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Volcanoes National Park – Volcanoes National Park Rwanda – Volcano National Park

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda - Travel Guide & More

Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) is located in the northwestern part of Rwanda sharing borders with Mgahinga National Park of Uganda and Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This park is the oldest national park on the African continent covering an area of 160km2. Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is home to the endangered Mountain Gorillas that are available for Gorilla trekking.

Gorilla trekking is the most renowned activity that takes place in the park along with visiting the Karisoke Research Centre or Karisoke Research Center having the grave of Dian Fossey a former primatologist who first habituated the Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.

Besides the huge population of Mountain Gorillas, Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is home to the endangered Golden Monkeys within the bamboo forest vegetation which you can see during Golden Monkey Trekking in Volcanoes National Park.

Also, Volcanoes National Park harbors five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains which are Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Sabyinyo and the active volcanoes are in Virunga Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The neighboring Virunga National Park is home to two of the most active volcanoes in Africa. The park is consumed by forests which vary by elevation however, there are grasslands, meadows, marshes, and swamps in the lower elevations.

Volcanoes National Park is home to over 200 bird species of which 10% are endemics to the Virunga Conservation area and you can see these during Gorilla trekking.

When you visit Volcanoes Park, you can also visit the twin lakes, enjoy volcano hikes, visit Dian Fossey’s tomb, and tour Iby’iwacu cultural village with a few other community visits.

For the best Rwanda Gorilla trekking and Rwanda Golden Monkey trekking, Volcanoes National Park Rwanda offers an incredible experience that is unforgettable on your safari.

What Is the History of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda?

Volcanoes National Park was extended into Rwanda in 1929 by the then Belgian Congo and was named Albert National Park and was run by the Belgian Colonial Authorities.

In the 1960s, the park was divided as Rwanda and Congo gained their independence and by the end of the decade, the park was almost half of its original size.

In 1967, Dian Fossey, an American primatologist fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo forests because of insecurity and established her research center between Visoke and Karisimbi volcanoes which is now known as the Karisoke Research Centre or Karisoke Research Center.

Dian Fossey led the Gorilla Conservation campaign and mobilized gorilla protection against resources to fight against poaching until her murder in 1985. She was buried at the research center next to the grave of Digit one of the Mountain Gorillas which used to be her favorite.

In the early 1990s, Volcanoes National Park became a battlefield for Rwanda’s civil war which paralyzed tourism activities until 1999. In 2005, in a bid to boost conservation efforts and gorilla tourism, Rwanda introduced the annual baby naming ceremony for baby Gorillas born known as Kwita Iziina.

This has worked perfectly up to now with amazing results as far as the Gorilla population in Volcanoes is concerned.

Attractions in Volcanoes National Park

There are many things you can see when you come to Volcanoes National Park on your Rwanda safari.

The most notable attractions include;

Mountain Gorillas

Volcanoes National Park is a rich ecosystem having unique mammal species in East Africa. The most notable are the endangered Mountain Gorillas because the Virunga Mountains are the only habitat on earth.

Several endangered Mountain Gorilla families are habituated that tourists can track during Mountain Gorilla trekking on the steep slopes.

Bird species

Volcanoes National Park is one of the most amazing national parks having colorful bird species in East Africa. This region is where the Virunga Mountains meet the great East African rift and Lake Kivu is just close.

This region attracts birds and plays an important role in the bird presence in the park. There are about 200 bird species that you can see on a Rwanda birding safari and if lucky, you can spot a good number of Albertine Rift endemic bird species.

Some of the notable birds in the rain forest include the Rwenzori Batis, Handsome Francolin, Red Faced Woodland Warbler, Rwenzori Turaco, Collared Apalis, Archer’s Ground Robin, etc.

Other Wildlife Species in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

From the endangered Mountain Gorillas available for Gorilla trekking and the Golden Monkeys within the bamboo forest vegetation, there are also other wildlife species that you can spot on your safari within the dense vegetation.

Other wildlife species include Bush buffaloes, Forest elephants, the Hyena, Bushbuck, black-fronted duiker, and monkey species that you will see during monkey treks.

Dian Fossey Tomb in Volcanoes National Park

This tomb lies at Karisoke Research Centre or Karisoke Research Center within Volcanoes National Park and travelers can pay regular tribute to this great conservationist who kick-started gorilla protection in the park.

Dian Fossey was killed in 1985 by poachers though her work remained ongoing, and it is run by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, and you can enjoy the Dian Fossey tomb hike to appreciate her work.

Musanze Caves

The Musanze Caves are underground caves formed as a result of volcanic eruption which formed an underground space large enough for humans to enter. These Musanze Caves are two kilometers long with walkways and stairs that take you to the dark interior of the caves.

These underground caves are amazing to see when you reach them.

Scenery in Volcanoes National Park to View 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 combines to derive magical scenic views if explored on safaris in Rwanda.

