While you are in Rwanda for your safari, there is definitely no need to worry about gorilla trekking. Gorilla trekking is one of the leading and most sought after adventure experiences by trekkers in the world. In Rwanda, tourists can only trek mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park which forms part of the great Virunga Mountains. Approximately 480 mountain gorillas reside in the dense jungles of the Virunga Massifs between 2300 and 4500 meters above sea level.
The Virunga Massifs extend up to Southern Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Volcanoes National Park in Northwestern Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Southwestern Uganda. If you are planning to have your gorilla safari in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park, note that, gorilla groups are divided into 2; those that are set for research purposes and only accessible by scientists and researchers and they include the Pablo’s Shida’s and Beetsme gorilla group. In total, Rwanda has over 15 gorilla families but only 10 (ten) have been set for tourism purposes where only 8 (eight) tourists are assigned to track one group per day.
The Susa family:
This is one of the tremendous habituated gorilla families that are set for tourists to track these impressively beautiful creatures in the wilderness. This gorilla group is also famously known as Susa “A” group and this is where Dian Fossey carried out her research. This gorilla group was named after the Susa River that flows via the gorilla family’s home range. It is also one of the toughest and breathtaking gorilla families in the Volcanoes National Park and in most cases takes visitors nearly the whole day trekking. However, your trek has been simplified by conservation trackers who are always sent into the jungles to ascertain where the gorilla family can easily be found by the next trekkers. In most cases, visitors have been restrained from trekking this gorilla family due to its distant location. This gorilla family is very beautiful with over 28 gorillas and 3 silverback gorillas. It was once the biggest gorilla family prior its split into 2 groups. This gorilla family had 42 mountain gorillas and when tourists visited it, all they would view was mountain gorillas. This family is also famous for its young twin gorillas known as Byishimo and Impano who are renowned for their playful behavior. It is also from this gorilla family that tourists can find the anciently habituated gorillas-poppy. Poppy was born in 1976 and it is said to be from one of Dian Fossey’s gorilla families. Unfortunately the mother gorilla abandoned one of the new born twins due to hardship in taking care of two of them in the jungles.
Karisimbi gorilla group also known as the Susa “B”
This is splitter gorilla group from the original Susa “A” due to continuous fights and now it is called Susa “B.” It is composed of 15 mountain gorillas and it usually lives in the slopes of Karisimbi volcano which is almost 4507 meters above sea level, the highest mountain peak of Rwanda. The Susa “B” is perfectly fit for tourists who are physically endowed. It seems that they have established their refuge on top of the Karisimbi caldera slopes and this means that the trekkers may spend a whole day tracking for these remarkable species. This gorilla family at times moves on top and this makes the trek a bit hard. However, conservation guides and trackers are always sent to the field and this means that they can allocate where to find the gorilla group. At times, visitors are restrained from tracking this family due to its distant location.
This gorilla family can easily be accessed. It is headed by a powerful silverback gorilla Guhonda. Guhonda is a renowned biggest silverback gorilla in all the gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park. This mighty silverback gorilla has kept his challenger Ryango out of his family as a lonely silverback. There are fewer mountain gorillas that are found in this gorilla family compared to other gorilla families but one thing to appreciate is that the gorilla family is equally impressive. This remarkable gorilla family derived its name from Sabyinyo volcano meaning “old man’s teeth.” Sabyinyo is one of the gorilla families that are closely located around the national park and it is composed of 8 members, one silverback, 3 adult female gorillas, one non adult female gorilla, two juveniles and one baby. This gorilla family can be tracked around Mount Sabyinyo and Gahinga.
Amahoro gorilla family:
Amahoro means “peaceful” gorilla group. It is composed of 17 gorillas, one silverback, two black back gorillas, 5 adult female gorillas, two sub adult males, 2 juveniles and five babies. The peace in this gorilla group also comes at a cost. Ubumwe silverback gorilla in this group is most gentle silverback but unfortunately he lost his gorillas to Charles in the Umubano gorilla family. For interested trekkers, in order for you to arrive at Amahoro gorilla group, you bear with steep slopes but the hike is worthy for you to encounter this tremendous gorillas in their family.
