The park which is a cultural heritage featuring in the history, folklore and traditional healing practices for local people, covers the north slopes of the three northern Virunga volcanoes Muhavura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. The park derives its name from “Gahinga Kinyarwanda word for a pile of volcanic lava stone heaps around which cultivation is carried out. On the other hand, Muhavura means guide and Sabyinyo means the Old man’s teeth. It is bordered to the south by Rwanda and to the west by DR Congo. While Sabyinyo is deeply tough with jagged crown and deep gorges and ravines, Gahinga has a swamp filled –crater about 180m wide and Muhavura has a small crater lake about 36m wide at its summit. On some of the steep mountain slopes are caves formed by lava tubes, one of them being the famous Garama cave located near Ntebeko, the park headquarters.
There are two dry seasons: January-February and May –August. The wettest months are March-April and September-November. The direst months are June and July. During the rains, the park is often covered in mist and the air always damp. Temperatures can reach freezing points at altitudes above 3000 m and hailstorms are always common.
Gorilla Trekking: Mgahinga Gorilla Park is famous for mountain gorilla trekking tours. One gorilla family has been habituated to human contact, the Nyakagezi Group, which is visited by tourists. It consists of 11 members: 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 4juveniles and 2 infants. This group keeps on shifting between Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Normally registration and briefing for gorilla tracking begins at Ntebeko at 07.45. Gorilla trekking begins at 08.30 and can take 3 to 8 hours.
Hiking: Volcano Climbing is quite an interesting and challenging activity. From Mgahinga national park tourists have a chance to go beyond to Mt. Sabyinyo (3645m above sea level), Mt Gahinga (3474 km) and Mt. Muhavura (4127 m). Seeing the ‘Old man’s teeth’ on the top of Mt Sabyinyo is another awesome adventure.
Cave Exploration; this is normally carried out at the Garama cave. This is one of the historical caves where once the crafty Batwa lived and fought their neighbors. These pygmy related Africans lived a warrior lifestyle and they used to fight with the neighboring Bantu tribes. The Garama cave which measures 342m in length and 14m deep is now inhabited by bats. A trip to visit the Batwa local communities can also be arranged for tourists interested in learning and experiencing the lifestyles, traditions and norms of these pygmy forgotten Africans.
Birding: The Park has so far recorded about 79 bird species some of which are endemic to the East Congo Montane region. Common bird species in the park include Ibis, Whydah, Speckled Mouse birds, and Fire Finch Stonechat, Grey Capped Warbler, Waxbills, and Yellow-Vented Bulbul. For the Virunga Conservation Area as a whole, over 295 species in the Virungas are endemic to the Albertine Rift Afromontane region representing 59% of the total known endemic species. For interested bird watchers, the local birding guides are available to guide you through the tour.
Golden monkey tracking: Golden Monkey tracking is a lively experience, not to be missed by those desiring to track Chimpanzees and Gorillas in Uganda. The viewing is kept to an hour and you get a close up look at the golden monkeys in their natural habitat. You can see them frolic in the bamboo forest, mothers carrying their children, feeding on bamboo leaves and totally at ease while you are there.
Getting to the park:
Mgahinga National Park can be accessed by road or air transport. Kisoro Town at the foot of Mt. Muhavura is about 540km from Kampala and takes about 8 hours via Kabale on an excellent paved road surface. Mgahinga is located 13 km from Kisoro town and can be accessed by Public transport. Kisoro Town can also be accessed by air at a bitumen runway Airfield at Nyakabande.