The Volcanoes National Park is one of Rwanda’s most visited national park; it’s located a few kilometers from Kigali Rwanda’s capital and its largest city. It is located in Musanze district in the northwestern part of Rwanda. It borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
The Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is gifted by very many wonders ranging from the rare mountain gorillas hardly seen in other countries. The park was made very famous due to the works of George Schaller and more recently by Dian Fossey who studied and habituated mountain gorillas in the slopes Bisoke for over 20 years. She habituated them to human conduct that they can be tracked safely in their national habitat.
Without her works Rwanda could not be much known in terms of tourism like it’s now, however Dian Fossey was later killed in 1985 by the said poachers whom she had made herself very unpopular since she was against their act of poaching gorillas. Without her persistent efforts to have poaching stamped out and the work of committed locals since her death, there is possibly wouldn’t be any gorillas remaining in Rwanda. Volcanoes National Park receive very many visitors who come whole over the world to track gorillas in Rwanda and also to enjoy other activities like bird watching, trekking volcanoes (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo), which are covered in rain forest and bamboo, enjoy also the natural walks, community walks among others.
While most tourists to the park are understandably driven by the desire to have a face-to-face encounter with real gorillas in the mist, there is good reason to stay in the area once you’ve finished tracking: the gorillas share the park with rare golden monkeys, a troop of which has also been habituated to human contact. The Virungas, which tower over Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC, also present a variety of rewarding climbing and trekking options. To get the most from the Virunga give yourself as much time as you possibly can as this is absolutely a park that rewards those who linger.
Sharing time with mountain gorillas in the wilds of Africa’s rain forests is utterly magical: nothing prepares you for their sheer beauty and brawn, those soulful brown eyes, their astonishingly human-like expressions or their extraordinarily gentle demeanor. This special encounter normally lasts just one precious hour, but Rwanda is offering a new extended experience in an exciting evolution in gorilla tracking.
Only 900 mountain gorillas roam the rain forests of western Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga Mountains that span the borders of southern Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. They are found nowhere else in the wild on earth. Once on the verge of extinction, their survival is one of Africa’s greatest conservation success stories.
Things to Do in the Volcanoes National Park
There are lots of things to do in the Volcanoes National Park. Here are the top adventure activities not to miss in the Rwandan Volcanoes;
This is the most done activities at the park, it begins very early in the morning after breakfast at your booked accommodation, and later report to the park headquarters to receive a short briefing about the dos and don’ts while with gorillas and also get assigned to the group booked for. Then after follow the ranger guide to the forest to begin the activity. The time to meet the gorillas is unpredictable, it can go to a half or full day in the wild as meeting them depends on where they spent the last night from. since tracking is done in the forest you will meet a lot of difficulties like stinging plants, muddy soil and many more, so you are reminded to come with tracking gears such as strong shoes/boots, long sleeved shirts or blouses, gloves, cap, bottled water and sometimes packed lunch for refreshments. However ounce apes is met you will forget all the troubles you’ve gone through and utilize the one hour you are allowed to stay with these giants. Observe their behaviors as well as taking as many photos as you can. In the course of tracking other primate species will be met such as the black and white colobus monkey, civet baboons, golden monkey, various species of birds and plants.
In order to be considered among the 8 members to track in each group you must obtain a gorilla permit. A gorilla permit is at a cost of 750USD per person per tracking including park entry fee and a compulsory guide and you are advised to pay in advance to your tour company organizing your trip or at the Rwanda Tourism Board (however it’s always advised to book your gorilla trip with a tour company for easy booking of your gorillas permit) since Rwanda gorilla permits are at a very high demand permits are issued at first come first served. Rwanda has over 10 gorilla tracking groups and only 8 members are allowed to track in each group per day which means that about 88 visitors track gorillas each day.
Golden Monkey Tracking
This is another interesting activity done at the park. It also begins very early in the morning with a short briefing at the park headquarters. You will get assigned to a ranger guide. After report to the forest to begin the activity possibly it can take half or full day in the jungle so necessary tracking gears are reminded. Golden monkeys are regarded one of the elusive beautiful monkey in the worlds they are so fabulous to watch when playing in the tree blanches, enjoy studying their behaviors as well as taking photos (however a flash camera is not allowed).
For birders visiting volcanoes national park is also rewarding as the park is blessed with over 250 species of birds some of which are not found in other parks. Bird watching may being early in the morning, afternoon or in the evening since all these time provide a better view. You are advised to come with a steady camera good at photographing.
Visiting Dian Fossey Graveyard
This is a full day activity at the park, head to Bisoke a research area where Dian Fossy spent most of her life studying the behaviors of mountain gorillas, she habituated gorillas to human conduct that’s why they can now be watched just about 10 meters from them. However her works was put to an end by poachers whom she had made herself very unpopular. If you love gorillas you can’t leave the park minus visiting her grave yard. At the center you will be given informative information about her life and the gorillas.
This is an interesting activities done at the park, visiting the local communities sounding the park is so rewarding most especially those who are interested in learning more about the local people, meet the batwa community and learn more from their traditional dance and music, plant gathering, stole telling, weave making among other.
Mount trekking: this is another challenging but an interesting activity, it needs some physical fitness. Hiking can go to one up to 10 days depending on which trek to hike. Trekking can be done on volcanoes like (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo).
Do not miss out visiting the Musanze caves on your Rwanda safari to Volcanoes national park. Experienced guides lead you into these caves while telling you the mysteries of the caves, history and all other facts about Rwanda.
Other activities to do in Volcanoes national park include cultural tours especially to Iby’Iwacu cultural village, bird watching, visiting the twin lakes of Bulera and Buhondo among others.
Getting there for safari
Volcanoes National Park lies at a close proximity to Kigali city centre. Starting your journey from Kigali can take you between 2- and 3-hours’ drive. It is also possible to connect from Mgahinga N. Park via Kisoro-Chanika border or Bwindi through Kabale-Katuna border to Volcanoes Park, Northwestern Rwanda.
What to pack for Volcanoes National Park?
Considering unpredictable weather conditions in Volcanoes Park, you must consider packing appropriately. The list of items to consider besides carrying gorilla permits include waterproof daypack, strong and waterproof hiking boots, cameras free of flashlight, gardening gloves, high energy giving snacks, long trousers, long sleeved shirts, sun glasses, safari hat, insect repellent, walking stick, etc.
Where to stay
The Volcanoes Park Rwanda still stands out as one of the Africa’s most favorite travel destinations for gorilla safaris due to its numerous accommodation options. These range from budget to luxury, with the most popular ones include Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Virunga Hotel, Bisate Lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, La Palme Hotel, Le Bambou Boutique, Kinigi Guesthouse, etc.
If you are looking for where to stay during your gorilla tour, you may contact us to book them for you. We have Kinigi guesthouse and Muhabura hotel for low budget clients. These are very clean and decent accommodations while for deluxe class; we have La Palme Hotel, Hotel Gorillas and Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge. Mountain Gorilla View lodge, Jack Hanna Cottages are luxury level though we have Virunga Lodge and Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge for very Luxury travelers.