Mgahinga National Park is the smallest Park in Uganda, but what it offers is beyond what anyone can imagine. Gazzeted in 1991, Mgahinga national Park covers an area of 33.7 square kilometers and is located in the South-western corner of Uganda in Kisoro district, straddling the borders of Virunga National park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda. Mgahinga National park is Part of the Virunga Conservation Area (that comprises of Volcanoes National park and Virunga National park too) and is a home to three mountains that form the great Virunga Massif. These Mountains include Mount Sabinyo (standing at 3645 meters), mount Gahinga at 3475 meters and Mount Muhabura at 4127 meters. What many people know about this park is mountain gorilla trekking and the popular Batwa trail, but does anyone know that it is one of the most fascinating bird watching destinations in Uganda.
Bird watchers would be interested to know that this small National park is a haven to over 180 bird species including Albertine rift endemics due to a band of different vegetation zones forming habitats for birds. The birdlist include at least 14 of the 24 bird species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift Mountains. Not only that, Mgahinga National park harbors about 39 bird species of the total 88 of the Afro-tropical highlands biome bird species that occur in Uganda.
There are good chances to spot rare and colorful bird species especially if you are looking for some Albertine rift endemics and eastern Congo forest birds.
Visitors going for birding only need packed lunch, a field guide book and good binoculars to spot your favorite species.
Birds can also be identified by their calls for the keen birders. You can also take a guided birding tour with a local tour guide. Hire a guide to lead you along the buffalo wall trail or choose from other shorter birding trails. Among the 179 birds estimated to live in the park, the most pursued species include Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori night jar, regal sun bird, Rwenzori Turaco, Red faced woodland warbler and Stone chat among other species.
Some of the bird species you can spot include the RwenzoriTuraco, kivu ground thrush, Regal sun bird, handsome Francolin, crowned hornbills,montaneSooty babou, chubs Cisticola, olive woodpecker, western green tinker bird, African hill babblers just a glimpse of species.
You need to get time and discover many of the species I have not written here.
Birding Trails in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The best bird viewing/watching trails in Mgahinga national park include the Gorge trail between Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabinyo and offers beautiful sighting of the Regal Sunbird, Bronze Sunbird, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Blue-headed Sunbird, Kivu-ground Thrush, Black-headed Waxbill, Dusky turtle Dove, Rwenzori Batis, Cape Robin-chat, Olive Thrush and Streaky Seedeater among others.
The Bamboo trail that lies at 2500 meters and the montane forest at 2660-2700 meters above sea level are popular for the Rwenzori Turaco. Along the level ground of the Uganda-DRC border, you will encounter the Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Chubb’s Cisticola, Banded Prinia and Red-faced Woodland Warbler. Other popular bird species in Mgahinga National park include Archer’s Robin-chat, Back kite, Alpine chat, Black kites, Pin-tailed whydah, Blue-headed coucal, Double-collared sunbird, Grey-Capped Warbler, Dusky Crimsonwing, White-necked raven, Fire Finch stonechat, Olive woodpeckers, Speckled mousebird, Waxbills, crowned hornbill, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Paradise Flycatcher, Ibis, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori batis, Kivu ground-thrush, olive pigeon, Rwenzori nightjar and Yellow-billed Kite among others.
Tourists considering visiting Mgahinga National park for bird watching should book in advance and have to carry binoculars, cameras, wear long sleeved shirts, long trousers, rain jacket and waterproof hiking boots.
Best Time for Birding in Mgahinga National Park
Birding in Mgahinga can be conducted all year round, but the perfect time is the Wet season from Early March to Mid May and September to November because it is the breeding season for the birds and you will be rewarded with the view of numerous bird species. The best months for viewing/seeing the migratory bird species is from November to April.
Mgahinga National park is 540 kilometers from Kampala and can be accessed though air and road transport, where by flights can be charted (by Eagle Air) from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi airstrip(in Kampala) to Kisoro town, then proceed to the Park using road transport. It is 8-10 hours drive from Kampala to Mgahinga national Park, and the route used is Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kabale-Kisoro then finally to the spectacular Park. Due to the poor condition of roads from Kisoro town to the Park, 4WD vehicles are recommended for a comfortable and memorable experience.
In conclusion, regardless of its small size, Mgahinga National park is one of the prefect bird watching destinations in Uganda where you will get to see at least 50 of the 115 bird species harbored in this park. The small size of the Park is also to its advantage because you will see numerous beautiful attractions within a small rage without moving far. For a memorable bird watching experience, visit this Park and you will live to cherish its beauty.