Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Families

Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Families. There are 12 groups of mountain gorillas in Rwanda and these are (below information is based on the 2011 gorilla census in terms of numbers in families, and has probably changed slightly at time of writing). For more current information on Rwanda Gorilla Trekking, families contact us here.

  • Susa – 28 gorillas.

This is being the second largest group of mountain gorillas with over 40 gorillas but split remaining with just 28 gorillas. It has 3 silverbacks. It was originally studied by Dian Fossey and lives on the slopes of mountain Karisimbi.  The most particularity of this group is having rare twin gorilla born twice in the same group. The last event was on 19.05.2004 when 12 years old female Nyabitondore gave birth to twins male and female. She has been successfully raising these twins. Now they are three years old and these might be the first-ever twins to survive in the history of Mountain gorillas. The distance from the park entrance is 3-4 hours walking.

  • Sabyinyo- 9 gorillas

This group has 8 gorillas with 1 silverback,2 females,2 juveniles. It was formed after the death of the leading silverback of the group thirteen in 1992. At first, the group was known as Amavubi meaning wasps due to the hard time during the period of habituation. It was only composed of three silverbacks: Guhonda, Ryango and Ruhennyi. After the death of the leading silverback of the group thirteen, some of them took the females from group thirteen: Ijisho, Gukunda, Kampanga and later on, Safari, other females from group eleven. Thus, a new group was formed with four females and two silverbacks. The name of the group was then changed to Sabyinyo. Sabyinyo being the mountain where the group was first localized. As the group composition keeps on changing depending on the rate of birth, death, emigration and migration, new members can be found in the group as well as others left the group. This group has a particularity of its kindness and the hugest silverback in the world. This silverback likes to beat his chest showing that he is powerful. N.B Mountain gorillas leave their groups for two reasons: to avoid inbreeding or to make their own groups. The distance from the park entrance is 1 – 1 ½ hrs walking

  • Amahoro – 17 gorillas

This group has 17 gorillas with 1 silverback, 2 black backs, 2 sub adults, 5 adult females, 5 babies and 2 Juveniles. The Amahoro group was opened for tourism in 2000.  It is the latest group to join the group for tourism in 2000. Amahoro meaning peace, this name was chosen as a symbol of peace also due to the personality. This silverback is more relaxed and approachable. The Amahoro Group has 16 members, including several young gorillas. The distance from the park entrance is 1 – 1 ½ hrs walking

  • Group 13 – 26 gorillas.

This group has 26 gorillas with 1 silverback, 11 females, 4 Juveniles and 2 babies.  Contrary to the popular    beliefs, group thirteen has more than thirteen individuals. This group came to be thirteen to the order in which it has been localized. At that time groups could be named according to the order in which contacted. Method initiated by Dian Fossey. This group has never had more than one silverback in its history and that is why after the death of the leading silverback Murith in 1992 it led to the loss of all adult females to other silverback forming Sabyinyo group and leaving Group thirteen with only three young males that could not lead the group. However, these young males: Munani, Nyakarima and Kwirinda stayed together until the older one named Munani turned to silverback but then Nyakarima left the group and Kwirinda died of injuries due to interaction with another group. Munani, being a silverback who wanted to form his group at any cost, had an interaction with group Sabyinyo and obtained Safari one female  which was also a member of group eleven before being Sabyinyo member. He also obtained two other females Gukunda and Cyuzuzo. In 2002 the silverback died of a natural death leaving seven members with a blackback which together with the oldest female (Safari) led the group for five months until when a new silverback came to take over the group. The new Silverback which is named Agashya came with three members with him increasing the group to ten individuals. However, the blackback he met in the group refused to submit to the new silverback and left the group to a solitary life. After Agashya gained power he has increased the group for 21 individuals in only three years with nine adult females. The name Agashya meaning something special is related to ability to lead such a big group of 21 gorillas. The distance from the Park entrance is 35 – 45 minutes walking

  • Umbano – 11 gorillas.

