Volcanoes National Park, home for mountain gorillas in Rwanda
Also known as Parc National Des Volcans was first gazetted in 1925 and is situated in the Northern Province of Rwanda bordering Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The 3 parks mentioned make the Virunga chain of volcanic mountain ranges shared by Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo, and is a habitat to half of the world’s remaining gorilla population.
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is located approximately 2 hour’s drive from Kigali International Airport. This makes the park popular for short gorilla tours like 1 day trips unlike other destinations like Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. It should be noted that, gorilla tracking ranks as one of the most popular attractions in Africa. To some tourists, an African safari is incomplete without visiting gorillas in the wild jungles of Africa. Volcanoes National park Rwanda covers an area of 130 sq. Kilometers. The altitude ranges from about 2,500m to the peak of Karisimbi at 4,500metres above sea level.
When to Visit?
The Park can be visited any time of the year except mid-March through mid-May during the long rainy season. Best from June through September.
Accommodation around Volcanoes National Park
Experience a quite range of accommodation choices near Volcanoes National Park Rwanda – from simple and basic, to more up market. Lower budget categories are in Ruhengeri and Kinigi while more expensive lodges can be found on the outskirts of the park or scattered further afield. Among the lodges and hotels available include;
Luxury Options: Virunga Lodge, Hannah Cottage of Gorillas Nest Lodge and Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Deluxe Options: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Le bambou Gorilla Lodge and Villa Gorilla
Other options: Kinigi Guest House, Hotel La palme, Amahoro Guest House, Muhabure hotel and Saint Anne Hotel among others.
Attractions / What to do in Volcanoes National Park?
Mountain Gorilla Tracking:
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda offers a perfect destination for tracking the rare gorillas with about 10 habituated gorilla groups for tourism purposes. Gorilla tracking is main attraction into this park. It takes place once a day, every morning. You must report at the park head quarters by 7:00am for a briefing and group allocation. The trek in search for gorillas is quiet strenuous and one must be physically fit to make it through. You will be awarded with the gorilla tracking certificate after the trek. The most important thing is that one must posses a gorilla permit that acts as permission to join the trek in search for mountain gorillas. Each gorilla permit costs US$750 for foreign non residents.
Among the items one should pack while going on a gorilla tour include; a Hat, Insect repellent, garden gloves, long pants, long sleeved shirt or blouse, bottled mineral water for refreshment, snacks and hiking shoes because the trek goes through steep and slippery jungle grounds. The gorilla groups available for tourism purposes include Hirwa, Kwitonda, Ugenda, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Umubano, Amahoro, Group13, Susa and Ntambara. A group of 8 persons is allowed to visit each gorilla family per day.
Golden Monkey Tracking:
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda also has the rare golden monkeys habituated for tourism purposes. The activity is done once every day from the park head quarters in Kinigi. The activity can be added to your gorilla safari in Rwanda, and each permit currently costs US dollars 100 per person.
Mountain hiking Adventure:
The fact that Volcanoes National Park Rwanda forms part of the Virunga chain of mountain ranges, there are two peaks available for climbers. One is Mountain Visoke,requires just one day, and Mountain Karisimbi that requires 2 days and night camping in the mountains. Depending on your interests, time and budget, you can add mountain hiking on your gorilla tour in Rwanda.
Dian Fossey Tombs
The late Dian Fossey was an American primatologist who spend here close to 20 years protecting and habituating the mountain gorillas. Dian Fossey was murdered by poachers and her tombs are found near Karisoke Research center, nestled between the two beautiful peaks of Mt. Visoke and Karisimbi. The hike to Dian Fossey Tombs is so interesting, you may encounter different bird species and animals such as forest Elephants, Buffaloes and some times mountain gorillas. This activity currently costs US$75 per person. You must be physically fit because its over 6 hours non-stop hike. Carry enough drinking water and snacks.
Musanze caves and local community tour:
This is 1.5km cave located in Musanze town near Volcanoes National park. You can also take a community walk around the park, visit Iby’wacu cultural village.
Particularities: Volcanoes National Park is home to around half of the worlds’ precious mountain gorillas some 400 of them making Rwanda probably the best place in Africa for a tracking safari-It has a historic connection with gorilla conservation. Also here we find the rare golden monkeys.
Popular Tours to Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
1 Day Gorilla Tour: Leaves Kigali early morning at 04:40hrs to return in the evening after gorilla tracking on the same day.
2 Day gorilla tour: Most popular with 1 overnight stay near the park. If interested, there is time for community tour or Gisozi genocide memorial tour.
3 Day Rwanda gorilla trekking tours, takes you for gorilla tracking and golden monkey tracking or Mount Visoke hiking, Musanze community tour or Dian Fossey tombs tour among others. Its a relaxed package with 2 nights around the park.
4 Day gorilla tour with 2 gorilla treks. This is self explanatory, enjoy double gorilla trekking and golden monkeys or Dian Fossey Tombs tour
5 Day Ultimate Gorilla Adventure, offers 3 gorilla treks in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. If you want a different experience, you can choose 2 gorilla treks in Rwanda and another trek in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in south Western Uganda. The 2 parks are not far from each other, takes less than 2 hours drive without boarder formalities. Uganda Visa can be obtain from Cyanika boarder at US$50 only. Gorilla trekking permits in Uganda cost US$600 only per person and the park has about 13 habituated gorilla groups. Another different experience if you choose Mgahinga National park, also located in south western Uganda with only 1 gorilla group known as “Nyakagezi”. Click here for more information about gorilla trekking in Rwanda.