Volcanoes National Park Rwanda also known as Parc National Des Volcans is among the only 4 natural habitats that protect the endangered Mountain Gorillas. This eco park protects the highest number of these primates in the Virunga Mountains Region covering Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Apart from the famous Mountain Gorillas, Volcanoes National Park offers a home to other attractions for example other primates like Golden Monkeys, wildlife, volcanoes, dense vegetation, and the Dian Fossey Tomb, among others. This therefore makes it one of the best safari destinations in the country.
Previously, the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda was a small area covering Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, and Mount Mikeno. However, it now covers an area of 160 sq. km to protect the Mountain Gorillas from extinction and the rich biodiversity.
Volcanoes National Park is home to 10 habituated endangered Mountain Gorilla families available for your incredible Mountain Gorilla safaris in the country.
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda in East Africa was previously a part of Virunga National Park in DR Congo in 1929 and together, they were called Albert National Park by the Belgian Colonial Authorities that also managed it.
When Rwanda gained independence in the 1960s, the park was separated from Virunga National Park. Thus, Volcanoes National Park Rwanda together with Virunga National Park, which is home to active volcanoes are the oldest national parks in Africa.
In 1967, Dian Fossey, an American primatologist began researching the endangered Mountain Gorillas in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo but later left due to insecurity and established her Karisoke Research Center base in Volcanoes National Park around the Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke.
She later began a campaign to protect the primates from poaching until her murder in 1985 and she was buried at the Karisoke Research Centre/Karisoke Research Center where she had dedicated her life.
Due to the genocide of 1994, Volcanoes National Park was among the different areas in the country that suffered a civil war between the Hutu and the Tutsi which included merciless killings between the two tribes. This also led to the killings of various other animal species in the park.
However, to promote the conservation of the endangered Mountain Gorillas in the park, the “Kwita Iziina”, an annual ceremony of naming the newborn baby Gorillas was introduced in 2005.
Volcanoes National Park is found in Northern Rwanda, just a 2 hours drive away from Kigali International Airport. This mountainous park is found in Musanze Village which was formerly known as Ruhengeri.
There are various activities to do at Volcanoes National Park and some of them include Mountain Gorilla trekking, Golden Monkey trekking, Mount Bisoke Crater Lake Volcano hiking, and the Dian Fossey tomb hike, among others.
Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park is the major activity that brings you close and personal with the great apes in their natural habitat.
These Mountain Gorillas are the world’s largest primates and tracking them is an incredible experience to have during your tours in Rwanda. Be ready to experience a thrilling and educative adventure while on your tours.
The experience will lead you through the volcanic trails of the park to meet an endangered Mountain Gorilla family and along the way, you will also meet other wildlife. These include different bird species, Golden Monkeys, and various other wildlife species.
Mountain Gorilla trekking begins at 7:00 a.m. with a short briefing at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters from the national park guides, the same time as Golden Monkey trekking. From the Volcanoes National Park headquarters, the park ranger and national park guides will divide members into groups of 8 people to go meet a Mountain Gorilla family.
You are allowed to hire a porter or buy a walking stick to make your journey to meet a Gorilla group much easier. An armed park ranger will then lead you through the rainforest to meet a group and upon meeting a family, you will spend one hour with them.
Mountain Gorilla trekking is a safari activity that involves walking to meet Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat. Participants track these giant primates by following leads like their footprints, and food leftovers to meet one of the endangered Mountain Gorilla families in Rwanda.
The cost of a Mountain Gorilla permit in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda in East Africa is $ 1500. However, the cost of Mountain Gorilla trekking depends on other factors. For example accommodation, transportation, and meals, number of days spent on the tour, among others.
A 2-day tour usually takes about $ 2000, and a 3-day tour will cost about $ 2500 for a budget to midrange tour.
The Rwanda Gorilla permit is a legal document that allows you to do Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park.
The Gorilla permits are inclusive of park entrance fees, a ranger or professional national park guides, and exclusive of other activities, lunch, and a porter.
Since Volcanoes National Park has 10 habituated Gorilla families and each is visited by 8 members. Thus, the park sells 80 Gorilla permits each day.
You can obtain your Gorilla permit by purchasing it from the Rwanda Development Board. Alternatively, you can book Gorilla permits through your tour operator handling your trip for more flexibility.
It is advisable to book your Gorilla permit/ Gorilla trekking permit at least 6 months before your Gorilla trekking day because of the high demand for Gorilla permits.
Gorilla permits in Rwanda cost $ 1500 for foreigners, $ 200 for Rwandese and East African citizens, and $ 500 for other African citizens.
Kwita Izina is an annual event in which new baby Gorillas are given names and it is one of the conservation efforts for the Mountain Gorillas, as it enlightens both the locals and the international visitors about the importance of protecting them.
