Volcanoes National park Rwanda

 Volcanoes national park Volcanoes national park – Park National des Volcans is one of the best and most visited national park in Rwanda situated in the North western corner of Rwanda the land of a thousand hills in Kiningi, Ruhengeri present Musanze and it occupies a land scape of 160km2.  Volcanoes national park was first gazette in 1925 for tourism purposes. Later on , Rwanda faced a genocide that affected  tourism sector and led to closure of the park in 1991 but fortunately when everything finally came back to normal, volcanoes national park was later on re opened in 1999 and up to today it’s the best destination for primate lovers. Volcanoes national park is also located within virunga Massif which is shared amongst three national parks and three countries including Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda the pearl of Africa. All the 3 national parks are known for harboring the endangered mountain gorillas available for trekking and alongside volcanic mountains available for hiking safaris which include 5 out 8 volcanic mountains in Virunga massif including Mount Sabinyo, Mount Gahinga, Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, & Mount Muhabura that are hiked by several hiker all year round.

How Safe Is Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

7 best tourism activities in Volcanoes national park

Volcanoes National Park has plenty of tourism activities enjoyed by several travelers time after time as elaborated in this Article.

  1. Mountain gorilla trekking

Mountain gorilla trekking is always the major tourism activity that made volcanoes national park famous alongside other activities. Gorilla trekking in volcanoes national park became a frequently done activity after the release of the movie “Gorillas in the Mist” that was achieved by the American primatologist Dian fossey that dedicated her life to ensure that the endangered mountain gorillas were free from Poaching, hunting and many other park attacks thus helping in an increase in their population. Unfortunately, dian fossey was later on murdered by poacher on her research center known as Karisoke that derived its name from two beautiful volcanic mountains of Karisimbi and Bisoke. Therefore a hike to summit dian fossey grace is also an activity done by several travelers while on a gorilla trekking safari in volcanoes national park.

Habituated mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park

Volcanoes national park has 12 habituated mountain gorilla families available for trekking at any given period both during low season and high season. However to be able to trek mountain gorillas, one needs a gorilla trekking permit that costs $1500 per person that is abit high as compared to a Uganda permit at $ 600 and DRC permit at $400 & $200 consecutively during high and low season. Below are 12 habituated mountain gorilla families in volcanoes national park:

Hirwa gorilla family: Hirwa gorilla family is one of the best and most visited mountain gorilla family due to its unique characters of some family members. However Hirwa gorilla family is found of migrating every now and again within virunga massif with its recent migration in 2019 where it crossed over to Uganda’s Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda where it spent some months and finally return back home to volcanoes national park in April 2020.

Amahoro gorilla family: From the Kinyarwanda word amahoro which means peace, thus Amahoro gorilla family is known to be the most peaceful gorilla family without any trouble at all. However, to trek this family, trekkers have to really hike up the hill where amahoro gorilla family resides. It’s a tiresome adventure but once you get closer to the family, you will not regret your hike as it’s worth it.

Sabinyo gorilla family: Sabinyo gorilla family was named after Mount Sabinyo where it was first spotted .the advantage of trekking this particular gorilla family is that it doesn’t require long hike as it’s always seen meandering along the volcanoes park headquarters.

Susa (A) mountain gorilla family: For trekker who prefer encountering a huge family of gorillas, then Sasa (A) got you covered. It is the largest gorilla family in Volcanoes national park with twins in it. This gorilla family however is usually trekked by adventurous trekkers who prefer longer hikes since it needs endurance as it spends most of its time up on the highest range of the mountain that requires a particular level of fitness to trek it.

Susa (B) mountain gorilla family: Like Susa A, Susa B is also difficult to trek as it resides up on mount Karisimbi and it was split from Susa A.

Kwitonda mountain gorilla family: Obtained its name from a Rwandese word kwitonda which means humble thus it is the most humble mountain gorilla family that resides on mount Muhabura. Kwitonda mountain gorilla family migrated from Virunga national park in DRC as up to date it is still being trekked in volcanoes national park.

Other mountain gorilla families in volcanoes national park include Bwengye gorilla family, Agashya gorilla family, Umubano gorilla family, Titus, and Ugenda gorilla family all trekked on a daily basis.

Gorilla trekking Guidelines, rules and regulations in Volcanoes national park

Like any other mountain gorilla trekking safaris around Africa, Rwanda Development Board stipulated guidelines, rules and regulations that are used to ensure the safety of both mountain gorillas, and the trekkers while on a gorilla trekking safari in volcanoes national park and they include;

  • First and foremost, trekkers must book their permits in advance and later on pick them from the park headquarters plier to gorilla trekking day. A gorilla permit can either be bought directly from RDB or via a trusted tour operator at a fee of $1500.
  • Prepare best hiking attire including waterproof shoes, long sleeved shirts, sun glasses, cap, a rain jacket, a warm sweater etc.
  • The minimum gorilla trekking age is 15 years thus below 15 years, a person is taken to be a minor and unable to experience the hard trails in search of mountain gorillas.
  • A maximum number of 8 trekkers is allowed to trek a particular mountain gorilla family per day
  • A hiking stick is usually provided at the office while on a gorilla trekking briefing

While in the park on trekking day, follow all the gorilla trekking rules and regulations as advised by the ranger which include;

  • Keeping at least 22ft distance between the gorillas and the trekkers for safety purpose
  • Avoid littering the park, in case of a long call, there are always bush toilets ensure that the waste is buried under the ground.
  • Ensure that the camera’s flash light is switched off all the day while in the home of mountain gorillas
  • Sick people are not allowed to trek gorillas
  • An only hour is allowed with the mountain gorillas per day
  • The lower your voice is, the more the sightings
  • No eating, drinking and smoking while with the mountain gorilla

Other activities carried out in Volcanoes national park

Apart from gorilla trekking, volcanoes national park has other different activities that make it the best national park to visit while on Rwanda safari.

