Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes national park also known as Parc Nationale Des Volcanos in French is a wonder Rwanda destination located in North West region of the country in Musaze district, this park is famous for being a home to the endangered mountain gorillas and one of the finest mountain gorilla tracking safaris destinations in the world. Volcanoes national park is among the only 4 national parks in world hosting the endangered mountain gorillas and the others are Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park in Uganda and Virunga national park in Democratic republic of Congo.
Volcanoes national park covers an area of 160 square kilometers encompassing 5 of the 8 Virunga volcanoes that are Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo volcanoes. Volcanoes national park was established in 1925 making it the first national park to be established on the continent of Africa purposely to protect the critically endangered mountain gorillas. After its formation this park become a centre of research and conservation of mountain gorillas as it was used as a base by Dian Fossey, an American primatologists. Dian Fossey set up a research station in the names of Karisoke between two volcanoes of Karisimbi and Bisoke.
Volcanoes national park is a renowned home for mountain gorillas which are critically endangered species in the world, these gorillas are scientifically referred to as Gorilla Beringei beringei and recognized as the descendants of old world monkey Oligocene Epoch. Mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park are over 200 individuals and they are found of living in groups in the forested high altitudes of the park, half these mountain gorillas underwent through mountain gorilla habituation process so as to support Mountain gorilla trekking experience. Gorilla habitation process aims at making the wild mountain gorillas get used to human presence and less rebellious to humans, this process takes 2-3 years. Volcanoes national park consists of 10 habituated gorilla families that are Susa, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Agashya, Umubano, Hirwa, Karisimbi, Ugenda, Bwenge and Kwitonda.
Though volcanoes national park is greatly recognized for being a habitat for the endangered mountain gorillas, the park is also hosts forest animals and birds. Animals found in Volcanoes national park include the endangered golden monkeys, spotted hyena, bushbucks, black-fronted duiker and buffaloes. In the thick forests of the park there resides over 178 birds with 13 species and 16 subspecies restricted to Virunga and Rwenzori, these birds include handsome francolin, the Rwenzori turaco, the Archer’s ground robin, the red-faced woodland warbler , the dusky crimson-wing, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, there is the collared Apalis, Rwenzori batis and many more.
Safari activities in Volcanoes national park
Mountain gorilla trekking
Volcanoes national park is the only destination in Rwanda offering Mountain gorilla trekking safari and one of the only 4 national parks in the world offering mountain gorilla trekking experience. Volcanoes national park is a home to 10 mountain gorilla habituated groups which are trekked on mountain gorilla trekking safari, these families include Susa A, Susa B, Amahoro, Umubano, Guhonda, Group 13, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Ugenda and Bwenge.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Volcanoes national park begins as early as 8 am with a briefing then head into the forests of volcanoes in search for mountain gorillas. The whole mountain gorilla trekking experience takes about 2-8 hours depending on the location and movement of mountain gorillas, when you encounter the gorillas you are given only one hour to be in the presence of mountain gorillas. In one hour you can take pictures and observe the behavior of mountain gorillas.
Golden Monkey tracking
Over the years, volcanoes park has been recognized as a great destination for golden monkey tracking safaris in Rwanda, this park hosts troops of endangered golden monkeys living in the Bamboo zone and are trekked on a Rwanda golden monkey trekking safari. Golden monkey tracking in Volcanoes national park begins as early as 7 am at Kinigi headquarters with briefing then in a limitless group you head to the bamboo forests, this experience takes about 4 hours and offers one full hour in the presence of the golden monkeys. Golden Monkey tracking in Volcanoes national park is only done by tourists with golden monkey tracking permits which costs US$100.
Volcanoes national park is an excellent site for Rwanda birding safari and great habitat for birds boosting over 178 bird species with 13 species and 16 Sub species only limited to mountains of Virunga and Rwenzori. Birding safari in Volcanoes park offers an opportunity to enjoy sights of bird species 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, papyrus yellow warbler, the Rockefeller’s sunbird, Nectarinia Rockefeller which are spotted in various vegetation covers of the park such as bamboo and wetlands.
Karisoke and Bisoke Volcano hiking
Volcanoes national park is an ideal destination to visit on a Rwanda volcano hiking safari, the park comprises of numerous volcanoes including Karisoke and Bisoke volcanoes which are hiked while on a Karisimbi and Bisoke volcano hiking safari.
Mount Karisimbi is the highest of all the volcanoes in the park and in the Virunga volcanoes chain standing at the altitude of 4,507 meters above the seal level. Karisimbi is also the 6th highest mountain in Africa, Karisimbi hiking safari takes 2 days to reach the summit of the volcano. This hike offers an encounter to various vegetation covers on the mountain and scenic views.
Mount Bisoke is another hiked volcano on a Rwanda hiking safari in Volcanoes national park, this volcano stands at the elevation of 3,711 meters above the sea level. Hiking mount Bisoke takes only 1 day with 7 am as a starting time for the hike, this hike offers impressive sights of flora, scenic views of Virunga volcanoes and Crater Lake of Ngezi.
Dian Fossey grave hiking
Dian Fossey grave hiking in Volcanoes offers a visit to the grave of Dian Fossey who is a key individual in the conservation and research on mountain gorillas in volcanoes national park. Dian Fossey was an American primatologist who dedicated all her life to studying and researching about mountain gorillas, during her research she established a karisoke research station which was her base in her research and conservation of mountain gorillas.
Unfortunately she was killed in 1985 under unclear circumstances, she was just found dead at her research center and it is believed to have she was killed by poachers she was fighting against. After her death she was buried adjacent to the research center and her tomb is visiting on Dian Fossey grave hiking safari to pay tribute to her.
Musaze Cave walks
Musaze caves offer amazing Rwanda cave walks, Musaze caves are situated in Musaze district outside Volcanoes national park and they are visited as additional stopover site from the park. Musaze caves were formed as a result of the flows of Basalt layers of lava from Sabyinyo and Bisoke volcanic mountains, the caves are over 65 million years old and comprises of 31 entrances and they are about 2 kilometers long inside.
Musaze cave walks offer a grand opportunity to explore these caves on a walk of 2 hours, on this walk you also learn more about the historical aspect of the caves. Musaze caves acted as hideouts and stores for supplies of the Rwanda Royals during time of conflicts, the cave was also used as a shelter for many Rwandese during the genocide period in 1994.
How to get to Volcanoes national park
The park is situated in Ruhengeri, Musanze district in the Northern Province and in a distance of about 105 kilometers from Kigali international airport the main gateway to Rwanda, from Kigali the capital city of Rwanda this park is in the west and it is reached on a drive of 2 hours.
Accommodation in Volcanoes national park
The park comprises of a wide of safari lodges, safari hotels offering accommodation and other facilities to tourists visiting the park, safari lodges and hotels are categorized as luxury accommodations, midrange accommodations and budget accommodation.
- Luxury accommodations include mountain gorilla view lodge, Virunga lodge, Bisate lodge, Sabyinyo silverback lodge and Five volcanoes boutique hotel.
- Midrange accommodations 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