TOP 10 TOURIST ACTIVITIES IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK, WHAT TO DO IN MGAHINGA
INFORMATION ON ACTIVITIES IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK, KISORO; BATWA TRAIL, GARAMA CAVE, SABINYO GORGE, LAKE MUTANDA, MT MGAHINGA
Kisoro is home is the main base for gorilla trekking in South Western Uganda and in neighbouring Rwanda. However, Kisoro doesn’t only offer gorilla trekking: its beautiful surroundings offer an opportunity to undertake several different interesting activities, either individually or in groups. Below is a description of some of these activities.
GORILLA TREKKING IN MGAHINGA
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to Nyakagezi gorilla family. The gorilla trekking starts at the park headquarters. You will need to plan your gorilla trekking tour in advance because permits sellout usually 3 months in advance. The gorilla trekking in Mgahinga is usually shorter than the treks in Bwindi although the terrain might be more rigged.
2. Batwa Trail
Batwa Trail is a community based tour product developed by the Batwa community near Bwindi in conjunction with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Pearls of Uganda an NGO:-
It starts at the base of Mt Muhavura at 8.00 am and finishes by 3-4 pm. You’ll need walking shoes, hat, and raingear, and a packed lunch with sufficient drinks.
The Batwa Trail runs across the lower slopes of the Muhavura and Gahinga volcanoes in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The forest is home to a variety of wildlife but the Batwa Trail is far from being a conventional nature walk. With the help of Batwa guides, you’ll see the forest as a larder, pharmacy, builder’s yard, tool kit and, above all a home. Along the trail, you’ll fire a bow and arrow, check hives for wild honey, help repair a Batwa shelter, harvest plants for medicine and food, light a fire without a matches, listen to legends and learn about Batwa traditions.
The highlight of the trail is a descent into the Garama cave, a 200m-long lava tube beneath Mt. gahinga. The Batwa are famed for their music and dance and their historic, subterranean council chamber in Garama Cave provides the setting for an unforgettable performance.
The Batwa trail is celebration of the forest culture of the “‘first people.” It is impossible, however, to ignore the fact that Batwa life has greatly changed. The day’s events conclude with a discussion about the Batwa’s current situation; how it can be improved; and progress to date towards doing so.
3. Golden monkey Tracking in Mgahinga
The Golden Monkey may not be the most well known primate, but is certainly an enjoyable, little creature that is worth visiting. It is a small curious monkey, golden in colour and loves to scamper around the trees. Golden monkeys are named after their golden-orange fur, and like mountain gorillas, are also considered endangered species. Conservation efforts have been put in place by the Uganda Wildlife Authority to ensure that the monkeys are protected – especially from poachers.
There is a habituated family of monkeys in Mgahinga, where tourists can track and stay with them for a period of four hours depending on where they nested the previous night and how far it is from the starting point.
It is estimated that Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has between 3000-4000 golden monkeys grouped in troupes of 30s led by a principal adult male. Golden monkeys are primarily to be found in the bamboo forest that skirt the lower slopes of the volcanoes. They are quite more active in the bamboo canopy. Golden monkeys are opportunistic feeders. What they feed on could be by the availability of fruits, leaves of bamboo trees, shoots of bamboo, shrubs, flowers, invertebrates and these makes it to be restricted to highland forest, mostly the bamboo forest.
Golden monkey tracking starts at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park headquarters at 7:30am for pre-tracking briefing (on the dos and don’ts of tracking the golden monkeys). The actual trek begins at 8:00am. Hiking through the forests to sight the golden monkeys is not so strenuous like gorilla trekking because golden monkeys live in lower areas, so tourists do not track for more than 3 hours. When tourists encounter the golden monkey family, they are given one hour (0r 4 hours in case your are doing the habituation experience) to spend with them (to take photographs and observe their behavior). With this activity, there is no minimum number of tourists who track each group and age limit is 12 years.
Golden Monkey Habituation Experience in Mgahinga
Uganda Wildlife Authority now offers you the golden opportunity to experience a Golden Monkey Habituation in Mgahinga National Park. Accompany the researches in the morning or afternoon to track the Golden Monkeys and stay with them for 4 hours. You will have the unique chance to get close to these little primates and study their behavior in their natural habitat. A unique experience that will enhance your primate safari in Uganda!
What to carry during Mgahinga golden monkey tracking.
