A Close Look At The Magnificent Beauty Of The Mountain Gorillas

A Close Look At The Magnificent Beauty Of The Mountain Gorillas

Have you ever seen Gorillas? Whether Yes or Nah, you would definitely love a close look at the magnificent beauty of the mountain Gorillas. Well, reading this piece will give you a virtual tour in the kingdom of these amazing creatures.

Gorillas are the unique, giant yet remarkably calm and gentle creatures that are divided into two species; the Eastern Gorillas and the Western Gorillas. Each of the two species is divided into two subspecies thus making four subspecies namely the western lowland gorillas, the eastern lowland gorillas, the mountain gorillas, and the cross river gorilla. This article centers the attention on the Mountain gorillas; the largest of the gorilla subspecies found in the slopes of Virunga volcanoes in Rwanda.

Without going any further, I’ll tell you about their characters;

Gorillas’ features and characters

All the Gorilla species are slightly similar but there are some of the features that differentiate the mountain gorillas from their lowland relatives. As their names suggest the lowland Gorillas live in the flat areas whereas the Mountain Gorillas can only be found in Forest Mountains.

Mountain Gorillas also differ from their lowland cousins due to their broader chest, thicker and longer hair which enables them to live in colder temperatures, shorter arms, a wider jaw, plus they also tend to be a bit larger than other gorillas.

Mountain gorillas are shy and generally not aggressive but can make aggressive charges when in danger or else when disturbed. When in anger, they beat their huge chests while barking and letting out angry hoots and roars.

They are tremendously powerful, with the ability to tear branches from bushes and even to the point of uprooting small trees.

Gorillas have longer arms compared to their legs; A feature that allows them to walk on all four limbs but still looks somewhat upright. They are very intelligent that they can use some simple tools and even languages, specifically, sign language.

They get all of the moisture they need from the food and morning dew, so they don’t need to drink water from streams.

Naturally, Gorillas can climb trees but are usually found on the ground. They can live around 35 to 50 years.

A Fully-grown male mountain gorilla reaches 1.7 m of height and weighs from 140 to 275 kg whereas females weigh half that at about 90 kg. Gorillas are vulnerable to human diseases like flu and diarrhea and they experience these diseases in more severe forms, that they can even die. However, the mountain Gorillas in Rwanda benefit from greater protection available and also regular monitoring. They are also provided with better veterinary care when sick or injured.

Mountain Gorillas are herbivores. They usually eat vegetation such as leaves, shoots, stems, roots, flowers, and fruits. A grown male Gorilla can eat up to 18 kg of vegetation in one day.

If you think Gorillas are identical and you can’t differentiate them, you are wrong. They can be identified by nose prints unique to each one. Wow!

The Mountain gorillas of Rwanda live in groups called troops consisting of at least one silverback along with several females and youngsters. The group is led by a dominant single male, called silverback due to the silver hair growing on the back swapping its otherwise black hair. This occurs when they are at least 12 years olds. 

As the chief of the family, the silverback is the center of the group’s attention. Monitors troop activities such as scheduling feeding trips, resting time, and travel. It also mediates conflicts. The silverback strongly fights to protect the group and scare away other animals which tend to do the harm to their troop by standing on their back legs.

Assistant to the Silverback are blackbacks; the younger males who serve as backup protection. Blackbacks are normally 8 and 12 years of age but unlike silverbacks, they don’t have silver back hair.

A male gorilla starts to breed only when he is in charge of his own group, which is at the age between 12 and 15 years.

Female Gorillas give birth at about 10 years and will fight to death to protect their young ones. When a female Gorilla reaches this level of  maturity, she leaves her mother’s group and moves to another to find a mate.

Gorillas give birth to one infant at a time, considering that twin cases are very rare in Gorillas. They also have a pregnancy of nine months and raise the infant for several years before giving birth again.

The new-born Gorillas are tiny and weigh about two kilograms. These infants ride on their mothers’ backs from the time they’re about 4 months to 2 or 3 years old.

From three to six years of age, young Gorillas spend their day playing, climbing trees or chasing one another. Sooo sweet! Right?

Like we mentioned earlier, Gorillas live in groups or troops also called families. These families are created and organized according to fascinating social structures and each family has a unique name. The mountain Gorillas in Rwanda’s Virunga National Park lives in a number of families known as Susa, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Agasha, Kwitonda, Umubano, Hirwa, Bwenge, Ugenda, Muhoza…the list goes on.

Would you like to know more about those beautiful families and hear their fascinating creation stories? The following section is all about that

Virunga Mountain Gorilla Families

Susa Group or Susa A Family

Getting its name from a nearby river which flows through the area where the gorilla group resides.This impressive group is made up of 28 gorilla individuals with three Silverbacks. The group is famous for its infant twins; Byishimo and Impano – which is actually a rare case in Gorillas. It also has one of Rwanda’s oldest gorillas. Before separating into two, it was the biggest gorilla group.

Karisimbi Family (Susa-B)

This family separated from the previous Susa-A family because of continuous fights hence the name Susa-B. It’s also referred to as the Karisimbi Group due to the fact that they have formed their home on the slopes of Mt Karisimbi Volcano. This group has 15 members.

The Igisha Group

This group originated from Susa B Group after they separated and is currently led by Igisha Silverback, hence the name. The group has 26 members.

Isimbi Gorilla Group

The Isimbi group was also created after it split from the Karisimbi gorilla family which was very large. The group has 13 members and inhabits the slopes of mount Karisimbi.

