Rwanda Gorilla Groups
As by 2016, Habituated Gorilla Groups in Rwanda are 10 in number and are the ones available for trekking. The 10 adapted gorilla groups are dedicated to tourism activities.
These are the ones gorilla visitors tour on a daily basis with a maximum of 8 individuals being allowed per group. Gorilla tourists are allowed one hour upon seeing the gorillas in the jungles. The groups in question are Sabinyo, Susa group, Amahoro, Group 13 (Agasha group), Umubano, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Bwengye, Ugenda and Karinsimbi
In Rwanda, mountain gorilla tracking is only done in the Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans). This park is a portion of the vast Virunga (mountains). At minimum, about 480 mountain gorillas dwell in this (Virunga) composite and survive at elevations oscillating from 2,300- 4,500 metres in the lower parts of Virunga National Park (DRC), and Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda and a few being in Mgahinga National Park found in southwestern Uganda.
Rwanda’s Gorilla families are distributed into two sections, that is, those for research or study purposes which are only accessible by researchers and scientists. These groups are Beetsme and Pablo’s Shida’s and both have the biggest number of individual members. The second section of mountain gorillas are the ones in the 10 groups habituated for tourism agenda. They are the ones trekked by trackers throughout the year. A maximum 8 folks are permitted to access each group.
- Susa Group or Susa A Family
It is this very gorilla group which Dian Fossey, a famous gorilla conservationist eminently studied. This group gets the name from Susa River that streams through their habitat range. Susa group is the most complex in trekking because the elevation range is too high into the mountains to climb. However, Tourism & Conservation trackers of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) would best know perfectly in advance where the group members are a day before trekking by visitors takes place. Occasionally, tourists have been stopped from trekking the group due its far location.
The group is very extraordinary with a household size as of now of 28 gorilla individuals. The group has three Silverbacks (male gorillas). Suza was the largest group earlier before it divided into two. The bigger gorilla cluster had 42 members. Visiting and observing the gorillas was massive and the animals could be seen all over the place. This family is also popular with the young playful twins christened Impano and Byishim. Suza group also has one of the oldest identified familiarized gorillas called Poppy. This was born in 1976 and is believed to be from one of the original gorilla groups by Dian Fossey.
- Karisimbi Family or Susa-B
This group fragmented from the Original family, Susa or Suza A and is now code-named Karisimbi Group or Susa-B. The group that always stays on the slopes of Karisimbi Volcano (4507M), the highest elevation in Rwanda has 15 members. Karisimbi Group is well appropriate to visits for more serious trekkers. The group established their home range extraordinary up on the gradients of Karisimbi caldera. As a result, a tour to this cluster may end up as a full-day trekking adventure. This group at times roams to higher elevation, making tracking very challenging. However, the tourism and conservation guides from RDB know very well in advance where to locate the group the next day. This gorilla family being in a distant area, tracking it may from time to time be prohibited.
- Sabyinyo Gorilla Group
Sabyinyo is the most easily reachable gorilla group in Rwanda. The group is headed by the dominant silverback one, Guhonda, the biggest silverback of all groups and is famous for his gigantic physical image. Guhonda has managed to keep his main competitor, Ryango, out of his group as a lonesome silverback. This group has fewer members unlike in the other families. Despite the smaller number, the members are equally inspiring as a family. This Sabinyo group derived its name from the Sabyinyo volcano, literally meaning “the old man’s teeth”. The group is among the closest ones to the park’s edge and has eight members including 1 Silverback (the biggest in the park); 3 female adults, one Non adult female plus 2 Juveniles and a baby.
- Amahoro Gorilla Group
Locally meaning “peaceful group”, Amahoro group is the most pacific of all the gorilla families. This group consists of 17 individual members: 1 Silverback, 5 Adult females, 2 Black backs, 2 Sub adult males and 2 Juveniles and 5 Babies. Though, peace at this group comes at an expense. The silverback in the group, Ubumwe, is so peaceful, easy going and tranquil that he has lost any group members to Charles, the silverback at the Umubano group. To access Amahoro group, one must withstand a relatively sheer ascent but the hike is soundly worth an effort just in case bumps into contact with this peaceful group.
