Why does Mgahinga have only one gorilla family?
Why does Mgahinga National Park have only one gorilla family? Mgahinga National Park has only one gorilla family because e of its location at the border of Uganda near the Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park. The proximity of these national Parks has seen many Mountain gorillas crossing into other countries that is Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo which left only the Nyakagezi gorilla family to be habituated. Note that the Nyakagezi family used to wander off as well and has just settled in Uganda, making it the only gorilla family in Mgahinga National Park.
Most Popular Safaris
Mgahinga National Park in southwestern Uganda shares boundaries with Bwindi and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo along the Ugandan border. Mgahinga is the smallest National Park in Uganda, covering over 33.7 square kilometers, and is one of the national parks where gorilla trekking takes place.
Gorilla trekking is not a straight-path activity, and once in a while, you will have to wander off the trek routes in search of the gorilla family if it wanders off after the trek has started. Guides are usually in touch with each other to make sure that you do not take the wrong trek route.
The Nyakagezi family
The Nyakagezi family is a fully habituated gorilla family consisting of 9 gorilla families including two adult females, one juvenile, two infants, and four silverbacks. When the group was opened to the public for trekking after the habituation process, Bugingo, who is almost 54 years old, was the dominant Silverback and leader of the group but was later succeeded by his son Mark. The gorilla family was named after the Nyakagezi area, where the first members of the gorilla family were first seen when the habituation process started. The Nyakagezi area has a lot of food, which attracts many gorillas to the place.
The Nyakagezi family is the only habituated gorilla family found in Mgahinga National Park and is considered one of the most entertaining families trekked in Uganda. The most interesting fact about the Nyakagezi gorilla family is that their names can easily identify each of the family members. The Nyakagezi members and their names include Mark who is the Silverback in charge of the gorilla family, Mathew and Mafia are Silverbacks, and Bugingo is a former leader of the group and the oldest Silverback. There is a juvenile known as Nkanda, two infants, Rukundo and Mutagamba, and two adult females, Nshuti and Nyiramwiza.
The cost of a gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga National Park
The cost of a gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga depends on several factors, including the trek permit cost, transport costs, and accommodation.
Gorilla trek permit cost: A gorilla permit is a legal document provided to tourists planning on going gorilla trekking in Uganda. It is only valid for a day (when you see the gorillas, the permit expires). Gorilla trekking permits are purchased in advance due to their high demand, especially during the dry/peak season, and the cost depends on the category of tourist you belong to. Foreign non-residents pay $700, $600 for foreign residents, and 250,000 UGX for Ugandans and East African citizens. Uganda used to offer discounts on trek permits that have been scrapped and no one should tell you that you can purchase trek permits to Mgahinga at a discount. Gorilla trekking permits can be purchased through a registered tour operator or the Uganda Wildlife Authority. 8 gorilla permits are printed daily, so you should book yours at least 6 months before the desired trek date.
Cost of accommodation: Mgahinga is the smallest National Park in Uganda which means that there are no accommodation facilities within the National Park but you can get one in Kisoro town which is 45 minutes away from Mgahinga. Most lodges have a clear view of the National Park and come in three categories: basic/budget facilities, mid-range facilities ranging from $100 to $150 per person per day, and luxury accommodation facilities that can go as high as $400 per day. Accommodation facilities are usually fully booked during the peak season, and they are expensive, but some reduce the cost during the low/wet season to attract more clients.
Transport: The transport cost to Mgahinga depends on the mode of transport you plan to use, which is drive or fly to the National Park. Road transport is the most used mode of transport and vehicle hires range between $100 and 250 per day or more depending on the type of vehicle you want to hire but to save you from this hustle, we can help you arrange your transport throughout your safari, 4×4 safari vehicles are used as part of the safari package and the cost can be higher depending on the season of travel. A drive from Kampala to Mgahinga is about 9 to 10 hours. For those intending to fly, charter flights are arranged per day from Kajjansi Airstrip and Entebbe International Airport to Kihihi and Kisoro Airstrip which are close to the Park and a safari vehicle will take you the rest of the way. It is just a 45 minutes drive from Kisoro town to Mgahinga National Park.
How to trek the Nyakagezi family
The Nyakagezi family was always on the move, migrating between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which made it hard to trek the gorillas, but recently, the Nyakagezi family has now settled in Mgahinga and can be observed by tourists during a gorilla trekking experience. Trekking the Nyakagezi family starts early morning with a briefing from the tour guides about what to expect during the trek, the rules to follow when trekking, and with the gorilla. After the briefing, the trek starts, and once you locate the family, you get to spend an hour with the gorillas.
