Volcanoes National Park

Home to a number of endangered Mountain Gorillas

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park is located in northwest of Rwanda in Musanze province which was formerly known as Ruhengeri; featuring gorilla trekking safaris and tours. Volcanoes is among the oldest national park in Africa and it is a home to a number of endangered mountain gorillas, attracting key activities like gorilla tracking, bird watching and golden monkey tracking in Rwanda.

Volcanoes National Park share the same border with the mighty Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in southwest of Republic of Uganda. Besides hosting huge Mountain gorilla population, Volcanoes national park harbors golden monkeys, offering optional activities to tourists on their visit to the park.

Volcanoes also shelters five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains that is to say mountain Sabyinyo, mountain Bisoke, mountain Karisimbi, mountain Muhabura and mountain Gahinga covering over 160 km2 of rain forest and bamboo. These mountains offer magical mount hiking experiences to mountain climbers.

Mountain gorillas are the major tourist attractions of the park however during mountain gorilla trekking, you may encounter animals such as golden monkeys, black-fronted duiker, hyenas, buffaloes, bushbucks and forest elephants can be spotted but on very rare occasions. Volcanoes is also a core birding spot destination with over 178 species for watching and 15 of the subspecies are endemic to the Virunga conservation area and the great Ruwenzori Mountains.

A number of activities are run and managed by Rwanda Development Board (RBD) and local communities to attract tourists such as gorilla trekking, Golden Monkey tracking, visit to twin lakes, mountain hiking, visiting Dian Fossey’s tomb and touring Iby’Iwacu cultural village

Mammal species in Volcanoes national park

Volcanoes National Park is a rich ecosystem with vibrant and unique mammal species. Mountain gorillas and Golden monkeys being the most recognized mammal species because the Virunga mastiff area is their only habitat on earth. However, Volcanoes harbors a number of mammals such as buffaloes, bushpigs, Forest elephants, bushbucks, giant forest hogs, bushbucks, spotted hyenas, duikers, vervet and colobus monkeys though it is hard to spot them due to hilly and rugged terrain, dense and enclosed canopy rainforest of the national park. Hence mammals in such habitat adapt to a solitary or pair lifestyle and are very violent to intruders.

Volcanoes National Park is well known travel destination in Rwanda for mountain gorilla trekking and golden monkey tracking however tourists can easily spot mammals in Nyungwe and Akagera national parks.

Bird species in Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is nestled at the edge where the west African rainforests meet the East African savanna vegetation, Virunga volcano region meets the great East African rift and Lake Kivu is just a few kilometers away from the park. All these factors attract a number of bird species for bird watching with more than 200 species recorded in the park. Visitors looking to explore Rwanda birding safaris and tours may spot a number of Albertine rift endemic bird species such as Rwenzori batis, Handsome francolin, Rwenzori turaco, Archer’s ground robin, Grauer’s rush warbler, Collared Apalis, Red-faced woodland warbler, Rwenzori double collared sunbird among others.

Weather and climate of Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is characterized by wet and cold climate combined with high altitude, receiving ample amount of rain and mist. Temperatures tend to be constant throughout the year with an average of 16°C/61°F during the day and 6°C/43°F at night. Temperatures of Volcanoes national park change with reference to the altitudes and normally drop by 6.5°C for every 1,000m climbed or 3.5°F per 1,000ft

It rains a lot throughout the year however, there is a short drier season from June to August. We therefore recommend visitors to pack warm, waterproof clothing and good walking shoes for hiking.

Activities in Volcanoes National Park

Mountain gorillas tracking is the most popular tourist activity done in Volcanoes national park however, visitors may extend their stay with other activities such as golden monkey tracking, hiking, bird watching among others

Gorilla trekking safaris

Mountain gorilla trekking is the most popular activity in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. The park is endowed with a number of mountain gorilla families such as Susa group with 35 individuals, Amahoro group has 11 individuals, Sabyinyo A – group has 13 individuals, Sabyinyo B – group has 4 individuals, Group 13 has 7 individuals among others to attract tourists for gorilla safaris. Mountain gorilla tracking is one of the best wilderness adventure experience, exciting, fun and educative in Africa that gets travelers more personal than ever to wildlife.

Golden monkey tracking

Golden monkey is another unique primate specie found in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. The same species are can also be spotted in Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda. Golden monkey tracking adventures are done in morning hours, starting from Kinigi tourism office and later tourists trail into the valleys and wetland vegetation in search for these beautiful primates. The main feeding zones for golden monkeys are bamboo forest.

Bird watching

Volcanoes National Park is among the Important Birding Areas (IBA) in Rwanda with some rare Albertine rift endemic species that are a lot harder to spot elsewhere. Birders always set in the morning and head into the forest in search for forest birds either at the canopies or at the ground.

Hiking

Volcanoes national park is endowed with stunning volcanoes perfect for hiking experiences with steep mountains almost touching the skies such as Mt Karisimbu and Mt Bisoke.

Mountain Bisoke is an inactive volcano and about 3,771M. It is popular for its 1-day hiking expeditions to visitors either before or after mountain gorilla trekking experiences in Rwanda. The mountain is covered with thick forest cover and it has Karisoke research center at the foothills where gorilla habituation started from.

