Gorilla groups in Rwanda

Trekking gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda offers a lifetime memorable experience as you visit these endangered species in their natural habitat of the Volcano bamboo forest and they live in families. More than half of all mountain gorillas are habituated. This means they are used to the presence of tourists.

It should be noted that the numbers of gorilla families keep on changing due to various reasons for example seperations, new births, and deaths among others.  Gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park are unique and each different from one another adopting their differences from a number of factors including terrain, nature of leadership, vegetation among other issues. One of the most interesting aspects of mountain gorillas is the way they protect their young ones just like human beings even to death.

Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park today has a number of  habituated gorilla groups for visitors to see and set aside for research from which the Kwita Izina baby gorilla naming ceremony are selected.

A single gorilla permit in Rwanda costs 1500 US$ paid by all travelers including Rwanda nationals and a number of 80 gorilla permits are available each day for tourists going to watch gorillas on a single day given that each gorilla family is visited by a group of eight people. Below are the Rwanda’s gorilla groups available

Gorilla groups to choose for trekking in Rwanda

Susa A Gorilla group

The Susa A group is possibly the best-known family, since this is the first group that Dian Fossey an American zoologist studied from 1967 until her death in Rwanda by 1985, with her research base at Karisoke. This most popular group previously expanded to over 42 members before it split into two in 2008 as it had grown so vast. The breakaway group was later known as Susa B or Karisimbi group never the less, Susa A group was named after the Susa River that drains through their home range.

This group is composed of 33 members including the 2 silverbacks and inhabits the forests on the slopes of Mountain Karisimbi thus being the largest and oldest group of gorillas among the Gorilla families in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park headed by Kurira being the head of the group. According to the news report in 2004, the group also suffered a horrible poaching attack in May 2002, where it lost 2 adults who were protecting their 2 babies from poachers in the park.

Trekking the Susa family offers an exciting moment especially when tourists watch the twin mountain gorillas jumping and playing around that is; the playful young twins Byishimo and Impano born to Nyabitongore. Tourists are told about Poppy one of the oldest habituated gorillas born in 1976 who is believed to have been a member of Dian Fossey’s research group. Other gorilla individuals in the family are seen either feeding or relaxing around the thickets.

Despite the fact that Susa family is hard to get to, (that is members tend to wander to higher elevations), it can be best trekked by the physically fit and adventurous tourists capable of hiking for a long time. For easy trekking of the mountain gorillas in the Susa family, trackers first go ahead of the tourists to trace where the family is and then directs the tourists accordingly. With the above interesting history, it is the hardest group to track yet the most preferred gorilla group by many trekkers

Umubano Gorilla group

The local word Umubano means “Living together”, this was formed by members of the Amahoro family named after one if it’s silverbacks Charles who broke off to form his own group. They contain of 13 members with 2 silverbacks. It’s said that that Charles broke off due to endless battles he had with Ubumwe and succeeded in breaking away with some members thus the formation of Umubano gorilla group.

Since the formation of the new group, gorilla-watchers in the park have noted that the two groups often interact and there are no more wrangles between them. This group is still living in the same neighborhood with Amahoro group in Bisoke Mountain slopes. More so, it is visited by many tourists because of the less effort required to reach them during the trek

Kwitonda Gorilla group

With 28 individuals including 1 silverback, the Kwitonda group originated from Gorilla groups in Congo and migrated to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. In Kinyarwanda language, ‘Kwitonda’ means ‘humble one’ thus the name was got after the dominant silverback, the group leader Kwitonda reknown for his humble character.

This group wonders in the lower slopes of Mount Muhabura so your trek to their location may take longer than expected. Therefore, it’s among the difficult gorilla families to trek because in most cases, it keeps far away in thick forested areas that cannot be easily accessed by tourists just like the Susa ‘B’ group thus making their tracking tiresome though exciting

Ugenda Gorilla Group

The Kinyarwanda word ‘Ugenda’ means ‘on the move’. With a total of 11 mountain gorilla individuals, Ugenda family inhabits the Karisimbi volcanic area and has 2 silverbacks in the Rwanda Volcanoes National park. This mountain gorilla family is also difficult to trek because it always moves from one area to another.

