Rwanda is still, without a doubt, the best place in the world to go mountain gorilla trekking.
Gorilla families in Rwanda
In Rwanda, gorilla trekking 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