Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes national park is the oldest national park in Africa situated in the Northwestern part of Rwanda in the steep slopes of the mountain ranges in a small village well known as Musanze which was at one time known as Ruhengeri. The park covers approximately 160km2 of rainforest and encompasses five of the eight volcanoes of Virunga Mountains namely; Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. Volcanoes national park borders Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National park in Uganda. Volcanoes national park is tremendously known as a home to the highest number of Mountain gorillas and golden monkeys as well as being the base for the primatologist known as Dian Fossey. Volcanoes national park is the park where the Gorilla Research institute known as Karisoke Research center is found and it is the largest database of wild animals. Volcanoes national park is the most interesting park in Rwanda which houses half of the world’s remaining gorillas.
Volcanoes National Park
How to get to Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes national park can be easily accessed by both road and Air transport with in Rwanda from Kigali or other nearby countries such as Uganda which borders Rwanda in the North and DRC which borders Rwanda in the West.
By Road Transport
From Kigali, it takes approximately 2 hours to reach Volcanoes national park via RN4 or Musanze districts to the park headquarters
From Uganda, it takes approximately 12 hours via Kabale – Mbarara road to reach Volcanoes national park or you can drive from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park via Cyanika border to the park headquarters in Kinigi which is likely to take approximately 5 hours
By Air Transport
Tourists can fly to Kigali International Airport, from Entebbe International Airport or different airstrips in Uganda and connect to Kinigi which takes approximately 2 hours to reach at the park offices.
Attractions in Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes national park has four types of vegetation cover which varies considerably due to the large altitudinal range with in the park and these include some lower montane forest between 2400 and 2500 m, Neoboutonia forest from 2500 to 3200 m, Bamboo forest which covers approximately 30% of the park from 2600 to 3600 m and Hagenia- Hypericum forest and it is the largest forest of Hagenia abyssinica from 3500 to 4200 m and it is characterized by Lobelia Wollastonii, L lanurensis and Senecio erici-rosenii. There are Secondary thicket, meadows, marshes, swamps and small lakes.
Volcanoes national park’s rain forest is best known for hosting over 340 world’s endangered gentle giants known as Mountain Gorillas. other others mammals including the rare beautiful golden monkeys, black and white colobus, black-fronted duikers, buffalos, spotted hyena, Elephants, giant forest hogs and bushbucks whose population is estimated to be between 1760-7040 animals.
Volcanoes national park hosts over 200 exclusive bird species which are mainly Albertine rift endemics with atleast 16 subspecies endemic to the Virunga and Rwenzori Mountains, some of the frequently spotted birds include long-crested eagle, grey throated tit, paradise flycatcher, red-faced woodland warbler, archer’s ground robin, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, handsome francolin and many more.
Volcanoes National park is a habitat to over 340 world’s endangered mountain gorillas which are split into 10 habituated families which are available for a truly unique Gorilla trekking experience and over 80 unique golden monkeys, vervet monkeys which live in the high altitude forest of the Virunga Volcanoes. Encountering these primates and spending time with them in their natural habitat is one of the most exciting and memorable experience where by you will be able view some wild animals including Forest Elephants, spotted hyenas, Duikers, bushbucks, giant forest hog, buffaloes and many more.
Musanze caves are 2km long in an underground cliff with walkways, stairs and trails which lead into the caves and these are the most frequently visited caves in Rwanda. These caves were formed as a result of a volcanic eruption which took place 62 years ago beneath the earth’s surface and they are part of the lava basaltic layers from mount Bisoke and Mount Sabyinyo. These caves were traditionally significant during the ancient times in Rwanda because this is where the crowning of their new Kings took place hence it is one of the top tourists attraction worth visiting.
The Twin lakes in Volcanoes national park are Burera and Ruhondo which were formed as a result of a volcanic eruption in the Virunga Massif and they are strategically situated on the fringes of Volcanoes national park, on the foothills of Mount Sabyinyo, Muhabura, Bisoke and Gahinga. These two lakes are interconnected and they hosts a variety of water birds hence becoming an ideal birding spot, they offer an unforgettable birding experience, a wonderful view of the landscape, well terraced hills and the Virunga Volcanoes.
Volcanoes national park encompasses five of the eight volcanoes of Virunga Mountains namely; Karisimbi which is the tallest of all, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. These mountains spread out in the Albertine region and are among the few remaining places where Mountain gorillas be seen from while in Rwanda, they offer amazing views for photography, they are great birding spots and they as well offer an unforgettable golden monkey tracking experience as well as other primates.