  1. Golden monkey trekking safari in Volcanoes national park

Being a home to primates, Volcanoes national park is the only destination where golden monkey trekking safari is conducted in Rwanda.  Like gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking also starts in the morning with a briefing .Golden monkey trekking is such a fascinating safaris in the way that for this case, travelers’ are allowed to take photographs with the flash light on. Since volcanoes national park has only two trooped of habituated golden monkeys, only two groups of trekkers are allowed to trek them on a daily basis at a cost of $100. This safari lasts between 2-6 hours depending on the movement of the golden monkeys and the fitness of the trekkers. However, only one hour of close contact is allowed with these beautiful primates.

Volcanoes National park Rwanda
Golden Monkey Trekking Safaris
  1. Birding in volcanoes national park

Volcanoes national park is one of the best national park where both primate lovers and birders can have maximum satisfaction. All you require for a birding safari in volcanoes national park is a pair of binoculars and alongside the local birding guide travelers are in position to visit the best birding grounds to spot several species of birds including those endemic to Albertine rift, water birds among others since the park is a home to over 200 species of birds such as Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori turaco, handsome francolin, dusky crimson wing, red-faced warbler etc.

  1. Volcanic mountain hiking safaris in Volcanoes national park

Volcanoes national park is a home to 5 volcanic mountains however only two mountains (Karisimbi & Bisoke) are hiked from Rwanda side, the remaining 3  (Sabinyo, Muhavura & Gahinga) are best hiked from Ugandan side with in Mgahinga gorilla national park each with different sightings and attractions along the way and the summit. Below are the two volcanic mountains that are hiked via Rwanda side in volcanoes national park while on a Rwanda safari;

Mount Karisimbi hiking safari: For instance a hike to summit the top of Mount Karisimbi at 4507m above the sea level enables hikes to sight out primates such as Gorilla Mountains, different mammals at the base of the mountain and lots of bird species. Mount Karisimbi is situated between Rwanda & DRC border shared with volcanoes national park and virunga national park.

Mount Bisoke hiking safari: Most hikers with limited time on their safari normally hike mount Bisoke which takes about half a day to summit the Crater Lake and return. All these hiking activities start early in the morning with briefing before embarking on the volcano hiking safari.

Volcanoes National park Rwanda
Mount Bisoke Hike
  1. Hiking Dian fossey grave in volcanoes national park

A hike to summit the grave of Dian fossey is such a rewarding expedition that allows hikers to learn more about the life of Dian Fossey who was murdered in 1985, her works and many more. Dian Fossey’s grave is situated at Karisoke research center overlooking mount Karisimbi and Bisoke. A hike to this tomb also enables hiker to view the grave of the most loved gorilla called digit that was buried close to Dian fossey since they were best friend.

  1. Nature walks in volcanoes national park

Volcanoes national park has some well-defined walking trails that lead to different destinations including the walk to visit the twin lakes of Burela and Ruhondo, a walk to visit Musanze caves among others.

  1. Visiting Ibyiwacu

Visit to Ibyiwacu cultural village is one of the most interesting activity enjoyed by travelers who are interested in learning about the Rwandese culture. Ibyiwacu cultural village is best known for the breath taking cultural traditional dance and drama. The cultural center was put in place with an aim of encouraging poacher and sensitizing them about the importance of gorilla conservation.

Genocide memorial sites

Most travelers on Rwanda safari, after completion of the above activities such as trekking mountain gorillas, golden monkey trekking, hiking the volcanic mountains, and visiting Ibyiwacu, they normally close their safari with a visit to the genocide memorial sites where thousands of Rwandese were murdered in cold blood during the 1994 genocide that lasted about 100 years. However, this is usually included in a city tour.

Where to stay while on a safari to volcanoes national park – Rwanda/ Accommodation facilities in Volcanoes national park.

Worried about where to stay while on your Rwanda safari to the park of mountain gorillas, Volcanoes national park?, relax as Volcanoes national park has a wide range of accommodation facilities with different amenities such as swimming pool, SPA massage, Internet, and many more depending on the travelers’ choice. These Accommodations in Volcanoes national park range between Budget, Midrange an Luxury accommodations such as Hotel Muhabura, Kiningi guest house, La Palme, Villa Gorilla, Garr Hotel, Gorilla volcanoes, Le Bambou Gorilla lodge, Da Vinci gorilla lodge, Garden place hotel, Best view hotel, Bisate lodge, Mountain Gorilla view lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique hotel, Sabinyo silverback lodge, Mountain gorilla nest lodge among others. Some of these lodges are located in the park while others are located in nearby cities.

Getting there

The distance from Kigali the capital city of Rwanda  to volcanoes national park is about 1 hour and 30 minutes  to 2 hours road drive while a drive from the Rwanda Uganda boarder via Cyanika border it takes about 45 minutes’ drive.

Security of Volcanoes national park/ is it safe to visit volcanoes national park?

The answer is yes. It is very safe to visit volcanoes national park. However much Rwanda received some instabilities especially in 1990s that led to closure of the parks, since the end of genocide in 1994, Rwanda has not recorded any other form of instability thus the best and safe destination to visit.

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