Welcome to Volcanoes national park Rwanda guide offering reliable safari information about gorilla trekking in Rwanda, How to book gorilla permit in Volcanoes Rwanda, gorilla groups and families in Rwanda, best time to visit gorillas in Rwanda & Reliable tour operators to book a gorilla safari tour.
Volcanoes National Park lies in northwestern Rwanda and borders with Democratic Republic of Congo ( Virunga National Park) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Volcanoes national park is part of the virunga ranges and its located within the virunga mountains , its known as the home for the endangered mountain gorillas and is open for gorilla trekking tours booked through Rwanda Tour operators .
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda was first made a protected conservation area in 1925 to protect mountain gorillas. During this time the park was a small area made up of Karisimbi, Mikeno and Bisoke.
In 1929, the borders of the park were extended further into Rwanda and into the Belgian Congo, to form Albert National Park, a huge area of 8090 km2, run by the Belgian colonial authorities who were in charge of both colonies. In 1958, 700 hectares of the park were cleared for a human settlement.
Volcanoes national Park Rwanda later became the base for the American naturalist Dian Fossey to carry out her research into the gorillas. When she arrived in 1967, she set up the Karisoke Research Centre between Karisimbi and Visoke. She then spent most of her time in the park, and is widely credited with saving the gorillas from extinction by bringing their plight to the attention of the international community. She was murdered by unknown assailants at her home in 1985, a crime often attributed to the poachers she had spent her life fighting against. Fossey’s life later was portrayed on the big screen in the film Gorillas in the Mist, named after her autobiography. She is buried in the park in a grave close to the research center, and amongst the gorillas which became her life.
The vegetation in the park varies due to the different altitude zones around the park.
There is some lower montane forest (now mainly lost to agriculture). Between 2400 and 2500 m, there is Neoboutonia forest. From 2500 to 3200 m Arundinaria alpina (bamboo) forest occurs, which covers about 30% of the park area. From 2600 to 3600 m, mainly on the more humid slopes in the south and west, is Hagenia-Hypericum forest, which covers about 30% of the park. The vegetation from 3500 to 4200 m is characterized by Lobelia wollastonii, L. lanurensis, and Senecio erici-rosenii and covers about 25% of the park. From 4300 to 4500 m grassland occurs. Secondary thicket, meadows, marshes, swamps and small lakes also occur.
The park is commonly known for the mountain gorilla. Other mammals include: golden monkey), black-fronted duiker, buffalo, spotted hyena and bush buck. The bush buck population is estimated to be between 1760–7040 animals. There are also reported to be some elephants in the park, though these are now very rare. There are 178 recorded bird species, with at least 13 species and 16 subspecies endemic to the Virunga and Rwenzori regions.
Mountain gorillas (eastern gorillas) are found in two isolated groups. One group is the Virunga region which is mark a border of three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The second group is found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which is located in the south western part of Uganda. The world population of mountain gorillas has increased to 880 individuals according to the census data released by the Uganda wildlife authority in 2010.
A mountain gorilla has thick and longer fur and shorter arms than other gorilla species which enables them to live in high altitude areas. Mountain gorillas have long silky black coats with hairless face, palms, soles and chest. They are remarkably strong with a broad chest and shoulders. They are also bigger than other species. Males weigh around 195kg and females weigh around 100kg. Females have a gestation period of 8.5months.
They live in highland tropical forests of Africa and stay in altitudes ranging between 8000 and 1000 feet.
Mountain gorillas live in groups of up to 30 individuals. The group, or troop, is led by a single alpha male, an older silverback. These males are called silverbacks because of the silver stripe they develop on their backs when they mature. The oldest males of the group are at least 12 years old. These troops also include several younger males, adult and juvenile females, and infants.
In addition to providing protection to group members, silverbacks maintain order and decide all activities within their troop. They schedule feeding trips, resting time, and travel. They also father the majority of the young in the group.
