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Home » Blog » Dian Fossey Hike, Dian Fossey Death, Dian Fossey Tomb Hike & Gorillas

Dian Fossey Hike, Dian Fossey Death, Dian Fossey Tomb Hike & Gorillas

Dian Fossey:- Dian Fossey Hike, Dian Fossey Death, Dian Fossey Tomb Hike & Gorillas In Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Diane fossey grave Active Adventure Vacation Safari in Rwanda

Dian Fossey Grave Hike – Overview

Dian Fossey hike/a trek to Dian Fossey gravesite is one of the must-do Rwanda safari activities in Volcanoes National Park. It gives you a learning experience about the work of Dian Fossey, the iconic American primatologist who spent 20 years of her life in Virunga Volcanoes studying and saving the amazing Mountain Gorillas from extinction.

The survival of these magnificent human cousins is largely credited to her work. And your Gorilla trekking in Rwanda will be even more meaningful after the Dian Fossey tomb hike.

Dian Fossey With Mountain Gorillas In Volcanoes National ParkFossey made incredible discoveries about Gorillas. Initially, Gorillas had a terrible reputation as savage beasts that would kill a human on sight. In her study and love of these apes, she demolishes this myth. Living alongside Gorilla families, Fossey showed that these massive ground-dwelling apes are actually gentle giants. In many ways, they are like us.

Slowly, she gained their trust and could sit near them and observe their daily lives. Accurately, she documented what they ate and how they vocalized and studied their social relationships. This method of gaining Gorilla’s trust is called Gorilla Habituation, Fossey’s great gift to the world. Sadly, with all her work and struggles in fighting poachers over the years, Fossey had also made many enemies, especially among those who benefitted from this illegal trade. This haunted her on a dark night in 1985 when she was brutally hacked to death with a crude machete. She was laid to rest in the gorilla graveyard next to her favorite Gorilla friend, Digit.

Her story was beautifully portrayed in the popular Hollywood movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ (1988). If you want to follow in the footsteps of this hero on your Rwanda Gorilla safaris & tours, here’s all you need to know about the Dian Fossey hike trail!

Let’s take a quick look at the summary of what we cover:

  1. About Dian Fossey
  2. What is Dian Fossey hike like?
  3. Is the Dian Fossey hike difficult?
  4. How much is the Dian Fossey grave site hike?
  5. How to book your Dian Fossey grave hike permit?
  6. Best places stay on your Dian Fossey hiking safari in Rwanda
  7. When to go for a Dian Fossey Tomb tour to Rwanda?
  8. What to pack for your Dian Fossey Hike in Rwanda?
  9. Other Rwanda safari activities to do before/after your Dian Fossey hike
  10. How to get Volcanoes National Park for Dian Fossey Hike?
  11. Frequently asked questions about Dian Fossey
  12. Conclusion
  13. About Dian Fossey

About Dian Fossey:

Dian Fossey, born in 1932, was the American primatologist who went to Rwanda and Congo (DRC) to study the highly endangered Mountain Gorillas from 1966 up to her death in 1985. Her story was beautifully depicted in the popular Hollywood ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ movie, which was also the title of the book she wrote.


Fossey went up close to live amongst the Gorilla families and actually mimicked them so as to be accepted by the Gorillas as one of them. Until then, the only human contact these Great Apes had was with poachers. So, Dian Fossey had to make a lot of visits before they could trust her.

After that, she could study their behaviors and habits in order to release her ground-breaking Gorilla research papers. In 1970, Fossey even came on the cover of National Geographic, which brought her international name and fame, well beyond what a researcher could aspire for. She became the undisputed authority on these world’s largest apes and our close cousins.

Fossey is widely credited for preventing the extinction of Mountain Gorillas, which were reduced to about 250 individuals in 1981 from 450 in 1960 due to war and rampant poaching all across their habitats in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. According to the 2018 census, the Mountain Gorilla population now numbers over 1060 individuals.

Gorilla trekking tourism, in addition to awareness of their plight, has also played a key role in the survival and revival of this fascinating species.

Since the tourist needs to pay 1500 USD per person to the Rwanda government (Volcanoes National Park), 700 USD per person to the Uganda government (Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi  Impenetrable National Parks), and 400 USD per person to the Congo government (Virunga National Park), the respective countries that fund rangers to protect these magnificent human-like apes.

These fees are for 1-hour encounter with Mountain Gorillas, making it an exclusive Africa safari experience that does control the associated risks with over-tourism.