Trekking rules for gorillas in Mgahinga National Park
As you plan a gorilla trek safari with the Nyakagezi family, you should know that the Uganda Wildlife Authority has put up some rules and regulations that all tourists intending to trek with the Nyakagezi family will follow. Below is a list of rules that are to be strictly followed.
- Gorillas can be aggressive when provoked, so you have to keep a distance of 7 meters between you and the gorillas and avoid making sudden movements.
- Children below the age of 12 are not allowed to trek the gorillas, and the change was recent when UWA changed the minimum age from 15 to 12 years.
- Eating and drinking when in close range to the gorillas is not allowed. This is to prevent them from getting close to you because of the food and the crumbs falling on the ground, which the gorillas might pick up, leading to infections.
- All tourists who feel sick, especially with flu and cough, should volunteer not to trek to prevent human-to-gorilla infections.
- If you feel like using the toilet, dig a hole 30cm deep and cover it afterward.
- Turn off your flash on the camera when taking photos, and remove your sunglasses. The reason is that sunglasses show the gorilla’s reflection, which might be interpreted as a danger to the gorillas, and they are not used to flash photography as well.
- You should not litter the national Park to protect the gorillas’ natural habitat. Dispose of the rubbish properly in the areas that have dustbins.
- After locating the gorillas, you get to spend an hour with them.
- Ensure you only make a little noise with the gorillas, talk in low tones, switch off your phones, or put them in flight mode.
- When a gorilla tries approaching you, do not run but walk backward, lay low, and follow all the directions and rules given to you by the tour guides.
- When you feel like coughing or sneezing, make sure that you turn away from the primates to avoid infecting the gorillas.
How to pack right for a gorilla trek with the Nyakagezi family in Mgahinga
Packing right for the Mgahinga gorilla safari trek is important, like any other safari, because you want to avoid carrying unnecessary things and have bulky luggage. Some of the things that are essential for a gorilla trek include:
Clothes: Long-sleeved shirts and trousers are the best to pack for a gorilla safari, and these should at least be in neutral colors or colors that blend in easily with the jungle, like green, brown, or khaki. Brightly colored clothes attract a lot of attention, and you do not want that when trekking. Avoid colors blue because of its association with the attraction of tsetse flies and black because it absorbs heat. When we talk about clothes, avoid jeans, get thick socks to help keep warm, and trousers tucked into the socks so insects do not crawl up your leg.
Personal items: you must carry personal toiletries while on your safari. Although soaps and other things like shampoos are provided, you can carry items you usually use like soap, shampoo, Vaseline, lotions, underwear, sanitary towels, and wipes.
Hike shoes: Hike boots are a necessity because of the terrain within Mgahinga National Park. The type of hike boots should be ankle length, sturdy, well-fitting to avoid blisters on the feet, and waterproof if you can get them. You will also need sandals and running shoes after the trek at the hotel or lodge.
Other items that need to be packed for a gorilla safari include Gaiters, wet wipes, gardening gloves to protect your hands from scratches, refillable water bottle, sunscreen, sunhat, insect repellent, a camera, extra lenses and batteries, binoculars, flashlight, rain jacket, warm sweater, first aid kit, a day backpack, biodegradable toilet paper, and personal documents among others.
Besides gorilla trekking, there are other activities that you can carry out in Mgahinga National Park and these include:
Bird watching: Mgahinga has about 180 registered bird species you should look out for while in the Park and some of these include the white star robin, handsome francolin, and western green tinker bird among others. The best time for a birding safari is during the wet season (March to May and October to November).
Golden Monkey trekking is the only place in Uganda where you can go for a Golden Monkey trek safari. Golden monkeys, unlike Mountain gorillas, are very easy to trek because you find them along the lower parts of the National Park, and one of the easiest ways to track them is by following the bamboo shoots (which they feed on) left on the ground. The same rules followed while gorilla trekking also apply to Golden Monkey trekking and need to be followed.
Nature walks allow you to trek through the National Park on foot and get a different perspective of what Mgahinga has to offer. This is your chance to also see other primates and wildlife within the Park including several bird species, tree species, red-tailed monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys.
The Batwa trail: The Batwa trail was officially opened on 11th June 2011, and its main purpose was to keep the Batwa culture and heritage alive. The Batwa trail experience is led by Batwa guides who know more about the culture and it is a learning experience for all tourists as you get to know more about their lifestyle, how they used to live within the forest, search for food, hunt, picking medicinal herbs for ailments and how they have survived after leaving Mgahinga.
As you plan your gorilla safari to Mgahinga, contact us for the amazing gorilla experiences that come with booking with us. We have an experienced team that will help with organizing the safari, energetic guides who will be with you every step of the way during the trek in case you have any more questions about why Mgahinga has one family, contact us, and let us handle your African safari to Mgahinga National Park.