Mgahinga gorilla national park vs bwindi
Comparing Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Vs Mgahinga National Park, differences between Bwindi and Mgahinga
Currently, mountain gorillas have become the most sought out attractions in the world. These critically endangered sub-species of the eastern gorillas are some of the most interesting things to see in Africa and they can only be found in three countries; Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. In Uganda, mountain gorillas live in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park whereas in Rwanda, they live in Volcanoes national park and in the DRC you can trek for them in Virunga national park. Among the three destinations for mountain gorilla trekking, Uganda surpasses them because she hosts more than half of the remaining population of mountain gorillas in the world. In addition, Uganda has two destinations (Bwindi and Mgahinga) where you can do the activity unlike Rwanda and the DRC where each of them has only one destination.
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is the world’s prime mountain gorilla trekking destination. Due to the great and wonderful biodiversity of the park, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Bwindi is a home to over 400 mountain gorillas and this makes it home to the largest population of mountain gorillas. Most of these gorillas have been habituated and are always available for trekking. Because of the large population, Bwindi has much more gorillas families than Mgahinga national park. It also has more habituated mountain gorilla families than Volcanoes national park and Virunga national park. There are 19 habituated gorilla families in Bwindi national park while Mgahinga has 2 habituated gorilla families, with the second one that recently shifted from Rwanda. This is the major reason that lifts Bwindi higher than any other mountain gorilla park and also why most people want to do mountain gorilla trekking here.
Regardless, the experience of gorilla trekking is the same both in Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks because you trek for a single family of which they all have the same features. And in both national parks, a group of only 8 people is allowed to visit each gorilla family daily. Unlike in the past when Mgahinga was rarely thought of when it came to gorilla trekking because it had only one gorilla group (Nyakagezi) yet very mobile around the three countries, the group is now settled in Uganda and was joined by another one which is also available for trekking.
More habituated gorilla families also implies that there are more gorilla trekking permits available to trek for these awesome giants in Bwindi compared to those available to trek in Mgahinga Gorilla national park. Currently, Uganda Wildlife Authority avails more than 140 gorilla permits daily for the activity and only 16 permits to do the same activity in Mgahinga. Gorilla permits for both national parks cost USD 700 for each individual.
Just like their name states, mountain gorillas live on hilly areas. Mgahinga national park is part of the Virunga Conservation Area located on the lower slopes of three extinct volcanoes; Gahinga, Sabinyo and Muhabura. It is the smallest national park in Uganda with an area of about 34sq km. Bwindi as well is situated on a steep mountainous area with numerous hilltops and valleys. It occupies an area of 321sq km. gorilla trekking can be strenuous in both parks. However, Bwindi impenetrable national park has hillier and slippery areas compared to Mgahinga, but also has some areas that with shorter hills than others in specific sectors since it is larger in size. Bwindi offers more options for guests to choose whether they prefer shorter hikes or longer and steeper ones because of the variety of gorillas in different areas which may not be the case in Mgahinga.
So far, the gorilla habituation experience is only done in Bwindi impenetrable national park. This is an advantage that Bwindi has over Mgahinga.
Mgahinga national park has many other fauna; 76 species of mammals though most of them are not commonly seen. They include bush pigs, forest elephants, buffaloes, black fronted duikers and side stripped jackals among others. There are over 170 bird species in its forest. Bwindi has more than 120 mammal species most of which are also quite hard to spot for example giant forest pigs, African golden cat, African civet and small antelopes. Bwindi forest is a home to over 300 bird species and more than 220 butterfly species. Primates such as black and white colobus monkeys and L’Hoest monkeys among others are commonly seen in both gorilla national parks.
As Mgahinga boasts being housing golden monkeys in Uganda, Bwindi comes along with chimpanzees which you may come across while trekking for mountain gorillas or during the forest walk.
Visitors can go for volcano hiking in Mgahinga national park on any of the three volcanoes; Sabinyo, Gahinga or Muhabura. Each of them offers a unique thrilling experience. This activity is not available in Bwindi national park.
Visitors can have a clear insight about the Batwa in both parks. The Batwa are the original keepers of these forests and lived there with the mountain gorillas for hundreds of years in harmony with the environment before they were evicted. Mgahinga national park has the Garamba and Muhavura caves where the Batwa used to keep their food, were royal houses and also gathered there when preparing for war while at Bwindi, you can encounter these Batwa pygmies for a cultural experience which involves traditional dances, practices and lifestyle. The Batwa in Mgahinga can be allowed to guide visitors through the Batwa trail in Mgahinga whereas the Batwa experience in Bwindi only takes place outside the park. Each of the experiences is ought not to be missed depending on where you are doing your gorilla trekking.
Mgahinga and bwindi national parks are both located in the far southwestern part of Uganda. They are situated close to many other national parks where you can enjoy many other wildlife activities. in Uganda, you can do gorilla trekking in any of the two parks and later on transfer to Queen Elizabeth national park, Kibale national park or Lake Mburo national park for more interesting adventures. It’s not worth to miss out on Lake Bunyonyi. You can as well transfer to Rwanda or the DRC for many other different activities such as Rwanda city walk, visit to the genocide memorial sites since they are in the neighborhood.
Getting to Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks
Both road and air transport can be used to reach Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks. From Kampala, the distance by road is shorter to Bwindi than to Mgahinga. It takes 8 to 9 hours to Bwindi and 10 to 11 hours to Mgahinga. If you don’t want to sit for these long hours, you can choose to fly in to Kigali airport where our driver guide picks you and you connect by road to southern Uganda, which takes about 5 hours to Mgahinga and about 7 hours to Bwindi national park.
By air, visitors can fly from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi to Kihihi airstrip and connect to Bwindi and this takes less about 3 hours to reach the park. A flight from Entebbe or Kajjansi to Kisoro airstrip takes about an hour and a half and then driving from Kisoro to takes about 2 hours and a half.