The Volcanoes National Park is an English of the former French naming the Parc Nationale des Volcanos which is positioned to the north west of Rwanda sheltering the Rwandan section of the entire Virunga Volcanoes that comprise of eight (8) mountains shared by Rwanda along with adjacent countries of Uganda and DR Congo.
The Volcanoes National Park is notably the home of the mountain gorillas that are critically endangered world over and it shares 5 volcanic mountains that form the Virunga massif including the Karisimbi, Gahinga, Sabyinyo, Muhabura and Bisoke.
The park was established in the year 1925 and it can be noted that this was the first park to be gazetted on the continent of Africa aimed at protection of Mountain gorillas and ensure their continuity. The boundaries of Volcanoes National Park were enlarged in 1929 to feature the sections of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and its name then was altered to Albert National Park stretching over a geographical spread of 8090 km² under the management of the Belgian Colonial government who were the colonial masters of the two states by then. Following the independence, park was separated following the boundary. The Rwandan side was reduced in 1969 to create more space for growing of pyrethrum.
Volcanoes National park in the years that followed became a rich ground for the mountain gorilla research and the famous Dian Fossey the American Primatologist arrived in the park and concentrated on the researching and promotion of mountain gorilla conservation. A research station was set up in between Karisimbi and Bisoke and was named Karisoke deriving the name from the two Volcanoes. Though Dian Fossey lost her life in the year 1985 under unclear circumstances, her legacy and the research station still stands up to today. A multi storied building has been set up in Musaze town to accommodate the Karisoke works and coordinate mountain gorilla research in the area. The famous book of Dian Fossey named the Gorillas in the mist was transformed into a movie by Sigourney Weaver.
The Volcanoes National Park is perched on a mountainous landscape and as a result features verdant vegetation that varies according to the raising altitude. At 2400 – 2500m, there thrives lower montane forest which was lost to farming, 2500 – 3200m; there is Neoboutonia forest while the Bamboo forest covers about 30% of the park which make the food verdant for the gorillas. At 2600 – 3600m, there thrives Hagenia-Hypericum while at 3500-4200m; there thrives Lobelia lanurensis, Senecio erici-rosenii and Lobelia wollastonii. The elevation of 4300 – 4500 in elevation features a secondary thicket, marshes and meadows.
The Volcanoes National Park is greatly recognised world over by its numbers of mountain gorillas with ten groups of habituated gorillas dedicated for tracking and the two groups dedicated for research. The Park also supports the endangered golden monkeys, Other fauna like spotted hyena, black-fronted duiker, buffalo along with bushbuck though rarely seen, 178 bird species of which 13 species and 16 sub species are restricted in range to mountains of Virunga and Rwenzori
Attractions in Volcanoes National Park that can be encountered on Safaris in Rwanda
Mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park that can be encountered on Gorilla Safaris in Rwanda
Referred to as Gorilla beringei beringei, the Mountain gorillas are recognised as descendants of old world monkey Oligocene Epoch around 34 – 24 million years ago. Read more about Mountain gorillas. Volcanoes National Park is gifted to be among the few habitats left in the world to be in possession of these critically endangered apes. Volcanoes along with Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Congo’s Virunga National Park form the greater Virunga massif that apparently supports 480 mountain gorilla population in the world which is more than the a half of their global population standing at 880 with the rest thriving in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park..
Volcanoes National Park has undertaken the habituation of a section of these gorillas and apparently, it features two habituated research groups of Pablos Shida and Beetsme. Apart from the research groups, the Volcanoes National Park also supports ten (10) habituated gorilla families dedicated for tracking by travellers on gorilla trekking safaris in Rwanda. These include; Susa A, Susa B, Amahoro, Umubano, Guhonda, Group 13, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Ugenda and Bwenge. Read more about Gorilla families in Rwanda
Wildlife in Volcanoes National Park that can be encountered on Safaris in Rwanda
Besides mountain gorillas, the Volcanoes National Park features other impressive wildlife that can be explored on Rwanda gorilla safaris. The wildlife include; black – fronted duiker buffalo, Spotted Hyena and bushbuck. Though this wildlife is noted to exist, it is rarely encountered due to dense vegetation and terrain.
Golden Monkeys in Volcanoes National Park that can be encountered on Safaris in Rwanda
The endangered golden monkeys are also great Species of interest found in Volcanoes National Park. The golden monkeys thrive in the Virunga massif and the Gishwati in Rwanda on the global scale and they feature magical golden patch on their back which forms the background of their names. They exist in the Bamboo zone of the park and are among the unique primate Species worth encountering on Rwanda safaris.
