Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is the most popular Rwanda safari destination famously known as an excellent destination for mountain gorilla trekking and a habitat to the critically endangered mountain gorillas. Volcanoes national park known as Par Nationale Des Volcanos in French and Pariki y’Igihugu y’Ibirunga in native Kinyarwanda is located in the Musanze formerly as Ruhengeri.
Volcanoes national park is part of Virunga conservation area which consists of fellow mountain gorilla habitat that is Mgahinga national park found in Uganda and Virunga national park found in Democratic republic of Congo. This park covers an area of 160 square kilometers protecting steep slopes of Virunga volcano ranges and a large ecosystem comprises of a series of vegetation covers, wildlife and bird life. Volcanoes national park comprises of 5 pf the 8 Virunga volcanoes that are
- Mount Sabyinyo at 3.674 meters
- Mount Gahinga at 3.474 meters
- Mount Bisoke at 3711 meters
- Mount Muhabura at 4.127 meters
- Mount Karisimbi at 4.507 meters and it is the highest volcano in the Virunga chain.
Volcanoes national park has a mountainous terrain which covered by various vegetation zones at different altitude range, vegetation zones include bamboo at base altitude, Hagenia and Hypericum forest in the altitude range of 2600-3300meters, Sub-alpine at altitude range of 3300-4000 meters and Afro-alpine altitude range of 4000 meters and above.
Rwanda and volcanoes national park famous after the realize of “Gorillas in the Mist” a Hollywood award winning movie which depicted the work the Late Dian Fossey in the conservation of Mountain gorillas. Dian Fossey was an American zoologist who dedicated her life in carrying out research on mountain gorillas and worked towards their conservation, during her time in Rwanda she constructed Karisoke research centre between Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke. Unfortunately Dian Fossey was killed by unknown people and she was buried near karisoke research centre.
The critically endangered mountain gorillas are the main attraction in Volcanoes national park, mountain gorillas are also referred to as Gorilla beringei beringei and the forests of this park hosts over 200 individuals including 10 habituated mountain gorilla groups. These habituated groups were trained for about 2-3 years in mountain gorilla habitation process as a way of making them comfortable with human presence, these groups are visited on mountain gorilla trekking experience and they include Susa, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Agashya, Umubano, Hirwa, Karisimbi, Ugenda, Bwenge and Kwitonda.
Apart from Mountain gorillas, there are other animals calling volcanoes national park home and these include endangered golden monkeys, spotted hyena, bushbucks, black-fronted duiker and buffaloes. Volcanoes national park also hosts birdlife with over 178 bird species including 12 main species and 15 subspecies endemic to the Virunga conservation area, these birds include Rwenzori Turaco, Francolinus nobilis, the forest ground thrush, Musaphaga, skimmers, shoebills storks, egrets, grey herons, ibises, grey-throated barbet, white-headed woophoopoes, Angolan swallow, Rwenzori batis, alpine swift, African olive pigeon, tropical boubou, papyrus yellow warbler, the Rockefeller’s sunbird, Nectarinia Rockefeller and many more.
Activities to do in Volcanoes national park
Mountain gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking is a remarkable memorable Rwanda safari experience and the highlight activity in volcanoes national park, mountain gorilla trekking offers an opportunity to visit mountain gorillas in their natural habitat to one of the 10 habituated gorilla families in volcanoes national park. Mountain gorilla trekking begins as early 8: 00 am in the morning with a briefing session at the park’s headquarters and it is conducted by a senior game ranger, you are assigned a mountain gorilla group and then hike into the forests in search for mountain gorillas.
Mountain gorilla trekking is done is a group of 8 people maximum and one gorilla group is visited per day, this whole experience takes about 2-6 hours and offer 1 hour in presence of mountain gorillas. Trekkers are allowed to take pictures as long as your flashlight is off. Mountain gorilla trekking experience is done in the 10 habituated mountain gorilla groups in volcanoes national park that are Susa, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Agashya, Umubano, Hirwa, Karisimbi, Ugenda, Bwenge and Kwitonda.
