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6 Exciting Things To Do In Mgahinga – Before Or After Gorilla Trekking
There is a number of exciting things to do in Mgahinga before or after gorilla trekking Uganda safaris.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is situated in the far south western corner of Uganda on the borders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This beautiful 33km2 park protects the vital protect part of the magnificent Virunga Mountains.
The Virunga consists of 8 major volcanoes, of which 3 are in Mgahinga National Park.
All 3 of the volcanoes on the Ugandan side have long since retired from spewing lava (though there are 2 active volcanoes in the range in the Democratic Republic of Congo).
With Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park in the south and Virunga National Park in DRC to the east, Mgahinga is part of the Greater Virunga Ecosystem. This trio of countries acts as the guardians of half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, living on the forest-swathed slopes of the imposing volcanoes.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga is the main attraction, but it is less popular than Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, due to having only habituated family. However, there is more on offer here than just gorillas. Here are the five top things to do in Mgahinga – before or after gorilla trekking:
Things To Do In Mgahinga – Before Or After Gorilla Trekking
Golden Monkey Tracking
As remarkable as they are, visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is not just about the mountain gorillas. In terms of the primates, few people realize that this Uganda national park is also home to troops of habituated Golden Monkeys. These gorgeous primates are almost as rare as their mountain gorilla cousins and are only found around the Virunga region.
With their handsome facial mane, golden capes of fur, and perpetually surprised expressions, the golden monkeys are the perfect photographic subjects, and their antics are endlessly entertaining.
They live in large groups called troops in the lower zone of the mountains in the bamboo forests which makes trekking easier when tracking them. The Golden Monkeys love to feed on bamboo shoots.
The tracking session starts off with a briefing by the rangers at the park offices at 7.30am, then starting the trek at 8.00 am. Golden monkey tracking is one of the most exciting things to do in Mgahinga National Park before or after gorilla trekking.
Only persons aged 15 years and above are allowed to do golden monkey trek.
Golden Monkey Tracking Fees
- USD 60 Per person per trek for foreign non-resident visitors
- USD 50 Per person per trek for foreign resident visitors (with work permits)
- UGX 40,000 for East African Citizens
Another of the top things to do in Mgahinga – before or after gorilla trekking is volcano hiking. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a hiker’s paradise.
The hiking adventures here depend on your level of physical fitness. They must be booked in advance. And they are always done in the company of an expert local park guide. The volcano hikes leaves are on-demand daily from 07:00 to 07:30. A reasonable level of fitness is required.
Climbing Mount Muhavura
Mount Muhabura (4127m) the highest point in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is visible from all over Kisoro district. The name “Muhabura” translates as “the guide”, and the Batwa, the first people of the forest used to look for its high peak to help orient themselves in the forest.
Towering above the land, this typical cone shaped volcano offers some of the best views in Uganda. On a clear day hikers can see all of the other Virunga Mountains, plus Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park, and the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountain National Park. It is one of the top things to do in Mgahinga – before or after gorilla trekking.
Mt Muhavura does not have the thick forest of Sabinyo and Gahinga. Most of the climb is a gradual incline up a rocky surface covered by grasses and small shrubs.
The low vegetation gives you excellent views of the area throughout the day. At the top you are rewarded with fine views over DR Congo and Rwanda with a crystal clear crater lake in the foreground. You can also keep an eye out out for scarlet-tufted malachite sunbirds among the giant lobelias.
Climbing Mount Sabyinyo
Also another of the great things to do in Mgahinga before or after gorilla trekking is hiking Mount Sabyinyo. Sabinyo meaning ‘old man’s teeth’ offers the most popular hike in the park.
This hike offers 3 challenging peaks to climb. The trail takes you up a ridge along the Eastern side of peak 1. If you wish to proceed, the climb to peak 2 involves walking a ridge with breathtaking drops into the gorges of Rwanda and Uganda.
Finally, the hike up to peak 3 is steep with several ladders and much scrambling – you are sure to get your hands dirty along the way. On top of peak 3 (3669 meters) you will you have an opportunity to stand in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo at the same time!
The Sabinyo hikes takes you through all different vegetation zones. And you will have good chances of spoting the rare golden monkeys, duikers, Rwenzori turaco and sunbirds. It is indeed one of the top things to do in Mgahinga – before or after gorilla trekking.
- Difficulty: tough, very steep!
- Hiking time: 8 – 10 hour
- Distance: 12 km –Muhabura/14 km-Sabyinyo
- Elevation gain: 1700 m –Muhabura/1300m Sabyinyo
Volcano Hiking Fees
- USD 80 for a foreign non-resident visitor
- USD 70 for a foreign resident visitor
- UGX 50,000 for the East African Citizen
Batwa Trail & Garama Cave Experience
Another of the exciting things to do in Mgahinga – before or after gorilla trekking is the Batwa trail experience. This 3 to 4 hours heritage trail is a remarkable encounter that introduces you to the Batwa People. The Batwa are the last remaining members of the pygmy tribe s who for generations depended on the forests for shelter, food, and medicine.
