Uganda

Rwanda’s Gorilla Family migrates to Mgahinga

Kanye West & Kim Kardashian Gorilla Trekking

Rwanda’s Gorilla Family migrates to Mgahinga National Park

It’s now a week after one of Rwanda’s incredible Gorilla families “Hirwa” migrated from Volcanoes National Park to attain residence in the nearby Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, a prominent protected area in the western part of Uganda.

Over twenty members of this group including male and female adults, infants and juveniles now breathe life in Mgahinga’s lush habitats. This was confirmed by Uganda Wildlife Authority’s ICT head and photographer at the Park “Paddy Musiime”.

The migration was unknown, though it’s a setback to Rwanda’s Gorilla tourism, Uganda earned more because the number of Gorilla families in Mgahinga increased to two. There are now sixteen Gorilla permits available for Gorilla trekking excursion in this Park of great apes and diverse primate species.

Without doubt, trekkers after Gorillas in Mgahinga National Park can now trek Rwanda’s famed Hirwa Gorilla family from this very park in Uganda.

It is under the management of the Park along with the resident Nyakagezi Gorilla family, the only family recorded in Mgahinga for a couple of years. Money collected from the sale of Hirwa gorilla permits is shared equally by Uganda and Rwanda.

Although Rwanda’s gorilla permit costs USD 1500, Hirwa family in Uganda is now trekked at a cost of USD 700 per person. On this price, Rwanda has 50% per permit.

No one knows whether this family will be let by Mgahinga park officials to transfer back to their original residence or remain in Uganda. Nothing we can do than keeping an eye to see what’s next.

This 2019 Gorilla migration to the nearby habitats is not the first of its kind. Nyakagezi Gorilla family as well used to migrate from Mgahinga to Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

These countries have borders that indicate their territories but Mountain Gorillas are unknown or have less knowledge about that. Therefore it is no wonder that they cross from one country to another.

This is common along the geographical borders of Virunga conservation area (shared by Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo). Altitude and vegetation in these countries are almost similar favoring the growth of all Gorilla species in this region.

The constant migration is the main reason why Nyakagezi was difficult to time until it settled in Mgahinga. Currently, this family is visited by a plethora of travelers per year, you can find it at any time you choose to trek it.

To give a brief highlight about Hirwa Gorilla family, it is inclusive of the only twelve habituated Gorilla families in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. It has been residing in the northern part of the Park for many years.

This family split from Susa Gorilla family after disagreements between two Silverbacks; Munyiga, the first leader of Hirwa and that of Susa family.

Later, Munyinga decided to withdraw from Susa and established Hirwa, one of the most visited families in the Park. Its name (Hirwa) means the “Lucky one”.

About Mgahinga Gorilla National park

Part of the Albertine rift valley, Mgahinga is the smallest park in Uganda. It sits in the southwestern region in Kisoro district bordered by Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

Mgahinga National Park coexists with three Wildlife reserves, four forest reserves and eight National Parks in the greater Virunga landscape.

Among all three National Parks (Bwindi, Rwenzori Mountain and Virunga National Park) are UNESCO World heritage sites, Queen Elizabeth is a UNESCO biosphere reserve as well as Lake George, a Ramser site.

You can easily get there from Kampala by road or air transport means. By road, it takes about 8-9 hours for the drive via Kampala – Masaka – Mbarara highway. If not that, private charters are arranged from Entebbe up to Kihihi airstrip in Kisoro district.

Travelers who are nervous about long-distance drives usually land in Kigali, a gateway to the western part of Uganda. It is very possible and shorter to connect to Uganda’s Mgahinga from Kigali city, Rwanda’s capital.

To let you know about this, if you are to fly in Rwanda and cross to Uganda via Chanika or Katuna border, you have to book for an East African Visa. This Visa allows you to freely cross to any country in the East African community.

To add on, Mgahinga is among the three parks that make up the Virunga massif. Among the top draws here, Gorilla trekking is exceptional and the most appreciated. Before Hirwa’s migration, the trekking rotated around the Nyakagezi Gorilla family.

Other than Gorillas, Mgahinga is the only place you can visit for the species of the Old World Monkey family while in Uganda. These species are no other than the Golden monkey primates.

Often a must-see for anyone on an Uganda Safari to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Its tracking permit is not as high as that of Gorilla trekking, you will only pay USD 100 per person.

These primates are mostly found in the mountainous bamboo forested areas; therefore physical fitness is a must if you are to partake this remarkable pursuit.

Those who crave spectacular hiking adventures, with Mgahinga National Park you are also covered. This park is home to three Virunga volcanoes namely; Mt Muhabura, Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga.

The hiking expeditions usually offer the most memorable landscape views, visit local communities and Wildlife encounters.

If hiking, golden monkey tracking and Gorilla trekking don’t appeal, this Park is known for culture. It rewards opportunities to experience the culture and local life of the Batwa pygmies.

These Batwa people were local hunters and gatherers, depended most on forests as their shelters, tree leaves as medicine, and bush meat as food.

Batwa people migrated from the Ituri forest reserve of the Democratic Republic of Congo, partly settled in Rwanda and others in the western wing of Uganda.

You can get the best of these people by being part of their Batwa trail experience. It is rewarding and worth the USD 80 paid per person.

With all that, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a destination to consider first for a blend of Gorilla trekking safaris, golden monkey primates, hiking and culture. It can make your trip to Uganda unlike any other.

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Matt Smith

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