Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is best described as a life-changing experience that gets you the opportunity to get close to endangered mountain gorillas while in their natural habitat.
The Mgahinga National Park lies suitably in South-Western Uganda just at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda-approximately 8-10 hours’ drive from Kampala capital city.
It covers an area of about 34 SqKms and forms part of the vast Virunga Conservation Area (VCA), which also covers parts of Volcanoes National Park in NorthWestern Rwanda and the Virunga National Park in eastern DR Congo.
Less known to tourists, Mgahinga National Park is the second destination after Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where gorilla safaris are done in Uganda. It is that one exceptional destination to have enjoyable mountain gorilla trek without any worry of overcrowding.
Gorilla treks in Mgahinga National Park are only conducted in Nyakagezi gorilla family – the only habituated gorilla group set for tourism. It accommodates only 8 visitors each day thus offering the best gorilla experience with no crowds.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park
Gorilla treks in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park begin from the Ntebeko Entrance gate with early morning briefing on the set safety measures and at 8:00 am, visitors can kick start the actual gorilla trek.
The trek to view mountain gorillas in Mgahinga National Park can last you about 2-4 hours although this may depend on your hiking speed, nature of the habitat, and location of gorillas. Upon finding a gorilla family, you have only one hour to have a magical encounter with these creatures.
When is the Best time to go for gorilla trekking in Mgahinga
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park can be done at any time of the year. However, you need to put into consideration the dry and wet seasons when planning safaris in Uganda.
The dry season is considered the best time for trekking mountain gorillas in Mgahinga National Park the fact that the habitat remains relatively drier making it easier for trekkers to hike through the dense vegetation and steep slopes while in search for these apes.
The dry season in Mgahinga National Park starts from June-September and December-February. But it is also possible to track the endangered mountain gorillas during the wet season although this is characterized by heavy rainfall and the ground normally becomes muddy making it a bit challenging to trek through the dense rainforest and slippery steep slopes.
The wet or rainy season in Mgahinga National Park begins from March-May and October-November.
What to pack on a gorilla trek
How you pack for a gorilla trek in Mgahinga National Park does matter a lot if you are to have a memorable gorilla safari experience.
Your packing list should comprise of waterproof hiking boots, gardening gloves, rain jacket/poncho, waterproof day pack, trousers, long-sleeved shirt or t-shirt, drinking water, energy-giving snacks, walking stick, first aid kit, gorilla permit, valid visa, valid passport, insect repellents and many others.
Gorilla trekking permits for Mgahinga National Park can be obtained at US$700 from trustworthy, reliable tour operator or reservationist at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) at Ntebeko park headquarters.
Note: Mgahinga National Park has only Nyakagezi gorilla group as the only habituated family that is open for gorilla trekking. This means only 8 gorilla permits are available for visitors to trek Nyakagezi gorilla group.
Getting to Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National Park is found in southwestern Uganda and visitors can get to the park either by road or by air. By road, you can drive from Entebbe or Kampala via Masaka-Mbarara-Kabale/Kisoro route.
From Kampala, the journey takes about 8-10 hours to reach the park. An alternative short route is taking a road trip from Kigali via Katuna or Cyanika border to Kisoro. It takes about 3-4 hours to reach the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park via the Cyanika Border.
By air, you can take a flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kihihi or Kisoro which is about 1 hour and then drive to Mgahinga National Park in 4 wheel drive safari vehicle.
Where to stay in Mgahinga National Park
The available accommodation options for your overnight stay before or after gorilla trek in Mgahinga National Park include Kisoro Traveler’s Rest Hotel, a lodge where Dian Fossey used to stay once she crossed to Uganda, River Mucha Hotel, Amajambere Iwacu Camp, Sawa Sawa Guest House, Lake Mulehe Lodge and many others.