Umubano gorilla family:
Umubano means neighborliness. The group is composed of 11 members, one silverback, one sub adult male gorilla, three adult female gorillas and six baby gorillas. Umubano were initially in Amahoro gorilla group but split off after Ubumwe silverback gorilla was defeated by Umubano. By the time Charles became a silverback gorilla like Ubumwe, he would not contain the orders and at the end, prompted to fight and challenge Ubumwe. The fought nearly for weeks up to months till Charles took some of Ubumwe’s female gorillas where he created his gorilla family and this led to formation of Umubano. Since that time, Charles has been controlling the group and normal interactions between him and Ubumwe has not showed any fights.
13 group also known as aka Agasha family:
During habituation of this gorilla family, it had only 13 gorillas and this is where its name was derived from. Today, this magnificent gorilla family is proud to be a home to 25 gorillas, one silverback gorilla, twelve adult female gorillas, two sub adult female, three juveniles and seven baby gorillas. Before, this gorilla family was led by Nyakarima whom Agasha which denotes news, defeated. Agashya really made news by simply viewing and imagining the size and energy of Nyakarima but later being defeated by Agashya. This was surprising news to Nyakarima. Agashya migrated to the volcano to safe guard his family and ensure that Nyakarima never gets them again. This silverback is historically known for forcefully grabbing gorillas from other families and succeeding the lonely ones into his family and this explains its largest gorilla family which now counts 25. This silverback is also popular for its behavior of migrating to higher altitude with his gorilla members. Interestingly, whenever tourists visit this group, Agashya becomes suspicious of other silverbacks and the only thing he does is to continue moving on top of the volcano. For trekkers who are interested in this gorilla group, they must be prepared to hike on top to view gorilla members of Agashya. It is one of such breathtaking adventures but rewards afterwards with a life time experiences.
Kwitonda gorilla group:
An 18 gorilla family is headed by Kwitonda silverback gorilla which denotes humble group and it is composed of 2 silverbacks and 1 silverback. This gorilla family also moved from DRC and tracking it takes a bit of time since it is also one of those breathtaking gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park just like Susa “B” group.
Hirwa gorilla family which means lucky gorilla group:
This family was introduced in 17th June 2006 at a time trackers saw its creation from other rising gorillas from 2 various gorilla groups; group 13 and Sabyinyo and this makes it the smallest gorilla family. Lucky enough, more gorillas joined the family and today this group is proud to be a home to 9 members, one silverback, three adult female gorillas, two sub adult female gorillas and three baby gorillas. Besides its being the recently formed gorilla family, Hirwa shows strength and holds its own from the rest of already existing families in the park.
Bwenge gorilla group:
This gorilla group is composed of eleven members and one silverback. It can be tracked within the Karisoke volcano slopes. It is controlled by Bwenge silverback. The group was created in 2007 at a time he broke away from his original family but other female gorillas joined him. Unfortunately, this gorilla family has experienced most difficult moments in life due to deaths of six infant gorillas. The group is currently increasing based on the fact that two births have been experienced in the previous years and the ability of their leader. Tracking this gorilla family is however difficult and interested trekkers must be ready to climb for nearly three hours. Besides, the gorilla trekking paths are at times wet and they can be muddy and steep to hike through slippery slopes. Most interestingly, this gorilla family also appeared in the movie “Gorillas in the Mist.”
Ugenda gorilla group:
This is another gorilla group that is worthy exploring while in your safari in Volcanoes National Park. This gorilla family is located around Karisimbi side of Rwanda. It is composed of 11 gorillas and two silverback gorillas. Ugenda denotes “ever on move” and that is why it derived its name since it entails its behaviors.
In conclusion, gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park offers visitors with a wide range of options to choose their best habituated gorilla family to track in the course of the day. Each of the habituated gorilla families has unique stories to tell tourists and they are all worthy visiting for you to get remarkable experiences with world’s star attraction. Please note that the number of mountain gorillas that is included in particular gorilla family can easily change given the fact that these creatures usually fight, split and form their own families and at the end, the numbers can differ when you get into the jungles to track a gorilla family.