Birds in Volcanoes National Park that can be encountered on birding Safaris in Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park features a count of 178 bird species of which 13 species of these and 16 sub species limited to the mountains of Rwenzori and Virunga massif. The range of birds that thrive in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda include the Archer’s ground robin, dusky crimson-wing, the francolins, red-faced woodland warbler, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori turaco, collared apalis and strange weaver.
Scenery in Volcanoes National Park that can be encountered on Safaris in Rwanda
Talking about the Scenery, Volcanoes National Park is gifted to be sharing 5 out of the 8 mountains in the Virunga massif and these include the famous Karisimbi Mountain (4507m) which is also the highest of the entire eight mountain chain, Muhabura (4127m), Bisoke (3711), Sabyinyo (3634m) along with Gahinga (3474). Appearing in a series form, the Volcanic Mountains present one of the great scenic views on the continent of Africa. They feature beautiful vegetation on their slopes and magical peaks not forgetting crater lakes like Lake Ngezi. All these combine to derive magical scenic views if explored on safaris in Rwanda
Tourist activities in Volcanoes National Park that Rwanda Safari undertakers can participate in
Mountain Gorilla trekking as a Rwanda Gorilla Safari activity in Volcanoes National Park
Mountain gorilla trekking is the only conducted in Volcanoes National Park and the gorilla trekking encounter commences at Kinigi Park Headquarters at 8am local time. The prior arrival offer the free magical views of the Kinyarwanda dance performances along with a warm cup of coffee that enables the trekkers to neutralise the mountain coldness that is always much in the morning. The gorilla families are allocated by the Park rangers and briefing is carried out at 8am in groups of eight according standing in your respective gorilla groups. This is followed by the drive to the trail head and then trekking commences. The encounter tends to last 2 – 8 hours and involves one hour of direct encounter with the mountain gorillas. The trek in the jungle involves hiking impressive landscapes that are at times challenging with slippery surfaces and steep terrain. The views of the flora, the impressive birds and the forest add spice beyond the gorillas alone. The magical encounter with the gorillas will be commemorated by the myriad of photos and the poses with the gorillas. Remember to maintain the 7m rule and desisting from flash photography Read more on gorilla trekking rules in Rwanda. The gorilla trekking permits issued solely by the Rwanda Development cost $750 each throughout the year and the minimum of 15 years is the lowest age to track the gorillas.
Golden Monkey Tracking as a Rwanda Safari activity in Volcanoes National Park
Besides gorilla trekking, Volcanoes National Park presents the golden monkey tracking experience. The endangered golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park are habituated and thus able to be tracked by the Rwanda safari undertakers. The golden monkey tracking experience commences at 7am from the park headquarters at Kinigi and does not have the group limit in terms of numbers. The entire experience tends to last 4 hour and this involves one full hour with the golden monkey as they feed, play and make interesting sounds. They greatly thrive in the Bamboo zone of the Volcanoes National Park thus presenting a relative hike. The permit for tracking golden monkeys costs $100 and is issued solely by the Rwanda Development Board.
Birding as a Rwanda Safari activity in Volcanoes National Park
With 178 bird species, Volcanoes National Park can offer a rewarding birding experience. The 13 of these Species and 16 Sub Species are limited to the mountains of Virunga and Rwenzoris and this gives Volcanoes and unique birding position from other destinations in Rwanda. The Species of birds that can be explored on the birding activity in Volcanoes National Park include; the Rwenzori turaco, Archer’s ground robin, dusky crimson-wing, francolins, red-faced woodland warbler, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, strange weaver, Rwenzori batis and collared apalis.
Karisoke Mountain Climbing as a Rwanda Safari activity in Volcanoes National Park
Karisimbi Volcano stands as the highest of all the eight Volcanic Mountains that form the Virunga massif. It rises to 4,507m above sea level and stands as the 6th highest in Africa. The climb to the summit of Karisimbi takes 2 days on round trip and the first camp is pitched at 3,700m with the beautiful views of Mount Bisoke. The second day allows you to summit the mountain and descend back to the starting point. The encounter exposes the views of various geographical features, vegetation zones and amazing sceneries. The climb to Karisimbi requires a 2 days’ notice to the Park Authorities and costs $400 exclusive of the tent $10 and the porters who are paid Rfr5, 000 per day.
Hiking Bisoke Volcano as a Rwanda Safari activity in Volcanoes National Park
Rising to 3,711m above sea level, the Bisoke Mountain hike takes one day round trip thus offering an adventure excursion for the limited time travellers or as an extension of gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda. The climb to the Bisoke Volcano commences at 7am and takes about 7 hours round trip and offers the sights of beautiful flora, impressive views of the scenic Virunga Mountains and the Crater Lake of Ngezi. The climb to the Mount Bisoke is not all that challenging thus even the less experienced can undertake.