This event was inspired by the ancestral baby naming ceremony of the Rwandese when there was a newborn. The Kwita Izina occurs every September at the park to promote Gorilla tourism.
Below are the different important things to consider when traveling to track the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda.
Another important thing to consider when for Gorilla tourism is following the different rules and regulations of the park.
It is also important to consider the best things to carry for your trip and below we look at some of them.
Additionally, you will also need to dress appropriately for your adventures, and below are some of the clothes wear or carry to enjoy a much more comfortable trip.
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park occurs all year round and all seasons provide amazing experiences. Note that it rains in the park whether in the dry or the wet season.
However, the dry season from June to August and December to February is considered the best time to visit Volcanoes National Park because of the dry terrains used for tracking, unlike the rainy season when the roads are muddy.
The wet season on the other hand is also great because there is much availability of food for the Gorilla group, making them not move to further places. Thus, finding them during Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is much easier.
The day temperatures at Volcanoes National Park range between 16°C to 61°F while the nights are often cold and the temperatures range between 6°C/43°F.
October and November are the wettest season thus the lowest season of the year.
The high season for this activity goes between December to February and June to September because of the low amount of rainfall, thus making the activity much easier.
There are numerous ways in which Gorilla protection in Volcanoes National Park occurs since they are an endangered species.
One of the different ways to promote Gorilla conservation in the park is through the Kwita Izina naming of baby Gorillas ceremony that enlightens locals and international people about the importance of conserving the endangered Mountain Gorillas.
Additionally, sustainability is also done by allowing only a maximum of 8 people to visit a Gorilla group to avoid stressing the primates. This is on top of all the other guidelines given before and while with the Mountain Gorillas.
The sustainability of the Gorilla groups is also promoted by working hand in hand with other neighboring countries that protect these primates for example Uganda and the DR Congo to protect them from extinction and decline.
Other Gorilla conservation efforts are geared toward giving back to the community in which 20% of the revenue collected from tourists is used to develop infrastructure, among others.
Even though Volcanoes National Park sells more expensive Gorilla permits ($ 1500) compared to her neighbors Uganda ($ 700) and the Democratic Republic of Congo ($ 400), it attracts various visitors for the activity.
This is because of the many advantages that the country has over her neighbors for example the great roads, the short distance from the airport to the tracking destination, and various great accommodation facilities.
In the whole world, Mountain Gorillas can only be found in two regions, and these are Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga Mountains cover three national parks in Uganda, Rwanda, and the DR Congo borders.
These national parks in the Virunga region include Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in DR Congo with active protected active volcanoes, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
Just like the Mountain Gorillas, Golden Monkeys are endemic to the Virunga Conservation Area, and tracking them is usually combined with Gorilla trekking.
You will get to meet a habituated group in the bamboo forest while Golden Monkey tracking/Golden Monkey trekking in their natural habitat. Golden Monkey tracking/ Golden Monkey trekking is much cheaper compared to Gorilla tracking and thus one of the activities to explore the wonders of the park.
Visiting the Golden Monkeys in the bamboo forest is also geared toward conserving them by researching the Golden Monkeys since they are an endangered species.
In addition to the most famous Mountain Gorillas and the Golden Monkeys as discussed above, Volcanoes National Park is also home to other wildlife species or other animal species and we list some of them below
Volcanoes National Park is considered an Important Birding Area in Rwanda as it harbors some of the peculiar bird species of the country, more so, the Albertine Rift Endemics.
There are over 200 bird species in the park including 29 Albertine Rift Endemics for example the Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Rwenzori Batis, Handsome Francoline, Archer’s Ground Robin, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Double Collared Sunbird, Red Faced Woodland Warbler and Collared Apallis, among others.
Volcanoes National Park has 5 of the eight volcanoes and these are Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Mahabura, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Sabyinyo.
Three of the best Virunga Mountains to climb in Volcanoes National Park include Mount Bisoke (3,711 m) crater lake hike, Mount Karisimbi (4,507), and Mount Mahabura (4,127 m) with twin lakes at its steep slopes. Mount Karisimbi is the most popular volcano to climb because of its beautiful snow-capped peaks and the wondrous views of the landscape below.
It is best to hike one of these mountains during the dry season from about June to mid-September and from December to February when the tracks are dry.
This is among the most remarkable activities done at Volcanoes National Park to remember Dian Fossey, who lived to research Mountain Gorillas and advocated for Gorilla protection.
You can visit the Karisoke Research Centre at the foot of Mount Bisoke to also find insight into her work. It is believed that poachers killed her in 1985 while she was studying and advocating for the protection of the Mountain Gorillas at her Karisoke Research Centre base.
