Gorilla Families in Rwanda
Gorilla Families in Rwanda are the different groups of gorillas that are already habituated for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. Mountain gorilla trekking is one of the most amazing tourist activities if not the best that any traveler could ever take part in. rated as the most sought after activity, it should be noted that it is only available in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Congo. Gorilla trekking is an activity that involves hiking through lush rainforests in search of the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is part of the wider Virunga mountain ranges that spread all the way to the Congo. There are about 500 mountain gorillas inhabiting the Virunga ranges that comprise of Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda, the Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The rest of the mountain gorilla population, more than half of the total world population, is in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Volcanoes National Park has a total population of about 380 mountain gorillas, with only ten habituated gorilla families that are available for tracking by tourists.
Mountain gorillas live in families just like humans do. A family is however led by a dominant silverback that takes it upon himself to protect his family from the other aggressive families and wild mountain gorillas plus any possible threat. During gorilla safaris, travelers are allocated different gorilla families and the allocation is based on travelers’ preferences, fitness level, and accommodation. Travelers that have a particular gorilla family that they could like to trek for any particular reason can ask to be added to the group trekking it for as long as there is availability. Some gorilla families live really deep in the forest thus strenuous to trek and require longer hours, while others are really easy to be found that you may take just about 30 minutes of hiking before you find them.
Gorilla families in Rwanda are grouped into two, that is for research and gorilla trekking by tourists. Shida and Beetsme families are for research and have the highest number of gorilla members. Below are the habituated gorilla families in Rwanda;
Susa gorilla family
The Susa gorilla family is one of the most preferred gorilla families in Rwanda. The Susa gorilla family was made famous by Dian Fossey for it was the family that she studied during her research years at Karisoke Research Centre. The family got its family name from the Susa River and it has three silverbacks. Initially, the family had up to 42 individuals but split into two over the years giving rise to new gorilla families in Rwanda. The Susa family lives high up in the mountain thus making it one of the hardest to trek that it can take even a whole day. The park rangers, who are always informed of the gorillas’ whereabouts, can opt to have it not trekked on those days that they wander off very far that it is almost impossible to reach them. The playful gorilla twins, Byishimo and Impano, made this group even more famous. The Susa gorilla family is a perfect fit for the adventurous travelers, the trek to find them is worthwhile when you encounter them.
Karisimbi gorilla family
Karisimbi gorilla family has 15 members and it was formed after a breakaway from the Susa gorilla family. It is for this reason that it is sometimes called the Susa B gorilla family. This gorilla family also wonders far off sometimes that it gets really hard to reach them even when the game rangers know their location. Very fit trekkers can choose to continue with the trek even if the gorillas are very far. The hike through the slopes of Karisimbi is very rewarding as the scenery and landscape make the long hike very worth it.
Sabinyo gorilla family
This gorilla family got its family name from Mount Sabinyo, one of the volcanoes in the Virunga. The gorilla family has 12 members and two silverbacks that inhabit the slopes of Mounts Sabinyo and Gahinga. Guhonda, the dominant silverback, has kept his family together by relegating his major rival Ryango to being a loner outside the family. The playfulness of the juveniles and the fact that the family stays near the edges of the park make it easily accessed and preferred.
Amahoro gorilla family
Amahoro gorilla family has about 17 individuals with one dominant silverback called Ubumbwe. The group name literally translates into ‘peace’, which the dominant silverback clearly demonstrates that even when Charles took a couple of females to form his own family, he did not retaliate. The family lives in the slopes of mount Bisoke and much as the hike has some really steep slopes, tourists still love and opt to trek this gorilla family for the juveniles’ playfulness, predictability, and calmness of the family.
Umubano gorilla family
Umubano gorilla family, whose name translates to ‘living together’, was once part of the Amahoro gorilla family up until Charles defied the then lead silverback and broke away. Umubano gorilla family still lives in the areas near the Amahoro gorilla family and they are peaceful with each other.
Kwitonda Gorilla family
The term Kwitonda means humble one, and the family was named after the lead silverback Kwitonda, who is very humble. This family migrated from the Congo and they live on the slopes of Mount Muhabura and sometimes move very far thus making the trek strenuous but worthwhile.
Agashya gorilla family
This gorilla family was being led by Nyakarima but was overthrown by Agashya when he challenged him. Agashya made away with the entire family to the top of the volcano, and he continued to increase his family by stealing members from other groups and taking on loners. This saw his family growing to 25 individuals from the original 13. The complete takeover by Agashya was the first to be registered as researchers had never seen it from any other group. Agashya gorilla family lives near Sabinyo gorilla family and whenever he senses trouble, he collects all his members and goes to the top of the volcano, making the trek to visit this family very hard. Agashya simply translates to ‘the news’.
Bwenge gorilla family
This gorilla group has one silverback and they leave next to the Ugyenda gorilla family in Mount Bisoke. The family came to being in 2007 when Bwenge left his family of birth to make his own. He was joined by females from other families. Some of the gorilla members I this family featured in the film “Gorillas in the Mist”.
Ugyenda gorilla family
Ugyenda gorilla family was named after their wondering habit that sometimes renders them hard to trek. The term Ugyende translates to ‘departure’, and the family has eleven members.
Hirwa Gorilla family
This gorilla family came to being when some members of the Agashya and Sabinyo gorilla families came together to have their own family formed. The term Hirwa means the ‘lucky one’ and it was named so after the voluntary joining of different individuals to form the family. The family was also blessed with twins. As of October 2019, the family had migrated to Uganda and the length of its stay there is still unknown but until it returns, it will be tracked from Uganda.
Given the number of mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, the number of gorilla families habituated for gorilla trekking in Rwanda will surely increase. The above, however, are the only available gorilla families in Rwanda that tourists can track all throughout the year. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda needs one to have a gorilla trekking permit at a cost of $1,500. Travelers can get these permits from the Rwanda Development Board or have a trusted tour operator purchase it for you and have an opportunity of meeting one or more of the above gorilla families in Rwanda.