Discover Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park – A Natural Wonder!

Volcanoes National Park –Parc National des Volcans is one of the top visited destinations in Africa for mountain gorilla trekking adventures. This Rwanda safari tour park supports over 30% of the 1063 endangered mountain gorilla population that are left on earth today. These shared the same habitat with other exceptional attractions including the golden monkeys, flora and bird species.

The location and size of the park

Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda’s 3rd largest Park, spanning over 160sq.km of land area. The park features important floral and faunal species. Gazetted in 1925, Volcanoes NP lies within the Virunga Conservation Area (VCA) and this comprises of three protected areas include the Virunga National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda’s oldest park and features a unique history of the Dian Fossey. The Dian Fossey conducted research about mountain gorillas and she came to Africa in 1963 through Tanzania. She later camped at Karisoke Research Center where she carried out research about gorillas and set up a research center. She was mysteriously murdered in 1985. She helped spread the plight of the now endangered mountain gorillas through her book which later became a film entitled “Gorillas in the Mist.”

Volcanoes National Park is popular for not only mountain gorillas but also its unique landscape that is characterized by Lakes, Rivers, Landscapes, green forests and other wildlife. Five of the eight Virunga Massifs exist within the Volcanoes National Park and they vary in altitude –Bisoke volcano (3711m), Muhabura 4127m, Sabyinyo 3634m, Karisimbi 4507m and Gahinga Volcanoes. Each Virunga volcano features unique vegetation zones and range from bamboo located on the lower slopes, afro-alpine, hagenia, sub-alpine, among others.

Key Attractions within Volcanoes National Park Ruhengeri

Primates/wildlife

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is home to unique primates and other wildlife. It harbors about a 3rd of the world’s mountain gorilla population and these rare apes remain fewer than 1063 individuals. They reside only in the Virunga Region and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The park also holds other faunal species including buffaloes, forest elephants, spotted hyenas, bush pigs, golden monkeys, bushbucks, forest hogs, reptiles, and others.

5 Day Rwanda Primates Safari
5 Day Rwanda Gorilla Safari

Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla trekking is the leading safari experience that Volcanoes National Park is most popular for. Tracking mountain gorillas in the African jungles is a dream come true and other than Volcanoes NP, you can only find these apes in Bwindi, Mgahinga and Congo’s Virunga National Park. Within Volcanoes National Park, there are 12 habituated gorilla families to be visited and include Hirwa, Titus, Pablo, Karisimbi, Susa A, Sabyinyo, Umubano, Kwitonda, Amahoro, Agashya, Ugenda and others.

A maximum of eight tourists are allowed to visit a single habituated family of Volcanoes NP gorillas. Trekking with Rwanda gorillas takes between 2 and 6 hours that also include one hour of a magical encounter and taking pictures. A good camera, long-sleeved shirts, gardening gloves, daypack, long trousers, high energy giving snacks, bottled water, insect repellents, walking stick, gorilla permits (each costing USD1500 per person) and first aid kit are among the essentials you should consider having during your gorilla trekking safari.

The birds in Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park holds more than 200 species of birds and these make it a preferred birding destination besides gorilla trekking. The park supports a variety of Albertine rift endemic species and other species, including the grauer’s rush warblers, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, collared apalis, red-faced woodland, handsome francolins, archer’s ground robin, strange weavers, Kivu ground thrush, lagden’s bush shrike, red chested sunbird, bronze sunbird, African swamp hen, African goshawk, palm nut vulture, bat hawk, Rwenzori turacos, blue-spotted wood dove, baglafetch weaver birds, cinnamon-chested bee-eaters, bateleurs, crested barbet, Nirana trogon, and others.

Birding

Birding tours in this park is all about searching for its unique bird species. These include grauer’s rush warblers, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, strange weavers, Kivu ground thrush, lagden’s bush shrike, red chested sunbird, bronze sunbird, collared apalis, red-faced woodland, handsome francolins, archer’s ground robin, African swamp hen, African goshawk, Rwenzori turacos, blue-spotted wood dove, baglafetch weaver birds, palm nut vulture, bat hawk, cinnamon-chested bee-eaters, bateleurs, crested barbet, and others.

Golden Monkey Tracking in Volcanoes National Park

Golden monkeys are amazing primates second to endangered mountain gorillas that you should consider a must-see on Rwanda tours in Volcanoes N.P. Some of the park’s golden monkeys are habituated and consist of a troop of 100 individuals. A golden monkey trek is an incredible opportunity to explore how these apes behave and taking photos.

4 Day Gorilla and Golden Monkey Tracking

Dain Fossey tomb trek

Dian Fossey graveyard trek leading tourists through the forest to visit Dian Fossey tomb site and offers opportunity to explore Dian Fossey’s conservation legacy. Dian Fossey played a remarkable role towards mountain gorilla conservation and protection in the Virunga Area. She strongly opposed poaching practices in the region and during the time she spent carrying out research she built the Karisoke research centre which is lying between Karisimbi and Bisoke volcanoes. She carried out research for over 18 years and in 1985, she was murdered mysteriously at her campsite. Permits for the Dian Fossey graveyard hike cost USD75 per person and the normal trek lasts for 2 to 3 hours depending on your speed of walking and nature of the habitat.

Virunga volcano climbing

Hiking is a must-do if you are an enthusiastic volcano hiker. The park is home to 5 of the 8 Virunga Volcanoes and hiking opportunities area available at Karisimbi (4507m) the highest of the 8 Virunga Volcanoes. Trekking to the summits of Karisimbi takes 2 days or you can hike through Muhabura/Bisoke volcano 3 hours’ trek.

Visit Lake Burera & Ruhondo

Adjacent to Volcanoes NP exist the charming Twin Lakes- Lake Ruhondo and Burera which can be visited before or after trekking mountain gorillas. They are ideal relaxation spot and offers excellent scenic viewing experience.

Caving

Caving in Volcanoes N/Park is excellently done at the Musanze caves. These caves are situated within Musanze district just the base area of Volcanoes National Park and date back to 65 million years. These caves stretch covering 2 kilometers and takes you 2 to 3 hours to explore it.

volcanoes national park

When to Visit Volcanoes National Park

The dry season is the most favorite time to consider visiting Volcanoes National Park for a holiday. The dry months to guide you when planning a safari to this park – June, July, August to September and December, January to February.

Where to stay

The top accommodation facilities to book for overnight stay in and around the park include budget, midrange and luxury. These include La Palm Hotel, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Villa Gorilla Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Kinigi Guesthouse, Virunga Hotel, 5 Volcanoes Hotel, Bisate Lodge, and more.

Getting to the park

By road. Getting to Volcanoes NP is easier from Kigali and you drive for 2 to 3 hours using a 4×4 tourist vehicle. Or cross from Kabale or Kisoro via Katuna or Chanika border to Ruhengeri.

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