Hiking the Dian Fossey Grave as a Rwanda Safari activity in Volcanoes National Park
The American Primatologist Dian Fossey established her research station in Volcanoes National Park in 1967 and she named it Karisoke. She dedicated her life to the research about the mountain gorillas and championing their conservation. Dian Fossey done great things including initiating the active gorilla conservation that aimed at eliminating poaching through armed patrols. She set up the Digit fund after the death of her favourite Silver back Digit which later resulted into Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International that still stands up to today. She lost her life in 1985 in unclear circumstances when she was found dead at her Research centre at Karisoke. Thus undertaking a hike to Dian Fossey site and paying tribute to her is a historical and ethical tour that you can have in Rwanda. Her Tomb and that of Digit thrive at the station.
Twin Lakes walk as a Rwanda Safari activity in Volcanoes National Park
Lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo appear as twin lakes because they adjoin one another. The walk to the twin lakes presents magical views of the lakes and the beautiful sights of Russumo falls. You encounter the locals paddling the canoes and others riding their wooden boats on these lakes as they fish. The walk also presents impressive bird views like Long crested Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Stonechat, Grey-throated tit, Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eater, Common Moorhen and Paradise Fly catchers. The walk to the twin lakes can be undertaken both in the morning and in the afternoon.
Lake Ngezi Hike as a Rwanda Safari activity in Volcanoes National Park
Lake Ngezi is located on Mount Bisoke and appears a small crater lake that is at 11km stretch from the summit of the Bisoke Mountain. The hike to the lake is about 3 – 4 hours with sights of beautiful mountain flora and birds en route. Since the lake is within the park boundaries, you are accompanied by the ranger for protection and guidance. While at the lake, you enjoy the impressive views of the neighbouring DR Congo.
Caves Walk as a Rwanda Safari activity in Volcanoes National Park
Musaze Caves are historical caves that are positioned in Musaze District outside the Volcanoes National Park. Undertaking a caves walk to the Musaze Caves allows the Rwanda Safari undertaker to explore the caves that are 65million years old featuring a count of 31 entrances and over 2km long inside. These caves were created from the flow of Basalt Layers of lava that flowed from Volcanic Mountains of Sabyinyo and Bisoke. The caves walk takes about 2 hours and the experience costs $50. It can still be done in the afternoon and the protection from the Rwanda Soldiers is provided. The caves played a historical role as they used to act as a refigium for the Rwandan Royals during the times of war in traditional Rwanda and as a store for the supplies. The caves also sheltered many people during the genocide time in 1994.
Buhanga Sacred Forest Nature walks as a Rwanda Safari activity in Volcanoes National Park
The Buhanga Sacred forest presents an impressive nature walking experience exploring the small forest of Buhanga outside the Volcanoes Park boundaries. The forest does not only feature lush flora but also presents a rich historical and cultural encounter of the traditional Rwanda. According to the stories, the local assert that the monarchical Kings of Rwanda would bath in this forest before assuming Kingship and as a result the forest was considered sacred and people could not cultivate it or cut any tree from it. The locals also assert that the forest at times changes color at various seasons that mark the year. The forest walk in Buhanga Sacred forest while on safari in Rwanda can be undertaken both in the morning and in the afternoon. The walkways are impressively designed by lava stone.
Accommodation in Volcanoes National Park
Upmarket / Luxury Lodges in Volcanoes National Park
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge in Volcanoes National Park
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge stands as a Luxury / upmarket lodge that is located on the margins of Volcanoes National Park approximately 15 minutes’ drive to the Volcanoes Park entrance thus providing a perfect ground for travellers on gorilla trekking safaris in Rwanda to begin their trek.
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge rests on the Mount Karisimbi foot hills which is one of the mountains that adjoin the other seven Mountains that form the Virunga massif.
The Mount Gorilla View Lodge features accommodation in thirty (30) spacious chalets that feature eco-friendly materials blending well in the surrounding ecosystem. Each Chalet features a living area along with a fire place and coffee / tea making machine.
The Mount Gorilla Lodge adheres to aspects of Sustainable Tourism including supporting the surrounding local community by buying their farm fresh produce which are served in the lodge’s restaurant.
Virunga Lodge in Volcanoes National Park
Virunga Lodge is a top notch Luxury / Upmarket Lodge that is positioned outside the boundaries of Volcanoes National Park. The Virunga Lodge overlooks the twin lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo and thus presenting a favourable ground for gorilla trekking safaris, golden monkey tracking, the twin lakes walk and the Volcano Climbing
The Virunga Lodge offers accommodation in ten (10) Stone guest Bandas that have tile roofs. They are configured as two deluxes, four doubles and four twins with all chalets reflecting the local architectural style of building thus enabling the lodge to bled fully with the surrounding’s.
