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Activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park ∣ What To Do In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
They are several activities to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Top things to do in Mgahinga National Park include;
- Gorilla trekking
- Golden monkey tracking
- Mountain/volcano climbing/trekking/hiking
- The Batwa trail experience
- Nature walks and bird watching
All Mgahinga Gorilla National Park activities can be arranged at the visitor’s Centre at Netebeko Gate or the UWA office in Kisoro. Most activities start at Ntebeko Gate, though the hike to Muhabura Peak starts at Muhabura Gate, and the gorilla treks might start from either gate depending on the expected location of the habituated gorilla family.
Below is a detailed description of all activities to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park during your Uganda safaris and tours.
Gorilla Trekking In Mgahinga National Park
Gorilla trekking in Uganda’s Mgahinga National park is one of the most popular Uganda safari activities. The park has one habituated gorilla group called Nyakagezi, which can be tracked by tourists.
Nyakagezi gorilla family consists of 5 silverbacks, 2 adult females, and three youngsters. Eight permits are available daily to trek this gorilla family.
The high proportion of Silverbacks in this gorilla family makes gorilla trekking in Mgahinga very impressive.
The mountain gorilla group at Mgahinga can be visited under strict supervision.
The availability of vegetation, such as bamboo shoots, affects the movement of the gorillas, and locating them requires experienced guides who will be able to pick up on their tracks and locate them in the park.
Registration and briefing for gorilla tracking in Mgahinga commence at Ntebeko at 07.45. Tracking starts at 08.30 and can take 3 to 8 hours depending on the location of the gorilla family.
Once gorillas are found, you are allowed to 1 hour with them, studying their behavior, taking photographs, and videos.
Gorilla treks in Uganda’s Mgahinga are open to visitors throughout the year. But it is best done in June, July, August, and September then December, January, and February.
During this period, gorilla tracking is easier because it is a dry season and the habitat remains relatively drier thus making it simpler for visitors to hike through the dense jungles and steep slopes to search for the gentle mysterious giants.
Nyakagezi Gorilla family’s territory lies between the Ntebeko and Muhabura entrance gates, do check a day in advance which trailed with be used the next morning.
What To Pack For A Gorilla Trek In Mgahinga Uganda
- Cameras and extra batteries
- Energy giving snacks
- Insect repellent; especially for mosquitoes and other biting insects
- Sun Blocker cream
- Sunglasses: These help with protection from direct sunshine.
- Extra shocks for hiking
- Long-sleeved shirts/t-shirts
- Long trousers: Jeans are mostly recommended
- Rain jacket/Rain poncho
- Waterproof Hiking boots and long shocks
- Strong gardening gloves to support selves on branches or vines.
- Headband & Hat
- A warm sweater; can be worn in the early mornings and cool nights
- Avoid wearing bright colors
Mountain Gorilla Trekking Rules In Mgahinga
Before You Visit The Gorillas
- The minimum age for tracking in Uganda is 15 years. In case you have traveled with children below the age of 15, they will also be provided with an activity.
- The maximum number of visitors is 8 persons per gorilla group.
- Gorillas are susceptible to many human diseases, and it has long been feared by researchers that one ill visitor might infect a gorilla; resulting in the possible death of the whole troop should no immunity exist. For this reason, visitors who know they are habouring a potentially airborne infection such as flu or a cold should not trek gorillas (the permit fee will be refunded.
- Wash your hands with a hand sanitizer of 60% alcohol or soap and water before you head out for a gorilla trek.
On The Way To The Gorillas
- Please always speak in a low voice in the forest so that you do not disrupt the peace of the gorillas.
- Don’t throw away garbage in the forest.
- Follow your guide through the trekking trails and stick to the group for your safety.
- Human waste should be buried 30cm deep.
When You Are With Gorillas
- Once in the forest, trekkers should not approach the gorillas more closely than 10 meters. This rule is often contravened by curious younger stars and sometimes adults approaching their human visitors. You will need to calmly and slowly move back to regain the 10-meter distance.
- It is forbidden to eat, smoke, urinate or defecate in the vicinity of the gorilla family.