This Dian Fossey trail is to commemorate the efforts of Dian Fossey and her work at the Karisoke Research Centre/Karisoke Research Center. You can also contribute to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to support the research center to promote Gorilla tracking.
The scenic tours in the park will lead you to discover various vegetation types of the park for example marshes, grasslands, swamps, meadows, and the bamboo forests that harbor the Golden Monkey species. Therefore, it gives you the best scenic and beautiful adventures in the country.
Discover the birds, over 20,000 Hippos in the rivers in the park, and many others.
The adventure will lead you through the different trails of the park for example the Lake Ngenzi trail, Mount Bisoke trail to the beautiful crater lake, Mount Karisimbi trail, and Mount Mahavura trail that leads to the twin lakes – Lake Ruhondo and Lake Burera.
The Musanze caves inside Volcanoes National Park were designated a tourist site by the Rwanda Development Board in 2013.
Musanze Caves is a great nature trail leading you to a beautiful environment through its walkway and stairs. The park entrance to the caves covers 10 km and different small passageways lead to the main cave.
There are guidelines the national park guides will share with you for your safety during your adventure to avoid any accidents.
The underground caves formed are also home to a large colon of bats that you will view hanging upside down and you will also find different unique plant species, great for photography.
Iby’iwacu cultural village consists of a group of indigenous Rwandese people who believe themselves to be the guardians of the wildlife in the park.
Many of the people in the Ibwiwacu cultural village were former poachers, transformed through Gorilla conservation projects, and are now advocates for the same.
In the past, these people co-lived with the Mountain Gorillas and the wildlife in the park. Meeting these people in the Iby’iwacu Cultural Village will allow you to explore their culture as you enjoy their dances, local food, singing, storytelling, games, cultural ceremonies, and art.
The different activities to do at the Ibwiwachu Cultural Center include visiting the King’s hut, participating in the traditional dances, cooking local food, community walks, and visiting the Batwa people. You may also visit the Buhanga Eco Park a biodiverse and sacred forest to the locals.
There are various activities that you can add to your Volcanoes National Park experience in the country and below are some of them.
Akagera in Northeastern Rwanda is an incredible savannah park in Rwanda famous for game viewing. Discover various wildlife for example the Lions, Forest Elephants, Zebras, Leopards, Buffaloes, Giraffes, Antelopes, among others.
The Nyungwe Forest Chimpanzee trek is amazingly among the rarest primate expeditions in Africa, contributing to a great number of visitors in the country.
Additionally, you can participate in the Monkey treks and the unique canopy walk in the park also allows you to explore the beautiful dense vegetation of the Albertine Rift comprised of montane forests.
The genocide centers were set up to commemorate the killings of Tutsis and Hutus who were killed during the 1994 genocide.
Visiting these genocide centers is important in a way that it educates the younger generation to embrace love and ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again.
Lake Kivu is a beautiful place to relax and rest, especially from the different touristic adventures in Rwanda. Experience various activities like scenery viewing, bird watching, boat cruising, and visiting the fishermen of the lake.
Volcanoes National Park has various accommodation facilities ranging from luxury, midrange, and budget.
Below, we look at the different accommodation facilities in Volcanoes National Park
You can access Volcanoes National Park from either Gisenyi or Kigali International Airport on a drive of about two hours. This makes it quite easy to access thus allowing you to do an activity like Gorilla trekking on the same day of your departure.
Note that there is no public transport in Musanze, so it is best to either hire a car or use a tour operator to handle all transportation costs.
Rwanda’s Cyanika border is a 30-minute drive to the country, and you may also use air transport.
Frequently Asked Questions
Volcanoes National Park is one of the most distinct places to visit in the African continent. Allowing you a close encounter with the Mountain Gorillas during Gorilla tracking.
Yes, you will need a reservation when going to Volcanoes National Park, so you book everything you need in advance for an organized, especially for Gorilla tracking.
Rwanda’s Volcanoes NP is not closed, and it is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for different adventures like Gorilla tracking.
Exploring Volcanoes National Park depends on the activity that you are going to do. For example, Gorilla trekking and Golden Monkey tracking take about 2 to 5 hours, nature walks will take about one to two hours while mountain climbing takes about 2 days.
Volcanoes National Park is unique for the Gorilla protection of the endangered Mountain Gorillas endemic to the Virunga Conservation Area. Additionally, Volcanoes National Park has 5 of the eight volcanoes in its biodiverse ecology that provide amazing volcano hiking experiences for tourists.
Visit Volcanoes National Park for an incredible experience of discovering Africa’s wildlife, especially the endangered Mountain Gorillas that are one of our close relatives. Explore the ecological beauty of the eco-park with guided nature walks through the various volcano hiking trails or climb one of the Virunga Mountains for a magical experience.
Inquire and book with us your Gorilla tracking safari or other adventures in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda East Africa today!