Dian Fossey’s Research center and Tomb
Dian Fossey’s research center is a Gorilla Research institute known as Karisoke Research center was founded by a primatologist known as Dian Fossey on 24th September 1967 and it is the largest database of wild animals where long term studies about gorillas were conducted while in Volcanoes national park. While at the research center, you can as well visit and see the ruins of Dian’s house and her grave.
Iby’iwacu Cultural village
Iby’iwacu cultural village is one of the most dominant cultural attraction in Rwanda located in Nyabigoma, Musanze district around Volcanoes National Park. This cultural village offers captivating cultural experience where tourists interact with the local people around this village, enjoy the performance of the locals as they showcase their tradition through their traditional songs and dances and explore the traditional rural lifestyle of the people living in this village.
Activities done while in Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking is the most interesting activity done in Volcanoes national park. The park is a home to over 340 world’s endangered mountain gorillas which are split into 10 habituated families which are available for a truly unique trekking experience. Encountering these gentle giants in their natural habitat is one of the most priceless memorable and life changing experience where by tourist are allowed to spend one hour observing their human like behaviors, habitats and capturing the moments through taking photos.
Golden Monkey Trekking
Golden monkey trekking has become one of the most desired and unique activity in Volcanoes National park. This park is a home to over 80 unique golden monkeys which live in the high altitude forest of the Virunga Volcanoes. These golden monkeys are endangered and unique primates which can be observed for approximately one hours in their natural habitat in the bamboo vegetation at the foothills of the park. Observing these primates while they are feeding, play and swinging from one tree to another is unforgettable and magical experience.
Volcanoes national park hosts a wide ranges of over 200 exclusive bird species which are mainly Albertine rift endemics with at least 16 subspecies endemic to the Virunga and Rwenzori Mountains, some of the frequently spotted birds include long-crested eagle, grey throated tit, paradise flycatcher, red-faced woodland warbler, archer’s ground robin, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, Ruwenzori turaco, handsome francolin and many more. Bird watching can be done in the morning, afternoon and in the evening alongside an experienced guide.
Hiking to Dian Fossey’s Tomb
Hiking up to Dian Fossey’s tomb takes approximately 4 hours and while at the tomb, it offers tourists an amazing experience and it enables them to pay their respect to the late primatologist who sacrificed her life to save the endangered mountain gorillas found in Volcanoes national park and while at the tomb, tourists will have a magnificent view of the park and the wider Virunga mountain ranges.
Visiting Karisoke Research center
This research center is a gorilla Research institute which was founded by a primatologist known as Dian Fossey on 24th September 1967 and it is the largest database of wild animals where long term studies about gorillas were conducted while in Volcanoes national park. While at the research center, you can as well visit and see the ruins of Dian’s house and you will get to know what Dian Fossey did to save the mountain gorillas and minimize poaching.
Virunga Mountain Climbing
Volcanoes national park encompasses five of the eight volcanoes of Virunga Mountains namely; Karisimbi which is the most liked mountain, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo which offers a great mountain climbing experience on these magnificent mountain ranges due to a variety of different attractions found on each of the mountains including the beautiful Crater Lake, breathtaking views of the landscapes, a variety of bird species such as long-crested eagle, grey throated tit, paradise flycatcher, red-faced woodland warbler, archer’s ground robin, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, handsome francolin and primates including gorillas, golden and vervet monkeys.
During your community walks while in Volcanoes National park, you will visit Iby’iwacu cultural village in Musanze where you will be able to engage in different activities as you interact and get to know more about the Iby’iwacu culture. This offers you a chance to visit the king’s palace where you will get to know more about their cultural ancient rulers. Iby’iwacu cultural village tour will offer you an insight of the Rwanda cultures through their dances, dramas, songs and stories.
Accommodations in Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes national park has excellent accommodation options with good services, employees, and modest restaurants in a safe natural environment as well as nearby towns. There are so many hotels though they are categorized according to one’s budget comprising of Budget, midrange and luxury. The following are the hotel accommodations;
Mille Collines Hotel, Davinci Gorilla Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Gorilla Solution Lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel, Mountain Gorilla’s Nest Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Best View Hotel, Faraja Hotel, Garden Place Hotell, Hotel Muhabura, Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel, Virunga Lodge, Villa Gorilla and many more.
Best time to visit Volcanoes National Park
The best time to visit Volcanoes National Park is during the dry season between the months of June through September, December to February during the day and at night however it as well rain at any time during the dry season since the park is in the tropical rain zone hence it is difficult to predict the changes in the weather condition. During the dry season, the park is easier and worth exploring since it makes hiking and gorilla trekking through the dense forest more convenient and less challenging.