This group has 9 gorillas with 1 silverback, 1sub adult male, 3 females, 5 Juvenile and 1 infant. This was part of Amahoro group, but later split into two groups creating Umubano. In normal conditions in a group of more than one silverback, when the leader  dies  the group is taken by then next to him.  This was not the case with Charles the leader of Umubano. After the death of the leading silverback. Charles refused to submit to the next silverback, instead left the group with two females to form his group.  Ambitious and being a young silverback he has been successful in maintaining his group and gaining more females in a short time. In this group, the silverback is the happiest and the strongest of them all.  

  • Hirwa – 12 gorillas.

This group has 12 gorillas with 1 silverback, 6 females and juveniles. This is a new group formed by one silverback. All its members came from other formed and habituated groups. It is until now composed of nine individuals. Its particular character is that it is more peaceful

  • Kwitonda – 17 gorillas

This group has 17 gorillas with 3 silverback, 4 females, 3 black backs and 3 juveniles. This group is from Democratic Republic of Congo. It arrived in 2005 with sixteen members all habituated and it was frequently visited by different tourists. The group is comprised of one silverback and two black backs, females and young ones. The leading silverback is very shy.

  • Bwenge Group- 11 gorilla

This family has 11 individuals with 1 silverback called Bwenge. The group has seen the death of 6 infants in the past years however it has been consoled by the birth of two more infants. The trek to find these gorillas is quite strenuous as you hike up the steep slippery slopes of about 600m. It is the special family that featured in the famous movie “Gorillas in the mist”.

  • Ugenda Group-11 gorillas

This is also called the nomadic family because of its regular movements. It is composed of 11 individuals with 2 silverbacks. Trekking this group requires more patience because you have to search for the gorillas whose location is not definite.

The above trekking times are a guideline only and as gorillas have a very large area and can move quite fast, it may take longer to locate them and visitors often walk longer than then detailed above.

The information on the gorilla group individuals changes all the time and whilst we try to keep this information as up to date as possible – since printing some details may have changed, please check with your guides.

What to wear and take for a gorilla trek in Rwanda

Whichever family group you visit, you may have to walk a long distance in steep, muddy conditions, possibly with rain overhead, before you encounter any gorillas. Put on your sturdiest shoes. Ideally, wear thick trousers ad long sleeved top as to protect against vicious stinging nettles. It’s often cold when you set out, so start out with a sweatshirt or jerseys [which also help protect against nettles]. The Gorillas are thoroughly used to people, so it makes little difference whether you wear bright or muted colours. Whatever clothes you wear to go tracking are likely to get very dirty you slip and slither in the mud, so if you have pre- muddied clothes you might as well wear them. When you are grabbing for handholds in thorny vegetation, a pair of old gardening gloves are helpful.  Carry as little as possible, ideally in a waterproof daypack of some sort. During the rainy season, a poncho or raincoat might be a worthy addition to you daypack, while sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a good idea at any time of year. You may well feel like a snack during a long hike, and should certainly carry enough drinking water – at least two litres. Bottled water is sold in locally at the accommodation facilities. Especially during the rainy season, make sure your camera gear is well protected – is your bag isn’t waterproof, seal your camera and films in a plastic bag.

Binoculars are not necessary to see the gorillas. In the theory, bird watchers might like to carry binoculars, though in practice only the most dedicated are likely to make use of them – the trek up to the gorillas is normally much directed, and walking up the steep slopes and the thick vegetation tends to occupy one’s eye and mind.

Regulation and protocol 

Tourists are permitted to spend no longer than an hour with the gorilla, and it is forbidden to eat or smoke in their presence. It is also forbidden to approach within less than 5m of the gorillas, a rule that is difficult to enforce with curious youngsters [and some adults] who often approach human visitors.

Gorillas are susceptible to many human diseases, and it has long been feared by researchers that one ill tourist might infect a gorilla, resulting in the possible death of the whole troop should they have no immunity to that disease. For this reason, you should not go gorilla tracking with a potentially airborne infection such as flu or a cold, and are asked to turn away from the gorillas should you need to sneeze in the presence.

To the best of our knowledge, no tourist has ever been seriously hurt by habituated gorillas. An adult gorilla is much stronger than a person and will act in accordance with its own social codes. Therefore, it is vital that you listen to your guide at all times regarding correct protocol in the presence of gorillas.