About Volcanoes National Park
Brief Over view
This corner or northwestern Rwanda is a breath-taking unforgettable place where culture, adventure and conservation intersect. The park was the base for the zoologist Dian Fossey. The park was first gazetted in 1925, as a small area bounded by Karisimbi, Visoke and Mikeno, intended to protect the gorillas from poachers. It was the very first National Park to be created in Africa. Subsequently, in 1929, the borders of the park were extended further into Rwanda and into the Belgian Congo, to form the Albert National Park, a huge area of 8090 km2, run by the Belgian colonial authorities who were in charge of both colonies. In 1958, 700 hectares of the park were cleared for a human settlement.
Where is Volcanoes National Park Located?
Volcanoes National Park (French: Parc National des Volcans) lies in northwestern Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The national park is known as a haven for the mountain gorilla. It is home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo), which are covered in rain forest and bamboo.
THINGS TO DO IN VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Volcanoes National Park is the top tourist destination in Rwanda. Here’s what you can expect from a visit to the park.
Mountain Gorilla Tracking
Gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is second to none in attracting tourists into the country. The mountain gorillas are critically endangered, with fewer that 900 left in the wild worldwide.
Time is running out to see these gentle giants in their natural habitat, which is why this experience is at the top of most visitor’s lists.
Trekkers are accompanied by trained Tour Guides who are well-informed about different wildlife in the park and will lend a hand along the trek. They could carry your daypack or offer you a helping hand if you were to get stuck in the mud!
Golden Monkey Tracking
Rare golden monkeys have been sighted in the magnificent Virunga Mountains.
Tracking the beautiful golden monkeys is another popular tourist activity in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. A glimpse of these creatures is considered to be a wonderful lifetime experience.
Most visitors book a 3-day gorilla tour package, to experience the golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park. Like gorilla tracking, this activity starts in the morning with an assembly at Kinigi Park Headquarters.
However, golden monkey tracking is less strenuous than to gorilla trekking, so you’ll be finished by around midday.
Adventurous Hike to Dian Fossey Tombs
A visit to Volcanoes National Park Rwanda can be mixed up with a hike to the tomb of the late Dian Fossey.
Dian Fossey was an American primatologist who spent close to two decades in the park, studying the mountain gorillas. A biopic of her life was made into a movie in the late eighties, titled Gorillas in the Mist.
She was murdered by poachers in 1985. Her grave is nestled between the beautiful volcanic peaks of Bisoke and Karisimbi, near Karisoke Research Center.
Along the way on your hike journey, you may be lucky enough to see elephants, buffalo, primates like golden monkeys and sometimes even the mountain gorillas that Dian dedicated her life to.
Mountain Hiking Adventures
Mount Bisoke stands at 3,700 meters above sea level, with a deep crater lake on the top. Hiking Mount Bisoke does not require prior hiking experience; you only need to be physically fit, due to the high elevation and length of the climb.
The whole trek takes five to seven hours depending on your speed and the frequency of stops.
While at the top of the volcano, you will enjoy fantastic views of the other five volcanoes and the beautiful Twin Lakes.
Near the summit is the Crater Lake, which features drier vegetation than other parts of the park, with giant heather growing all over the slopes of the volcano.
Exploring the beauty in Volcanoes Park
The drive from the airport in Kigali to Volcanoes National Park is short, so you can easily combine a gorilla trekking trip with a visit to neighboring Tanzania, and the further away Kenya. In Uganda on the other hand, while you can combine the trip with safaris to the neighboring countries as well, the drive from the airport to either Bwindi impenetrable forest or Mgahinga gorilla national park is very long.
- The Amahoro group: this group is usually found between the Karisoke and the Visoke peaks of the Virunga volcanoes. This group has about 17 gorillas. Together with the Umubano group of 11, they are the furthest from the park headquarters.
- The Sabyinyo Group is usually found between Mt. Sabyinyo and Gahinga. It has about 12 individuals, with a couple of silver backs in the group.
- Agashya Group, formerly referred to as “Group Thirteen”, is often found close to the Sabyinyo group, and has about 25 gorillas including two silver backs.
