At just 33.7km2, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is Uganda’s smallest national park. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the southwestern corner of Uganda. The Park covers the northern slopes of the three northernmost Virunga Volcanoes: Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m), Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m). The Park is about 10 km south of Kisoro and is bordered to the south by the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and to the west by the Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Parkover view
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is part of the larger Virunga Conservation area that spreads over the three countries. Each of these countries protects its own portion of the Virungas, in the Parc National des Volcans and Parc National des Virunga respectively. The three parks together form the 434-sq. km. ‘Virunga Conservation Area’ or VCA. Mgahinga is 33.7 sq. km, just 8% of the VCA. The entire Park is in Bufumbira County of Kisoro District.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 33.7 sq. km and consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes. From far away, the huge cones of the Virunga volcanoes dominate the landscape and beckon you as you approach. When you reach the park you can get a great overview of the area by walking up the viewpoint, just 15 minutes from Ntebeko Gate.
Mgahinga Park has great biological importance because throughout the climatic changes of the Pleistocene ice ages, mountains such as these provided a refuge for mountain plants and animals, which moved up or down the slopes as climate became warmer or cooler. The Virungas are home to a large variety of wildlife, including about half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.
What to do
Flora and fauna
Mgahinga’s slopes are covered with a series of distinct altitudinal bands of vegetation. The lowest zone is an area of grass and bush which was formerly encroached and cleared by farmers and is now regenerating. Undisturbed vegetation starts with montane woodland, followed by the bamboo zone, montane forest and the Ericaceous zone which contains giant tree heathers. The sequence culminates with the spectacular alpine zone which occurs only on East African mountains above 3000m and includes bizarre giant forms of lobelia and groundsel.
The park contains at least 39 species of mammal and 79 birds. Larger mammals include elephant, leopard, buffalo and bush pig but these are rarely seen. Mgahinga’s most famous resident is the mountain gorilla. Less famous but equally rare and deserving of protection is the golden monkey which is found only in the Virungas and in one other forest in Rwanda. Notable bird species include the Rwenzori turaco, crowned hornbill, black kite and crowned crane.
Meet the locals
Kisoro District is heavily populated with 331 people/ km2. There are two main ethnic groups. The most numerous are the Bafumbira who are primarily farmers. The Batwa, who once practiced a subsistence hunter-gather life in the forest, form a minority group.
Ntebeko Visitor Centre
Park activities are arranged from the Visitor Centre at Ntebeko. A viewing platform, 800m uphill from the Visitor Centre, provides good views of the park and the surrounding areas. A guide is not necessary and access is free.
Mgahinga has three volcanic peaks, Muhubura(4127m), Sabyinyo (3669m) and Mgahinga (3474m). These can all be climbed. Though no specialist equipment is required, a reasonable level of fitness is necessary if you intend to enjoy the experience.
The names of the three peaks come to life in translation. Muhabura means ‘the guide’ and its towering cone is a prominent landmark. During the 19th Century its crater still glowed to provide a natural lighthouse for travellers. The rim of the older Sabyinyo has weathered into a ring of stubby peaks, earning it the title ‘Old Man’s Teeth’. These imposing cones overshadow the stumpy Mt. Mgahinga which is named for the local practice of tidying the volcanic rocks that clutter farmland into ‘small piles of stones’ – or gahingas.
Sabinyo has three peaks. An ascent leads first to Peak 1 before climbing towards Peak 2 along a narrow ridge that overlooks breathtaking drops into deep gorges on each side. Peak 3 is reached by a steep and muddy scramble. The borders of three countries converge on this summit and you will find yourself simultaneously in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda. The 14km round trip takes about 8 hours.
An ascent of Mt. Gahinga climbs through bamboo forest to reach a lush swamp which lies in the crater at the summit. The round trip from Ntebeko takes around 6 hours.
This classic volcanic cone is capped by a small but r: lake; a modest reward for a 5 hour hike that rises 1700m to over 41 OOm. The real incentives for the cli mountain’s marvellous alpine vegetation and superb r The Muhuvura trail provides the quickest and shortest route to experience these dramatic plants while the View includes the five other Virunga volcanoes, the rift valley, Lake Edward and (in clear weather) the Rwenzori mountains. The 12km round trip takes around 8 hours. If you have your own equipmer you should consider camping at the ranger post at the base of the volcano to make an early start (and improve your chances of clear views).
