Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is the only Rwanda Gorilla Destination. At 160km² this park protects the Rwanda Virunga Mountains covering a range of three active volcanoes and six extinct bestriding the borders with Uganda and the DRC.This Park is part of a contiguous 433km² Trans frontier conservation unit which also protects the Ugandan and DRC sectors of the Virungas individually.

This park ranges in altitude from 2400km to 4,507 which is dominated by the setting of the volcanoes named after it. The breath-taking landscape and evergreen vegetation is the memorable sights in East Africa. Volcanoes National park is made up of mountains namely; Karisimbi (the tallest mountain in the chain, in the most westerly part of the park) bordering DRC, Sabinyo at the juncture of Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC, and Visoke (Eastward) on the DRC border, Gahinga and Muhabura on the Uganda border.

Volcanoes Park is commonly known to the outside world as the place where for almost 20 years the American primatologist Dian Fossey studied the behaviours of mountain gorillas. It is largely thanks to Fossey’s determination that poaching was cut short in time to save some gorillas. For her unselfish dedication, Fossey paid the ultimate price with her life, as she was murdered at Karisoke Research Centre in December 1985. This unsolved murder is generally thought to have been the hand work of one of the many poachers with whom she crossed paths with during her effort to save her beloved gentle creatures; the gorillas.
Fossey’s life work was exposed to a mass audience, three years after her death with the release of Gorillas in the mist, a filmmaking account of her life shot in Volcanoes Park.

Volcanoes is accessible by not only private but also public transport from Gisenyi or Kigali or from the airport. The drive to Volcanoes national park is only 2 hrs from Kigali. This makes it a must visit even for those with little time

Activities in the Volcanoes National Park:

Gorilla trekking; Gorilla tracking is the most popular activity in the park and a must do for all visiting Rwanda!  With a total of up to 70 permits issued daily, ten for each of the seven habituated troops. This activity starts at the park entrance at 7:00 am, and one can only know the group to be tracked the morning of tracking after Briefing.

Hiking Karisimbi volcano; Karisimbi rises at an elevation of about 4507m above the sea level. It derives its name from a local Kinyarwanda word “amasimbi” meaning snow. The snow is mostly found at the peak of the mountain during dry season; June, July, august and September, which makes it the best time to hike this mountain.

This 6 Hour hike starts very early in the morning around 7AM. It covers crossing through the Bisoke side at an altitude of 3700km where the first stop is made. Enjoy an overnight camping before continuing the next day. This hike involves slippery slopes and muddy trails to reach the white capped summit. Enjoy a variety of different bird species and other primates such golden monkeys, and for lucky ones, you can also get a glimpse of the mountain gorillas

This hike is done with park rangers, you can hire hiking gear or carry your own. When packing for this hike remember to carry sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes, layer of socks, gloves, long under wear, hat, scarf, rain gear, comfortable hiking pants, headlamp for the night, snacks and energy food and snack, enough water, and a sweater for the night as the temperature drops with time and altitude.

Mount Bisoke volcano hike; This Hike provides a spectacular breath-taking view of the crater lake. This 6 – hours hike also includes 2 hours descending down to the starting point. For experienced hikers, they can get to the top in only 3 hours or even less and return to the starting point in just 1 hours. Before the hiking one has to report at the park offices at 7AM for a briefing, park ranger assigned, porter and hiking gear after which the activity starts at 8AM.

Visiting Dian Fossey; Trekking to the Dian Fossey Tomb involves a 30 minutes’ drive from the park headquarters to the trail head where one can access the Karisoke research camp with 10 minutes’ walk to the park boundary. It’s a 1 ½ hour walk from the park boundary to the research center where Dian’s grave is found. This hike provides knowledge and also tell tales of the dedication and legacy of Dian Fossey that still exits. A house where Dian Fossey was mysteriously murdered in 1985 is found at the site. But more peaceful is the place where she was led to rest next to her favorite gorilla friend, Digit and about 20 other mountain gorillas who lost their lives at the hands of poachers and nature causes.

Golden Monkey; Just like Gorilla tracking, Golden monkeys trekking starts at 7AM in the morning. The Golden monkeys in Volcanoes National park are also listed as endangered with currently only two habituated golden monkeys’ troops with a total 80 individuals.

Golden monkeys and gorillas a kind of similar activities– with only a maximum of 8 permits per group with 1 hour of viewing – But an entirely different experience!

Iby’Iwacu village Visit; Iby’Iwacu village is located around Parc National des Volcans in Nyabigoma, Kinigi, Musanze.  It involves experiencing local people heritage,  lifestyles, activities, artifacts and way of living. Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village is devoted at showcasing the ways of living, traditional lifestyles and performances to Visitors. The village gives one a rare chance to meet local people in their environment, with a taste of their culture and traditions.

Iby’Iwacu village tour involves taking part in any of the below activities;

With a guided community walk, visit different sites and experience the lives of the local people;

  • Culture guide- visiting the king’s house replica and enjoying the Intore dance and famous songs of the gorillas sang by the famous Ngayabatema
  • Visiting Traditional herbalist – showcasing the healing power of herbals
  • Visit community local schools to experience the education life in a developing country
  • Enjoy the local foods- Local lunch or dinner with local people
  • Attend a local banana brewery process and with tasting

Although this park has had its ups and downs, it’s now growing stronger and is a safe haven to the Mountain Gorillas!

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Escape to Africa: Discover Primeval Nature

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