Volcanoes National Park

Situated in northwestern Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Since reopening in 1999, it has experienced a growing number of visitors each day, thanks in large part to its role as the world’s most popular mountain gorilla sanctuary. With fewer than 700 of this species left, tourists can catch a rare glimpse of the gorillas as they can nowhere else in the world. Be-yond gorillas, however, the park is also able to offer some of the country’s most spectacular scenery and diverse vegetation. It is part of the Virunga Conservation Area and covers more than 125km2, including five extinct volcanoes: Muhabura, Sabyinyo, Gahinga, Karisimbi and Bisoke. The latter two can be climbed during one or two-day treks.

Against this backdrop, tourists can hike through the lush bamboo and Hygenia rainforest, open grassland and swamp of Volcanoes National Park to discover golden monkeys, bush duiker, buffalo and spotted hyenas. You will not have to listen too hard before you hear one of the 178 recorded bird species in the park. Look through the gaps in the dense forest canopy and you will also see the breathtaking peaks of the volcanoes standing tall at over 4,500m.

Made famous as the research base of the late American primatologist Dian Fossey and, subsequently, as the setting for the film Gorillas in the Mist, the park continues to uphold its reputation as a destination for unrivaled wildlife encounters. The edges of Mt. Sabyinyo are also where you will find Fossey’s tomb, as she was buried among the gorillas she grew to love so dearly.

Experienced guides will take you through this impressive montane ecosystem, where you can witness the sights and sounds of the heart of Africa.

How to reach Volcanoes National Park

You will have to use a private means to access the Park since there are no public transport services from Musanze to Kinigi Park Headquarters. Public transport services are only available from Kigali town/ Airport or Gisenyi to Musanze town. In order to make your trip smooth, use the services of tour operators like Maranatha Tours and Travel who will book for your transport to and from the park and your accommodation. There are also exciting self drive services from Kigali to visit the Park

Volcanoes National Park

Activities in Volcanoes National Park

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Mountain gorilla tracking

Rwanda’s tourism industry today boosts largely because of gorilla trekking. Most tourists, who come for safaris in Rwanda, travel mainly to see the rare mountain gorillas in the thick bamboo vegetation of Volcanoes National Park. The park features ten habituated groups that have been set for visitors to track every day. They include the Susa A group which derives its name from the Susa River and known to have been monitored by Dian Fossey-the famous primatologist, Sabyinyo family which is headed by the hugest silverback gorilla “Guhonda” in the entire Volcanoes National Park, Amahoro, Hirwa, Ugenda, Agashya, Kwitonda, Umubano, Karisimbi and Bwenge. To track a gorilla family in Volcanoes National Park, you will need to have a permit at hand. Rwanda sells trekking permits at $1500 per person and accessing one offers you a golden chance to strike your imaginations with these dramatic wild creatures. The permits can be obtained through a tour operator or through the Rwanda Development Board. The 10 habituated gorilla families translate to 80 permits and only eight visitors are assigned to track one group per day. The trek takes from 30 minutes to 8 hours depending on location of gorillas, nature of the habitat, visitor speed and many other factors. Visitors are given only one hour to be with the apes in the wild, explore their behavior and take as many photos as possible. Across the world, it is only in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo where you can catch a glimpse of these rare species while they are still in their natural habitat. Mountain gorillas are listed as the critically endangered species and there are fewer than 900 that are left in the entire world today. Therefore, a trip to Rwanda Volcanoes National Park rewards endeavors with the most amazing and thrilling experiences of lifetime. The park is accessible within 2 to 3 hours’ drive from Kigali International Airport.

Golden Monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National ParkBesides tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda, the Volcanoes National Park is where silver meets gold! The golden monkeys are a few fascinating creatures that are worth tracking while on safari in Rwanda. They are largely found within the Great Virunga Mountains ranges of Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The golden monkeys are a sub species of the Sykes monkey also famous as the blue monkey. There are 2 groups that have been habituated for visitors to track all of which consist of 80 individuals. The adventure begins at 7:00am local time. For lifetime experiences with these striking creatures, permits can be purchased at $100 per visitor. The trek can last up to four hours with only one hour of face to face encounter with the primates. Most of these unique species largely live within the bamboo forest of Volcanoes National Park and can be sighted playing or feeding. Like mountain gorilla trekking packing list, if you are interested in this tremendous adventure, you will need to come with long trousers, long sleeved shirt or T-shirt, hat, light rain jacket or poncho, waterproof hiking boots but should be light weight for you to hike, waterproof daypack, energy giving snacks, a bottle of drinking water, camera, insect repellent, first aid kit, walking stick (this can be got from the park headquarters) and many others

Birding in Volcanoes national park

Safaris in Volcanoes National Park are not only for mountain gorilla or golden monkey tracking but a place for you to also go for bird watching while on Rwanda safari. The park features among a few Important Birding Areas (IBAs) in Rwanda. There are over 200 distinct bird species that call the park their home with mainly the Albertine rift endemics. For visitor sightings, the notable birds include the Rwenzori Turacos, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, Handsome Francolin, strange weaver, dusky crimson wing, collared apalis, archer’s ground robin, Grauer’s rush warbler, red faced woodland warbler and many more. If you are planning any birding tour in Rwanda, consider Volcanoes National Park a must to visit destination. You will need a binocular and camera for bird watching and many others

Hiking to the Dian Fossey tomb site

Volcanoes National ParkThe Dian Fossey tomb hike is one way that you can best explore more about Dian Fossey’s conservation life. For some of you watched “Gorillas in the Mist” movie, it entails more about Dian Fossey’s life and her research camp in the Volcanoes National Park. The trek to the tomb site lasts for about 3 hours where you find the beloved gorillas “Digit” and her resting site. Dian Fossey is known to have saved the critically endangered mountain gorillas that the world is proud of today. Her research work and conservation was facilitated by the Karisoke research center that she established at a time of her research in 1967. She conducted her research on mountain gorillas for over 18 years but unfortunately she was murdered by unknown people in 1985. The surrounding area features spectacular scenic views and wildlife species, birds as well as primates. Hiking permits are sold at $75 per visitor. The trek also comes with views from golden monkeys and at times the rare mountain gorillas and birdlife.

Cave exploration in Volcanoes national park

Musanze caves feature among the few most historical sites in Rwanda. They are situated within Musanze town just adjacent to Volcanoes National Park. The caves have existed for over 65 million years and they have 31 entrances and extend up to 21 kilometers inside. They were formed from the flow of Basalt layers of Lava that spread form Virunga Volcanoes of Sabyinyo and Bisoke. The musanze caves offered home to many people as well as storage of supplies and food by the kings of Rwanda during the war time. The exploration lasts for two hours and visitors pay $50. It can be done in the afternoon with an escort. Other caves include the Busasamana caves which are located one kilometer and links up to many other caves such as Kazenze, Mudende and Busasamana regions. There is also Mugongo cave for you to explore and all these are among the famous 52 caves.

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