The Volcanoes National Park, or Parc National de Volcans in French, is located in Rwanda’s far Northwestern area. It has five volcanoes: Karisimbi (4,507m), Bisoke (3,711m), Muhabura (4,127m), Gahinga (3,474m), and Sabyinyo (3,634m), however these are only a portion of the eight Virunga Mountains that makeup the Virunga Ranges. It is also an expansion to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo.
The primary objective of Virunga conservation region, which encompasses it and the nearby national parks, is to protect and conserve mountain gorillas. Dian Fossey, who conducted study at the Karisoke Research Center located in Volcanoes National Park in 1967, is largely responsible for the park’s success. She spent more than 18 years habituating and researching about mountain gorillas in the area, and as a result the movie “Gorillas in the Mist,” which was filmed in the volcanoes received attention on a global scale. Her main objective for the project was to determine whether it was possible to conduct gorilla tourism, which in turn would help in conservation of gorillas.
Covered by diverse vegetation cover such as the Afro Alpine vegetation found above 4000 meters, sub-alpine vegetation found above 3300 meters, Hypericum found below 3300 meters and bamboo cover along the slopes due to the park’s high and low altitudes.
Although mountain gorillas are the park’s most famous residents, other animals can also be sighted like the gorgeous golden monkeys and chimpanzees in high altitude sections. Low-lying sections of the park are home to forest buffalos, forest elephants, leopards, forest hogs, and duikers. Bird watchers are drawn to the area because a variety of bird species have been spotted. Gorilla trekking and birding are arguably the most popular tourist activities.
Activities and attractions within Volcanoes National Park
Since you can’t meet mountain gorillas everywhere in the globe, it’s exciting to see them, and it’s even more exciting to see them in their native home. Did you know that every family has a single silverback and numerous female members? When a male child feels the need to assert his dominance, he takes some of the females from the group and creates his own family.
This is the park’s main and most popular attraction. Due to the presence of over 10 habituated Gorilla groups / families, there is a good chance that you will enjoy a gorilla trekking tour in Rwanda.
To engage in gorilla trekking, one must have a gorilla permit which is purchased either from registered tour companies at a cost of $1500 each or directly from Rwanda Development Board. Visitors need appropriate hiking gear, including water and food as well as boots, coats, and hats to protect you from direct sunlight.
Trekking Golden Monkeys and Bird watching.
Trekking gorillas has become more popular than these two pursuits in recent years, but trekking golden monkeys comes in second. Golden Monkey trekking is not as hectic as gorilla trekking since these species of monkeys don’t travel to higher altitudes.
You can as well observe birds as you traverse or hike through because there are many different bird species available.
Hiking Bisoke and Karisimbi Mountains.
These two volcanoes are part of the Virunga Mountains, are both extinct and dormant. Before reaching the summit, hikers must negotiate dense foliage. You may see breathtaking scenery from the tops of these mountains, including the crater lake at Mt. Bisoke, Mikeno and Mt. Nyiragongo. Trekking up Mt. Bisoke is simpler than climbing Mt. Karisimbi. Hiking sometimes require the use of porters, who provide assistance along the journey.
Hiking Mt. Muhabura.
It is the third tallest mountain in the Virunga mountains standing at 4127 meters. It offers an adventurous experience in that, by the time you reach the top, you will have traveled through lovely foliage that will make you appreciate Mother Nature.
Pay a visit and tribute to Dian Fossey’s tomb.
Great primatologist Dian Fossey spent the majority of her life learning about gorillas and protecting them. You can walk past gorillas and they remain calm because she invented innovative techniques for accustoming them to people. As a result, you can honor her memory by going to her grave near the former Karisoke Research Center. You get to trek and go through what she went through along this route.
Visiting Twin lakes.
Drive to the twin lakes of Lake Ruhondo and Lake Burera located not very far from the park, and the experience is more soothing than hiking because you get to take a boat ride across the deep waters, meet locals and fishermen.
When should one visit Volcanoes National Park?
All activities are possible throughout the year; while some are more beneficial and convenient to complete during dry seasons. So you can always check the season to determine if it’s ideal for you depending on the activity you’re interested in. Due to the difficulty of navigating through the trails during rainy seasons, when it rains frequently, gorilla and monkey trekking are quite different however during dry seasons, the trails are dry.
How to get there?
Most tourists arrive in Rwanda via Kigali Airport located on the outskirts of Kigali Capital. It is about 2 ½ — 3 hours’ drive from the airport to Musanze — the park’s closest town, covering about 70 miles.