Gorilla trekking is a magnet for many travelers, and has endlessly continued to bless the magical Rwanda with enormous number of tourists, who come just to have a glance at these mighty apes. Only 3 countries are lucky to be home to one of the world’s most sought after creatures, the mountain gorillas. These are only 1000 in number and can be found in lush jungles of south – western Uganda, Northern Rwanda and eastern D.R. Congo.
In Uganda, travelers can meet the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga national park, in Rwanda it is carried out in Volcanoes National park while Congo it is done in Virunga national park.
Particularly, a handful of gorilla families has been habituated and ready for trekking all year round in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National park. The park is home to up to 12 habituated gorilla families, creating an opportunity for 96 people to meet mountain gorillas on a daily basis.
Each gorilla family in Volcanoes national park is unique in its own way, ranging from the location, group size, character, family composition and history / profile, and so much more. Below are some of the habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes national park in Rwanda.
Susa family (Susa A)
This is the largest and most famous gorilla group in Volcanoes national park. It is currently made up of 33 members with 2 silverbacks.
Susa A was at first had a population of 42 members before it separated. It is this size of the family that pulls a remarkable number of visitors to track it, including the rare twins found in this group.
Susa A lives in the lower base of Mountain Karisimbi and it is one of the pioneer groups that were trekked by Dian Fossey. It is the most challenging group to trek but still the most preferred by all trekkers in Volcanoes national park.
Karisimbi group (Susa B)
Just like the name, this family split from the original Susa family in 2008 and became independent. It is made up of up to 16 members with two silverbacks. It lives at the upper slopes of Karisimbi Mountain, so trekking this group involves hiking to higher slopes of mount Karisimbi.
Hirwa depicts the “Lucky one” and its habituation was completed in 2006. It is a group of 16 members who joined from other families, it is located at the foothills of Gahinga and Sabyinyo volcanoes. In 2011, the group was gifted with a set of twins.
This group got its name from mountain Sabyinyo. It inhabits the slopes between Mountain Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga within the Virunga ranges. Made up of 13 gorilla members and 2 mighty silverbacks, the group contains one of the largest silverbacks in Volcanoes national park. Trekking the Sabyinyo family also offers a rewarding experiences.
Umubano split from Amahoro family after serious clashes between lead silverbacks. Umubano’s Charles failed to come to terms with Ubumwe – Amahoro’s dominant silverback and so they decided to split peacefully. Since then, the families have remained strong allies that sometimes they meet and spend together an entire day peacefully.
Bwenge gorilla group
Bwenge is made of 11 members with 1 silver back. It lives within the Karisoke mountain slopes. The family is led by silverback Bwenge. Habituation of Bwenge group was completed in 2007 at a time when silverback Bwenge separated from his original family and other female gorillas later joined him. Following the tragedy that befell Bwenge family where six infants died, it has since gained numbers after the birth of 2 babies and the able leader who is in control of the group. This family is one of the most famous after its appearance in the movie “Gorillas in the Mist”.
Agashya family – 13 group
Currently, Agashya family has over 25 members, at the time of habituation, Agashya was first habituated with only 13 members, hence its name. The family got its name from a dominant silverback, Agashya who defeated the former leader Nyakarima. Agashya occupies the same territory with Sabyinyo group.
Amahoro is made up of up to 18 members including two silverbacks led by Ubumwe as a dominant silverback. Amahoro is a Kinyarwanda word which means peace”. It is with no doubt that it has been truly the most peaceful group in the park for all the years since it was first habituated.
Amahoro group lives on the slopes of Mountain Karisimbi; therefore trekking it is a bit hectic due to the rugged slopes of Mount Karisimbi but meeting the group is worth every sweat.
This family is led by silverback Kwitonda. This name means “the humble one”. The group previously lived in Democratic Republic of Congo before it resettled to Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park.
Pablo Gorilla Family
Pablo family is named after the lead silver back, Pablo who was been at the helm of this group for one year and later overthrown by Cantsbee. The family is under close monitoring of Dian Fossey fund, due to its close relationship with Dian Fossey’s original Group 5 which she monitored before her death in 1985.
This is one of the first families to be habituated during the time of Dian Fossey; therefore the family has a great history. It derives its name from its head silverback Titus. The family was first threatened by poachers in which most of the members perished, but the group later regained numbers steadily and now it is wholly habituated for trekking all year round.
The Muhoza gorilla family is named after the 460 pound silverback Muhoza. It is made up of 12 mountain gorillas of different ages – infants, juveniles and mother gorillas. It is the newest gorilla family in volcanoes national park, under the leadership of the young Muhoza. It is located on the lower mountain slopes, and so becomes probably the easiest family to trek in Volcanoes National Park.