Gorilla Groups of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda
Nestled within the heart of Central Africa, the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda stands as a testament to nature’s grandeur and majesty. With its verdant landscapes and rugged terrains, the park is home to 10 distinct Gorilla Groups, comprising approximately 380 mountain gorillas. This figure is especially significant when considering that the broader Virunga mountain ranges, which extend all the way to the Democratic Republic of Congo, harbor around 500 mountain gorillas. This means that a substantial portion of these magnificent creatures reside within Rwanda’s national park.
Mountain gorillas, renowned for their close-knit family structures, operate in groups led by a dominant silverback. The dynamics within these families and the very experience of encountering them vary based on the individual characteristics of each gorilla group. In Rwanda, these families have been classified into two main categories. The Shida and Beetsme groups, which boast the highest number of individual members, are designated for research. In contrast, the other groups are accessible to tourists, offering an intimate glance into the daily lives of these primates.
However, the privilege of witnessing these gorillas up close is limited. Mirroring the practices in Uganda, only eight individuals are permitted to visit a single gorilla group in Rwanda per day. This constraint ensures the availability of just 80 Gorilla permits daily. The journey to these families is no simple feat either. The challenge lies not only in locating the groups, who frequently move and construct new nests nightly but also in navigating the often demanding terrains of the park. Yet, with each challenge comes an opportunity. For those who might find the trek taxing, the services of paid porters stand ready to assist, ensuring that the breathtaking experience of coming face-to-face with a mountain gorilla is accessible to many.
In embarking on such a journey, one isn’t merely observing these magnificent beings; they’re stepping into a world where nature and wildlife converge, offering insights, memories, and stories that last a lifetime.
Details about the 10 habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park
Susa Gorilla Group (Susa A Family)
Location: Originally found in the foothills of the Virunga mountains in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.
Background: The Susa Group is particularly famous because it was the one researched by Dian Fossey during her time in Rwanda. This family was once the largest with over 42 members but has since split into multiple groups.
Notable Members: Various members have distinct characteristics, with some being known for their playful nature, while others, for their impressive size.
Attractions: The group is known for having multiple sets of twins, which is quite rare for gorillas.
Karisimbi Gorilla Group (Susa-B)
Location: In the slopes of Mount Karisimbi, the highest of the eight volcanoes.
Background: This group split from the original Susa Group and settled higher up the mountain slopes.
Notable Members: Contains several dominant silverbacks and several juveniles and babies.
Attractions: Due to its location, tracking this group can be more strenuous than some of the others. The reward is the scenic beauty of the higher altitude regions.
Sabyinyo Gorilla Group
Location: Found near the Sabyinyo volcano.
Background: Known for its giant silverbacks and being easily accessible to tourists.
Notable Members: One of the most dominant silverbacks in the region, Guhonda, is the leader of the group.
Attractions: Due to its close proximity to the park’s boundaries, it is among the easiest groups to track.
Amahoro Gorilla Group
Location: Mid-range in the Volcanoes National Park.
Background: “Amahoro” means “peace” in Kinyarwanda, which describes the group’s peaceful nature.
Notable Members: Led by a calm silverback, Ubumwe, which contributes to the group’s overall peaceful demeanor.
Attractions: To reach the Amahoro group, one must endure a slightly challenging hike, but it’s well worth it for the serene interactions.
Umubano Gorilla Group
Location: Various locations in the Volcanoes National Park.
Background: “Umubano” translates to “neighborliness”, reflecting the group’s origins. Originally part of the Amahoro group, the lead silverback Charles broke off to form this group.
Notable Members: Led by Charles, the silverback who formed the group after disputes with Ubumwe of the Amahoro group.
Attractions: Observing the dynamics between the two groups (Amahoro and Umubano) can be fascinating as they have shared history.
Agashya Gorilla Group
Location: In the Volcanoes National Park.
Background: The group was initially led by a silverback named Nyakarima but was later taken over by Agashya, meaning “the news.” Agashya took leadership by challenging and defeating Nyakarima.
Notable Members: Agashya, the dominant silverback, is known for his strategy of moving his group to different locations to avoid conflict with other silverbacks.
Attractions: With over 25 members, including females and youngsters, the group offers a fascinating dynamic to observe.
Kwitonda Gorilla Group
Location: On the slopes of Mount Muhabura in Volcanoes National Park.
Background: The group migrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo and is named after its dominant silverback, “Kwitonda,” which means “humble one.”
Notable Members: Contains several silverbacks, making it an interesting group in terms of hierarchical dynamics.
Attractions: It’s one of the larger groups, with over 20 members. Due to its size and the multiple silverbacks, the group has a rich social structure.
Hirwa Gorilla Group
Location: Various regions within the Volcanoes National Park.
Background: “Hirwa” means “the lucky one.” This group formed from different families, particularly from Sabyinyo and Agashya groups.
Notable Members: The group is led by a dominant silverback, and it’s interesting to see members from different families cohabitating.
Attractions: Known for the birth of twins in 2011, which is a rare occurrence for gorillas.
Bwenge Family Group
Location: On the slopes of Mount Bisoke in Volcanoes National Park.
Background: Named after its dominant silverback, “Bwenge,” meaning “brightness” or “intelligence.” The group has faced challenges, including the loss of several infants.
Notable Members: Led by Bwenge, the silverback, who formed the group after leaving his natal group.
Attractions: The group was featured in the movie “Gorillas in the Mist,” centered around the life of Dian Fossey.
Ugenda Gorilla Family
Location: In the Virunga region of Volcanoes National Park.
Background: “Ugenda” means “on the move,” which aptly describes this group that is often on the move across different terrains.
Notable Members: The group contains two silverbacks and several youngsters.
Attractions: Because of their constant movement, tracking the Ugenda family provides an adventurous experience for tourists.
Each of these gorilla families has unique dynamics and characteristics. When visiting, it’s essential to remember that these are wild animals, and it’s crucial to approach them with respect and caution.