- The Susa Group is the largest in volcanoes NP with about 40 individuals, including 3 silver backs. This group is usually found high up on Mount Karisimbi, which makes for a relatively more challenging hike, but it is well worth the effort.
- The Karisimbi Group, which split from the Susa group a few years ago, can be found in the Mt. Karisimbi area. Tracking these two groups requires a full day hike.
- The Kwitonda Group has 18 members and was habituated in the DRC. They crossed the border into Rwanda in 2005, and are now open for visitation.
- The Hirwa Group has around 11 members including one silver back and a pair of twins.
- The Bwenge Group, named after the group silver back, has 11 members and can be a tough trek.
- The Ugenda Group, whose name means “on the move” – because its 11 individuals are always moving to new areas is also quite difficult to track.
Tracking the endangered mountain gorillas on the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes is a magical experience. Hike through mountain forests to experience these gentle creatures or make your way through airy bamboo forests to find the charming Golden Monkey.
Also available is the ‘Dian Fossey Tomb Trail’ – a beautiful yet challenging hike to 3,000 meters up the slopes of Mount Bisoke or a hike to the beautiful Ngezi Crater Lake at the top.
Permit costs per person:
- Mountain Gorillas: US$ 1500
- Dian Fossey Hike: US$ 75
- Golden Monkey Tracking: US$ 100
- Crater Lake Hike: US$ 75
Permits should be booked 3 to 6 months in advance, especially during Rwanda’s high season of June – September.
To make reservations for any of the above activities, contact RDB’s Reservation Centre.
As of January 2015, there are ten habituated gorilla groups open to tourists, allowing for a total of 80 permits per day. On the day that you are scheduled to go gorilla trekking, your day start early with an early breakfast. Afterwards you will be taken to the park headquarters in Kinigi. At the headquarters you and others scheduled for gorilla trekking that day will be divided into groups of 8 and briefed on gorilla etiquette and safety. Afterwards you will be driven to the star of the trail and your guide will lead you as you track through gorillas along the designated trails and enjoy nature in the Virungas. Gorilla treks in the volcanoes national park, are uphill hikes, so even at an unhurried pace the altitude makes the trek a bit tiring.
Gorilla permits in Rwanda cost
- Non Residents – $750
- East African Residents – $375
- Rwandan Citizens – 30,000 Frw
ACCOMMODATION IN VOLCANOES PARK
There are a number of lodges and hotels in Rwanda where you can stay for the duration of your gorilla safari in Volcanoes National Park
Hotels & Lodges in Pictures
Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel
The lodge offers relaxing high end accommodation, with beautiful views of the rolling hills of the Land of a thousand hills. Accommodation comprises of 13 bedrooms (double/twin), a VIP cottage. Each facility is air conditioned and feature a flat-screen TV. A refrigerator and kettle
Mountain Gorilla’s Nest Lodge
Super luxury lodge located northern Rwanda’s Musanze district nestled in a forest of Eucalyptus trees. The lodge offers a family sized magnificent accommodation at the Jack Hannah’s cottages with beautiful views of Rwanda’s hills and slopes of the Volcanoes national park
Silver Back Sabinyo Lodge
Sabyinyo Silver back Lodge is located in Musanze district close to the Parc National des Volcans park headquarters an excellent located for gorilla trekking. The lodge is situated at the foothill of the Virunga ranges comprising of a wonderful view of the rolling hills
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
This Hotel is located in Musanze district northern Rwanda neighboring Volcanoes National Park. The lodge is located on the foothills of the Mount Sabyinyo, a volcanic mountain that make up the Virunga ranges
The hotel is located north of Kigali in Musanze province opposite the Musanze district headquarters. The hotel comprises of 30 rooms and apartments that offer a cozy environment to relax in after gorilla trekking or a day visit to the Northern area of Rwanda
La Palme Hotel
La Palme Hotel is a three stars Hotel, located in Musanze City offering Luxurious accommodation to business and Leisure tourists. An exceptional dining experience awaits you in a unique and renowned restaurant that delights your senses with African meals, French and Oriental kitchens.