Activities in Volcanoes National Park

Those who visit Volcanoes National Park should expect a variety of activities that they can do and get a memorable experience in East Africa.

Below are the best activities to enjoy in Volcanoes National Park.

Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda – Price & Cost of Gorilla Permits

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is one of the most popular tourism activities in Rwanda. Mountain Gorilla trekking safaris in Rwanda are adventurous, exciting, fun, and educative.

Mountain Gorillas are the world’s largest living primates and have 98 percent of the same DNA as humans. There are 12 habituated Gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park that you can trek and at least one of the families has a Silverback.

This makes Volcanoes National Park one of the four parks holding the endangered Mountain Gorillas and the others are Mgahinga, Bwindi, and Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gorilla tracking begins from Volcanoes National Park headquarters with a briefing and after you are escorted by park rangers or national park guides.

Once you spot a Gorilla family or a Gorilla group, you are allowed to be in their presence for one full hour and you get to see them feeding, caring, and playing. This time during the Gorilla tracking adventure is remarkable!

THE COST OF GORILLA TREKKING IN VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

Any visitor who wants to track Gorillas needs a Gorilla trekking permit which goes for $1500 per person. You should be at least 15 years old, and the Gorilla permits are acquired from the Rwanda Development Board through the local tour operator.

Gorilla permits are presented at the park headquarters to the national park guides when going for the activity and the park rangers then allow you to enter the park.

On this Gorilla trekking permit, park entrance fees are inclusive, and ten percent goes to the local community initiative to promote Gorilla conservation efforts.

BEST TIME FOR GORILLA TREKKING

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is good all year throughout though the best time is during the dry season. During this time, the tracks are dry, and accessibility is easy.

The Dry season is from December to March and from June to September as little or no rainfall is received. This is the perfect time for photography and the skies are clear and there is perfect lighting.

However, those on a budget can also go Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park in the wet season as hotels are at discounted rates.

Gorilla Trekking Permits in Rwanda | Rwanda Gorilla Permit

The Gorilla permit is a certified document issued to tourists allowing them to trek Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. The Rwanda gorilla tracking permit is sold at $1,500 per person and it guarantees a traveler one hour in the presence of the giant apes and you present it at the park headquarters.

Gorilla permits are booked through a local tour operator who buys them from RDB on behalf of the traveler. Only 90 Gorilla permits are sold per day in Rwanda as there are 12 Gorilla families and only 8 people track a family every day.

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is permitted only to those above the age of 15 years.

HOW TO OBTAIN A GORILLA PERMIT

Tourists can book a Gorilla permit or Gorilla trekking permit for Gorilla trekking through the Rwanda Development Board or using a reputable tour operator. You should book your Gorilla permits in advance since they can be scarce as most people want to go Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park.

Why Trek Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park?

There are many reasons why you should do Mountain Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park and the top-notch are;

  1. There is a good transport network evidenced by good, tarmacked roads from Kigali International Airport to the park.
  2. It is only 3 hours from Kigali International Airport to the park making it a short distance.
  3. Volcanoes National Park has high-quality accommodation offering good services. There are luxury, midrange, and budget facilities, and are competitive for over Uganda and DR Congo.
  4. There is guaranteed security in and around Volcanoes National Park and this encourages visitors to come to the park as the national park guides and rangers ensure the security.
  5. Also, Mountain Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is less tenacious compared to other trekking destinations like Bwindi which is very hilly and a dense vegetation.

Sustainability and Protection of the Gorillas

Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is the most popular Gorilla tracking destination followed by Bwindi, Mgahinga, and Virunga National Park respectively.

In the 80’s, the Gorilla populations were nearly extinct, gorilla trekking is a sensitive activity that when not controlled and managed strictly may impact the lives of the Mountain Gorillas.

In conserving the endangered species, the gorilla permits in the national parks where you can find Gorillas were raised to limit the visitors to come to see the Mountain Gorillas. Also, only 8 people were limited to visiting a Gorilla family or Gorilla group per day.

To conserve the Mountain Gorillas, respective governments came up with guidelines to follow when trekking the apes.

Tips for Tracking Gorillas in Rwanda

Mountain Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is one of the most enjoyed tourism activities for those visiting Rwanda. However, for you to enjoy this adventure, you need to be prepared, and below are some of the tips to follow.

BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR FITNESS LEVEL

Mind your fitness levels when going for Mountain Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. This park is hilly and mountainous, so you need to be prepared. There is a provision for the disabled and elderly.

MAKE A RESEARCH ON THE GORILLA GROUPS BEFORE TREKKING

Do simple research about the gorilla group or Gorilla family you want to track. Some groups move deeper into the jungle and lead to longer treks leaving you exhausted though if you do your research, you can go with a Gorilla group which is nearer.

