In Rwanda, the gorillas are found in the Volcanoes National Park at the border of Uganda and Rwanda. The other side of Uganda lies Mgahinga National Park which is also home to the few worlds’s surviving mountain gorillas. Gorillas are ground dwelling giant apes (herbivorous) and occupy the forests of central Sub- Saharan Africa.
Gorillas are divided into two subspecies that is the Mountain gorillas ( Gorilla beringei beringei) and Lowland gorillas (Beringei grauri) but both critically endangered. Rwanda and Uganda gorilla subspecies are the Eastern gorillas that predominantly live in Mountains and are referred to as the “Mountain gorillas,” the Democratic Republic of Congo has got both subspecies that are the “Lowland gorillas and the Mountain gorillas.”
Gorillas are the largest living primates and their DNA is highly similar to that of the Humans, from 95-99% depending on what is counted and they’re closest relatives to humans after the Chimpanzees and Bonobos.
An average gorilla can weigh up to 160kg (Eastern gorilla) and have a lifespan of 35 – 40 years of age, the Mountain gorillas inhabit the Albertine rift montane cloud forests of the Virunga Volcanoes (lies the Volcano National Park home of Mountain gorillas in Rwanda), ranging in the altitude from 2,200 – 4,300 metres (7,200 – 14,100 ft).
Gorillas in Rwanda were first habituated by an American primatologist who arrived in the Virunga volcanoes in 1967 known as “Dian Fossey”, she did an extensive research and study about the behaviors of Mountain gorillas in their Natural environment, she also fought off poachers from killing and trafficking the gigantic apes in the current Volcano National Park, her research center was called “Karisoke research center” which is now called “Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.” She was murdered by poachers in 1985.
Gorilla trekking safaris in Rwanda are witnessed in the Volcano National park which is part of Virunga Volcanoes bordering Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Volcano national park is home to around 480 primates which Is more than half of the world’s entire population (shared with Congo), the rest live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda.
The Volcano National park has got almost twelve habituated gorilla families, more than anywhere else in the world. Below are of the habituated gorilla families/groups in Rwanda; Susa group, Karisimbi group, Sabinyo gorilla group, Amahoro gorilla group, Umubano gorilla group, 13 group also known as Agasha group, Kwitonda group, Hirwa group (meaning the “Lucky one”), Bwenge group, Ugenda group, and lastly is the Isimbi gorilla group. The ceremony of welcoming and naming of baby gorillas is called “Kwita Izina” and normally done in June of every year, this activity is also part of Rwanda’s selling tourist attractions.
Gorilla trekking can be done throughout the year in Rwanda but the best time to see the gorillas is between June to September because of a long a dry season, between December to February, these months have a shorter dry season.
Note: You’ve to book for your gorilla trekking permits in advance for example 3 -4 months in advance or even 6 months earlier to avoid last minute disappointments in your long awaited gorilla excursion to Rwanda. October to November, these months receive shorter rains whereas March to May, these months have heavy and persistent rainfall amounts. In this period of time, the gorilla permits go for cheap prices and some tour companies offer discounted rates within this period.
Gorilla trekking permits are available everyday and limited to a maximum of 96 gorilla permits for individuals. The gorilla permits where increased from $750 to $1500 per tourist for a one hour tracking by the Rwanda Development Board on 6th/may/2016. The revised prices aimed at strengthening and developing locals’ communities surrounding the park.