The biggest threats to these great apes come from deforestation and the growing human population around the area, diseases, and wars and civil unrest. Gorillas are not commonly poached but they always fall in traps meant for other animals.
Mountain gorillas are omnivores. They are able to survive on vegetation such as leaves, stems, roots, vines, tress, herds, but such vegetation has low nutritional levels. So they consume a lot of it to get more nutrients. They also eat some insects.
An adult male gorilla can consume more than 18kgs per day. They rarely drink water because most of the foods they eat contain water in them.
Gorillas are so selective I what they eat, they usually eat part of the vegetation. They may only eat the leaves, stalk or roots of a particular plant.
The golden monkey is a species of Old World monkey found in the Virunga volcanic mountains, which is made up of 3 national parks. Mgahinga national park in south-west Uganda; Volcanoes national park in north-west Rwanda; and Virunga national park. They also live in Kahuzi-Biéga national park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is restricted to highland forest, especially near bamboo.
The golden monkey can travel in various group sizes, and have been seen in small groups of three up to large groups of 62 monkeys. The groups that are found at higher elevations tend to be smaller. The golden monkey will often return to one of several different sleeping areas after a day of feeding. The monkeys often sleep in small subgroups of four, at the top of bamboo plants. They will often use a dense bamboo plant, or a combination of several bamboo plants that weave together to make a sufficient foundation for sleep. The golden monkey will often feed near the sleeping area and return to this same sleeping location day after day.
The golden monkey has a diet that consists primarily of young bamboo leaves, fruits, bamboo branch lets, bamboo shoots, invertebrates, flowers, and shrubs. However, the golden monkey is an opportunistic feeder and diet can easily be influenced by the availability of fruit. During seasons where ripe fruit is available, the golden monkey tends to feed more on fruit. The golden monkey may also feed on various flowers and shrubs when they are available. The most frequent invertebrate eaten is the pupae of lepidopterous larvae picked from leaves. Bamboo tends to be the most frequently eaten because it is often more available year-round.
The golden monkey prefers a habitat with abundant fruit and bamboo. The golden monkey will move in between areas depending on the season. During the season where ripe fruit is available they will remain in those areas. When the rainy season begins this causes bamboo shooting to occur and the golden monkeys are found more in these areas.
Among the top things to do in Volcanoes national park Rwanda, gorilla trekking ranks the best and there are open gorilla groups to explore and watch the gorillas in the wilderness of Volcanoes Rwanda, Each gorilla family is visited by 8 members .There are several gorilla families in volcanoes national park, with some habituated for gorilla tourism and others for research, whereas others are not habituated. To track gorillas, you need to purchase a gorilla permit through your tour operator with specific dates before embarking on this fulfilling bucket list experience. Each gorilla group is given a name depending on different circumstances and is lead by a silverback. When a young silverback challenges the dominant silverback, he must ‘steal’ some females from an existing group in order to form his own family.
Susa Group (Susa A)
This is the gorilla group that was famously studied by Dian Fossey. It derives its name from the Susa River which flows through their home range. This family is the hardest to trek as it tends to range high into the mountains and trackers will know well in advance where the group is located the day before in advance for the next trackers. Sometimes tourists have been barred from tracking the group because of its distant location. This group is very impressive with a family size now of 29 gorilla members with 3 Silverbacks. It was the largest gorilla group before it split into two. The group is well known for the young twins named Byishimo & Impano who are very playful. It also contains one of the oldest known habituated gorillas, Poppy.
Karisimbi Family (Susa B)
This is the family that split from the Original Susa (Susa-A) family and now it’s called Susa-B or Karisimbi Group. It contains 15 individuals and it always stays in the slopes of Karisimbi Volcano (4507M). Which the highest pick of Rwanda. The Karisimbi Group is better suited to visits for more serious hikers. It appears that they have established their home range high up on the slopes of the Karisimbi caldera. Thus, a visit to this group may well end up as a full-days trek. The group sometimes migrates to higher altitude and hence makes tracking difficult. Tracking this gorilla family may sometimes be prohibited because of its distant location.
