Mgahinga Gorilla Trekking Uganda
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the two gorilla habitats in Uganda where gorilla trekking safaris can be undertaken. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in south western Uganda on the border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park covers an area of 33.7 square kilometres within the virunga massif. The virunga volcanoes is a chain of several dormant volcanoes of which Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo are a part of. Mountain Gorillas are man’s closest relatives after Bonobos and sharing about 99% DNA with humans. Mountain gorillas roam through the volcanoes with habituated families living in the specific national parks under the conservation of the different authorities in the three countries.
Being one of the few places in the world where mountain gorillas can be trekked and seen, Mgahinga is home to one habituated gorilla family known as the Nyakagezi gorilla group. This gorilla family was in the past decades known to be migratory across the parks making trekking it unpredictable, however, this was long ago and the family has been staying in Mgahinga for the past decade. The group is fully habituated and unique for Uganda gorilla safaris by any tourists above the age of 15 who have purchased a gorilla trekking permit.
The Nyakagezi gorilla family has about 10 mountain gorillas led by silverback Mark. The group is amazing and very peaceful to trek with lifetime memories as 8 individuals go trekking each day. Gorilla trekking usually starts from the Ntebeko entrance gate at 8:00 am with briefing. The trek takes about 2-4 hours or slightly more, however, a maximum of 1 hour is what tourists can spend in the presence of the mountain gorilla family. During this time, you spend the one hour watching the gorilla family go about their daily life within a very beautiful atmosphere. The trek through the forest is guided by a very well trained ranger guide who helps explain to you all the behavior and lifestyle of the mountain gorillas. During the one contact hour with the mountain gorillas, tourists are free to take photos and record videos of the family as they feed, play and socialize.
Why trek gorillas in Mgahinga?
Trekking mountain gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is easier because the mountain gorillas are known to move within a close range. This is because the forest has a thick rain forest which offers abundant food for the gorillas that live in the forest therefore keeping the gorillas within the park with no need to trek longer distances to find food. This makes tracking these gorillas easier compared to other parks where the gorilla population is bigger and therefore need to trek to further places to find food which makes trekking more difficult.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is also very accessible for both tourists who would want to have gorilla tours either with arrival and departure in Uganda or Rwanda. For Uganda gorilla safaris from Kigali Rwanda, Mgahinga is very accessible with a drive time of only about 5 hours from Kigali International Airport compared to almost 10 hours’ drive from Entebbe International Airport in Uganda. With the fact that a Uganda gorilla trekking permit is USD 700 whereas a Rwanda gorilla permit is USD 1500, it is cheaper for foreign tourists to visit Mgahinga from Kigali. These tours are affordable and less tiresome since you spend a few hours on the road drive.
Golden Monkeys are endemic to the Virunga volcanoes and can be found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park of Uganda. A part from Mgahinga gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking can also be undertaken in the park for more amazing primate tracking tours. Golden monkeys can be trekked any time of the year at very affordable costs to see these elusive species. This makes Mgahinga park very unique as it hosts two rare species which are mountain gorillas and golden monkeys a reason the park was dubbed “where gold meets silver”.
Best time for Mgahinga Gorilla Trekking
The best time of the year to go gorilla trekking in Mgahinga is during the two dry seasons when the park is accessible. These seasons are from December to February (short dry season) and June to October (long dry season). However, gorilla trekking in Mgahinga is open to tourists all year round. During the dry season, the park is much more accessible and trekking is easier compared to the rainy season when the trails are slippery.
Mgahinga is easily accessible by both road and air transport. This gives convenience to both budget and luxury tourists. For travelers who would want to have combined East African safaris it is easier to use charter flights to connect from other countries for instance after Tanzania wildlife safaris or Kenya safaris. Charter flights can be customized for tourists to connect through East Africa for the unique gorilla safaris as well as wildlife viewing experiences.