After acquiring your gorilla permit, the rangers assign trackers to gorilla groups that they will visit. As of 2023 there are 12 habituated gorilla groups in the Volcanoes National Park. There are other groups habituated fir research and these can only be accessed by researchers/ scientists and they have the largest members of the family and they are Beetsme and Pablo’s Shida’s.
The groups that are habituated groups for tourism can be visited daily and are open to tourism unless when the gorillas move further to hard to access places such as very high slopes. These 10 groups are visited by a maximum of 8 persons and trackers are allowed to view the gentle giants for a maximum of one hour. This means that 80 visitors can possibly enjoy a gorilla trek each day within the Volcanoes National Park.
Please note that on the D-Day for gorilla trekking, you will be assigned to a gorilla group that fits your level of fitness and these are the habituated gorilla groups for tourism;
Within the Volcanoes National Park, there are several habituated mountain gorilla families that are booked for visitors. The habituated gorilla groups are divided into two;
- Habituated Gorilla Groups for Tourism
- Habituated Gorilla Groups for Research
These groups are not settled in one place. These different groups are mobile foraging in a particular range and their position will keep on changing from time to time. Mountain gorillas habitually climb higher in the dry season and come down during the rains. They can move on due to tension from wild gorillas and individuals who will often join other groups.
Gorilla Groups Habituated for Tourism
Here are some of the groups currently habituated for gorilla safaris in Volcanoes National Park:
Below are the twelve habituated gorilla groups for tourist visits in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park;
- Amahoro gorilla group
- Sabyinyo gorilla group
- Hirwa gorilla group
- Kwitonda group
- Umubano group
- Karisimbi (Susa B)
- Susa A
- Agashya (Group 13)
The Susa was the largest group with 41 gorillas. Today the group split into two; Susa A and Susa B. This was the hardest family to track as it tended to vary high in the mountains but the advance team of RDB Tourism & Conservation trekkers could always locate the whereabouts of the group in advance.
This group had a pair of twins namely Byishimo and Impano.
Susa A gorilla family
The Susa A gorilla group is a unique gorilla family of its own and consists of the largest members with presently 28 gorillas. Originally, it composed of about 41 individuals and incredibly, it is a group Dian Fossey conducted her gorilla study. The family is popular for rare twin births (Impano and Byishimo) and it dwells on high mountains, thus requiring physical wellness in you to trek it.
Susa B (Karisimbi group)
Karisimbi group split from the Susa A group and there exist 2 silverbacks. It is one of the hardest gorilla families to track in Volcanoes National Park because they live on the upper slopes of Karisimbi Volcano. If you enjoy hiking adventures then it is a perfect group to explore. A total of about 15 mountain gorillas make up this gorilla family.
Sabyinyo gorilla group is named after Sabyinyo Volcano and it is headed by Guhonda. It is comprised of fewer members but rewards trekkers with incredible experiences. It is one of the gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park that dwells near the park headquarters.
The Sabyinyo Group has roughly 12 individuals, that includes; two silverback gorillas which are normally found quite close the edge of the forest amidst Sabyinyo and Gahinga
Amahoro gorilla family group takes its name from the word ‘Amahoro’ that denotes peaceful. It is one of the amazing gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park worth exploring on a Rwanda gorilla trek. This group is under the leadership of the calm Ubumwe. Amahoro group stays uphill and to visit them, you will trek through the steep slopes.
The Amahoro comprises 17 members and it means “peaceful”. For one to reach Amahoro you must encounter a moderate steep climb though the climb is worth it once in touch with this peaceful group.
Umubano group takes its name from Umubano, a word that means living together. It is headed by Charles silverback who left Amahoro family and now, the group has 11 members.
Most members of the Umubano family belonged to the Amahoro members but later on split after the dominant silverback got challenged by Charles. When a young silverback tests the abilities of the dominant silverback he ought to steal some females from the prevailing group in order to create his own family; thereby forming Umubano.
Agasha (Group 13)
Group 13 is the name of the group came from the 13 members of this group when it was first habituated.
Currently the group has a proximity of 25 members which is a very productive sign for conservation and the energy put forth by RDB Tourism & Conservation to safeguard the gorillas’ habitat.
The Karisimbi Group, which broke off from the Susa group a few years ago, they live in the Mount Karisimbi areas of Volcanoes National Park.