With all her struggles in fighting poachers over the years, Dian Fossey had also made a lot of enemies, particularly among those who benefitted from this illegal trade. This haunted her on a dark night in 1985 when she was brutally hacked to death with a crude machete.

Her life ended abruptly that night, but her legacy lives on as more and more people go gorilla trekking in Africa in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo and see these magnificent human cousins, thriving in their natural habitat.

  1. What Is Dian Fossey Hike Like?

You must be at least 15 years old to participate in the Dian Fossey hike on your Rwanda tours. The amazing hike takes 3-4 hours and it is done in the morning.

You trek through the beautiful areas of Volcanoes National Park with unique plants, spectacular views of the Virunga Volcanoes, and sightings of numerous wildlife; the chance of seeing the Gorillas, Golden Monkeys, and the sought after Albertine rift endemic Birds of Rwanda.

Sturdy hiking shoes/waterproof boots are required because the trail is usually muddy and slippery since it rains most of the time. Trousers and a long-sleeved shirt are also essential for protection from thorny plants and stinging nettles.

You report to the Park Headquarters in Kinigi at 7 am to meet the ranger guides for registration and briefing. After a briefing at about 8 am, drive for about 30 minutes to the base of Mount Bisoke where the hike starts.

A walking stick will be provided at the starting point, free of charge. And porters will be found here that you can hire to carry your bags and provide some support on the hike.

For the first 10 minutes, you’ll be walking outside the park, taking in the breathtaking views of the Virunga volcanoes. Soon, you’ll pass over the stone wall that demarcates the park and also helps in preventing forest elephants and buffaloes from entering the community

You’ll now be trekking along Mt Bisoke and passing an area frequented by gorillas. But you can only see them for a minute and not take photos because you are on  Rwanda gorilla trekking tours. Other potential animal sightings include Golden Monkeys, Buffaloes, and Duikers.

At about 2967m the Dain Fossey tomb trail, break off from the Mount Bisoke hiking trail. You hike towards Mount Karisimbi, going through a striking stretch of Hygenia Hypericum forested zone, at an altitude of 2900 – 3000m.

You enjoy the incredible mountain scenery of the Virungas from Rwanda to the Congo. En-route you’ll observe birds and for the birders, this is a great chance to catch the Albertine Rift Endemics. There are also a variety of rare plants.

At the tomb site, you’ll find is the graveyard where many of Dian Fossey Gorillas who were killed by poachers were buried, and her grave is also nearby. Take as many photos of the site as possible. After spending time at her grave, head back down the mountain to meet your vehicle. And this marks the end of your Dian Fossey hiking safaris in Rwanda.

  1. Is The Dian Fossey Tomb Hike Difficult?

Like Gorilla trekking in Rwanda, Dian Fossey grave site hike is not very difficult.

The average altitude of the trail is 2900m to 3000m above sea level. The hike takes 3-4 hours.

However, mud and incline at the starting point may pose a challenge to you if you are an inexperienced hiker. It involves hiking through the forests and hiking up the slopes and therefore requires a moderate level of fitness.

To ease the trek, you can wear comfortable waterproof hiking boots/shoes to overcome the muddy and slippery grounds. Similarly, dress in long trousers and tuck them into stockings to prevent bites from ground insects and being hurt by stinging nettles.

  1. How Much Is Dian Fossey Grave Site Hike?

The hike to the Dian Fossey Grave Site requires you to be with a valid permit.

The Dian Fossey hike is one of the cheapest hikes you can do on your Rwanda gorilla tour in Volcanoes National Park. Compared to other Rwanda safari activities such as gorilla trekking in Rwanda which costs $1500 per person, the Dian Fossey tomb hike costs:

  • 75 USD – Foreign Non-resident
  • 60 USD – Foreign Resident in Rwanda (Adult)
  • 45 USD – Foreign Resident in Rwanda (Child/Student)
  • 55 USD – East African Citizen (Adult)
  • 45 USD – East African Citizen (Child/Student)
  • 65 USD – East African Foreign Resident (Adult)
  • 45 USD – East African Foreign Resident (Child/Student)
  • 4000 RWF – Rwanda Citizen (Adult)
  • 2000 RWF – Rwanda Citizen (Child/Student)

The prices are per person per hike. The permit price includes park fees and a guide (though you are responsible for your own transportation to/from the trailhead). A portion of the money collected for the permit is channeled to gorilla conservation projects.