- Umubano Group
Umubano in local Kinyarwanda language means Neighborliness. Umubano Gorilla Group has 11 individuals which comprise of one Silverback, one Sub adult male, three adult females plus 6 youngsters. Umubano members were at first part of Amahoro group but split away following a bickering between the family’s dominant silverback, Ubumwe and the now the leader of Umubano, Charles.
When Charles developed into a mature silverback of the same level as Ubumwe, he could not continue taking orders from Ubumwe and chose to stage a resistance and opposed him. The bickering amongst the two silverbacks persisted for months. At the end, Charles was able to snatch a few females from Ubumwe and made his own group alongside Amahoro. That is how Umubano came about. Ever since Charles formed his group, he has earned respect and acknowledgement from Ubumwe as a fellow elder. On numerous occasions, interactions amongst the two silverbacks have been peaceful with no more fighting ever since each of them got independent.
- 13 Group (Agasha Group)
At first when habituated, this gorilla family had 13 members only, deriving the name from the numbers. At the present, the group has around 25 members that include 1 Silverback, 12 Adult females, 2 Sub adult females, 3 Juvenile and 7 Babies. Initially, this group was headed by Nyakarima whom Agashya literally meaning “the news” challenged. Agashya undeniably made news by first observing and assessing the strengths of Nyakarima. He eventually challenged him into a severe fight and took off with the entire group. To Nyakarima, this was a shocking exceptional event in the gorilla history of Rwanda. Agashya decided to move up the volcano to separate his group in a secure environment and ensured that Nyakarima did not get to know there whereabouts. Since then, Agashya has increased numbers of his group by seizing individuals from other groups and integrate other lone gorillas into his. This has swiftly raised the group members up to 25 down from 12 individuals.
Agashya is recognized at the first signal of trouble, to take his whole family up to the upper point of the volcano. Being on top of the volcano for isolation purpose, this group is hard to visit and tourists usually take many hours to see its gorilla members. Even though it is fatiguing to visit this group, it is always magical to see mountain gorillas on top of the world.
- Kwitonda Group
This group of 18 members is headed by a silverback by the name of Kwitonda, interpreted locally as ‘Humble one’. The family has two silverbacks plus one black back. Having travelled from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), this group is far making it a discreetly challenging for trekking. This gorilla family and Susa B are the most difficult groups to track.
- Hirwa Group
Hirwa means Lucky one. The group came into formation on June, 17th 2006 when trekkers witnessed its creation by amalgamation of its members from two different families, that is Group 13 and Sabyinyo. At its formation, Hirwa was a very small group then. But as a blessing would prevail, more members joined the group and currently has 9 individuals including 1 Silverback, 3 Adult females, 2 Sub adult females and 3 young ones. Even though it is a new group on the gorilla block, Hirwa demonstrates strength and holds unity in the midst of all other reputable groups.
- Bwenge Family
Bwenge group has 11 individuals with one Silverback. This family is regularly seen on the gradients of the Karisoke Volcano. A silverback, one Bwenge heads the group that was formed in 2007 following his departure from his biological group. He was slowly but surely joined by females that broke away from other groups. The group was named after him. Overtime, Bwenge group has had some problems related to deaths of its 6 children. Despite those challenges, the group now is growing solid with 2 effective births in the recent years on top of being commanded by a proficient silverback leader. The trekking exercise to see this group is a tough one and one must hike up the hill for about three hours, rising to an approximated elevation of 600m. The tracking trails are at times mud-covered and precipitous. This same group was also the one that was highlighted or featured in the famous movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist’.
- Ugenda Family
Ugende means ‘Traveller’. This Gorilla Group is found in Karisimbi area of Rwanda. Its family size is made up of 11 gorilla members with 2 silverbacks. Karisimbi means ‘being on the move’ and was baptized so because it was always wandering from one location to another. Not being in one habitation, tracking this group may be relatively tough as may involve hiking to several points in a bid to locate them.
To do gorilla trekking in Rwanda, look at some of the following packages ranging from one to several days:-