The Hirwa Group has about 11 members and these include one silverback and another pair of twins.
The Hirwa group is made up of members who broke away from about 3 groups, Sabyinyo, Susa and Agashya (Group 13). This happened when Munyinya silverback gorilla left Susa with 2 female gorillas and others to make his own family.
The Hirwa and Susa group are the only known surviving twins of mountain gorillas in the world.
Kwitonda gorilla family
Kwitonda gorilla group is headed by Kwitonda silverback and its name denotes the humble one. This family was originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and migrated to Volcanoes National Park. Trekking this gorilla group requires some moderate physical wellness since its members reside on the upper slopes of Mount Muhabura. About 18 gorillas exist in this group alone.
Ugenda gorilla group
This is one of the interesting gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park with amazing story to tell. The group is always on move mostly around Karisimbi area and it has 11 individuals.
Bwenge gorilla family
Named after Bwenge silverback, Bwenge gorilla group left other families to make his. The word Bwenge denotes wisdom and the group resides on the slopes between Bisoke and Karisimbi Volcanoes.
Gorilla Groups Habituated for Research
Here are the groups that are habituated for scientific research:
- Pablo group ( 44 gorillas in September 2010 )
- Kuryama group ( 15 gorillas in September 2010 )
- Ntambara group ( 11 gorillas in September 2010 )
- Isabukuru group ( 11 gorillas in September 2010 )
- Inshuti group ( 6 gorillas in September 2010 )
- Titus group ( 6 gorillas in September 2010 )
- Urugamba group ( 6 gorillas in September 2010 )
Choosing A Gorilla Group to Trek in Rwanda 2024
Choosing a gorilla group family to visit in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is never an easy task whether you are first time or second time guest. Everyone has their choice of gorilla family to trek –it can be the easiest or the hardest. There are several factors that determine the kind of gorilla family group you can trek on Rwanda gorilla safari in Volcanoes N/Park.
Note a maximum of 8 guests are allowed to visit only one habituated gorilla family each day. In Rwanda, 12 fully habituated gorilla families are all open to tourists each day and include Susa A, Agashya gorilla family, Ugenda, Susa B (Karisimbi), Sabyinyo, Umubano, Kwitonda, Amahoro, Hirwa, Titus, Bwenge, Pablo group and others.
Why are gorilla families assigned on actual day of trekking?
The main reason why gorilla families are allocated on the actual date of visit is the fact that mountain gorillas move from one point to the other. These apes aren’t stationed in one area and the advantage of allocating families on the actual date of your visit is that each morning, trackers are sent to the jungles and they ascertain where these apes are while visitors are still undergoing briefing. The trackers get in touch with the park ranger guides and this has eased the-would be long trek to shorter journey.
On the actual visit to see mountain gorillas, the park official allocates families per group consisting of 8 guests and a park guide leads one group. There could also be group porters accompanying you and their work is mainly to help guests with their heavy luggage.
Factors to consider prior choosing your gorilla group
Before you embark or choose a gorilla group to visit, first, you should have an idea of where that gorilla family group is found. Different gorilla groups exist in different parks of particular countries. In Rwanda, the commonly visited gorilla family groups include Sabyinyo, Karisimbi (Susa B), and Titus, Umubano, Amahoro, Ugenda, Hirwa, Kwitonda, Bwenge and more.
When choosing a gorilla family to visit, consider where your lodge is found to ease access to the briefing area and start time to explore your family. Some accommodation facilities can be far from the briefing area –Kinigi and this may require waking up early in the morning and drive to where your trek will begin from.
Various gorilla families require certain levels of physical fitness. A case of Susa A group, a visitor should be fit enough to enjoy a complete trek to interact with this group members in the wild. Always communicate early to the tour operator and the park official about your fitness levels such that the easier to track group can be allocated to you.
Availability of permits
Before you think of actual visit to see a gorilla family, first, you must have obtained a gorilla permit in advance. A permit should be one of the first things for you to book when you think of a gorilla tour and each permit is issued at USD 1500 per person while in Rwanda and in Uganda USD 700 per person.
Rwanda gorillas can be spotted at any time of the year, although the most favorable period is during the dry season. The dry season is the perfect period to enjoy a gorilla trek less of muddy trails, dense vegetation cover and more- these are influenced by less or no rainfall. The best dry months of the year: June, July, August, September, December, January and February.