Trekking Mountain Gorillas is probably one of the most captivating activities in Africa. On a sad not it can only be done in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Rwanda it can only be done in one place and that’s Volcanoes National park in Musanze (former Ruhengeri). There are apparently 10 habituated Mountain Gorilla groups in the park and 8 permits are allocated per group making availability of 80 permits per day. Each and every group has something unique to offer which may be in terms of character, size, dominance and more. Some groups are led by Silverbacks that are very peaceful and if you indeed portray the same then it would be recommended to bond with a peaceful family.
Below are excerpts of the habituated groups in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. For detailed information, please click on the respective “Read More” links.
Susa family (Susa A)
Susa group is the biggest Mountain Gorilla family in Volcanoes National Park. This group currently has 33 members and 2 Silverbacks but had a total of 42 members before its split. The most exciting things about Susa A are the twins in this group and of course the size. It’s also the first group that Dian Fossey first studied during her years in Rwanda. The group is apparently the hardest to track but turns out to be the most preferred by most gorilla trekkers. Susa A inhabits the lower base of Mount Karisimbi.
This family currently has 13 members and 2 Silverbacks. Sabyinyo gorilla family came into existence shortly after the death of a dominant silverback that led group thirteen. After his death, a few females left teaming up with other females from group eleven to form a total of 4 females and two Silverbacks and also have their name changed to Sabyinyo gorilla group. One of the Silverbacks that leads this group at the moment is the largest in Volcanoes National Park. This group usually roams on the slopes of Mountain Sabinyo and this makes it relatively easy to track.
Amahoro means peace in Kinyarwanda and therefore this group is known for its peaceful ways. The peaceful character of the family has long caused it to loose members to other aggressive Silverbacks who seek to expand their respective families. Amahoro Gorilla Group currently resides on the slopes of Mountain Visoke and has about 18 members with 2 Silverbacks. This group is quite hard to track as the terrain to the slopes of this mountain is strenuous. If you have a peaceful character in nature and love peace as well then you might have to book your permits for trekking this gorilla group.
Agashya family is formerly known as group 13 but recently changed its name. This group got its name due to the initial number of the 13 individuals that started the group. This family was initially led by a dominant silverback called Nyakarima who was later on overthrown by another dominant leader – Agashya who leads till today. The name Agashya means ‘News’ and surprisingly the family was named after him. It apparently has way more members that it did previously! The tally is about 27 members with just one Silverback. They also roams on the slopes of Mountain Sabyinyo just like the Sabyinyo family.
Umubano (‘Live Together’) Family
With 13 members including 2 Silverbacks, Umubano gorilla group was formed by members of the Amahoro family after one of its Silverbacks called Charles, broke off to form his own group. Despite the peace in Amahoro group, Charles and Ubumwe has endless battles till Charles could not take it any more hence, the birth of Umubano Group. Apparently, this group lives in the same territory the Amahoro Group.
Kwitonda gorilla group tallies a huge number of 23 including 4 Silverbacks. It inhabits on the slopes of Mountain Muhabura and it got its name from the late dominant silverback called Kwitonda, a leader who was popularly known for his humble character. This group originally lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo but migrated to Volcanoes National Park. For this same reason, it inhabits on the slopes of Mountain Muhabura.
Hirwa family is a new group and has 16 members with one Silverback. It was formed by members from the Sabyinyo family and group 13 but later on more members joined to increase the tally to 16. It roams between the mountains of Mount Gahinga and Sabyinyo. This is one of the luckiest groups in the park and slots among the few that managed to get twins. Their twins were born in the year 2011. The word ‘Hirwa’ means ‘Lucky One’. Need some luck or rather are you lucky? You might need to trek to see this family.
Just like the name, this group resides on the slopes of Mountain Karisimbi. It has 16 members with one silverback. It’s a breakaway faction of Susa family reason why they also call it Susa B. Karisimbi gorilla family is currently the hardest to trek because it resides on the upper slopes of Mount Karisimbi that sits on an altitude of 4507m. The Silverback of this group took his group to a very far place that is hard to reach so as to stay away from trouble. If you need a real physical challenge or rather some serious hiking then you ought to reserve your permits for this group.
It is made up of 11 members including 2 Silverbacks. Ugenda means mobile which partly relates to this group’s mobility. Ugenda gorilla group is always on the move and hardly settles in one place. This group apparently inhabits Mount Bisoke and the hike is relatively not very difficult. If you feel like you might find a hard time trek because of your physical status then you ought to reserve your permits for this group.
Bwenge means “wisdom”. This group comprises of 11 members with one silverback. It usually roams on the slopes of Mount Visoke and the hike is relatively easy. For lazy trekkers, this group is advisable for you. Bwenge family was in the year 2007 by Bwenge who had the group named after him. Bwenge initially left his native group and was joined by a few female members from other families. Bwenge witnessed a very dark time 6 of its infants died.
Titus Family was named after the Silverback – Titus, a primate that was born during the time Dian Fossey was still carrying out her research at Karisoke Research Center. Titus’ family got murdered by poachers leaving him as the only survivor. He went through a lot of hardships growing up but managed to overcome all those obstacles and emerge as one of the most successful Silverbacks to ever inhabit Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. This group apparently inhabits the slopes of Karisimbi and Visoke volcanoes.
There are many more Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda and this number keeps on increasing based on the great conservation success in Rwanda. However, above are the only habituated gorilla groups that inhabit Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.