Just like humans, mountain gorillas too do live in families. With fewer than 1004 individuals that are left on earth today, Volcanoes National Park is that one incredible safari destination you should think of exploring while on Rwanda gorilla safari. This park alone features 10 habituated groups where treks are always conducted. For starters, the gorilla families are divided into 2 sections-gorilla families set for the research study and tourism purposes. If you are researcher and scientist or dream to be one, then Beetsme and Pablo’s shida’s are the perfect families; these families have the biggest number of gorillas. Visitors who are interested in gorilla tracking visit the 10 habituated gorilla families which include the Susa family, Karisimbi, Sabinyo family, Amahoro family, Agasha family, Kwitonda gorilla family, Umubano family, Hirwa, Bwengye family and Ugenda family.
The Susa gorilla family (Susa A family)
This is the most demanding gorilla family in terms of hiking but also the most rewarding with 42 individuals. Remarkably, this group is where Dian Fossey carried out her study from and it got its name from the Susa River that flows across the Giants habitat. Though it is the most demanding gorilla family to track, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Tourism and Conservation trackers will be sent to the field to ascertain location of the mountain gorilla family prior the next gorilla tracking group. Due to its long distance, visitors end up spending a day hiking and at times tracking is minimized if the gorilla family in this area is very far however; it is the most impressive gorilla family of 28 individuals and 3 silverbacks. Like humans, as time went on members had to break away from this family which explains the reduction in family group from 42-28 gorillas. However, this gorilla group is a famous home for the playful juvenile twins “Byishimo” and “Impano” and it is family to discover the ancient habituated gorillas, “Poppy” that came into existence during Dian Fossey’s research study in 1976. Later, the mother gorilla “Nyabitondore” found it hard taking care of the twins and hence she abandoned one however; these twins can be tracked bouncing and playful like nothing ever occurred between them. Of all the habituated gorilla groups in the Volcanoes National Park, the Susa family is most demanding and sought about by tourists to track mountain gorillas.
- The Karisimbi gorilla family (Susa B)
Initially, this gorilla group was in “Susa group A” but split to form “Susa B” famously called “Karisimbi gorilla family”. This group has 15 members and they are easily tracked on Karisimbi volcano slopes (4507 meters)-Rwanda’s highest peak. For serious hikers, this is the best gorilla family for you to track the Giant Apes on the slopes of the Karisimbi caldera. Note that all the Susa gorilla families mean a full day trek experience due to the distant and high altitude that requires much time hiking. However, the park management simplifies the tracking experience through field researchers who are sent prior visitors to sight the possible location to track the gorilla family.
Need the most accessible gorilla group to track? Sabinyo group is the perfect and easily reached family for you to track the most muscular silverback “Guhonda”. Guhonda is the bulkiest silverback in the whole of Volcanoes National Park and famously the “Guhonda” has for long kept “Ryango silverback” in total isolation from the family. Although the family has the least individuals (8 members in 2014) in the park, they are equitably magnificent as a group. However, Sabinyo gorilla family derived its name from the Sabyinyo volcano meaning “The old man’s teeth”. It is closely located to the Volcanoes National Park with 1 muscular silverback in the park, 3 females, 1 non adult female, 2 young ones and 1 baby.
Amahoro means “peaceful family”, this gorilla family is the calmest family in the Volcanoes National Park with 17 members, 1 silverback, 2 black backs, 5 female adults, 2 sub adult males, 2 young ones and 5 babies. You need to pay a visit here to share the total harmony with these humble creatures! Ubumwe-the silverback in this family is so harmonious, easy going and relaxed, though he lost his family to Charles in the Umubano family. However, to access the Amahoro gorilla family a client has to bear with fair terrain hike on mount Visoke slopes for this restful gorilla family.
Previously, this gorilla family had only 13 individuals during the habituation and thus the name “13 group”. Currently, the family boasts of 25 individuals, 1 silverback, 12 adult females, 2 sub adult females, 3 juveniles and 7 babies. Incredibly, it is from this family where “Nyakarima” was a leader, and who was also defeated by “Agasha” which means “The news”. As the name suggests “news”, Agasha made news if you watched and estimated Nyakarima’s strengths which in turn defeated him during an intense fight which led Agasha to conquer Nyakarima’s family. It was something surprising for Nyakarima in the gorilla history. Agasha had to climb on top of the volcano to safe guard his family and ensuring Nyakarima never tracked them. Continuously, Agasha has annexed several lonely gorilla families which explain an increase in his family from 12-25 individuals. Probably, this is the most troublesome silverback when it comes to assimilating other lonely individuals and he has been sighted climbing on top of the volcano even when tourists go to track them because he feels another silverback is intruding to challenge him. Following this gorilla family is one of the breathtaking moments but it is worth as it rewards with remarkable sight at gentle Giants on top of the world.
A family of 18 individuals is led by famous silverback “Kwitonda” meaning “Humble one” with 2 other silverbacks and 1 silverback. This family originated from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and they tend to live far away and hence it is one of the hardest families to trek.
Bwenge gorilla family
A gorilla family of 11 members and 1 silverback “Bwenge” can be tracked on the Karisoke Volcano slopes. The gorilla group was founded in 2007 when the silverback left his original family and joined by several females from other families. It was tough moment for this family after 6 infants who died but currently the family is gaining strength from 2 newly born babies in the previous years and capability of their silverback. Tracking gorillas in this family is challenging as it involves a tourist to hike up the hills 3 hours in a 600 meter elevation and the trailheads in most cases are muddy and steep. However, this gorilla family is one of the few habituated gorilla families to appear in the movie “Gorillas in the Mist”. With “Wisdom” you too can recreate your gorilla family in the Mist trek with the Bwenge family!
Ugenda gorilla family-“Being on move”
Just at Karisimbi area-Volcanoes National Park, encounter a family of 11 individuals and 2 silverbacks. Like the name suggests, this family is always on move and hence the tourists visiting this family for gorilla tracking won’t be stationary but they have to move to trace for these impressive creatures.
Umubano means “neighborliness” and this group comprises of 11 members, 1 silverback, 1 sub adult male, 3 adult females and 6 babies. This family originated from Amahoro and split when the dominant silverback “Ubumwe” was challenged by Charles, the current leader of Umubano family. However, time changed when Charles matured as a silverback and could not withstand the orders Ubumwe used to pass on him and hence staged a war and challenged Ubumwe for several weeks and months. Charles then annexed some females and started new family called “Umubano gorilla family” but they ensured mutual interaction between them. Come and realize value of living together as a family!
This is a newly created gorilla group that existed from 2 distinct groups that is Agasha and the Sabinyo gorilla family. It is a family of 9 individuals; 1 silverback, 3 female adults, 2 sub female adults and 3 babies and tourists come for gorilla tracking around the base of mount Sabyinyo on the side of mount Gahinga. Interestingly, you will have the most exciting moment with the twins in this gorilla family. The experience that you will attain in this family depends on the location where one is tracking the gorillas from while at Hirwa gorilla family. Enjoy your trek with the “lucky one” family!