HIRE PORTERS

If you have heavy luggage like camera equipment, you can hire a porter to help you lift the bags so that you won’t be tired before meeting the apes.

WEAR THE APPROPRIATE CLOTHING FOR GORILLA TREKKING

Put on light layers that are eco-friendly and can blend in easily with the environment. Bright colors are not ideal. Carry a poncho as it may rain during the encounter.

WHAT TO CARRY WITH YOU

Always carry your essential items with you, though don’t forget to travel light. Carry your insect repellents, camera, binoculars, sunscreen, hat, backpack, bottled water, etc.

HOW TO USE YOUR CAMERA IN FRONT OF GORILLAS

Keep a safe distance away from the Mountain Gorillas when taking the pictures and your flashlight should be kept off. It irritates the Mountain Gorillas, and they relate it with danger.

Golden Monkey Tracking in Volcanoes National Park

Golden Monkey trekking takes place in Volcanoes National Park and at the same time just like Mountain Gorillas. The rare species are listed as endangered, and this park has habituated troops that are available for Golden Monkey trekking in East Africa.

Golden monkeys are within the bamboo forests and trekking the monkey species is almost the similar experience of Gorilla trekking. Only eight people are limited to Golden Monkey tracking a troop and you are permitted to be with them for one full hour.

Golden Monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park requires a Gorilla permit which costs $100 from RDB and you present at the park headquarters and it is inclusive of park entrance fees.

Bid Watching

There are over 200 bird species recorded within Volcanoes National Park and the neighboring Buhanga Eco Park.

Among these species, there are endemics of the Albert Rift Valley and when you visit Volcanoes National Park, the notable birds to see include the Handsome Francolin, Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Red Faced Woodland Warbler, Handsome Francolin, Strange Weaver and Rwenzori Double Collared Crimson Wing, etc.

Best Hikes & Trails

Hiking is unmissable as it is a great activity in Volcanoes National Park and during the remarkable hikes, there are many different routes that you follow though you require a hiking permit and a guide.

The most popular hikes include;

Lake Ngezi; is one easiest hike in the park and the route leads to a scenic lake at the foot of Mount Bisoke. It is a three-hour trail offering views across the border into the forest of DR Congo.

Mount Bisoke; you can hike Mount Bisoke anywhere from five hours to a full day depending on the weather. On top, you get amazing views of the Crater Lake.

Mount Karisimbi; is at an elevation of 14,787 feet making it the highest peak in Rwanda. You can hike Mount Karisimbi with chances of seeing Mountain Gorillas and other primates en route and the twin lakes.

Karisoke Research Centre or Karisoke Research Center; reaching the center requires a 30-minute transfer from the Volcanoes National Park headquarters, followed by a one and half hour hike to the saddle in between Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke.

Iby’iwacu Cultural Village Tour

The endangered Mountain Gorillas have coexisted all the time with the indigenous Rwandan people in both positive and negative ways.

On the edges of volcanos, an indigenous community has mobilized into a Mountain Gorilla Guardian’s formerly Iby’iwacu cultural village to highlight the benefits of wildlife conservation and Gorilla protection.

Travelers on the cultural village tour should expect to enjoy the life experiences of the local people. You get to enjoy the traditional Intore dance group through dance performances, folk tales, and songs.

You can also take part in the traditional cooking of local food, preparation of local beer, milking cows, and making several milk products. Safari goers can visit the cultural village and explore the King’s hut and visit the King’s house in the presence of a local guide.

Kwita Izina (Gorilla-naming ceremony)

Mountain Gorillas live in families and each individual has a databank with its bio records. Baby Gorilla naming is a cultural ceremony held to celebrate the birth of new baby gorillas born in the endangered Mountain Gorilla families or Gorilla groups.

On this ceremony of naming baby Gorillas, there is music, dance, storytelling, eats, and drinks. Many international celebrities having an attachment to Gorilla conservation engage in giving baby Gorillas names from an endangered Mountain Gorilla group or Gorilla family.

Activities outside the Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Visit the Genocide Memorial Center

This is usually included in almost all tour packages, and it is one of the activities included during a Kigali City Tour before going for Mountain Gorilla trekking. The genocide memorial center was built to remember those who lost their lives in the 1994 genocide.

By visiting the center, you get to learn more about the genocide and its results.

Chimpanzee and Small Primates Tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Apart from Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, you can enjoy Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Park in East Africa with sightings of other small primates like Vervet Monkeys, Olive baboons, white colobus, Grey cheeked mangabeys, red-tailed Monkeys, etc.

Just like Mountain Gorillas, you are only given one full hour to be with the Chimpanzees.

Game Viewing in Akagera

Akagera Park is situated in the eastern part of the country, and it is the only savannah park where you can enjoy game drives with amazing wildlife viewing.

