Mgahinga is part of a larger ecosystem, the Virunga Conservation Area (434km sq) which includes two adjacent parks in Rwanda and Congo. It rises from 2227 m to 4,127m above sea level.
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 Sabinyo. The park derives its name from “Gahinga”a Kinyarwanda word for a pile of volcanic lava stone heaps around which cultivation is carried out. On the other hand, Muhavura means guide and Sabinyo means the Old man’s teeth. It is bordered to the south by Rwanda and to the west by DR Congo.
While Sabinyo is deeply eroded 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.
In 1930, the British administration established Mgahinga as a Game sanctuary to protect the gorillas and other wildlife. In 1941Mgahinga Forest reserve was established to protect the forest with the animals and forests managed by different ministries.
In 1989, growing international pressure led to the establishment of the Gorilla Game Reserve Conservation Project, with support from a private German Conservation organization, which worked with the Forest and Game departments to enforce laws, survey wildlife and develop sustainable tourism.
In 1991, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was gazetted with the same boundaries as the original game Sanctuary. It currently has one habituated Gorilla group known as Nyakagezi with Mark as the dominant silverback assisted by one subordinate silverback two adult females and 2 infants.
When to visit
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.
However the park can be accessed and visited at any time of the year for the hilarious gorilla tracking and other activities including Hiking and nature walks.