- Turn away if you need to cough or sneeze and cover your mouth
- Flash photography is forbidden
- Please always stay in a group during the visits.
- Speak in a low voice; you are free to ask the guide question.
- Don’t touch the gorillas, they are wild animals.
- You will be given one hour to stay with gorillas after encountering them.
How Much Does A Gorilla Trek In Mgahinga Cost?
To trek gorillas in Uganda, you must have a gorilla trekking permit– issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority. A Uganda gorilla permit for gorilla trekking cost US$700. The rate includes guide fee, park entrance fees for the day, and community development contribution, but excludes accommodation fees.
How Do I Book A Gorilla Trek In Mgahinga?
It is strongly recommended to book your gorilla permit through a Uganda tour operator who is a member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO).
During your search for tour operators in Uganda, you will find out that there are 200 plus tour and travel companies in Uganda.
However, some of these companies are ‘Briefcase companies’. A fraction of those is officially recognized partners in the marketing and sale of gorilla permits. The best Uganda gorilla trekking companies are those that have permanent offices and members of AUTO.
Permits should be booked in advance.
Golden Monkey Tracking In Mgahinga Park
In addition Uganda gorilla trekking experience, Mgahinga offers the traveler a safari in Uganda a chance to track the rare golden monkeys. These furry, comical monkeys live high up in bamboo forests. Like gorillas, the golden monkeys are habituated, meaning that they will not shy away when humans approach.
Also, tracking golden monkeys is very similar to tracking gorillas, but the trek itself is not quite as challenging. Seeing these beautiful primates bantering about is a sight to behold and most enjoyable for the visitors to the park.
Golden monkey tracking starts with tourists arriving at the Park headquarters at Ntebeko by 7:30 am for a pre-tracking briefing. The actual golden monkey trek begins at 8:00 am.
The park’s experienced trackers go ahead and locate a habituated troop of about 70 golden monkeys, a group of tourists (maximum eight) is guided up the mountain to join them.
The high to the habituated group territory entails a gradual 1 hour – to 1 hour and 30 minutes ascent through regenerating secondary forest to the edge of the primary forest, which is also the beginning of the bamboo zone.
When tourists encounter the golden monkey family, they are given 1 hour to spend with them (to take photographs and observe their behaviour).
Gorilla Monkey Tracking Permit Fees
- US60 – Foreign nonresident
- US60 – Foreign Reside+nt visitors
- UGX40,000—East African Citizens
Best Time For Golden Monkey Tracking In Mgahinga
Tracking is particularly rewarding during April, May, October, and November when you can count on finding the monkeys foraging in the bamboo zone, and they often come done to the grown to pull out fresh shoots. In the dry season, food tends to be scarcer and the monkeys are sometimes more difficult to find as they roam further afield to feed on the fruits of different trees. However the monkeys are very habituated, and once located, you can expect to get within a few meters of them.
Volcano Climbing In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Guided day hikes to each f the three volcanic peaks in Mgahinga National Park leave on-demand daily from 07:00 to 07:30 at a cost of ;
- US$80 (per person) for Foreign Non-Resident visitors
- US$70 for Foreign Resident visitors
- UGX 50,000 for East African Citizens
A regional level of fitness is required for these hikes, all of which take between 7 and 9 hours. You will need;
- Good waterproof hiking boots
- Rain jacket/poncho
- Warm clothes
- Hiking Boots
- Garden Gloves
- Rain Jacket
- Long-Sleeved Shirts / Blouse
- Energy Giving snacks
- Cameras and extra batteries
- Hat and Sun Glasses
- Pair of Binoculars
The most popular climb strenuous ascent from Ntebeko Gate to Mount Sabinyo, a hike that culminates in 3 challenging ladder climb up rock faces that will sorely test anyone with a poor head for heights, before summiting at the three-way border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Less vertiginously challenging but far more of an uphill slog, the hike to the park’s highest point, the 4,127 meter Mount Muhabura Peak, involves a 1,793 meters altitudinal climb from the trailhead at Muhabura Gate, which means that hikers may well feel mild altitudinal related symptoms near the peak.
The open moorland that characterizes Muhabura offers great views in all directions, though unless you are lucky this will be reduced by haze by the time you reach the top.
