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With about 1004 mountain gorillas that still thrive on earth today, Volcanoes National Park is that one special destination you need to pay a visit to catch a glimpse at these unique creatures while you are on safari in Africa. While on gorilla safari in Rwanda, below the ten habituated families set for your magical encounters with these rare primates while in their natural habitat.

Susa (Susa A)

If you are interested in exploring that one most demanding gorilla family then the Susa ‘A’ group should be a must for you to visit. At first, this group comprised of 42 individuals and it is where Dian Fossey conducted her study.  It derived its name from the Susa River that flows across the Giants habitat. Hiking through this family can be strenuous but so rewarding with incredible moments with some of its 28 members and 3 silverbacks that make up it. The Susa ‘A’ group is also popular for its playful juvenile twins “Byishimo” and “Impano” and “Poppy”. There is a lot to learn from this gorilla group.

Karisimbi family (Susa B)

This is a splitter group from Susa group ‘A’ leading to formation of “Susa B” which is also known as Karisimbi group. Karisimbi features 15 individuals and they are easily tracked on Karisimbi volcano slopes (4507 meters). Susa families may require you the entire day to trek due to high elevation.

Amahoro gorilla family

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.


At first, this group had 13 members and hence its name “13 group”. Later, the number increased up to 25 with 1 silverback, 12 adult females, 2 sub adult females, 3 juveniles and 7 babies. It is in this group that Nyakarima was a leader but defeated by Agashya. Agashya denotes the news and as its name suggests this silverback made great news. This is one of the most interesting groups to explore while you are on safari in Rwanda.


Kwitonda is comprised of 18 individuals and the word Kwitonda means the humble one. It has 2 other silverbacks besides the dominant silverback. This family originated from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and they tend to live far away and it is one of the hardest groups to explore.

Sabyinyo group

If you are interested in a group that is more accessible then look no further than the Sabinyo group. Guhonda is the most muscular silverback in Volcanoes National Park and known for his ability to keep Ryango silverback in total isolation. This group comprises of 8 members and the word Sabyinyo denotes the old man’s teeth.

Umubano gorilla family

The word Umubano means neighborliness.  About 11 members make up this group with 1 silverback, 1 sub adult male, 3 adult females and 6 babies. It originated from Amahoro and broke off when the dominant Ubumwe silverback was challenged by Charles, the current leader of Umubano family. Time changed when Charles matured 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.


Hirwa is a newly identified family and it originated from Agashya and the Sabinyo gorilla family. It is made of 9 members with 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. Trekking through this group equally rewards travel endeavors with unique experiences while you are on gorilla safari in Rwanda.


This group is made of 11 members and 1 silverback called Bwenge. It can easily be tracked on the Karisoke Volcano slopes. Bwenge was sighted in 2007 when the silverback left his original family and joined by many others females from other groups. It has had tough moments especially after 6 infants who died. Ugenda The word Ugenda denotes being on a move and indeed this group is normally on move and trekking through it means you have to hike but it rewards travel endeavors with amazing experiences. It is composed of 11 members and 2 silverbacks.

Things to Know About Gorilla Families

Like human beings, Gorillas also form families or groups. Gorillas are social animals that usually form harems: One silverback male lives together with several adult females and their offspring.  Gorillas live and move in family groups that can range in sizes from 2 to 30 or even to 40 but mostly in the groups of an average of 11. A dominant male leads and holds the position for years. They are at times referred to as mountain gorillas. Adult male mountain gorillas are called Silverbacks because of the silver saddle of hair on their backs. On top of the above, gorillas are almost closely related to humans with a share of 98.3 percent of their DNA. They are charismatic and intelligent animals a character trait with human beings.

Why Do Gorillas Live in Families?

Each gorilla family has a silverback as their leader who scares away other animals by standing upright on their hind legs, tearing up and throwing plants, drumming on the chest with their hands or fists. All this is done to protect members of the family. Silverback gorillas continually wander through their home ranges of 10 to 15 square miles, feeding and resting throughout the day.

Since gorillas are nomadic, they build new nests each day at dusk, constructing them out of bent branches in a tree or of grasses on the ground. Silverback gorillas have long black hair and their thick, shaggy coats help to keep them warm in cold climates.

Mountain gorillas have a stocky build, with a broad chest, long, muscular arms and wide feet and hands. Their arms are longer than their legs. At about 14 years old, the hair in the saddle of their back turns white and hence they are known as ‘silverbacks’.

Gorillas are quadrupedal, walking on the knuckles of their forelimbs and the soles of their feet. Male’s height is up to 1.7 m as they weight 160kg, female upto 1.5m and their weight is 90kg. Males leave their group at about 11 years of age yet when it comes to females over half of the members will leave their group.

Within mountain gorillas about 40% of groups contain several adult males who are closely related. Mountain gorilla males occasionally form all-male groups. The size of gorilla groups is very variable. An average gorilla family contains four to ten members. The biggest gorilla group known to date was found in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National park. It consisted of 65 gorilla members for a short period.

When the gorilla leader dies, another subordinate silverback male takes over the responsibilities, usually the son of the dead leader. Below are some of the reasons why Gorillas form families: For Security reasons – Gorillas stay together in groups to overpower enemies. Under the leadership of a mature male Gorilla known as silver back. Other Gorilla members attack the enemy as one. Companion ship – Male Gorillas form groups together with females to ease reproduction. The new born babies join the group to make the family bigger.

For leader ship reasons – Male Gorillas form groups to lead as his subjects. Gorillas groups are lead by a dominant male silver back. To develop a sense of belonging – each gorilla belongs to a certain group and when any gorilla especially males are chassed from group A; he join another group.

Proper nurturing of young Gorillas – the female Gorillas takes care of the young ones as the male offers security. Training ground – Gorillas are closely related to humans and are considered highly intelligent. A few individuals in captivity have been taught a sub set of sign language. Gorillas are now known to use tools in the wild. Proper feeding – Male gorillas are entitled to look for sources of food for the entire group. Once they discover food, the entire family moves to feed.