There are several requirements that tourists need to have a memorable experience during golden monkey tracking. These include waterproof hiking boots, wear long sleeved shirt, long trousers, and carry a backpack for your lunch and documents. Also carry drinking water and snacks, carry a walking stick to support you during hiking, you can hire a porter to support you during hiking in slippery places and they carry your backpack, and do not forget to carry an insect repellant.
Just above Ntebeko Gate is a small platform offering a magnificent view of Magahinga National Park and the surrounding area. To the south the three volcanoes, to the north miles of small gardens, Lake Mutanda and the hills of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. To the west a great view of the Western Rift valley in Congo.
Difficulty: easy; walking time: 30 min; distance 1km
5. Garama Cave
Almost 100 years ago there was a conflict between the Batwa (pygmies) and the Bantu population. The Batwa lived in the forests and the Bantu had their gardens and villages. The Batwa raided the Bantu in their villages and disappeared in the forests. The Bantu had no idea that there was a very large cave in the forest where the Batwa were hiding. Garama cave is 342 meters long and today it is only home to bats. During the visit the guide will tell you more about Garama Cave and the history and the life of the Batwa.
Difficulty: easy; walking time: 3 hrs; distance 4 km. NB: bring a torch!
6. Hiking Mount Magahinga, Mount Sabinyo
Around 58% of Magahinga National Park is covered with bamboo forest, a delicacy for the Gorillas and the Golden Monkeys. The walk to the top of the Mgahinga Volcano takes us through a very nice example of pure natural bamboo forest. This walk offers a good chance to see the rare Golden Monkey and Bushbucks. At the top (3474m) you will find a good view and a lush swamp in the crater.
Difficulty: moderate; walking time: 6 hrs; distance 6 km; elevation gain: 1100 m.
Mount Sabinyo is the oldest of the three volcanoes, quite eroded and that is why it has its name, which means: “teeth of the old man”! This volcano has three challenging peaks. The trail takes you up a ridge along the eastern side to Peak 1. If you wish to continue, 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. On top of peak 3 (3669m) you will be in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo at the same time! The Sabinyo hike takes you through all different vegetation belts, and you have good chances of seeing Golden Monkeys, Duiker, Rwenzori Turacos and Sunbirds.
Difficulty: you have to be fit! walking time: 8 hrs; distance 14 km; elevation gain: 1300 m.
NB: bring good walking shoes!
7. Sabinyo Gorge
This walk takes us through the lush vegetation in the gorge of the Sabinyo. It is moist with a dense vegetation. A small river at the bottom of the gorge is responsible for creating this paradise over time. At the end of the walk is a small but nice waterfall and a very good view of all the peaks. A good place for lunch! The gorge is a good place for seeing birds, especially the Ruwenzori Turacoo. Golden Monkeys and Duikers can also be spotted.
Difficulty: moderate; walking time: 4 hrs; distance 6 km; elevation gain: very little.
NB: bring good walking shoes!
8. Border Trail
This hike takes you first toward Sabinyo. The trail climbs up the base of Sabinyo for a while through fine montane forest before turning towards Congo. Along the way you will get a great view of Sabinyo’s gorge and peaks. Upon reaching Congo you cut back along the international border. The return leg to park head quarters is a great section for birding. The two rest huts along the way are good places for a break. Look closely for the Golden Monkeys and signs of elephants.
Difficulty: moderate; walking time: 8 hrs; distance 10 km; elevation gain: very little.
NB: bring good walking shoes!
9. Free Birding in Mgahinga
Yes, free birding along the edge of the park is now available on request. The guides are very happy to take you out from 5-6 pm if you book by 10 am that morning. Birds that can be seen: Ibis, Whydah, Speckled Moosebird, Fire Finch, Stonechat, Grey Capped Warbler, Waxbills and Yellow-Vented Bulbul.
NB: bring your binoculars!
10. Village Walk
Walk with a local guide or on your own through the gardens and villages of the Bufumbira and Bakiga tribes. On your way you will learn a lot about how the people live and work. Often there is the possibility to eat at a local place or sometimes with a family. Other walks take us over the hills to Lake Mutanda and there you can go with a dugout canoe to Python Island and see birds near a swamp.
Difficulty: moderate; walking time: 3-5 hrs; distance 3-8 km; elevation gain: very little.
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