Nyakagezi Gorilla Family
Nyakagezi gorilla family of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the only habituated gorilla family that tourists can track when in the park. Located in the South-Western part of Uganda in the district of Kisoro, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to about 80 gorillas. These gentle and yet endangered mountain gorillas can be found in the three parks of Virunga National Park, Volcanoes National Park which make up the Virunga Massif, plus Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which inhabits more than a half of the total gorilla population of the world.
Most of the gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are wild and of the 80 individuals that call the park home, only one gorilla family is habituated and can, therefore, be tracked by tourists. The Nyakagezi gorilla family of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park derives its name from the Nyakagezi area in the park from where the gorilla family spends much of its time. The Nyakagezi area is plentiful in foliage, thus their frequenting the area. The Nyakagezi area where this family spends much of its time is more open and thus makes it ideal for photography without much obstruction, and the trek itself is not so strenuous and it usually takes 2-4 hours.
The Nyakagezi gorilla family of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was initially habituated in 1991 but it was until 1994 that the gorilla family was made available for gorilla trekking to tourists. The Nyakagezi gorilla family had had Bugingo (who is well over 50 years) as the dominant silverback but was ousted by his own son Mark. Mark has since been at the helm of the family as the lead silverback and is helped by his brother Mafia. Unlike the other gorilla families who have the overthrown dominant silverback becoming a loner and leaving the family, the Nyakagezi gorilla family of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park still has its old leader living happily and peacefully with his family. Bugingo in the family is regarded as the Mzee which literally means old and wise man, and plays the perfect grandfather role to his sons’ offspring.
The Nyakagezi gorilla family has a total of five silverbacks-Bugingo, Mark, Mafia, Rukundo and Ndugutse, which is a rear finding in just one gorilla family, more so living peacefully together. The gorilla family also has two adult females-Nyiramwiza and Nshuti, with Fred, Nkanda and Furaha as the juveniles plus Mutagambwa the infant, making the family number to total to 10. Fred was named after the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) doctor who saved him from a wire snare. The Nyakagezi gorilla family of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one that is worth a visit, more so for the following reasons;
- The family has the highest number of silverbacks than any other gorilla family out there.
- Easy access especially from Kigali with only a 3-hour drive
- There are fewer trekkers in Mgahinga as compared to other gorilla parks, thus less congestion
- Gives a more open viewing option as the Nyakagezi area is open enough
- The park itself is an attraction of its own, the immense beauty and wilderness is fit for a foot exploration, more so undisturbed by the crowds.
- The park is safe and very secure, as is Bwindi and Volcanoes National Parks
- The cost of the gorilla permit is half of the gorilla permit cost in Rwanda
As of 2019, the Hirwa gorilla group of Rwanda migrated to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, thus making the number of gorilla permits available per day to increase from just 8 to 16, meaning 16 persons get to visit the park to take part in gorilla trekking of either the Nyakagezi gorilla family or the Hirwa gorilla family.
For one to be able to track gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, one needs to purchase a gorilla permit which costs $ 700 for foreign non-residents, $ 600 for foreign residents, and UGX 250,000 for East African citizens. Purchasing them in advance is very important as not so many of them are available.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park usually starts at 7 am with a brief by the park rangers of what to expect on the trek as well as the rules and guidelines. The trek itself then starts at 8 am and can take anything between 30 minutes to four hours or more, depending on the location of the gorillas. Tourists are allowed only one hour with the mountain gorillas during which time they can take pictures and videos and enjoy the presence of the near-human creatures as they go about their normal life.
Indeed, there are no reasons that should stop you from visiting the Nyakagezi gorilla family. Purchase your gorilla permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices sometime in advance, 3-4 months before the start of your gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, or have a trusted tour operator purchase them for you and help you organize the best gorilla trekking safari.