Gorilla tracking groups in Rwanda, Where to See the Gorillas of Rwanda
In Rwanda, you may only track gorilla within Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans), a section of the bigger Virunga mountains. Approximately 480 mountain gorillas live in the Virunga complex and reside on the altitude range of 2,300 to 4,500 meters in the southern area of Virunga National Park (in the DRC), as well as the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and some in Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park.
Rwanda gorillas are divided into 2; those for study or research purposes which are strictly accessed by scientists plus researchers only. Among these are Beetsme and Pablo’s Shida’s which have the highest number of gorillas.
There are also ten habituated gorilla families that are for tourism purposes, so these are available for trekkers to visit. At most 8 people may visit each of the gorilla groups every day and you may spend at most one hour. Among these gorilla groups are the: Ugenda, Umubano, Susa group, Karinsimbi, Sabinyo, Hirwa, Amahoro, Bwengye, Group 13 (the Agasha group) and the Kwitonda. All these are mountain gorillas,” Eckhart, G.; Lanjouw, A. (2008). Mountain Gorillas: Biology, Conservation and Coexistence.” The Johns Hopkins University Press
Gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
- Susa Group (Susa A Family)– this is the gorilla group that was researched by Dian Fossey.
It derived its name from River Susa which flows in the home range of these gorillas. The family is the most challenging to trek since it normally stays up in the higher ranges of the mountains however the RDB’s Tourism and Conservation trackers will know in advance how the group is located the day before in advance for the next trackers. Sometimes tourists have been barred from tracking the group because of its distant location. This group is very impressive with a family size of 28 gorilla individuals with three Silverbacks. This was the biggest gorilla group prior to separating into two. The group had 42 individuals and when visited people would see so many gorillas scattered in the entire area. This group is renowned for its infant twins; Byishimo and Impano which are pretty playful. It as well has one of Rwanda’s oldest habituated gorillas like Poppy who was born in 1976. Poppy is thought to be among the gorillas which were in the initial gorilla group that Dian Fossey’s conducted her research.
Normally, a mother dumps one of its twins, since it is nearly hard for her to take care of the two infants. As we observed the mother – Nyabitondore, take good care of her twins, Impano and Byishimo, it was occasionally imagined that she would ran mad from this big task. However now you can see the twins playing around amidst other gorillas.
- Sabyinyo Group
Family size: Sabinyo group comprises of 13 members including 2 Silverbacks, one of whom is the largest of all the silverbacks in the volcanoes national park. The group is easily accessible as it roams the gentle slopes between Mount Sabyinyo and Gahinga. Gorillas trekking might take anything from ten minutes to an hour to access, but ordinarily, the slopes are not too daunting (though can be slippery after rain).
- Amahoro Group
The Amahoro group (peaceful) which lives on the slopes of Mt Visoke, comprises of 18 members including 2 Silverback. Accessing this group is very strenuous since trackers have to hike over a steep slope. Members of this group are the most peaceful and gentle.
- Agashya Group
This was the Group 13 but recently changed the name to Agashya (meaning special). It is comprised of 27 members including 1 Silverback. It is the first group to be habituated. At the time of its habituation, it comprised of only 13 members. Presently it has grown to a size of 27 members. It lives alongside the Sabinyo group and sometimes moves deeper into the mountain.
- Umubano (‘Live Together’) Group
With 13 members, including 2 Silverbacks, this group was formed by members of the Amahoro family after one of its silverbacks, Charles, broke off to form his own group. They live in the same territory the Amahoro Group.
- Kwitonda Group
Inhabits the lower slopes of Mt Muhabura and comprises of 23 members, including 4 Silverbacks. It is named after the dominant Silverback of the group called Kwitonda (humble one). This group, too, poses a big challenge to trackers.
- Hirwa Group
This is relatively a new group and comprises of 16 members, including 1 Silverback
It was formed from two different families – Group 13 and Sabyinyo. The group marauds the foothills of Mt Sabyinyo on the Gahinga side. Its two twins were born at the beginning of 2011.
- Karisimbi Group
As the name suggests, Karisimbi family lives on Mt Karisimbi and comprises of 16 members including 2 Silverbacks. This group is a result of the split into 2 groups by Susa. The hike to this group is also very challenging.
- Ugenda Group
This made up of 11 members including 2 Silverbacks. Ugenda means mobile. This group inhabits Mt Bisoke and the hike is relatively not very difficult.
- Bwenge Group
Comprises of 11 members including 1 Silverback, Bwenge means wisdom. This group roams around Mt Bisoke and the hike is also relatively easy.