Lookout for Afro-montane endemic such as the elegant Scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird. A small crater lake at the top of Muhabura is encircled by giant lobelias.
Rather than less demanding than either of the above is the climb from Ntebeko to Mount Gahinga, which entails an altitudinal gain of 1,100 meters, and provides opportunities to see a variety of forest bird species in the bamboo zone, while duikers and bushbucks inhabit the crater at the peak.
Sabinyo Gorge Trail And Birding In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Of particular interest to birders in search of Albertine Rift Endemics and other localized forest species, this half-day nature trail ascends from Ntebeko Gate through an area of regenerating forest where you might see bushbuck or buffalo, along with mountain buzzard, mountain greenbul, Chubb’s cisticola, and various waxbills and finches.
It continues into a spectacular stand of atmospheric bamboo forest inhabited by golden monkeys (that are unhabituated, so you are far less likely to see them) as well as handsome francolin and Kivu ground thrush.
It then follows a small stream through the lushly forested Sabinyo Gorge to a maximum altitude of around 2,900 meters, crossing several rickety ladders and bridges en route.
The evergreen forest in the gorge is very reliable for the sensational Rwenzori turaco, and it also harbours such localized birds as western green tinkerbird, olive woodpecker, African hill babbler, yellow mountain warbler.
Archer’s and white starred robin-chat, Rwenzori batis, stripe-breasted tit, montane Sooty Boubou, lagden’s bush-shrike, strange weaver, dusky and Shelly’s Crimsonwing, and regal, blue-headed, and Rwenzori double-collard sunbird.
Sabinyo Gorge Trail Fees (Per Person)
- US$30 for Foreign Non-Resident Visitors
- US$15 Foreign Resident Visitors
- UGX15,000 for East African Citizens
The Batwa Trail Experience In Mgahinga National Park
The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park introduces visitors on Uganda tours to the first people of the Forest “the Batwa People.”
Organized by Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Batwa trail is led by a local Twa (Batwa) guide, who explains how they used to live in the forest before being forcibly evicted when it became a national park. During the Batwa trail experience, you will learn about the Batwa hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
The event follows a trail along the lower slopes of Virunga to Garama Cave and involves the Batwa guides demonstrating several traditional practical skills such as;
- Lighting fire by rubbing sticks together.
- Bivouac building/the huts that they lived in.
- Hunting and trapping techniques, target practice with a bow and arrow (meat may have been a rare dish indeed)
- How to fetch water in a bamboo cup.
- Food gathering (You will learn about nutritious leaves, plants, berries that are found in the forest that you might not even notice).
- Gathering honey (The Batwa, like all of us, have a sweet tooth. Wild Honey, is a much sought-after treat. You will learn how to extract it, eat it in the Forest).
- The plants, roots, herbs, bark from trees that the Batwa have used for centuries. (You see plants. The Batwa people see a pharmacy).
The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park ends inside Ngarama Cave, a low-ceilinged lava tube that is beneath the mountain where the chief used to hold his councils, and where women and children hid during battle.
It was also a self-contained hiding place for the community. Water was available. Fires were lit to keep warm and to illuminate the area. There was a shaft for the smoke to escape from.
A group of Batwa women in the darkness sing and acts out a song of sadness about the loss of their beloved forest and their desire to return to what is now Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
The trail also includes a discussion of the current plight of the Batwa, who have been reduced to squatting in bivouacs on Bakiga-owned farmlands along the margins of the forest.
Batwa Trail Experience fees (per person)
- US$80 for Foreign Non-Resident Visitors
- US$80 Foreign Resident Visitors
- UGX50,000 for East African Citizens
The fees include the park entrance and guide fees.
Part of the Batwa cultural trail fee goes directly to the guides and the rest goes to the Batwa community fund to cover school fees and books and improve their livelihoods.
How long is the Batwa Trail Experience?
- Two variations are possible, both leaving at 08.30 to 09.00 and culminating in a visit to Garama Cave.
- The short trail leaves from Ntebeko Gate and takes around three hours
- The longer trail starts from Muhabura gate and takes up 7 hours