Nestled in the south western tip of Uganda on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mount Mgahinga has an area of just 34 square kilometres and is Uganda’s smallest national park.
It encompasses the Uganda side of the three Bufumbira volcanic mountains of Mgahinga at 3400 metres high, Sabinyo at 3645m and Muhavura at 4127m.
Mgahinga can be reached from Kampala either by air or road. From Kampala the park is about 540 kilometres and is punctuated with scenic views while charter flights to Kisoro Airstrip take approximately an hour from Entebbe.
Gazetted as a sanctuary in 1930, this park has 76 mammal species with the most notable being Uganda’s trump card; the mountain gorilla. Nyakagezi, one of the habituated groups or gorilla families, in this park keeps moving back and forth across the boundary of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 1964, the northern boundary of the sanctuary was changed to a lower altitude of 2280m extending into heavily encroached zones and gazetted as a game reserve which made an area of roughly 47.5km² that has gone on reducing to 38.6 square kilometres. This game reserve was later gazetted to its present status of a national park in 1991.
Other key species of primates known to be in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park include the golden monkey and the black and white Colobus monkey. Considering that this park is a gem amongst Ugandan parks, other animals to look out for include golden cats, giant forest hogs, Caruthers’s mountain, Boehm’s, side stripped jackal, honey badger, buffaloes, elephants and 12 bird species among which are the cinnamon chested bee eater and the globally threatened Grauer’s rush warbler.
Being an Afro-montane tropical rainforest, it has abundant bamboo that is one of the delicacies for the mountain gorilla. Mgahinga National Park has three extinct volcanoes. Though no special mountain gear is required, it is recommended that one has to be physically fit. The three extinct volcanoes are Mt. Gahinga, Mt. Muhavura and Mt.Sabinyo.
Mount Sabinyo commonly referred to as “Old Man’s Teeth” is the point where you will be in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the same time. The hike takes approximately eight hours for the round trip that covers the 14 -kilometre stretch.
Mt. Gahinga, locally known as a “Small Pile of Stones” is another of the hills that make up the Virunga ranges while Mt. Muhavura meaning “The Guide” is a volcano that acts as a guide since it is seen from all over Kisoro. The hike to Mt. Gahinga takes approximately eight hours for a round trip to cover the 12 km stretch.
Another principal feature in the area are the caves. Most notable is Garama cave where the Batwa are believed to have once lived. This 342-metre long and 14-metre deep cave three kilometres from the park headquarters is now inhabited by bats. Kisoro town offers a wide range of accommodation facilities ranging from basic campsites to luxurious hotels.