Golden monkey tracking
Volcanoes national park is an ideal destination for golden monkey tracking in Rwanda, the forests of volcanoes national park hosts troops of the endangered golden monkeys found in the bamboo zone. Golden monkey tracking is a breathtaking excursion offering an encounter with these beautiful creatures, the whole excursion takes about 4 hours offering one full hour in the presence of golden monkeys and trackers are free take memorable pictures.
Volcanoes national park is listed among the best birding destinations in Rwanda, the park’s forested volcanoes are homes to over 178 bird species encountered on a Rwanda bird watching safari. Bird watching in volcanoes national park offers views of colorful birds such as Rwenzori Turaco, Francolinus nobilis, the forest ground thrush, Musaphaga, skimmers, shoebills storks, egrets, grey herons, ibises, grey-throated barbet, white-headed woophoopoes, Angolan swallow, Rwenzori batis, alpine swift, African olive pigeon, tropical boubou and many more.
Volcanoes national park lies in the Virunga volcano chain comprising of 5 volcanoes that are Mount Sabyinyo at 3.674 meters, Mount Gahinga, Mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura and Mount Karisimbi. Only 2 of these volcanoes Karisimbi and Bisoke are hiked on volcano hiking expenditure. Hiking up to mount Bisoke’s summit takes about 6 hours and 2 hours for descending back, this hike starts early in the morning from Kinigi park headquarters and at the summit of the volcano you will enjoy scenic landscape of the Virunga region comprising of Visoke crater lake, Mount Karisimbi Volcano, Mount Mikeno and the surroundings. Karisimbi volcano is the highest volcano of Karisimbi chain standing at the altitude of 4,507 meters and hiking this volcano to its summit takes 2 days, this experience starts as early as 7:00 am at the park’s headquarters and a night is spent at a campsite. At the summit of the volcano you will enjoy scenic views of Nyamulagira volcano, Nyiragongo volcano, Muhabura volcano and various vegetation zones with Virunga ranges and forests.
Dian Fossey grave hiking
Dian Fossey grave hiking offers a monumental visit to the grave of Dian Fossey as famous primatologist, Dian Fossey dedicated all her life to carrying out research on Mountain gorillas in forest of volcanoes national park. During her stay in volcanoes national park she established Karisoke research centre which was the centre for her research, in 1985 she was ambushed and killed by unidentified people. Following her death, she was buried near her research center and a tomb was constructed in her memory, this tomb is visited on Dian Fossey grave hiking and tourists get a chance to learn more about Dian Fossey are her works towards
Best time to visit volcanoes national park
The highlight activity in Volcanoes national park is mountain gorilla trekking which is a reason to why a huge number of tourists visit the park, the best recommended time to visit volcanoes national park is in the dry season. Rwanda experiences dry season from the period of June – September, these dry months experience less rainfall and the trails running through the park used during mountain gorilla trekking safari and other activities in the are relatively dry and navigable.
How to get to volcanoes national park
Volcanoes national park is lies in 105 kilometers west of Kigali the capital city of Rwanda which is a drive of about 2 hours’ drive to get to the park, mainly volcanoes national park is accessed by road due to its closeness to Kigali city the main getaway to the park for a safari.
Where to stay in Volcanoes national park
Volcanoes national park in Rwanda is an excellent Rwanda safari destination consisting of many lodges and camps accommodating tourists on mountain gorilla trekking safari and other Rwanda safaris in the park. Safari lodges and camps in volcanoes national park are classified in 3 categories that is luxury, midrange and budget. Luxury safari lodges and camps in volcanoes national park include mountain gorilla view lodge, Virunga lodge, Bisate lodge, Sabyinyo silverback lodge and Five volcanoes boutique hotel. Midrange safari lodges and camps in Volcanoes national park include Hotel La Palme, Garr Hotel, Le Bambou Gorilla lodge, Gorilla Volcanoes Hotel, Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, Garden place Hotel, Best View Hotel and Mountain Gorilla Nest Lodge. Budget accommodation include Hotel Muhabura, Kinigi guest house and Villa Gorilla.