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Volcanoes National Park

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Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park, found in Rwanda’s north-western province in a town called Musanze, is the oldest national park in Africa. It’s also known as Parc National des Volcans in French and Pariki y’Igihugu y’Ibirunga in native Kinyarwanda. The park is famous for its mountain gorillas, which are endangered. Tourists can engage in gorilla tracking to observe these incredible creatures. The park shares borders with Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

Aside from the mountain gorillas, the park is home to endangered golden monkeys, offering diverse tourism activities. It also houses five of the eight Virunga Mountains volcanoes: Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Sabyinyo. Covering over 160 km2, the park features rainforests and bamboo.

Years ago, the park served as a base for Dian Fossey, an American zoologist passionate about gorilla conservation. Today, her legacy lives on. The primary attractions are the endangered mountain gorillas, along with other mammals like golden monkeys, buffaloes, black-fronted duikers, hyenas, and bushbucks. Elephants are rare sightings.

The park boasts 178 bird species, with 12 main species and 15 subspecies endemic to the Virunga conservation area and Ruwenzori Mountains. The Rwanda Development Board offers various tourist activities, with gorilla trekking being the main one. Other options include tracking golden monkeys, visiting the twin lakes, mountaineering, touring Dian Fossey’s tomb, exploring Iby’Iwacu cultural village, and community visits.

Activities in Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla Trekking

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is a top safari destination, known for thrilling Mountain Gorilla trekking expeditions. This adventure allows travelers to get up close and personal with wildlife in a unique and exciting way. Gorilla trekking in the park is an adventurous, fun, and educational experience.

During gorilla trekking, visitors embark on hikes to different Virunga Mountains based on assigned gorilla groups. Examples include the Karisimbi gorilla group on Mount Karisimbi and the Ugenda gorilla family on the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo. The trek offers glimpses of various attractions, including bird species and golden monkeys. As trekkers reach the bamboo trees, where gorillas are found, they observe the gentle giants’ behaviors, such as feeding patterns and interactions with their infants. The one-hour encounter allows for photography to capture memorable moments with these incredible primates.

Golden Monkey Tracking

Volcanoes National Park is also home to the endangered golden monkeys. Golden monkey tracking expeditions start early in the morning at Kinigi tourism office, exploring valleys and bamboo forests where the monkeys feed. Golden monkeys are charming, active, and entertaining to track. They live in social groups of varying sizes based on food availability, offering a high concentration of these unique primates.

Hiking in the Virunga Volcano Region

The entire Virunga volcano region, characterized by steep mountains and lush rainforests, is a stunning backdrop for hiking adventures. Mt Karisimbi, standing at 4,507m, is the tallest of the Virunga volcanoes. Hiking to its white-capped summit is a two-day activity filled with encounters with diverse landscapes, alpine and forest bird species, and even the possibility of encountering mountain gorillas. The hike provides breathtaking views of landscapes below and beyond.

To make the most of the Karisimbi mountain hike, it’s advisable to choose the right time. The dry season, from December to February and September to mid-December, is ideal, ensuring safer and less slippery conditions for the challenging ascent.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Nature Walks in Rwanda

Nature walks in Rwanda offer a chance to immerse in the greenery and explore the beauty beyond regular reach. Musanze caves, formed by ancient volcanic eruptions, provide a unique experience. The 2-kilometer long caves, located in Musanze district, offer an exciting adventure into the wilderness. With walkways and stairs, travelers can appreciate the geological forces of nature. The caves, a new addition to Rwanda’s tourism sites, were formed by basaltic lava layers from Bisoke and Sabyinyo volcanoes. Safety measures, including walkways and stairs, have been set up for visitors to explore the expansive underground space.

Dian Fossey Trail

Mountain gorilla expeditions owe much to scientific research, particularly the work of Dian Fossey. She pioneered studies on Mountain gorillas at the Karisoke Research Centre in the foothills of Mt Bisoke. The Dian Fossey trail allows travelers to walk in her footsteps, exploring the wilderness and learning about wildlife conservation and the habitat of Mountain gorillas. The trail system serves as a tribute to Dian Fossey’s significant contributions to gorilla conservation.