Volcanoes National Park lies in the northwestern part of Rwanda and features as one of the most remarkable spots that are worthy visiting while on safari in Africa. This protected area was established in 1925 and it features as one of ancient conservation areas in Africa. The park was gazetted primarily to protect the rare mountain gorillas and other wildlife and not to forget their natural habitat. This remarkable conservation area also comes with incredible volcano mountains especially mount Gahinga, Bisoke, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo and Muhabura that make up part of eight Virunga Massifs.
The park features as one of the only four incredible protected areas in the world where the rare mountain gorillas can be tracked by visitors every day and it comes with mountainous landscapes and not to leave out the stunning vegetation that come in different altitudes. From 2400 to 2500 meters, the lower montane forest is available but unfortunately it has been lost to cultivation, 2500 to 3200 metres is Neoboutonia forest and the Bamboo forest covers around 30 percent of the park and this is where mountain gorillas usually find food to eat. From 2600 to 3600 meters, Hagenia-hypericum is present while from 3500 to 4200 meters lobelia lanurensis exists, Senecio rosenii and Lobelia wollastonii. From 4300 to 4500 meters you will find a secondary thicket, marshes and meadows.
The Volcanoes national park is mainly popular for the critically endangered mountain gorillas and there are 10 troops that have been habituated for visitors to track every day while on safari in Rwanda and for those of you who need to go for research there are only two groups set for this purpose in Rwanda. A side from tracking mountain gorillas, you will also be in position to catch a glimpse of other primates especially the rare golden monkeys as well as other wildlife species like the spotted hyena, buffalo, black fronted duiker and not to forget the rarely sighted bush buck. For bird enthusiast, Volcanoes National Park Rwanda offers refuge to about 200 unique bird species, 13 and 16 of them are only found within the Virunga Massifs and the Rwenzori Mountains.
The tourist attractions in the Volcanoes National Park include the following;
Around the world, there are fewer than 900 individuals of rare mountain gorillas and they are only found in the jungles of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in southwestern Uganda, the Virunga National Park in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. They are scientifically referred as Gorilla beringei beringei and they are known to be the descendants of the ancient world monkey Oligocene epoch about 24 to 34 year back.
Only 10 groups have been habituated for visitor experiences in the Volcanoes National Park and they are include the Susa A, Susa B also known as the Karisimbi, Amahoro, Ugenda, Kwitonda, Bwenge, Agashya also famous as Group 13, Hirwa, Sabyinyo, and Umubano) and two families of Pablo Shida and Beetsme that have been set for research. To most travelers, a safari in Africa is incomplete without tracking the mountain gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda, whether on guided or self drive safari. For instance, there are guests traveling to kenya or Tanzania for wildlife viewing and then connect to Ruanda or Uganda mainly for gorilla tracking experience. Those on self drive trips can rent 4×4 car in Kenya and cross with to Uganda up to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for gorilla watching in the Jungle.
The rare golden monkey
The golden monkeys also feature among the few attractions in Volcanoes National Park. They are found around the Virunga Massifs and the Gishwati in Rwanda. Golden monkeys have striking golden patch on their bodies where they derive their name. They are from the blue monkey species and they tend to be very playful and at times this makes it challenging, taking their photos as you really need to position yourself and be faster enough. They jump from tree to tree. They can be tracked around the bamboo forest of Volcanoes National Park.
Other incredible biodiversity to explore while on safari in the Volcanoes National Park are the spotted hyena, bushbuck and black fronted duiker, buffalo and others.
A side from the spectacular wildlife species, you can also catch a glimpse at the stunning five of the eight Great Virunga volcanoes in Volcanoes National Park especially the Karisimbi Volcano which stretches up to 4507 meters. It is the highest of all the 8 (eight) Volcanoes and ranks the 5th highest in Africa. Mount Sabyinyo is another great volcano in the park and it stretches to about 3645 meters and got its name from the local word ‘Iryinyo’ meaning ‘tooth.’ It lies in the northeast of Lake Kivu and west of Lake Bunyonyi.
Mount Bisoke (3711) meters extends from Rwanda Volcanoes National Park to the Virunga National Park in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The biggest portion is within Rwanda. It refuges the remarkable Crater Lake-Ngezi (400) meters of diameter. This Crater Lake extends up to 11 kilometers from the top and it formed due to eruption in 1957.
Muhabura Mountain (4127) meters and others call it Muhavura. This is the third highest volcanoes in the Virunga Massifs. The word Muhabura denotes the ‘guide.’ The two major hiking stopovers include the first one which starts from 3116 meters above sea level and the second is at 3855 meters above sea level.
Mount Gahinga (3474 meters). This is ideal for hiking and the trail leads to the stunning Craters. There are also volcano caves as well as swamps and mores with plants such as senecio, lobelia and alchemillia that you can find within the Gahinga Mountain.
About 200 different birds call Volcanoes National Park their home, 13 and 16 of them are only found within the Virunga Mountains and Rwenzori Mountains. For bird lovers, you can sight the red faced woodland warbler, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori Turaco, Collared apalis, strange weaver, Dusky crimson wing, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, Grauer’s rush warbler, the Handsome Francolins and Archer’s ground robin and many more.
Lastly, you can also sight the Dian Fossey tomb site where Dian Fossey and 20 gorillas including Digit silverback, Dian Fossey’s beloved gorilla were buried; Musanze caves, cultural encounters at Iby’Iwacu cultural village, the twin Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo, Russumo falls.
From the above discussion, besides gorilla trekking, Volcanoes National Park offers refuge to several attractions for visitors on safari in Rwanda to catch a glimpse while on safaris in Africa. Consider visiting this park a must to do to explore its rich biodiversity which reward you with lifetime experiences.