Activities in Mgahinga National Park
Gorilla Tracking and Trekking in Mgahinga National Park
Gorilla trekking is the main activity carried out Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, There is only one habituated gorilla family that is Nyakagezi, which consists of 9 members, 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles and 2 infants. Gorilla tracking like all activities in Mgahinga gorilla national park is done on foot because the park is mainly mountainous. Early morning you will get to the starting point – Ntebeko gate at 8am where you receive a briefing about the expectations while you are tracking gorillas in Uganda. Your ranger guide will go ahead of you sharing stories of the gorilla highlands in Uganda. You will learn about the different members of the Nyakagezi family and general gorilla behaviors. The ranger will be in touch with the earlier trackers who will share information on where the gorillas nested the previous night. Once they are located – you have an opportunity to spend up to one hour in the presence of gorillas. One should not have a communicable disease to avoid likelihood of passing on the disease to the gorillas and will not be allowed to carry this activity. Carry long sleeved shirts, trousers, garden cloves, sun hat, rain pocho, and insect repellant and steady boots. Gorilla Trekking does not always have definite duration time for but usually takes one hour to 7 hours.
Mgahinga Bird Watching
Mgahinga offers excellent bird viewing opportunities with different trails and it harbors about 79 bird species. The gorge trail lies between Gahinga and Sabinyo takes about 3 hours for birders. Species to look out for while on this trail include Brown-crowned Tchagra, Rwenzori Batis, Black-headed Waxbill, Cape Robin-chat, and Bronze, Regal and Blue-headed Sunbirds.
You can in addition take on the bamboo trail, which starts from 2500m above sea level. Here you have increased chances of sighting the Rwenzori turaco, Banded Prinia, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Red-faced woodland warbler and Chubb’s cisticola.
Volcano Climbing and hiking
The Virunga volcanoes are a chain of eight volcanoes, which dot the borders of Uganda, DR Congo, and Rwanda. Three of the conical peaks are in Uganda’s Mgahinga gorilla national park. Mt Muhavura is the highest at 4127m and it is a 12km round trip, which takes around 8 hours to hike. Hikers will enjoy views of the Virunga Volcanoes, Lake Edward, Bwindi impenetrable forest, and peaks of Mt Rwenzori. There is also a small crystal lake on its summit Sabinyo is next at 3669 m; it is a 14km round trip and equally takes about 8 hours to hike. Hikers follow a steep ridge to the peak. The border of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo meet on the summit of Mt Sabinyo, Lastly is Mt Gahinga at 3474m topped by a swamp-filled crater of about 180m wide and giant lobelia.
Golden Monkey Tracking at Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National Park is the only habitat for the endangered golden monkeys in Uganda national parks, these are amazing to watch while they climb the trees, and one should not miss out on this activity while on a safari in Mgahinga. Just like gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking starts with tourists arriving at the Park headquarters by 7:30am for pre-tracking briefing (on the dos and don’ts of tracking the golden monkeys). The actual trek begins at 8:00am. Hiking through the forests to sight the golden monkeys is not so strenuous like gorilla trekking because golden monkeys live in lower areas, so tourists do not track for more than 3 hours. When tourists encounter the golden monkey family, they are given one hour to spend with them (to take photographs and observe their behavior). With this activity, there is no minimum number of tourists who track each group and age limit is 12 years.
The Garama Cave Exploration
The 200 meter long caves are sacred places for the Batwa who were evicted from their ancestral forest in 1991 but fortunately are now allowed as guides and have earned themselves income from tourism. Visitors meet the Batwa guides, the shortest people on earth. Along the trail you will learn from their explanations and showcasing their former forest traditions including hunting skills, herbal medicine administration, water collection using bamboo shoots, tree climbing and houses, evolution of fire technology and pipe smoking. After one hour of walking, arrive at Garama caves and Batwa elders will first pray to their perfect black god for spiritual guidance. Inside the caves are stair giving access to its dark interior, the Batwa pottery remains and molded chairs where they used to stay and hide from enemies during battle fields can be seen. There are also bat colonies as you come out, the Batwa trail ends with memorable cultural dance performances including folklore and rituals.
The Batwa (Pygmies) who once lived in the caves and fed on wildlife have been allowed to settle around Mgahinga National park area in accordance to the law of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and they are entitled to 20% of the entrance fees, the Batwa have a population of 331persons per sq km. The Batwa lived in the forest for centuries. As hunter-gatherers, they depended on the forest for food, medicine, and shelter. The Batwa trail takes you back into the forest where you experience life as it was lived by the Batwa – they will guide you into the forest and demonstrate hunting skills, gather honey, pick medicinal plants and demonstrate how to use bamboo for various uses.