Each Banda is equipped with en suite bathroom, the flushing toilet, shower featuring both hot and cold running water.
The rooms feature mosquito nets, private veranda and 240v lighting.
The Bandas feature names of the great lakes in the region which makes them form part of your Rwanda safari memories.
There is Wi-Fi available at the main building.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Volcanoes National Park
The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is an up market / Luxury accommodation establishment located at the boundary of Volcanoes National Park about five minutes’ drive to the Headquarters at Kinigi making it also good to connect for gorilla trekking.
The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge features beautiful gardens. The is under the operational management of Governors Camp however it is owned by SACOLA community trust that generate rentals and the fees from the lodge to undertake community projects that work towards socio economic transformation and enhance conservation.
The facility was put together with support from African Wildlife Foundation, Rwanda Development Board and Gaylord and Cathy Layton of Tayside Associates LLC
The Sabyinyo Silverback lodge offers accommodation in 5 cottages, 2 suites along with 1 family cottage. The stone building feature Rwandese terracotta tile roofs, spacious living rooms, en suite bath rooms, fire places, dressing room and a sheltered Veranda.
The family cottage features 2 separate rooms that are self-contained adjoined by a shared veranda.
The Sabyinyo Silverback lodge features a main lodge building which shelters the reception dining room, sitting room, library / games room, the bathrooms, the responsible tourism / community awareness room along with a shop.
The Lodge features three (3) fire places that generate enough warmth whereas the rooms feature a wooden floor. The Silverback Lodge also has 2 patio areas that present magical views of the Virungas.
Midrange / Standard Lodge in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Hotel La Palme in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Positioned in the district of Musaze, the La Palme Hotel presents a perfect midrange accommodation arrangement for the Rwanda gorilla safari undertakers.
By visiting the Volcanoes, the visitors would definitely require where to spend and overnight in the nearby environs and the La Palme Hotel has positioned itself to arrest the worries of travellers in Rwanda regarding their accommodation.
Accommodation at La Palme Hotel is presented in a range of room categories including the Suites that feature an extensive spacious room interior, lounge and two LCD Television sets of 27inch. The Hotel also features Standard King Size room along with standard Queen Size with self-contained facilities and standard décor to ensure the comfort of the guests. La Palme Hotel features fast internet in the rooms and telephones which are added facilities to enhance the guest experience at the lodge.
The La Palme Hotel offers magical meals freshly prepared and served to enable your memorable stay at the Hotel. It serves a stimulating and heavy breakfast to enable the guests who are on Rwanda gorilla safaris to gain the required energy for tracking gorillas. There is also a bar for those who might want to take a soothing glass of wine or a bottle of beer after a long day gorilla trek. The Hotel also features a conference facility.
It takes 23km to connect to Volcanoes National Park from La Palme Hotel and 13km to the twin lakes of Ruhondo and Bulera.
Budget / Basic Accommodation in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Muhabura Hotel in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Muhabura Hotel presents budget accommodation in the land of a thousand hills at the boundary of Volcanoes National Park where the gorilla safaris in Rwanda are carried out.
Accommodation is provided in 30 rooms along apartments at affordable prices while offering quality service and relaxation environment.
The 30 rooms are distributed in 3 categories including Singles, Doubles and Twins. Among these rooms, there are six (6) apartments which offer enough space.
The rooms are self-contained with warm and cold shower, direct access to the gardens, private balcony, Satellite TV, free Wi-Fi, chairs and tables along with laundry service.
Muhabura Hotel also has a gift shop named LABOUTIK at the front office where a range of arts and crafts of the Rwandan culture.
The Muhabura Hotel generally features the following facilities including the Terrace, the Camping ground, the Children playground, Conference facilities, Garden, Gift shop – La Boutik, enough Parking, Reception, Restaurant and Bar along with Sauna and massage
Kinigi Guesthouse in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Kinigi Guest House in Volcanoes National Park presents good budget accommodation for the Rwanda gorilla safari undertakers.
Positioned at 11km from the Ruhengeri town, the Kinigi Guesthouse is located in Kinigi district at the entrance of Volcanoes National Park. The Kinigi Guesthouse offers accommodation to a count of 40 people and the rooms feature warm water, the electricity along with the views of the Virunga Volcanoes.
Kinigi Guesthouse is owned by the Association of Solidarity between Rwandan Women (ASOFERWA) a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that was put together following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and brought down the social cohesion. The ASOFERWA aimed at empowering the women of Rwanda and ensure their livelihood transformation.
Initially, it was referred to as Village Touristique de Kinigi and the guesthouse also presents accommodation for the luxury travellers in 4 of its VIP Suites.
The guest house features a conference hall with capacity of 400 people occupancy. There are also impressive gardens.