Sabyinyo Gorilla Group

The Sabyinyo group derived its name from Sabyinyo volcano. The group is made up of 8 members. A strong silverback called Guhonda leads the group.

Amahoro Gorilla Group

This group is the most calm gorilla group hence the name Amahoro which means “peaceful group”. Yes, peace has the origin-This amazing group of seventeen members is led by Ubumwe; the peaceful silverback.

Umubano Group

The eleven members of umubano group were initially members of Amahoro group. Charles; the leader of the umubano group grew up under the leadership of Ubumwe who leads the Amahoro group. As he grew into an adult silverback, he couldn’t stand taking orders around, so he fought. It was not just easy. The fight went on for almost months! Can you imagine? Eventually, Ubumwe was defeated, and Charles took a couple of females from him then went in a separate place to form a new group; the Umubano. Gorillas are just amazing! No more fights since that big fight. Isn’t it nice?

13 Group (the Agashya Group)

This group had 13 members hence the name 13 group but as of today the group has nearly 25 members. At first, the group was led by Nyakarima who was overpowered by Agashya who fought with him and took away his entire group then shifted up the volcano to safeguard the group and ensure that his rival Nyakarima couldn’t find them.

Kwitonda Family

This group delivers its name from the silverback who leads the family as it is led by Kwitonda. It has 18 members including 2 silverbacks and a blackback.

Hirwa Group

Being the newest group, Hirwa group has nine individuals including one Silverback, three Adult females, two Sub adult females and 3 Babies.

Bwenge Family

This family that is majorly seen in the slopes of Bisoke Volcano got its name from Bwenge, the silverback that leads the group. This family has 11 members. Back then, it has had some difficult moments including the death of six infants.

Ugenda Family

The family got its name which means “being on the move” because it is constantly moving from one place to another. This Group comprises 11 members including 2 silverbacks.

 Muhoza Family

Muhoza group is one of the newest gorilla groups in volcanoes national park which is led by the youngest leading silverback Muhoza. The family has over 12 mountain gorillas of varying ages.

Pablo Gorilla Family

The group was named after the dominant silverback mountain gorilla Pablo who once headed the group. This large group comprises 26 mountain gorillas.

Now, let’s see what it would be like trying to hike to visit these families:

In general, the experience is just as charming and can only be different due to how long and tough one has to track to be able to find the group. 

Some groups live on the top of the mountains making it difficult to find them and others keep moving and changing locations and can even go to distant locations. However, Tourism and Conservation trackers know in advance where the habitual group is located the previous day in advance for the next tour.

When it comes to trekking groups, the Karisimbi Group is for serious hikers and trekkers who are physically well ready for a full day hike. This is because the members of the Kalisimbi group have formed their home in the higher mountain slopes of Karisimbi and at times moves to higher altitude making the tracking pretty challenging.

Trekking to the Amahoro group is another challenge yet an amazing experience. To see the group you should move over the somewhat steep climb but when you do it, you will witness that the climb was worth it.

Agashya silverback likes to take his group to the peak of the volcano making the Agashya group another challenging group to trek.

The Muhoza group is an easy family to trek to in Volcanoes national park as it is located lower the mountain slopes.

Did you realize how amazing it is to trekk the mountain Gorillas in the Virunga National Park? Note that it’s just reading. How wonderful would it be to experience this by yourself and see these amazing creatures with your naked eye?- You should definitely not miss out on this magnificent opportunity!

Rwanda’s Mountain Gorilla  trekking price

As of now, Rwanda Mountain Gorilla trekking permits are available for $200 for Rwandans and nationals of EAC residing in Rwanda, $500 for foreign residents of Rwanda, and $1,500 for international tourists.

About trekking

  • Before trekking, trekkers assemble for a briefing session which lasts almost 30 minutes limited to 7:00 – 7:30. The tracking time is from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. 
  • Trekkers must be over 15 years old
  • Sick visitors are not allowed to trek the gorillas. Let’s say you have traveled all the way to the park but found sick or start showing some signs of illness. The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) shall refund you with 50% of your gorilla tracking fee.
  • Only 96 trekking permits are available each day, with each troop issued eight tracking permits.

You hear more trekking rules and regulations, right at the field before trekking.

Final thoughts

Rwanda is such a beautiful and peaceful land!  Assuming you are coming from abroad, you can’t just come and do the gorilla trek in one day and fly back. I mean…it’s possible but also the least thing you would like.

This is because there are plenty of beautiful places you can visit in Rwanda including the Nyungwe National Park  which is a home for 12 primate species, 300 bird species and about 7 mammal species. Visiting the Nyungwe national park, will give you a good opportunity for the chimpanzee tracking plus birding, hiking trails, not for getting my favorite-the canopy walkway.

You can also visit the Lake Kivu and the Akagera National Park which will do a great job offering you a true wildlife experience, seeing the gigantic animals like elephants, lions, buffalos, zebras, monkeys, impala and so much more.

I hope my point was so convincing that you are planning to stay for a while. If so, here are some of the beautiful places to stay in. They are just beautiful and very near the Volcanoes that some of them lie just at the age of the Volcanoes.

Those lodges includes:

-Kwitonda lodge

-Bisate lodge

-Sabyinyo silverback lodge

-Mountain Gorilla view lodge

-Gorillas Nest Lodge

-Le Bambou Gorilla

-Virunga Safari Lodge

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