We went three friends on a safari to Murchison Falls (2 nights) and we had the best time. Everything was timed and organized to the last detail by Sam –… read more the best guide and the best company. We saw so many animals and it was an incredible experience for all of us. Sam was very knowledgable about the animals and the nature in general, which added to the whole experience. We stayed in a great lodge just outside the park. There was great food and a nice pool! We would definitely recommend this trip to anyone!
karenlA8498GY May 9, 2022
Christopher and I have been filming in Uganda for the past week, and the excellent results we got wouldn’t of been possible without Laba Africa. Top professionals who made our… read more work trip go super smooth. We would highly recommend them to other media professionals.
S_Harwood85 May 1, 2022
We rented a car from Laba Africa. They are very service minded and nice people. The car was kept in good condition. Recommended
Viktorth March 26, 2022
We hired a land cruiser with a tent on the roof. The car and tent were great and pick up and drop off were very smooth- they met us at… read more our hostel each time.
oliwilliams8 March 13, 2022
We had a wonderful time with Laba Africa. From the beginning till the end of the trip we felt welcomed and very comfortable.
The accomodations we‘re well chosen and they… read more even prepared a surprise for our honeymoon :).
Samuel and our driver Alonso know a lot about the country and their way of presenting it to us was very pleasant.
The gorilla trekking in bwindi forest was definitely the highlight of our trip. Only after 30 minutes of walking we met the gorilla family and the rangers made sure that all of us could take nice pictures of the animals without disrespecting their personal space. We can really recommend the Bakiga Lodge for the Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi. The staff was really friendly and the food was great. The view from the top is breathtaking and the lodges are lovely decorated.
All in all a trip we‘ll never forget.
Q7675VXdavido January 9, 2022
The gorilla trekking with Laba Africa was absolutely gorgeous. We were lucky to find the family after just 20 minutes of walking through forest. The rangers were always helping us… read more to get great pictures and they knew much about the animals.
Our driver Alonso was also very kind and gave us many valuable information on the pearl of Africa.
We really enjoyed every single moment that trip and can recommend it to everyone else.
ambarser January 6, 2022
An amazing experience! We saw so many animals, so many incredible landscapes. We also have the chance to discover the local cultures.
The guides were very nice… read more and we learned a lot!
Every lodge we slept in, was perfectly chosen. Uganda is worth a visit! Go there!
MeganeP14 December 11, 2021
Did a great weekend tour visiting the Mundari tribe near Juba, South Sudan. Everything went well, I really enjoyed the trip.
traveler_martin_256 December 5, 2021
Traveling with Laba Africa was a great experience!
We saw amazing landscapes and animals in different national parks and spent the nights in beautiful lodges. The guides were extemely… read more nice and fun to be around.
Especially the planning of our trip was amazing. We had some special requests because I wanted to visit some friends in between our Safari tours. That was no problem and got nicely included in our plan for the trip. Whatever we requested was made possible!
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acam01 November 7, 2021
My family and I just came back from a three-week-customized roudtrip of Uganda with Laba Africa. It was a tremendous experience!
Starting with chimp tracking in Kibale, we saw lions… read more the same day in Queen Elizabeth NP. Then on to Ishasha, Lake Mburo NP and jinja, where we had a short break. Then we went to a small village near Soroti to visit friends of our daughter. From there we went on to Karamoja, Kibale NP, Murchison Falls NP before we came back to Entebbe.
It didn’t matter what special requests we made, Laba Africa made them possible, sometimes even more!
But the most important thing is this: The planning of this trip startet in autumn 2019 and it was mostly paid for in January 2020. It should have taken place in March 2020, but then the pandemic destroyed our plans. Through all the insecurities for that 18 months peroid until we finally could make the trip, Laba Africa held contact, took care that our chimp tracking permits did not to expire und charged nothing additional – except for some new requests we had.
So Laba Africa is absolutely the best and most reliable partner for visiting Uganda or any of the other countries they are offering tours to! We will return to Uganda and to Laba Africa for sure!
1601_Uwe October 11, 2021
The best part was definitely chimpanzee tracking, that was an incredible experience! Next amazing part of our trip was community walk, where locals showed us their traditional beer, gin, coffee… read more and basket making. It was great to have time to talk to them :) Game drives through savanas was so amazing, our guide Alonso did everything to try to find the best parts of the park and to find every animal there is to see, but you can never be sure, you’ll be lucky enough to see them all. We also saw Murchison falls, that was so nice, although the boat ride to see them from the river was kind of boring, too long for too little of experience. But overall amazing trip!
K4669LEmarie_ September 15, 2021
We really enjoyed out trip through Uganda with Laba Africa. The tourguides took good care of us and they showed us so many fascinating things! Furthermore, it was very… read more easy to change or add additional things to our already existing program.
I can really recommend a trip with Laba Africa to everyone! :)
Thank you very much to Samuel and his team! We really enjoyed our time in Uganda and with you.