Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda – Home of Mountain Gorillas

Also known as Parc National Des Volcans, part of the Virunga chain of volcanic mountains, a home to one of the world’s last remaining population of the mountain gorillas. It is located in northern part of Rwanda, about 90 minutes drive from Kigali International Airport.

volcanoes-national-parkThe park is strategically located in the heart of Central Africa and the old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest – the Virungas. Reaching Parc National des Volcans, you drive in the far northwest of Rwanda; the Volcanoes National Park protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range – home of the rare mountain gorilla – and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.

 

The bustling market town of Musanze has a memorable setting at the base of the Virungas. On the outskirts of town, the natural bridge—a solidified lava flow—is a fascinating relic of the volcanic activity that shaped this scenic area. Also within easy day tripping distance of Musanze are the seldom visited the beautiful and lovely twin Lakes Burera, Ruhondo and Karago. Musanze town offers a good selection of upper-range and mid- range hotels as well as reasonably-priced small hotels and guest houses.

The park covers an area of 160 sq kilometers and it shelters the Rwandan part of the Virunga Mountains, 6 extinct and 3 active volcanoes that overlap the borders of Rwanda with Uganda plus the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The most elevated mountain on this chain and is situated on Rwanda’s border with Democratic Republic of Congo is karisimbi. In the  east,  you will find other major peaks in the national park among which are the Visoke on the border of Democratic Republic of Congo; Sabinyo at the meeting of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, and the Gahinga as well as Muhabura on the border of  Uganda.

Back in 1990, the impressive Volcanoes Park was actually the most organized as well as most popular mountain gorilla habitats in the whole of Africa and so gorilla tourism was perhaps the leading earner of Rwanda’s tourist revenue.

Gorilla tracking was at last recommenced permanent in the month of July 1999, and since then, the number of visitors traveling to the Virungas had greatly increased.  You will find additional details about gorillas as well as gorilla-tracking in this very section. Other than Gorillas plus golden monkeys, primates are not well represented as compared to other forested areas in Rwanda as well as Western Uganda.  Less details about the current standing of large mammals is available, although more than 70 species have actually been recorded in the adjacent Mgahinga National Park found in Uganda, most of which perhaps are only found in the bigger Rwanda part of the Virungas.

Elephants plus buffalos are still somewhat uncommon; basing on the sum of spoor met on forest paths, although is very shy and rarely observed. In addition present are huge forest hogs, spotted hyenas, bush pigs, black-fronted duikers and bushbucks, in addition to a number of various small predators.  Latest extinctions, most likely resulting from deforestation, include the leopard, the yellow-backed duiker among others.

Activities while in volcanoes National park.

Birding

birding-rwandaThe park protects a sum of 180 bird species and among which include the Grauer’s rush  warbler a vulnerable local bird species living in the swamp, whereas at least sixteen Albertine Rift endemic are also present, among which are the handsome francolin, Archer’s ground robin, dusky crimson-wing, Rwenzori turaco, red-faced woodland warbler , Rwenzori double collared sunbird, collared apalis, Rwenzori batis and the strange weaver.

Gorilla Trekking

baby-gorillasThe most interesting activity is encountering mountain gorillas in their natural habitat and today remains the most prominent in this park, with a sum of close to 40 gorilla permits being issued every day, with 8 visitors assigned to each of the 5 habituated groups.  However Volcanoes National Park is not only focuses on gorilla tracking, but also conducts additional activities such as trekking golden monkeys and hiking which today are well organized.

Climbing Mt. Karisimbi and Bishoke

hiking-karisimbi-RwandaHikes today are being offered to the various visitors that come to this park.  ORTPN offers guides though trekkers must have special clothing as well as camping equipment.
Visit the Dian Fossey’s burial place as well as the nearby gorilla cemetery found at the previous Karisoke Research-Camp.

This involves a half an hour’s drive from the headquarters of the park to the beginning of the trail followed by a 10 minutes’ walk to the boundary of the park.  From here, you will climb through the verdant forest from 90 minutes to close to 3 hours, basing on your physical fitness as well as how many stops you will make to enjoy the beautiful scenery, whereas the plunge lasts about 1 to 2 hours.

Accommodation around Volcanoes National Park
While in volcanoes national park, you can dine and sleep at any of the following lodges depedning on your budget;

  • Mountain gorilla view lodge
  • Gorillas Nest lodge
  • Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge
  • Hotel La palme
  • Kinigi Guest House
  • Muhavura Hotel
  • Mountain Hiking (Mt. Muhabura, Karisimbi & Bishoke)
  • Virunga Lodge that overlooks Lake Burera and Ruhondo
  • Hotel Gorillas