Gorilla Families in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla Families in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are the groups of Gorillas that are found in the park. These are the groups that the gorillas live in as a family. Mgahinga gorilla national park is the only park that inhabits mountain gorillas but with the least number of habituated gorilla families. The park has about 80 mountain gorillas but most of which are wild and therefore not available for trekking to tourists. As of August 2019, there was only one available gorilla family for tracking. This has since changed with a recent gorilla family migration. The only available habituated gorilla families of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are;
The Nyakagezi gorilla family
Nyakagezi is a place in the park that the gorilla family derived its name from. The gorilla family was the only gorilla family that tourists tracked in Mgahinga up until of recently. The Nyakagezi gorilla group in the past years used to roam the Virunga ranges but it has since settled and restricted its movements to only Mgahinga for the past decade or so. As of now, the family comprises of 10 members with 5 silverbacks, 2 adult females and 3 youngsters. The family members of Nyakagezi include Mark, Mafia, Rukundo, Ndugutse and Bugingo the silverbacks; Nshuti and Nyiramwiza the two adult females with Mutagamba, baby Nshuti and Fred the three youngsters.
The Nyakagezi gorilla family is headed by Mark and assisted by Mafia his brother. Mark took over leadership of the family from his father Bugingo who still is part of the family which is very rare in these primates. Usually, when a silverback is ousted from power, they tend to leave and become loners until they get companions. Bugingo, however, is still with his family which makes this family very unusual from the rest, and Bugingo is believed to be 54 years or more. A close encounter with this group is unforgettable as the group is very peaceful and friendly giving travelers a chance to capture the best memories.
The Hirwa gorilla family
Travelers visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are gifted with yet another gorilla family to track in addition to the Nyakagezi gorilla family. The Hirwa gorilla family migrated from Rwanda sometime in October 2019 to Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The period of stay of this gorilla group in Uganda is not known but for the time it will be Uganda, tourists can track it. The revenues collected from this family is shared between the two countries.
The Hirwa gorilla family whose name simply means ‘Lucky one’ has 16 members with one silverback. The group was formed from a break off from the Sabinyo gorilla family. This family also has twins that were born in 2011.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga is possible to be done from Rwanda as the park is easily approached. It takes about 3 hours of road drive to reach the park, so travelers can stay in Kigali and track from Uganda.
To be able to track gorillas from Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, travelers need to purchase gorilla tracking permits from the Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kampala or through a trusted tour operator. Permits go for $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents and UGX250,000 for East African citizens. Travelers are advised to book for these permits way in advance so as to be guaranteed of your pass.
The trek to see these gorilla families usually starts at 7:00 am with a brief at the Ntebeko visitor information Centre for registration and briefing on the rules and guidelines for a successful gorilla trek. The trek will start at 8 am and it can take up to 5 hours or more depending on where the gorillas are located. The trek can, however, be as short as 30 minutes if the gorillas are within reach. When you have encountered the gorillas, you are allowed one hour with them in which time you can take pictures, videos and also just watch them a moment to behold for a long time.
In Mgahinga gorilla national park, there are other activities that you can take part in, in addition to tracking the gorilla families above like golden monkey tracking, bird watching, the Batwa cultural visit, nature walks among others. Take time to put together an itinerary to have an opportunity to visit the above gorilla families and other activities in the park.