Sitting at the lofty altitude of between 2,227m ( 7306 ft) and 4,127m (13540 ft), high up in the clouds, covered in dense, verdant afromontane forest, live one habituated transboundary gorilla group. The park declared a game sanctuary by the British in 1930, was gazetted as a National Park in 1991.
It only covers an area of 33.7 Km2 and forms part of the sensational Virunga Range that spreads along the border region of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Mgahinga also forms part of the larger Virunga Conservation Area, which includes adjacent parks in these three countries.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has three of the eight extinct volcanoes that form the chain of the Virungas, which are thought to have arisen in the mid-pleistocene era. Sabyinyo is the eldest of the three, followed by Gahinga and Muhabura is the youngest and tallest at 4,127m.
Mount Gahinga (3,474m) is the smallest of the three volcanoes; named after the local custom of clearing volcanic debris from local farmland into cairns or gahinga. Its crater 180m wide and filled by a swamp.
Sabyinyo, with its serrated summit, deep gorges and ravines, the Batwa named it ‘old man's teeth’. Sabyinyo’s highest peak is where the three countries that share the Virungas join.
The Batwa pygmies, a hunter gatherer tribe known as the forests ‘first people’, have been dwelling in this forest since ancient times, named the volcanoes. Muhabura (also known as Muhavura) means guide, as the Batwa use this lofty volcano as a landmark to navigate themselves by, through the dense forest. At its summit is a beautiful crystal clear pool like lake, only 36m wide.
Climbing to the top, is well worth it as the panoramic views into Rwanda and across Uganda are stupendous. A few of the steep mountain slopes have caves, formed by lava tubes.
Located near the park's headquarters is Garama Cave, which is a sacred place for the Batwa. This cave has often been used by the Batwa, as shelter during intra-tribal battles and also as storage of their looted treasures.
The park has a fascinating Batwa Cultural Trail led by Batwa tribesmen, which is a gentle five to six hour nature walk along the lower slopes of the Virungas. During the trail, you can catch a glimpse of how this pygmy tribe view the forest. Over the millennia, it has provided a larder, medicine cabinet, home and temple to the Batwa.
The Nyakagezi group, the only habituated gorilla group in Mgahinga National Park is at present comprised of three silver backs, two adult females, two black backs and two infants. As part of the habituation programme, rangers spend time around the wild Mountain Gorilla families,
in order that they become acquainted to a human presence and scent. As the rangers observe the group, they are able to identify the individuals and so name them. Currently the Nyakagezi group is led by Mark, a silver back and is assisted by Mafia, Ndungutse and Bugingo.
Mountain Gorillas live in age graded groups, with one (or sometimes more than one) Silverback male, multiple adult females and their offspring.
Other wildlife species call Mgahinga National Park their home. These include 76 species of mammals, although as the vegetation is extremely thick they are not so easily seen. They include buffalo elephants, bushbuck, side striped jackals and black fronted duikers.
Contact our Gorilla Trek Destination Specialists to create a memorable Gorilla Safari in Uganda including the scenic Mgahinga National Park.