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Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park,   Volcanoes National Park is a popular gorilla trekking destination situated within the north-western corner of Rwanda, in Musanze district. This Park was gazetted in 1925 to protect the Mountain gorillas, making it one of the oldest National Parks in Africa and currently covers an area of 160 square kilometers (16000 hectares) of mainly rainforest and Bamboo.

Volcanoes National Park is popular for hosting some of the World’s only surviving population of Mountain gorillas and is a former base of Dian Fossey, an American primatologist who through passion and hard work helped in the conservation of the endangered Mountain gorillas. It also borders Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo in addition to sheltering five of the eight Virunga Volcanoes that include Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Bisoke, Gahinga and Muhabura Volcanoes.

Attractions 

Flora

Volcanoes National Park is characterized by varying vegetation across different altitudes. You will see the montane forest at the base of the Virunga Volcanoes, followed by the Neoboutonia forest, Bamboo forest that interestingly covers 30% of the Park, Hagenia-Hypericum forest, Lobelia wollastonii, L. lanurensis and Senecio erici-rosenii. These are followed by grasslands, secondary thicket, Marshes, meadows, small Lakes and wetlands.

Fauna

Mountain gorillas are the prime attraction in Volcanoes National Park and other mammals that call the Park home are the golden monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, black-fronted duikers, spotted hyenas, buffaloes, bushbucks, leopards and many others.

There are also 178 species of birds in Volcanoes National Park and out of these, 16 species are endemic to the Rwenzori Mountains range while 13 species are endemic to the Virunga Conservation Area.

Virunga Volcanoes

Volcanoes National Park is a home to five of the Virunga Volcanoes-Karisimbi, Bisoke, Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura although the popularly hiked ones in this Park are Bisoke and Karisimbi.

Dian Fossey Gravesite

Dian Fossey’s Captivating Conservation story is one of the reasons some tourists visit Volcanoes National Park and a visit to her Gravesite is worthwhile.

Tourist activities in

Mountain gorilla trekking

Mountain gorilla trekking is undeniably second to none when it comes to reasons why tourists visit Rwanda. There are presently 10 habituated families of these endangered primates in Volcanoes and only 80 permits are available for each day. With a gorilla permit of $1500 issued by Rwanda Development Board, you can join other tourists to venture into the jungles to search for these giant apes and spend one hour with them.

Golden monkey tracking

Golden monkey tracking is another fascinating tourist activity in Volcanoes National Park and with a permit of $100, you can be able to track and spend time with one of the rarest and endangered species of primates.

Dian Fossey Gravesite Hike

A gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park would be complete with a visit to Dian Fossey gravesite hike to learn about the interesting conservation journey of an American primatologist who gave up her life to protect the mountain gorillas. After spending over 18 years in this Park, she was found dead (believed to be murdered by poachers) in 1985 and a hike through the foothill of Karisimbi and Bisoke volcanoes will lead you to her gravesite and former Karisoke Research Center.

Birding

You cannot talk of Albertine Rift endemic species without mentioning Volcanoes National Park, one of the few places where they are found. There are over 200 species of birds including Albertine Rift and Rwenzori Mountain range endemics in this Park including the Rwenzori double-collared sunbirds, Red-faced woodland warblers, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori turaco, handsome francolin, Grauer’s rush warblers, strange weavers and Dusky Crimsonwing among others.

Volcano hiking

The 4507-meter Karisimbi and 3711-meter Bisoke Volcanoes can be hiked during your Volcanoes National Park visit whereby for the Bisoke hike, you will take 7 hours to reach the Ngezi Crater Lake at its peak. Hiking Mount Karisimbi on the other hand usually lasts 2 days and climaxes with the jaw-dropping views of its white-capped peak.

Cultural tours

Most cultural tours are conducted at the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village to explore Rwanda’s rich cultural history with activities such as traditional beer making demonstrations, preparation of traditional meals, visit to the traditional healer and highlighted by invigorating cultural dances by the Intore Cultural Group.

Other activities enjoyed by visitors of Volcanoes National Park are nature walks, tour of Musanze Caves as well as the visit to the Twin Lakes of Ruhondo and Bulera.

Best time to visit k

Visiting done all year round but the most ideal time is the drier months-mid-December to February as well as June to September because during these months, chances of rain are minimal and hiking terrains are favorable. Because of these favorable conditions, these months are also the peak season where demand for gorilla permits and accommodation facilities is high.

The wet season-March to mid-May and October to mid-December is when the rains are heavier, forest trails are muddy and hiking becomes challenging. Daily activities go on as planned since it doesn’t rain all day but this is the low season with most accommodation facilities recording low occupancy rates thus offering discounts. This makes the wet season perfect for budget travelers.

Where to stay

Accommodation facilities in Volcanoes National Park include Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Mountain Gorillas View Lodge, Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, Garden Place Hotel, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Kinigi Guest house, Virunga Lodge, Bisate Lodge, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, Gorilla Solution Lodge, Hotel Muhabura, La Palme Hotel, Villa Gorilla, Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel and many others.

How to get to there

Found in north-west of Rwanda (in Musanze district) at approximately 105 kilometers3 hours’ drive from the City of Kigali. With public and private transport means, tourists can arrive the Kinigi Park Headquarters for planned activities.

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