Nyakagezi Gorilla Family in Mgahinga National Park : The smallest national park in Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, has a surface area of 33.9 square kilometers and is situated in the Kisoro region of southwest Uganda. As the name of the park implies, it was founded in 1991 with the specific purpose of protecting vulnerable Mountain gorillas. Only one acclimated gorilla family remains in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the Nyakagezi Gorilla Family.
Mgahinga is a portion of the Virunga massif, which includes the national parks of the Mgahinga gorillas in Uganda, the volcanoes in Rwanda, and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The gorillas are primarily drawn to the Nyakagezi region of Mgahinga National Park because it has plenty of food for them to eat. This is where the gorilla group in Mgahinga got its name.
THERE ARE NINE MEMBERS OF THE NYAKAGEZI GORILLA FAMILY. THESE INCLUDES:
- Mark, the current silverback;
- Bugingo, Mathew, Mafia, Ndungutse, and Rukundo, the blackbacks;
- Nkanda and Furaha, the juveniles; and
- Mutagamba, the infant named after the late Mutagamba, a former minister of tourism.
The current dormant and aging Bugingo coexists amicably and without conflict with Mark, the current silverback, despite being about 54 years old. Since Mark succeeded his father, Bugingo, the two have coexisted, in contrast to other gorilla groups where a silverback’s decline into old age and weakness is typically met with dethronement, isolation, and occasionally flight into other groups. A prime example is the Mubare family, where Ruhondeza left the group and led an introverted life until his passing after Kanyonyi assumed control.
The Nyakagezi home [Mgahinga] stretches up to the borders of Rwanda and the DRC, and occasionally the family visits their peers in the national parks of the Virungas and volcanoes.
The only gorilla family in Mgahinga National Park, the Nyakagezi Gorilla Family is charming and well worth a visit due to its mobile behavior and the fact that the two silverbacks—the oldest and the reigning—co-exist amicably. And yes, who wouldn’t want to witness this with their own eyes?
For this specific group, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) sells 8 permits each day. Gorilla permits can also be obtained at the Ntebeko briefing center in Mgahinga or at the UWA headquarters in Kisoro town on Bunagana Road.
Uganda Gorilla permits cost 700 dollars for foreign nonresidents, 600 dollars for foreign residents, and 250,000 Ugandan shillings for East African nationals. Before heading out to the gorillas, rules and regulations for gorilla trekking are always provided at the briefing center.
UWA regularly collaborates with Rwanda and the DRC across international borders in order to enhance wildlife management, park conservation, and tourism-related activities. International conservation efforts are aimed at managing these mountain highlands as one “ecological” unit rather than as separate national territories because mountain gorillas living in Mgahinga frequently cross the international borders that cross this island park.
Since 2013, this group has established a permanent home because they prefer a small home range for nesting, relaxing, and feeding because there is plenty of food for them in this area. Prior to 2013, this group was very mobile and frequently traveled to Rwanda and the DRC.
It takes just three hours to travel from Kigali, Rwanda, to Mgahinga National Park when tracking Nyakagezi. As a result, if you decide to fly to Kigali Rwanda instead of Entebbe Uganda, you will have saved 5 to 6 hours because it will take 8 to 9 hours to drive from Entebbe to Mgahinga. Therefore, the most convenient method of Mgahinga gorilla trekking safari is to fly to Kigali and then cross into Kisoro for an affordable price of 600 dollars rather than 1500 dollars in Rwanda.
Combining gorilla trekking and volcano hiking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park gives you the chance to kill two birds with one stone because the Nyakagezi Gorilla Family in Mgahinga National Park is located there. Since gorilla trekking only lasts an hour, you may choose to do two activities on a one-day tour. Or, for a more affordable option, stay the night in one of the nearby lodging options and complete the activities over the course of two days.
NOTE: In Uganda, only Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park are suitable for gorilla monitoring. In addition to monitoring the Nyakagezi gorilla family in Mgahinga National Park, you can also do the following activities:
- Golden Monkey Tracking
- Batwa Trail experience
- Mountain hiking.
- Visiting Garama Cave