  1. How To Book Your Dian Fossey Grave Hike Permit?

You can book your Rwanda Dian Fossey Hike Permit online via the Irembo Portal.

However, it is best recommended to be done by a recognized Rwanda tour company to ensure that all services are booked and confirmed. Prime Safaris & Tours provides you with a solution to the search for a company to use.

We offer quality service and are very reliable when it comes to arranging Rwanda gorilla safaris and other tours based on our experience over the years in handling this. You are advised to book your Dian Fossey hike permit in advance especially during the peak months between June and September.

  1. Best Places Stay On Your Dian Fossey Hiking Safari In Rwanda

There is a variety of Rwanda safari accommodation choices available in the vicinity of Volcanoes National Park for your Dian Fossey grave site tour. They range from luxury, midrange to budget Rwanda safari lodges.

Rwanda Luxury safari lodges try to do their best to go over and beyond in services to ensure that your stay here is very comfortable. They make sure that you have the best time, with VIP rooms that sometimes come with room service and on-the-house alcoholic drinks (read includes on the lodge option before choosing). Midrange lodges in Rwanda also offer good rates and value for money’s worth.

We encourage you to book and stay at a lodge that is close to the park. This is so that you can easily connect park offices by 7:00 am for the Dian Fossey hike for the briefing exercise.

Here are some of the top Rwanda safari lodges for your Dian Fossey hike:

  • Bisate Lodge – Luxury
  • Virunga Lodge – Luxury
  • Mount Gahinga Lodge– Luxury
  • Sabinyo Silverback Lodge – Luxury
  • Mountain Gorilla View Lodge – Midrange
  • Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge – Midrange
  • Hotel Muhabura – Budget
  1. When To Go For A Dian Fossey Tomb Tour In Rwanda?

The Dian Fossey tomb tours in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park are open throughout the year. And permits are available every day.

You can choose your dates based on when it suits your Rwanda safaris plan and arrange according to that. However, the drier months of June, July, August, mid-September, December, January, and February are the best time to go. The rest of the months are rainy months.

  1. What To Pack For Dian Fossey Tomb Tour In Rwanda?

Here is a list of what to pack for your Dian Fossey tomb tour in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park:

  • Your passport and permit
  • Facemask and sanitizer
  • Waterproof jacket/rain jacket/poncho
  • A warm sweater
  • Long-sleeved shirt/blouse
  • Hiking pants/trousers
  • Greens, browns, and khaki-colored clothing are advisable for Dian Fossey Tomb Hike
  • Pair of waterproof hiking shoes/waterproof boots
  • A Longer pair of socks.
  • A pair of gaiters
  • Hand gloves
  • Water bottle
  • Pack energy snacks and drinking water
  • Walking stick
  • Camera with extra batteries & memory cards
  • Light waterproof daypack
  • Sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and a pair of sunglasses.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Any of your regular medication
  1. Other Rwanda Safari Activities To Do Before/After Your Dian Fossey Hike

On many occasions, hiking to the Dian Fossey gravesite is one of the complements to other popular Rwanda safari activities including:-

  • Gorilla trekking Rwanda
  • Golden monkey tracking Rwanda
  • Volcano hiking Rwanda (Hike Mounts Karisimbi & Bisoke)
  • Caving (Visit Musanze Caves)
  • Community visit (Visit Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village)
  • Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park
  • Canopy Walk in Nyungwe forest
  • Big game viewing in Akagera National Park
  • Visit Coffee and Tea Plantations
  • Relaxation along the shores of Lake Kivu
  • Kayak on Lake Kivu
  • Bike or hike the Congo Nile Trail
  • Kigali city (Visit Kigali Genocide Memorial)
  1. How To Get Volcanoes National Park For Dian Fossey Grave Site Hike?

Rwanda Volcano National Park is accessible by road from Kigali, Rwanda, or Uganda:

From Kigali:-

From Kigali, the park is just about 130km (2-3 hours) drive away. You won’t have to worry about driving or getting lost if you book Rwanda safari tours – holidays with a reliable Rwanda tour operator company like Prime Safaris & Tours Ltd.

We have professional Rwanda safari guides who are familiar with the park’s location as well as the whole country. The guide will get there in no time and connect to Kinigi Park Headquarter where the hike briefing is done.

From Uganda:-

You may also drive from Uganda and connect to Volcanoes National Park. This is especially a great option if you spent time in Uganda safari destinations. If you have been on a Chimpanzee tracking safari in Uganda Kibale National Park or Uganda wildlife safaris in Queen Elizabeth National Park, you may connect to Volcanoes with a 6-8 hour drive. After Uganda gorilla safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the drive to Volcanoes via the Cyanika Border takes around 2-4 hours.