The Batwa lived in the forest peacefully and happily for thousands of years. There was no destruction of the forest and they lived in harmony with the Gorillas.
But, times changed for them in 1991. In the cause of preserving the rainforest and gorillas, they were displaced and relocated to neighboring communities. Hunter gatherers by traditions who utterly depended on the forest for survive; the Batwa had no skills/means to adapt to modern life. They suffered terribly.
But, as part of their rehabilitation and cultural conservation in harmony with tourism, the Uganda Wildlife Authority enacted the now popular Batwa Trail. It is carried out in the park and led by a local Twa guide. The Batwa trail offers an opportunity to learn some of their secrets such as:
- Lighting fire by rubbing sticks together,
- Bivouac building that they lived in,
- Hunting and trapping techniques; target practice with a bow and arrow,
- How to fetch water in a bamboo cup,
- Food gathering; nutritious leaves, plants, berries that are found in the forest,
- Plants, roots, herbs, bark from trees that they used as medicine for centuries.
The trail ends inside the Garama Cave. This 343 meter long and 14 meter deep, and is now inhabited only by bats, but your guide will explain how the Batwa lived and fought from this cave.
Here also, a group of women in the darkness can sing and acts out a song of sadness about the loss of their beloved forest and their desire to return to what is now a national park.
Batwa Heritage Experience Fees
- USD 80 Per person per trek for foreign non-resident visitors
- USD 80 Per person per trek for foreign resident visitors (with work permits)
- UGX 50,000 for East African Citizens
Hike To Sabyinyo Gorge
This hike takes you deep into Sabyinyo’s lush gorge where you will find thick wet vegetation and a beautiful moss-lined stream. It is one of top things to do in Mgahinga – before or after gorilla trekking.
At the end of the gorge you’ll find yourself looking straight up at the peaks of Mount Sabyinyo with the sounds of a small waterfall by your side.
Keep your binoculars ready because the gorge is one of the best birding spots in the area. Look for the Rwenzori turaco, duikers, and golden Monkeys.
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Hiking time: 4 – 5 hours
- Distance: 6 km
- Elevation gain: Little
Sabinyo Gorge Trail fees
- USD 30 for a foreign non-resident visitor
- USD 15 for a foreign resident visitor
- UGX 15,000 for the East African Citizen
Birding For Albertine Rift Endemics
Bird watching is also among the best things to do in Mgahinga – before or after gorilla trekking. Like Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers some of the best birding in East Africa.
High levels of endemism and the challenges of forest birding make this one of the most electrifying places to search for the feathered specials that keeps eager birders awake at night. This bird-watching haven has about different recorded species, including 12 Albertine Rift endemics, including:
- Rwenzori Turaco
- Rwenzori nightjar
- Rwenzori batis
- Handsome francolin
- Kivu ground thrush
- Dusky Crimsonwing
- Red-throated Alethe
- Archer’s robin chat
- Stripe-breasted tit
- Blue-headed sunbird
- Regal sunbird
You can also enjoy amazing sights of black-headed waxbill, western green Tinkerbird, white starred robin, yellow vented bulbul, white-naped raven, western green tinker bird, bronze sunbird, red-faced woodland warblers, pin tailed whydahs, olive woodpecker, and many others plus migrant birds from Europe that confine here in November and April.
Relaxation At The Lodge
Another of the great things to do in Mgahinga after gorilla trekking is relaxation at one of the nearby lodge, as you take in the incredible views of the volcanoes and untouched African terrain.
Where To Stay In Mgahinga?
There are several different properties around Mgahinga ranging from budget, mid-range to luxury Uganda safari lodges. The lodge offers well-appointed guestrooms and suites for a comfortable stay at reasonable rates.
Mid-range and luxury lodges boast a wide array of services and amenities for you on your Golden monkey and gorilla trekking Uganda safari adventures.
Here is the best accommodation around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park:
- Mount Gahinga Lodge
- Chameleon Hill Lodge
- Lake Chahafi Resort
Read More: Top 3 Best Lodges In Mgahinga
How To Get To Mgahinga?
From Kampala city or Entebbe; it is an 8-hour drive via Kabale to Kisoro town using 4×4 safari vehicle. For those without private transport, one can take the daily bus transport services, which sets off at 0700 hours. From Kisoro town, you hike or hire a car to the park gate.
One can fly to Kisoro Airstrip. Flight arrangements can be made with Aerolink Uganda. This company has flights on Mondays and Fridays from Entebbe to Kisoro.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Mgahinga?
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is open year-round, though the “best time” to visit is from June until September – the long dry season and from December to February – the short dry season.
Though the highest rainfall levels occur from March to May and again in October and November, this is an equatorial region, and rain is possible at any time.
Booking Things To Do In Mgahinga Before or After Gorilla Trekking
There are many exciting things to do in Mgahinga before or after a gorilla trekking adventure; you just have to talk to Kubwa Five Safaris experts to help you identify some of the most exciting activities. Use us to plan your safari.