Fairend Safaris

Volcanoes National Park

Visit Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park is the tourist hotspot of Rwanda situated within the Virunga ranges and is home to the endangered mountain gorillas. It is located in the  northwestern part of Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park of Uganda.

The park covers a total of 160 km2 consisting of the montane ecosystem with bamboo forests, swamps, grasslands, and heath. In addition, it was established in 1925 and was named after the dormant volcanoes that make the Virunga ranges. This area is home to different primates like gorillas, golden monkeys, and mammals like bush pigs, elephants, buffaloes, and birds.

How to get to there

The Volcanoes National Park can be accessed by either road or air, from Rwanda’s capital. It takes 2 hours on the road, travelers fly to Kigali International Airport and then drive to the park.  Alternatively Volcanoes National Park can be accessed from Uganda, it takes a 30-minute drive from Cyanika border in Kisoro.

Top activities to do in Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla Trekking

This is yet the most popular activity done in Volcanoes National Park and it attracts most tourists to the country. Travelers get a fascinating experience of getting up close to the gentle giants while witnessing the way they live their daily lives. Gorilla trekking usually starts early at 7:30 with a briefing at park headquarters where travelers are given guidelines to follow. Guests are later grouped according to age and level of fitness in order to allocate the gorilla family to trek.

Trekking is led by a guide or ranger and involves hiking through dense bamboo forests and steep mountain slopes till a gorilla family is found. Tourists spend time with the gorillas watching them feed, and play, and can also take pictures to capture the moment. Most importantly, travelers are advised to always remain calm in case a gorilla approaches them because they do not attack humans. And remember to always follow every instruction and guideline given.

Golden Monkey trekking

Golden monkey trekking involves moving into the bamboo trees to see the beautiful and unpopular golden monkeys. They have striking golden fur coats, they have a unique personality and are fun to watch. Uganda and Rwanda are the only countries where travelers can trek the golden monkeys. Tourists spend time seeing how they feed, play, and jump from tree to tree. These primates feed on bamboo shoots, leaves, and branchlets.

Trekking the golden monkeys begins at 7 a.m. with a briefing at the park headquarters where trekkers are given guidelines to follow and assigned the family to trek. Two habituated families are open for trekking and a ranger or guide leads guests to where the monkeys can be found.

Bird Watching

Volcanoes National Park is an Important Birding Area (IBA) with rare bird species. It protects 17 of the 27 Albertine rift endangered species, and 53 of the 74 Afrotropical Highlands biome species. With the help of a guide, birders can see some of the rare species like Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, Lagden bush shrike, and Kivu ground thrush among others. Travelers should always carry binoculars to aid them in seeing birds and always maintain silence so as not to scare away birds.

Visiting Dian Fossey Tomb

Dian Fossey was a dedicated Zoologist who spent most of her years carrying out research about the endangered mountain gorillas. She was murdered in 1985 by unknown people, visiting her tomb enlights travelers about her work and love for gorillas. Fossey is buried amidst other mountain gorillas that were killed by poachers or died by natural causes. The most emotional part is that she is laid next to her best gorilla friend Digit.

This graveyard has about 20 gorillas buried in it along with Dian Fossey. The tomb tour takes approximately 1-2 hours of hiking through the thick forests to Dian Fossey Tomb. While hiking guests get to enjoy sightings of forest creatures such as forest elephants, buffaloes, forest hogs, and birds.

Hiking

Volcanoes National Park has three dormant volcanoes that offer travelers the opportunity to hike the mountains. Mount Bisoke and Mount Kitisimbi are the popular hiked mountains that offer beautiful views of flora and fauna that can be found on the slopes of these mountains.

In addition, Mt. Karisimbi is at 4507 meters making it the highest volcano and is the most hiked. Whereas Mount Bisoke is easier to hike doesn’t require prior experience and has a crater lake at its summit. Hiking Mount Bisoke takes about 6 hours while Mt. Karisimbi takes about 2 days. Some guides hike with the travelers giving them all the necessary information.

Cultural encounters

The cultural encounters involve visiting the Iby’Iwacu village which was started by Edwin Sabuhoro when he worked as a warden at the Park. His aim was to transform gorilla poachers into conservationists. Visiting this village helps to further conservation efforts and provides income to the community members. Travelers get to learn about the traditional lifestyles, visit the King’s house, and enjoy music and dance performances. Guests get to taste some of the local traditional dishes, locally made brew, and also learn how to make crafts.

Where to stay 

There are a number of accommodation facilities travelers can choose from ranging from luxury accommodation facilities and budget facilities. The facilities to choose from include Bisate Lodge, Kwitonda Lodge, Virunga Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, One & Only Gorilla Nest. Others are Best View Hotel, Bambou gorilla lodge, Mountain gorilla view lodge, Muhabura hotel, and Garden place hotel among others.

When to visit 

Volcanoes National Park can be visited anytime throughout the year however, the best time to visit is during the dry season from June to September and December to February. During the dry season there is no or little rainfall therefore access roads and trekking trails in the forest will be passable compared to the rainy season when the trails are muddy and slippery.