Gorilla Families in Rwanda

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda takes place in the Volcanoes National Park, where Dian Fossey famously carried out her research. There are only about 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild, half of these can be found in Uganda and the rest shared between Rwanda and DRC.

Rwanda is still, without a doubt, the best place in the world to go mountain gorilla trekking. Walking in the Virunga Mountains, in the shadow of giant, prehistoric plants as the mists clear to reveal a family of gorillas is incomparable. The stylish lodges here are bursting with Rwandese charm and the riot of colour around every corner.

For those with more time, Akagera Park, bordering Tanzania in the east, offers big game viewing with the wildlife to yourself, or head south to look for elusive chimps (as well as Rwanda’s best birding and chameleons) in the dark and exotic Nyungwe Forest.

If you want to relax then head to Lake Kivu, where the only trekking to be done is back to your room from the beach, when you realise you’ve forgotten your holiday read.

Rwanda has 10 habituated gorilla families. These include Susa, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Umubano, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Agashya, Bwenge and Ugyenda.

The Susa Family

  • 28 members with 3 silverbacks
  • Susa was the largest gorilla family  before it split into two. It was named after the Susa River
  • It was the group originally studied by Dian Fossey and is popular because of a pair of twins, Byishimo and Impano

The Karisimbi family

  • 15 members with 3 silverbacks
  • This is the group that split from the original Susa family
  • They usually reside in the lower slopes of Karisimbi Volcano

The Sabyinyo family

  • 12 members with 2 silverbacks
  • The family was named after the rugged Sabyinyo Volcano.
  • Sabyinyo means ‘old man’s teeth’ and the family is known to stay between the mountains Sabyinyo and Gahinga, enjoying the gentle slopes and easy terrain

The Amahoro family

  • 17 members with 1 silverback
  • Amahoro means ‘peaceful’ and the family is usually extraordinarily gentle and peaceful, which is why they were given that name
  • It is a tougher hike to reach this family

The Umubano Family

  • 11 members with 1 silverback.
  • Umubano means ‘live together’ as the group originally formed splitting from the Amahoro group
  • They still share much of the same territory and there is a peaceful relationship between the two groups.

The Kwitonda Family

  • 18 members with 2 silverbacks
  • Kwitonda means ‘humble one’, named after  their dominant silverback
  • They generally stay on the lower slopes of Mount Muhavura , however  are one of the more difficult tracking experiences

The Hirwa  Family

  • 12 members with 1 silverback
  • Hirwa implies ‘lucky one’
  • Hirwa is a new group formed by merging Sabyinyo family and Group 13 merged
  • They have twins and are usually on Mount Sabyinyo

The Agasha family

  • 25 members with 2 silverbacks
  • Agasha means ‘the news’
  • The Agasha family was previously known as Group/family 13 but was renamed when Agasha challenged the dominant silverback by leading the group away from him and assimilating other individuals from groups or solitary wandering

The Bwenge family

  • 10 members with 1 silverback
  • Bwenge means ‘brightness’
  • The family shares much of their territory with the Ugyenda family on Mount Visoke.

The Ugyenda Group

  • 11 members with 1 silverback.
  • Ugyenda means ‘departure’
  • The family usually stays around the Mount Visoke region
  • Tracking is not too difficult