Volcanoes National Park also most popular as Volcanoes National Park truly a haven of mountain gorillas making it one of the top mountain gorilla trekking destinations in the world. Mountain gorillas exist only in 4 African safari parks and they include Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda, Virunga National Park Congo, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda.
Parc National des Volcans is located right in the Virunga Conservation Area (VCA), Ruhengeri district Northwest of Rwanda, about 2-3 hours’ drive from Kigali. It is one of Africa’s oldest park, established in 1925 protecting boasting of unique eco-system. Its borders spread to cover an area of 160sq.kms, lying near Uganda’s Mgahinga and Congo’s Virunga National Parks.
5 of the 8 Virunga Massifs all exist in the Parc National des Volcans and they include Mount Muhabura, Gahinga, Mount Karisimbi, Bisoke and Sabyinyo Volcanoes. It also served as a base for Dian Fossey during her 18 years’ research work on gorillas in the Virunga area.
Volcanoes National Park is a rich protected area with diversity of wildlife besides mountain gorillas. Other wildlife that call this park a home includes interesting mammals such as spotted hyenas, elephants, buffaloes, golden monkeys, black fronted duikers, bush bucks, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys.
A total of about 200 species of birds live in Parc National des Volcans/Volcanoes National Park and they include several of the Albertine rift endemic species. The park’s distinct species include dusky crimson wings, handsome francolins, Rwenzori turacos, red faced woodland warblers, grauer’s rush warblers, Rwenzori apalis, archer’s ground robin. Others include lagden’s bush shrike, Rwenzori nightjars, dusky turtle dove, scarlet tufted malachite sunbird to mention but a few.
Activities in Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking is the most sought for experience in Parc National des Volcans. Trekking gorillas in Volcanoes NP entirely involves visiting the mountain gorillas in the wild and enjoy absolute one hour face to face with them. The park is a home to about 13 habituated gorilla groups and each of them is visited by a total of 8 visitors on Rwanda gorilla safari.
Gorilla treks in Rwanda begin early morning with briefing at Kinigi and at exactly 8:00am, actual search for gorilla family starts. Trekking gorillas takes good time about 2-6 hours and this includes navigating via the forest, steep slopes and the park guide leads you all through.
Gorilla permits a must have if you are to visit any gorilla family in Parc National des Volcans. These are available for booking at USD1500 per person and your tour operator/company can be of great help to secure a gorilla permit on your behalf.
Golden monkey tracking
Trekking golden monkeys is another interesting primate experience enjoyable while on Rwanda safari in Parc National des Volcans. The park has about 2 habituated golden monkey troops and treks to explore them also start from Kinigi. Golden monkey permits Rwanda are available for booking at USD100 per trekker.
Hiking/volcano climbing in Rwanda is best done on tour in Volcanoes National Park Ruhengeri. The park has 5 volcanoes- Gahinga, Muhabura, Bisoke, Sabyinyo and Karisimbi volcano. For unforgettable hiking experiences, Karisimbi (4507m), Bisoke and Gahinga should be a must to conquer.
Dian Fossey tomb/grave hike
Embark on Dian Fossey grave trail to explore more about her gorilla conservation legacy while also sighting some of the primates, birds, flora etc. Dian Fossey hike takes 2 hours and costs you about USD100.
Volcanoes National Park a rich home to over 200 bird species and a birding tour here involves sighting diverse species including Albertine rift endemics. The park’s avifaunal species for birders to look out for include handsome francolins, Archer’s ground robin, lagden’s bush shrike, strange weaver bid, grauer’s rush warblers, red faced woodland warblers, Rwenzori batis, dusky turtle dove, collared apalis, baglafecht weaver birds, blue spotted wood dove, bateleur, etc.
Musanze cave tour
Musanze caves are some of the unique natural landforms formed as result of volcanic eruptions. This occurred over 65 million years’ back and in 2013, they were officially open for tourists and public. The caves are long stretch of 2kms and visitors enjoy amazing hike.
After or before visiting mountain gorillas/golden monkeys, you can enjoy cultural safari experience at the nearby local community. Visit Iby’Iwacu cultural village also popular as gorilla guardian’s village to enjoy the best of dances, music performance from Rwandese while also exploring the different traditions, cultures, etc.
Tour the Twin Lakes- Lake Burera and Ruhondo
Located adjacent to Parc National des Volcans, the Twin Lakes are some of the interesting spots worth visiting after or before your gorilla trekking. You will enjoy a boat ride while on Twin Lakes and you will be sighting some interesting birds.
Best time to visit
Volcanoes National Park is a year-round travel destination. For visitors with interest to see mountain gorillas or golden monkeys, the dry season is undoubtedly the best time and this is during the long (from June to September) or short dry season (from December to February). Other safari activities like birding are also enjoyable here at any time though the most ideal time is during the wet season March to May or October to November.
Places to stay at Volcanoes National Park
All types of accommodation facilities exist in Volcanoes National Park/Parc National des Volcans- luxury, mid-range and budget. They include Gorilla Volcanoes Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Bisate Lodge, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Virunga Lodge, Kinigi Guesthouse, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, Kwitonda Lodge, One and Only Gorilla Nest, etc.
Getting to Volcanoes National Park
By road: It is easier to get to Volcanoes National Park by road, you can spend about 2 to 3 hours driving from Kigali. A 4×4 tourist vehicle is more preferable for your navigation from Kigali to the park or from Kabale or Kisoro for 4 hours’ drive, connecting through Chanika or Katuna border.