  1. Frequently Asked Questions About Dian Fossey

What Is Dian Fossey Famous For?

Dian Fossey was the primatologist who is famous worldwide for her gorilla research and saving the African Mountain Gorillas from extinction. Through her 20 years of research, she raised awareness of their vulnerability and promoted conservation initiatives, including setting up the Karisoke Research Centre. Today, Fossey’s acclaimed book ‘Gorilla in the Mist remains perhaps the accessible starting point for anybody who wants to know more about Gorilla behavior.

What Did Dian Fossey Find Out About Gorillas?

Fossey made many remarkable findings/discovering about Gorillas.

During her research, she was able to find out how females transfer from group to group, gorilla vocalization, hierarchies and social relationships among groups, rare infanticide, gorilla diet, and how gorillas recycle nutrients-all of which she recounts in her 1983 memoir, Gorillas In The Mist.

How Did Dian Fossey Protect The Gorillas?

Dian Fossey greatest contribution to the protection and survival of mountain gorillas was the introduction of what she called “active conservation” tactics – patrolling to ward off poachers and chase away cattle, destroying traps, taking census counts of the animals, and lobbying for the expansion of protected habitat.

She was certain that without quick and decisive action, carried out by herself with a team of locals she had hired and trained, long-term gorilla conservation goals would be futile, as there would eventually be nothing left to save.

Along with her crew, Fossey captured, beat, and humiliated suspected poachers, occasionally holding their cattle for ransom or burning their hunting camps to the ground. She accused national park staff of helping poachers capture infant gorillas for foreign zoos and challenged Rwandan government officials to enforce poaching laws more strictly.

Though her approach to combating Rwanda’s poaching problem was widely criticized as inflammatory, it was effective. She financed four-man patrols that destroyed 987 traps over a period of several months in 1979. During that same stretch of time, Volcanoes National Park’s 24-man team failed to destroy one.

Who Was Digit Gorilla?

Digit was the Silverback with whom Dian had a powerful bond, and their relationship came to a terrible end in 1977 when poachers attacked Digit’s group.

The fearless gorilla sacrificed himself for the good of the group, sustaining several spear wounds while fighting to the death so that his group could escape unharmed. The poachers subsequently decapitated him and removed his hands.

After Digit’s death, Fossey established the Digit Fund to raise money for her “active conservation” and anti-poaching initiatives. The Digit Fund would later be renamed the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and continues her conservation work today.

How Did Dian Fossey Die?

On 26 December 1985, Dian Fossey was hacked to death with a machete. Her body was found face-up near the two beds where she slept, roughly 7 feet away from a hole that her assailant(s) had apparently cut in the wall of the cabin.

Where Is Dian Fossey Buried?

Dian Fossey is buried at Gorilla Cemetery at Karisoke Research Station. It is a site that she herself had constructed for her deceased gorilla friends. She was buried in there next to Digit Gorilla, and near many gorillas killed by poachers.


Your Dian Fossey Hike is your opportunity to contribute to the very work that she started in 1966. Before she was known around the world for living with Mountain Gorillas, Fossey struggled to bring attention to their dwindling numbers. Certain that gorillas were on the verge of extinction, she adopted a brash approach to conservation that ruffled many.

But this fierce dedication helped revive these rare primates. Today, you can go on Gorilla safaris in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo and have a close encounter with wild Gorillas. Such up-close encounters with these amazingly gentle great apes would be impossible today if not for the groundbreaking research of Dian Fossey. Looking into the eyes of a Mountain Gorilla, it is easy to imagine the emotions Fossey must have felt as she became the first scientist to study the species in earnest nearly half a century ago and to understand why she became so passionate about protecting these endangered great apes.

In addition to documenting the daily lives of Mountain Gorillas, Fossey kept a personal diary. The last entry she wrote read:

“When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.”

Thankfully, the African gorilla trekking in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo seem to have taken this advice to heart. Applying the lessons of Dian Fossey, the countries now look to the Gorilla as a source of national pride and a hopeful symbol of their economic future.

If you would like to include Dian Fossey tomb hike in your Rwanda safari package, please let us know. We can guide you in planning your unforgettable safari in Rwanda.

Sample Rwanda Safari Packages Featuring Dian Fossey Tomb Hike In Volcanoes National Park

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