You can enjoy sightings of Lions, Elephants, Buffaloes, Giraffes, Elands, Antelopes, Zebras, Rhinos, Warthogs and many more.

Picnic at Lake Kivu

You can enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Kivu and walk on the white sand shores. You get to see fishermen casting their nets to get their catch towards DR Congo and many water-related bird species.

Best time to visit Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is good all year throughout though the dry season is preferably the best time to visit the park just like any destination in East Africa. The long dry season is from December to early March and June to September though there can be little rain expected.

This is the best time to go Gorilla trekking or Gorilla tourism in Volcanoes National Park since there is good hiking terrain in the rainforest. However, tracking primates is also good at any time of the season let it be in the wet season.

If you are traveling on a budget, then the wet season should be ideal for you since hotels and lodges have low occupancy and hence discounts for travelers. There is also low demand for gorilla tracking permits which guarantee visitors a chance to see the endangered species.

Accommodation in and around Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

There are many accommodation facilities within and around Volcanoes National Park ranging from luxury to midrange and budget facilities to cater to all categories of safari goers.

Below are some of the accommodation facilities that you can opt for on your Rwanda tour.

  1. Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel
  2. Mountain Gorillas’ Nest Lodge
  3. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
  4. Best View Hotel
  5. Faraja Hotel
  6. Garden Place Hotel
  7. Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge
  8. Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
  9. Gorilla Solution Lodge
  10. Hotel Muhabura
  11. Virunga Lodge
  12. Villa Gorilla

Access to Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is situated northeast of Rwanda close to the border with Uganda in the north and DR Congo in the west. It is a 2 hours’ drive from Kigali city and the journey offers amazing experiences of the countryside.

Cyanika International border post with Uganda is only 30 minutes’ drive by road to the park which makes it easy to enjoy safaris in the two countries. There is also Akagera Aviation that offers helicopter flights to Kinigi just near the park.

FAQS

Where else are Mountain Gorillas Found?

Apart from Volcanoes National Park, Mountain Gorillas can also be found within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda, Mgahinga Park of Uganda, and Virunga National Park of DR Congo.

Mountain Gorillas are only found within the Virunga Mountains and Bwindi.

Is It Worth Going to Volcano National Park?

Yes, it is worth going to Volcano National Park as you get to meet the endangered Mountain Gorillas face-to-face in their natural habitat.

On visit, you can also see the endangered Golden monkeys within the bamboo forest vegetation and other primates as well as colorful bird species. If lucky, you can also see other animal species like Forest elephants, Buffaloes, and many antelope species.

Do You Need a Reservation for Volcanoes National Park?

Yes, you require a reservation, and this is by booking your Gorilla tracking permit or Golden Monkey trekking permit to allow you to visit the park. You can also reserve a volcano hiking permit to hike Mount Karisimbi.

How Long Does It Take to Explore Volcano National Park?

There is no specific number of days for exploring Volcano National Park. The minimum can at least be 3 days. The more days, the more experience you get as you enjoy Gorilla trekking, Golden monkey tracking, birding, and hiking Mount Karisimbi with views of the Crater Lake.

What Is Unique About Volcanoes National Park Rwanda?

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is home to the endangered Mountain Gorillas and are available for Gorilla trekking. It is also home to golden Monkeys living within the bamboo forests that you can track in their natural habitat.

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda also holds five volcanoes out of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains and tourists can enjoy volcano hiking them though the most common is Mount Karisimbi.

What Is There to Do in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda?

Tourists can enjoy Mountain Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Golden Monkey tracking, visiting the grave of Dian Fossey, volcano hiking, touring the lakes Ruhondo and Burera, bird watching, visiting the cultural village, and also visiting Buhanga Eco Park.

What Is the Weather Like in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda?

The weather in the park is cool and favorable. This park has a constant stream of rain and mist and when combined with the high altitude, it results in a rainy and chilly environment.

Also, the temperatures don’t vary significantly throughout the year. During daytime, temperatures float around 160c/610F and cool down to 60c/430F.

The dry season is from December to early March and from June to August whereas the wet season is from March to May and from September to November.

What Animals Live in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda?

Volcanoes National Park is one of the few national parks having Gorillas and Golden Monkeys within the Virunga region.

Other animal species to see in this park include Forest Elephants, Buffaloes, Bush Pigs, Giant Forest Hogs, Duikers, Spotted Hyenas, Bush bucks, and several primates.

In summary, Volcanoes National Park is one of the most rewarding national parks on the planet. It is home to Mountain Gorillas and Golden monkeys within bamboo forests that you can track on your primate safaris.

Volcanoes National Park offers the best volcano hiking as it has five volcanoes out of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains and the most enticing is Mount Karisimbi as it offers sightings of the Crater Lake, and you can enjoy Dian Fossey tomb hike. There is a lot you can experience when you Visit Volcanoes National Park.

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