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 the 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, the 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 Musanze 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 rising 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 enuresis, Senecio erici-rosenii and Lobelia wollastonite. The elevation of 4300 – 4500 in elevation features a secondary thicket, marshes and meadows.
The Volcanoes National Park is greatly recognised the 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 a spotted hyena, black-fronted duiker, buffalo along with bushbuck though rarely seen, 178 bird species of which 13 species and 16 subspecies are restricted in range to mountains of Virunga and Rwenzori
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
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