The group was named after its unique characteristic of the movement from place to place. Due to their inconstant wandering behavior, tracking them becomes difficult sometimes. This group lives on the slopes of Bosoke Mountain

Karisimbi Gorilla Group (Susa-B)

Karisimbi group is a gorilla family that split from the original Susa-A group after a long and continuous conflicting fight in 2008 thus the name Susa-B or Karisimbi. Currently, the group is also known as Igisha who is the head silverback and comprises of 26 individual mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park.

Tracking this gorilla group is a bit difficult and if they wonder too far on a particular day, gorilla tracking can be cancelled. In other words, this group is the hardest to track since it inhabits the upper slopes of Mountain Karisimbi at an altitude of 4507m.

In order to make the trekking easier, trackers first go to the jungles tracing where the gorillas are and they are always able to locate and tell where the gorillas would be the next day. If they expect the family to be extremely far then it’s trekking is stopped. Therefore, this group is mainly ideal for trekkers who are physically fit

Amahoro Gorilla group

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The word Amahoro in Kinyarwanda means “Peaceful” this group comprises of 18 members including 2 silverbacks, they are the most peaceful and live on the mountain slopes of mount Bisoke found in Volcanoes National Park. According to the reports, the habituation of Amahoro group started in March 1996 and stopped in 1997 due to war. Later on, the group was re-opened for tourism in 2000. On May 4th, 2002, the dominant Silverback Amahoro died at about 31 years of age. After his death the two subordinate Silverbacks Ubumwe and Charles could not agree on who would step in Amahoro’s leadership.

Therefore, the group split into two; the main Amahoro led by Ubumwe and another led by Charles. Charles’s group was later called Amahoro B then Umubano. Under this group, the dominant silverback is known as Ubumwe a name derived from its character of being very peaceful and calm. Ubumwe is also known for his congenial nature, which caused him to lose a number of their members to other aggressive groups that are looking to expand their families for example, the Umubano group led by Charles. Although reaching the group involves climbing steep slope, it is mainly liked by visitors who appreciate this groups’ peaceful character and those that love and make peace in their nature

Sabyinyo Gorilla Group

This group is among the easiest and nearest accessed mountain gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park. It is from this group that a tracker is able to meet the biggest and largest Silverback in the whole of the National Park known as (Guhonda) weighing 220kg. He leads a group comprised of 16 members. The group derives its name from the Sabyinyo volcano which means in the local language “Old man’s teeth”. The group resides in the gentle slopes between Mount Sabyinyo and Gahinga.

Guhonda is the dominant silverback of the Sabyinyo group and has for a long time managed to keep its major rival silverback Ryango in isolation from the major group. Being the most powerful among gorilla groups, Guhonda has kept his challenger Ryango away from his group as a lonely silverback. Very few mountain gorillas exist in this gorilla group compared to the rest of other families but it is equally attractive

Hirwa Gorilla group

In Kinyarwanda language, Hirwa means ‘lucky’. It is out of luck that this group was created. The group was formed in 2006, when members of two families escaped from their original groups to form another group. Some members are believed to have escaped from the Agashya group whereas others from the Sabyinyo group and later on, other members joined to increase the number to 16 members thus making it the smallest group among other groups in Volcanoes National Park.

Indeed it is a luck family where by recordings has it that in 2011, the group was blessed with twins (Isango Gakuru and Isango Gato). The group is led by a silverback known as Munyinya and the group lives on the slopes of Mount Sabinyo and Gahinga Mountain. The dominant silverback is very strong and determined to protect all the individual mountain gorilla members in the family. If you seem to always be a lucky person then this is the gorilla family for you to trek while in Rwanda