If you are looking forward to exploring part of Rwanda’s natural wonders, you should look no further than Volcanoes National Park. This park is positioned in the north western part of Rwanda and covers a total area of 160 square kilometers. Its home to a diverse range of the peerless species of Mountain Gorillas and five of the eight Virunga volcanoes.
This Park is magnificent and its chain of free standing Mountains span altitudes between 2400m and 4507m.
These volcanoes include Mount Karisimbi, Muhavura, Gahinga, Sabyinyo and Bisoke. Of all volcanoes, Karisimbi is the tallest standing at 4507m high.
More than that, this Park boasts incredible habitats that consist of tropical rainforests, bamboo forests, Swampy areas, Savannah and grasslands. Volcanoes’ grand habitat is the reason for the abundant Wildlife species that call it home.
Together with Mountain Gorillas, other species like Primates (Golden monkeys, Colobus monkeys, baboons and more), wild animals, reptiles, insect species and multiple bird species are typical residents in the Park.
Without doubt, Gorilla trekking is the most popular activity offered in this Park and a main highlight for most of customized safaris to this land of the a thousand hills. However, there are other activities you can be part after the breathtaking Gorilla trekking experience.
All activities in the Park start at Kinigi Park headquarters which is 12 km from Musanze, the biggest town near Volcanoes National Park suburbs. You can easily get to this Park from Kigali by two means namely road and air transport means.
By road – It takes about 2 hours for the scenic drive from Kigali city to the Park headquarters in Kinigi; you will pass by numerous engaging sceneries including rolling hills, farmlands and more.
Public means up to Musanze are not recommended because there is no further transportation from this town up to the park headquarters.
If not road transport, air transport means is the only option to choose. Private charters are arranged from Kigali airport up to an airstrip in Kinigi. From here you will be transferred by your guide up to park headquarters or hotel in Kinigi.
Activities in the Park
Gorilla Trekking Experience.
Mountain trekking is an unrivalled experience every traveler would wish to be part once in a life time. This usually involves meeting with the Gorillas face to face in the Jungles, these apes are herbivorous in nature – mostly feed on tree leaves, coconuts, fruits and grass.
While in Rwanda for a remarkable encounter with Gorillas, you can only have it in Volcanoes National Park. This Park lies in the north western part of Rwanda.
Gorilla trekking is often done in a group and for conservation purposes, only eight visitors are allowed in a group to trek one habituated Gorilla family per day.
After the briefing conducted at Park office to highlight trekkers about Gorilla trekking, the journey to the jungle starts in a group with ranger guides via trails that lead you to the Jungle. Time taken and distance moved in the Jungle depends on where these apes spent their last night.
After locating them you are allowed to stay in their presence for only one hour while seeing them feeding, playing, resting and strolling around. During this one hour period, you are free to take a lot of photos and videos.
It’s recommended for any trekker to come with packed food from your lodge and water for drinking. After one hour session, next on agenda is to start the descending Journey back.
Golden Monkey Tracking
Species of the Old World monkey are rarely seen, a number of travelers pack at least to have some great times with these primates. If you too wish for this experience, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is an ideal place to be.
Like Gorilla trekking, a briefing is first conducted and then the search for these primates in the Jungle starts in a group.
After discovering their presence, you are allowed to be in their presence for some time while following their movements.
Take plenty of pretty photos for these primates while posing in the bamboo trees, feeding and more.
These primates are mostly found in the mountainous bamboo forested areas, therefore physical fitness is a must for any participant.
Volcanoes National Park boasts over 200 species of birds, therefore it’s not a surprise that it is listed among Rwanda’s top birding hotspots.
Birders are granted opportunities of sighting unique bird species such as the Ruwenzori turaco, strange weaver, ground robin, francolins, red faced woodland warbler, Ruwenzori double collared sunbird, Archer’s ground robin, dusky crimson wing to name but a few.
Hiking to Dian Fossey Grave Yard.
For adventure enthusiasts, hiking to the Dian Fossey grave yard is a great expedition not to miss while in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
Dian Fossey is an American researcher who began to research about Gorillas in the Jungles of Democratic Republic of Congo.
After constant political unrests in DR Congo, Dian Fossey decided to leave DR Congo and transferred to Volcanoes National Park where security was at least stable.
While in Rwanda she build a research center for Gorillas and lived with these apes for eighteen years till she was shoot dead by the rebels.
Trekkers start the expedition in the morning via trails that wind though lush jungles, rolling hills and valleys up to the exact location of the grave yard.
On the way you will be exposed to various Wildlife species, on a lucky day you can meet species of Gorillas, wild animals, bird species not to mention the awe-inspiring views of the towering volcanoes and landscapes.
Once you reach there, the ranger guide will lead you around visiting different specks like her hut, grave yard for one of her favorite Gorilla “Digit” and more.
Visit Musanze Caves.
These are one of the hidden path spots in the foothills of the Park. It is a natural underground chamber in a hillside and there are large enough for human beings to enter.
Inside there are trails that can lead you to the interior parts of the cave. Reaching this part of the cave, you can believe like this is real home, it’s packed with numerous rooms.
Mountain Hiking Adventures
To those after hiking expeditions in Rwanda, you are to miss a lot if Volcanoes National Park is not in your Rwanda travel plans.
It is endowed with plenty of sites to practice your hiking skills including Mountain Bisoke and Karisimbi. Expeditions are offered daily heading to Mount Bisoke and Karisimbi.
Mount Karisimbi at 4507 m high is the second highest of Virunga ranges, the hiking to the top of this Volcano takes two days including one overnight stay at the top. Day one, start the hiking up to the top, spend a night and next day descend back.
Bisoke topped by a beautiful crater lake at a height of 3711m is the easiest and can be hiked in one day.
Its trails wind through dense jungles, rugged terrains and rewards sweeping views of the stretching forests, other mounting volcanoes and more.
Iby’iwacu Cultural Village.
This village is one of the most prominent cultural sites in Rwanda. It lies in close proximity to Volcanoes National Park – belongs to the Batwa people and dotted with various grass thatched huts that showcase different cultural norms of the Batwa.
Batwa people were hunters and gatherers who migrated from the Ituri forest reserve, part settled in the western part of Uganda and others in Rwanda.
While in this village, there is a guide to tour you around while feeding you with different information. You are dressed like a king and after you are entertained with their cultural dances. All funds paid for this experience help in supporting this village.