family has been stable for the last two years and there is no doubt that you can get the same experience as you can get in Volcanoes or Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Mgahinga National park gorillas tend to get bookings most especially in high seasons of June, July, August, September when families in Bwindi and Rwanda are fully booked.
What Else to Do In Mgahinga National park
Birding In Mgahinga National park.
This park hosts over 115 bird species including Albertine endemics on the red list of IUCN. When you take a Uganda birding tour, Mgahinga must be one of the choices to include on your itinerary. When you take the buffalo wall train or gorge trail that loops half wat up Sabyinyo, you go through montane habitats.
You enjoy a variety of birds. Some of the birds you may get to identify include Dusky title Dove, Alpine chat, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Malachite Sunbird, White-tailed Blue fly catcher, Rwenzori Turraco and others.
Some of the habitats tha favor birding in Mgahinga National Park include montane forest with an extension belt of bamboo. There is regenerating pastures on the lower slopes heath and Afro-alpine moorland on the upper slopes.
Excursion Mountaineering in Mgahinga National park
The park is composed of three distinctive dormant volcanoes that are part of the five Virunga volcanoes. These include mountain Muhavura, Mountain Gahinga, Mountain Sabyinyo. One can do a return hike on one of these mountains within 8 hours but you must make booking as soon as possible so that a ranger guide is allocated in advance.
Locally the name Sabyinyo means old man’s teeth and this was crafted from a weathered top that created a rim of stubby peaks. Muhabura locally means the guide and because it stand out of the two others, it’s the land mark. Gahinga means small pile of stones that scattered and cluttered the farmland.
When you choose to hike on Sabyinyo Mountain, its summit gives you a 360 view of Uganda Rwanda and D.R.Congo border. You find yourself in Uganda Rwanda and D.R Congo at the same time. This is one of the phenomenal points of this hike coupled with lush surrounding vegetation that you view as you move along.
Take Batwa cultural Walk and Garama Cave
The Batwa experience is one of the most interesting cultural walks that takes you into history. In the past, the forest was the sole provider of the Batwa but when conservation of mountain gorillas took precedence in 1991, they were evicted from there ancestral home.
They still recognize their former life and are ready to display to tourists what they used to do in the forest. They were gatherers, hunters and so much more. They walk tourists into this life through skits, songs, dances, and demonstrations. A Mutwa guide who is knowledgeable about their past life conducts this guided cultural tour.
The Garama cave which runs for about 324 meters beneath a plateau, which is 3km from Ntebeko headquarters, was their retreat point after raiding the Bafumbira gardens. At the moment, this is the used for cultural performances of Batwa music at the Batwa trail.
Contact us for more information about trekking in Mgahinga National Park.