Sabyinyo Gorilla Group
Sabyinyo is an easily accessible group led by the powerful silverback Guhonda. Guhonda, the largest silverback of all the groups, who is well known for his massive physical appearance. Guhonda has kept his main challenger, Ryango, out of his group as a lonely silverback. There are fewer members within this family than in the other groups however they are equally impressive as a family.
The group was named after the Sabyinyo volcano which means “old man’s teeth”. Sabyinyo is one of the groups closest to the park’s edge with 8 individuals: 1 Silverback (the biggest in the park); 3 Adult females; 1 Non adult female; 2 Juveniles and 1 Baby.
Amahoro Gorilla Group
Amahoro means “peaceful” and is led by the calm Ubumwe. The group mainly resides uphill which requires you to endure a steep climb to eventually come into its territory but as always, the climb is worth it. The group has 17 individuals: 1 Silverback; 2 Blackbacks; 5 Adult females; 2 Sub adult males; 2 Juveniles and 5 Babies. However, peace comes at a price. To reach Amahoro one must endure a fairly steep climb however the climb is well worth it once in contact with this group.
Umubano gorilla group is led by silverback Charles who broke off from Amahoro gorilla group with some females to form Umubano. The name Umubano is translated ‘living together’.The family has 11 individuals: 1 Silverback; 1 Sub adult male; 3 Adult females and 6 Babies. Umubano were originally Amahoro members but broke off after the dominant silverback (Ubumwe) was challenged by Charles, now the leader of Umubano.
When first habituated this group had only 13 members hence its name. Now the group has approximately 25 members: 1 Silverback; 12 Adult females; 2 Sub adult female; 3 Juvenile and 7 Babies. Formerly this group was commanded by Nyakarima who was challenged by Agashya meaning “the news”. Agashya indeed made news by first watching and estimating Nyakarima’s strengths and eventually challenging him to a fierce fight by taking off with his whole group. This was a shock to Nyakarima and an unprecedented event in observed gorilla history. Agashya then moved up the volcano to secure his group and make sure Nyakarima did not track them. Agashya has since increased his group’s numbers by snatching from other groups and assimilating other lone gorillas, rapidly increasing the group from 12 to 25 individuals.
Kwitonda gorilla group is led by silverback Kwitonda and the name is translated “humble one”. This gorilla group migrated from Democratic Republic of Congo and settled ‘permanently’ in Rwanda. It is moderately difficult to trek because it ranges far in the upper slopes of Mt Muhabura. The group is made up of 18 members.
This group came into the lime light on the 17th of June 2006 when trackers witnessed its formation by the merging of some members from two different existing families, namely from Group 13 and Sabyinyo making a very small group then. As luck would have it, other gorillas joined the group and now Hirwa has 9 individuals: 1 Silverback; 3 Adult females; 2 Sub adult females and 3 Babies. Hirwa exhibits strength and holds its own amongst all the other established groups.
Bwenge gorilla group was formed by silverback Bwenge after breaking away with females from other groups. Bwenge is translated ‘Wisdom’. The group occupies mainly the slopes between Karisimbi and Bisoke mountains. The family size of this group is 11 individuals with Silverback.
The group was formed in 2007 when Bwenge his natal group and was gradually joined by females from other groups. This group has had some hard times; this is because there were some deaths of 6 infants. However now the group is growing strong with 2 successful births in the last few years and a strong capable silverback leader. The trek to see the group is tough and one has to hike up the hill or like 3 hours and the trails are at times middy and steep.
Ugenda gorilla group was named after its unique behavior of roaming from place to place around the Karisimbi area, its name means “being on the move” The Family Size consists of 11 gorillas with 2 silverbacks. Since it’s not in one place, tracking it may be some how difficult and involves also moving from one place to another to locate them, come ready to hike this volcano as you follow this gorilla group.