Gorilla trekking safaris are highly demanded safaris in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Trekking gorillas is a once in a lifetime opportunity by only few people who know what good things are. Rwanda is one of the countries where tourists can track the mountain gorillas. When you visit Rwanda for gorilla trekking safaris, you will track one of the 10 habituated gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park. They include;
Sabyinyo gorilla group
Sabyinyo is the easiest and quickest gorilla group to track in Volcanoes National Park and have their home range in the gentle slopes between Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabyinyo. This interesting group is led by the Giant silverback called Ruhondo, who kicked his main challenger Ryango out of the family making him to live a lonely life. Currently the group is composed of 13 members including 1 silverback and Ruhondo is believed to be the largest silverback in Volcanoes National Park weighing about 485 pounds. Other members include 3 adult females and the rest are juveniles. This group was named after Sabyinyo Volcano they are often sighted there. Sabyinyo is locally translated as “old man’s teeth”.
Susa A family
Susa group was one of the groups studied by Dian Fossey during her stay (1967-1985) within Volcanoes National Park. This group was named after River Susa that flows through its home range and used to be a large group comprising of over 40 members before it was split into two families in 2008. The split was greatly attributed to the family conflicts that were associated with the family just like any other family. Currently the group is comprised of 33 members including 2 silverbacks and the breakaway group is Karisimbi or Susa B group. The interesting thing about this group that captures the attention of tourists is their playful twins (Impano and Byishimo). Even after splitting, the group still remains the largest group in the whole of Volcanoes National Park, and is the hardest to track.
Karisimbi group/Susa B
Members of this group used to be members of Susa group before splitting in 2008. It is also called Susa B and has its home range on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi (hence that’s where the name of the group was derived from) and is also difficult to trek for most tourists. It is therefore tracked by physically fit tourists who need difficult areas but it offers one of the most rewarding experiences. There are currently 16 individuals in the group including 2 silverbacks.
Agashya family/13 group
Agashya means special and the group is sometimes referred as 13 group because it had only 13 members during habituation. It was the first group to be habituated in Volcanoes National Park and currently it is comprised of 25 individuals including 1 silverback, 12 mature females, 2 sub-adult females, 3 juveniles and 7 infants. The group was initially headed by Nyakarima but was dethroned by Agashya (meaning news) who is now the leader and the group was named after him. The family had to relocate to another area to prevent Nyakarima from attacking them. This group now occupies the same area as Sabyinyo group (between Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga) though in higher and deeper place.
Ugenda is a Kinyarwanda word meaning “mobile’ or “on the move”. Just like their name suggests, they are always roaming from one place to another and building new nests every single night. The group is found on Karisimbi area made up if 11 individuals including 2 silverbacks. Because they are always mobile, it is difficult to ascertain where tracking them is difficult or simple because today it might be east then tomorrow it becomes difficult when they move to another location.
Amahoro is a Kinyarwanda word meaning serenity/ peacefulness because the group is known to be peaceful and friendly with other groups, and this is one of the reasons as to why their Silverback Ubumwe lost some of the group members to the Umubano group. Up to date, this group has lived to its name and has continued to be the most peaceful group in Volcanoes National Park. You need to visit this group and see how humble and harmonious Ubumwe is, you will get touched. The group is presently comprised of 18 members including 2 silverbacks, 5 adult females, 2 sub-adult males, 2 blackbacks, 2 young ones and 5 infants. This group is always seen roaming the slopes of Mount Bisoke hence it is not so difficult to track them hence be ready to endure a fair terrain to find them.
Kwitonda is a Kinyarwanda word meaning the “humble one”. This migrant group from DRC was named after its dominant silverback Kwitonda. They have their home base on the slopes of Mount Muhabura which makes it a bit strenuous to track them because they sometimes move up to the upper slopes but it is exciting to track them and worth your effort. Kwitonda group is currently composed of 23 members including 4 silverbacks. Tourists should not be discouraged by the level of difficult involved in tracking because every group involves some level of difficulty to track. The difficulty is part of the experience in an African jungle.
This is one of the new groups in Volcanoes National Park and was formed from 2 separate groups (Sabyinyo group and Agashya group). The group name was derived from its process of formation, mainly attributed to luck. It was formed in 2006 and is currently composed of 9 members including 1 silverback. Tourists can track this group from the base of Mount Sabyinyo and the Gahinga side of the mountain (Sabyinyo). One of the fascinating things about this group is that it has playful twins who were born in 2011. It is difficult to predict whether it will be easy or difficult to track them because the level of difficulty depends on the location of the group on that particular day. Just be ready for the trek by having the required equipment and dressing appropriately.
Umubano is a Kinyarwanda word that means to live together. The members of this group where part of Amahoro group. They used to be under silverback Ubumwe but due to persistent battles between the two silverbacks (Charles and Ubumwe), leading to the former challenging the power of the leader Ubumwe hence Charles finally succeeded take some of the members to form the Umubano group. He is now the leader of the group. The group is composed of 13 members including 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 1 sub-adult male and 7 infants.
Bwenge is a Kinyarwanda word meaning wisdom, the silverback of the family is called Bwenge and the family was created in 2007. This interesting group occupies between Bisoke and Karisimbi mountains, but has gone through tough times where at least 6 of its infants have died. Luckily for the group, it has recovered over the years and presently it is comprised of 11 members including 1 silverback (Bwenge). Don’t miss to visit this group that features in the “Gorilla in the mist” movie.
Therefore based on the riveting and fascinating descriptions of the ten (10) groups in Volcanoes National Park, you can choose to track any that has captured your attention and achieve your lifetime dream of meeting face to face with the mountain gorillas.