Gorilla families in Virunga national park
Virunga national park is one of the habitats for mountain gorillas in the eastern part of DR Congo with a total of 8 gorilla families and groups ready for tourism activities. Virunga is one of the oldest national parks in Africa covering an area of 7,769 sq. km. The park is home to 8 gorilla families and it’s famous for gorilla trekking activities. Trekking these gorilla families requires permits which go for $450 in the dry season and $200 in the rainy season.
Virunga national park hosts mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, buffaloes, lions, topis, okapis, elephants, duikers, warthogs, waterbucks, lions, olive baboons, etc. The park also harbors over 706 bird species, Virunga volcanoes such as Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo which is the most active volcano in the world.
The 8 gorilla groups in Virunga national park
Rugendo gorilla family: This family is one of the most amazing gorilla families in Virunga national park. Rugendo is the oldest family in Virunga national park having been habituated in 1989. The mountain gorilla family started with 18 members and the group was led by a silverback called Rugendo.
When conflicts between Rugendo and his son Humba started, the silverbacks formed 2 different groups making Humba move with some of the group members which reduced the size of the family. Only 8 members were left in Rugendo family but the number kept on increasing and reducing due to so many reasons such as births, deaths. Rugendo died in 2001 but by the time of his dead he has raised another silverback called Senkwekwe who took the leadership but he was also killed in 2007 and Bukima took over the leadership of the group till now.
Humba gorilla family: This group is another family in Virunga national park occupying the areas of Bukima sector. The family split from Rugendo gorilla group which was led by his father Rugendo but due to fights, he decided to move with some of the family members to form his own group. The group is led by a silverback called Humba and as of today, it comprises 9 members.
Mapuwa gorilla family: This family was started by a silverback called Mapuwa who was a son to Rugendo the leader of Rugendo gorilla group. Mapuwa left Rugendo family which was led by his father in 1988 to form his own. He left the group with only 2 adults Jicho and Mafaze but since he was good at fighting, he used to fight other groups and still most of the members to increase his own. Mupuwa died of natural death and Muyekure another silverback took over the leadership of the group which consists of 22 gorillas as of today.
Kabirizi gorilla family: This family was formerly known as Ndunguste gorilla group because it was led by Ndunguste. The name of the group changed after the murder of Ndunguste who died in the fire that was set up during the conflict between rebels and the army of DR Congo at Bukima patrol post. After the death, another silverback called Kabirizi took over the leadership of this group until now. Kabirizi gorilla group consists of 19 members today.
Munyaga gorilla family: Named after its group leader Munyaga, Munyaga gorilla family is another group in Virunga national park famous for having twins from Bilali. The twins died at a young stage but still, the group stayed famous for hosting a bold-headed silverback called Kadogo. The group was started in 2008 by a silverback called Munyaga but later the Mawazo took over but as a result of power conflicts silverback Gasore took over the leadership until now he is leading the group.
Lulengo gorilla family: This family is another family in Virunga national park formerly known as Museruka group. The family name changed in remembrance of a technical director of Virunga national park who lost his life to a land mine. The leader of the group is called Lugendo and he leads the other 8 members. Lulengo was once a member of the Rugabo gorilla family which was the first to be habituated in Virunga national park. This gorilla family stays in the areas of Jomba near the Congo-Uganda border.
Bageni gorilla family: This is so far the last habituated mountain gorilla family in Virunga national park and it’s led by a silverback Bageni. The gorilla family consists of 26 members but the silverback is facing challenges from other silverbacks who want to take over the role of the silverback in the group.
Nyakamwe gorilla family: Nkyakamwe is one of the latest gorilla families habituated in Virunga national park and its occupies areas of Bukima. The group was formed by a silverback Nyakamwe after splitting from Humba group. The group is named after the ruling silverback and it consists of 10 individuals.
What is the best time to track gorilla families in Virunga national park?
Gorilla families in Virunga national park can be encountered at any time of the year but there are months that are better than the rest. The drier months of June to September and December to February are the best to visit Virunga national park and encounter the mountain gorillas because these months are characterized by little or no rainfall, the trekking trails are less slippery, roads leading to the park are passable and the vegetation is thin giving clear views of the park animals.
Tourists can still visit Virunga national park to encounter the mountain gorillas in the rainy season which occurs from March to May and October to November to enjoy huge discounts on accommodation facilities and gorilla permits. However, during this season, there is plenty of rainfall, the trekking trails are muddy and slippery, the roads leading to the park are impassable and the vegetation is tall giving unclear views of the gorillas
Where to stay on a gorilla trekking safari to Virunga national park?
Before or after encountering any of the gorilla families in Virunga national park, you don’t have to worry about where you will stay because there are several accommodation facilities available for you. The accommodation facilities at Virunga national park range from budget to mid-range to luxury such as Lulimbi Tented Camp, Nyiragongo Volcano Summit Shelters, Bukima Tented Camp, Mikeno Lodge, Tchegera Island, Kikumba Tented Camp, and much more