Mt Karisimbi is a dormant volcano about 4,507M located at the border of Rwanda and DR Congo. Mount Karisimbi is the tallest of the Virunga volcanoes and 11th highest in Africa. Hiking to the summit of Mt Karisimbi is about 2-days where visitors encounter land features, unique alpine and forest bird species and primate species. On a lucky day, visitors may meet Mountain gorillas during their hiking expeditions.

Nature Walks

Nature walks are exciting experiences in Rwanda that raise adventure adrenalin amidst the jungle where visitors are enticed with green lush vegetation of the countryside to discover the beauty beyond many peoples’ reach.  You may either explore the Musanze Caves or Dian Fossey trail to learn more about wildlife conservation and Mountain gorilla habitat. Dian Fossey trail gives a memory and appreciation of the conservation efforts of Dian Fossey and Karisoke Research Center.

Mountain Gorilla Guardians / Iby’wacu Cultural Tour

This village tour takes you through how Mountain gorillas and local communities have coexisted in both positive and negative ways. Visitors get closer to the indigenous community to share life experiences in a number of activities such as songs, dances, storytelling, art, cultural rituals and ceremonies, past time games, homestead structures etc. Travelers eventually learn a lot about the African culture and lifestyles. Please note that payments made for this cultural tour goes directly to the local community and in end, it reduces human wildlife conflicts as the locals physically witness the benefits of mountain gorilla existence.

Getting to Volcanoes National park Rwanda

Volcanoes national park is just two hours’ drive from Kigali capital city and covers a number of districts i.e. Musanze, Burera, Rubavu and Nyabihu.  The park can easily be accessed through Musanze and visitors can use both public and private means to get the kingdom of mountain gorillas in Africa!  Please note that it is very possible to drive from Kigali to the park and track the gorillas on the same day using private means.

If you opt to use public means, kindly note that there is no public transport between Musanze and Volcanoes national park headquarters; public means can only stop at Musanze point. The cost of transfer from Kigali to the park is less than $50 per person using public transport. There are no scheduled local flights to Volcanoes and most visitors us 4 x 4 private vehicles to cruise to the park with a help of a tour driver guide.

Most visitors arrive in Rwanda through Kigali International Airport. The airport is about 10 km from the Kigali capital city and Volcanoes national park is located in the north of the country, about 130km from Kigali, 12km from Musanze town and 70km from Gisenyi.

All visitors interested in gorilla tracking activities in Volcanoes national park are advised to report at the park headquarters in Kinigi by 7am hence advising you to stay close to the park in areas like Musanze.

Akagera Aviation offers charter helicopter transfers to anywhere in Rwanda including Volcanoes National Park on a request.

Best Time to Visit Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is always open for gorilla trekking tours and hiking safaris in Rwanda and can be visited throughout the year. Meeting mountain gorillas in the park is guaranteed and don’t depend on the weather conditions. However, the trails in the forest tend to be very slippery during heavy downpour, making hiking difficult compared to dry months of June to September and December and February.

During dry seasons; trails tend to be drier make hiking easier and pleasant, the sun is more likely to break through the clouds, gorilla trekking is easier however, it is hard to secure the limited gorilla trekking permits due to high demand and lodges might be full and charge more.

During wet season, gorilla permits are easier to obtain due limited demand, lodges tend to give discounted rates, rain doesn’t diminish the experience of seeing the gorillas however; rain can make forest trails challenging

Gorilla trekking guidelines in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

  • Visitors must purchase a gorilla trekking permit.
  • Travelers above fifteen years are eligible to trek Mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park
  • Tourists must maintain a safe distance of 7 meters between mountain gorillas.
  • Visitors must be healthy and free from communicable diseases before trekking gorillas in Volcanoes national park Rwanda.
  • Avoid using flash cameras while taking photos of the gorillas.
  • Interacting with mountain gorillas is strictly one hour.
  • Maximum number of visitors to trek an allocated gorilla family is 8 per day.
  • Visitor must keep their voices low during trailing through the forest and before the close encounter with the gorillas.
  • Avoid unnecessary movements when with the Mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park Rwanda.
  • Do not make alarm, stand still, look away from the gorilla, and follow your ranger’s instructions in case the mountain gorilla charges
  • Spitting in volcanoes national park is prohibited as it is a way of transmitting diseases.
  • Avoid littering the park.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke before the mountain gorillas.

What to pack during mountain gorilla safaris and tours in Volcanoes National park

  • You are advised to wear trousers and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Put on Sun hut.
  • Carry an Insect repellent.
  • Rain gear
  • Waterproof hiking boots.
  • Walking stick however it can be improvised on site.
  • Garden gloves but optional

Accommodation in Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is a top travel destination in Rwanda with a number of accommodation properties ranging from luxury, midrange and budget.

Budget Accommodation:

  • Hotel Muhabura
  • Kinigi Guesthouse
  • Villa Gorilla

Midrange Accommodation:

  • La Palme Hotel
  • Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel
  • Garr Hotel
  • Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge
  • Best View Hotel
  • Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge
  • Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge
  • Garden Place Hotel

Luxury Accommodation

  • Mountain Gorilla View lodge
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
  • Bisate Lodge
  • Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel
  • Virunga Lodge

Gorilla Families In Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Volcanoes national park has a number of gorilla families for trekking in Rwanda. Please note that mountain gorilla safaris and tours can only be done in three countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic republic of Congo. In Rwanda, gorilla tracking can only be done in Volcanoes while in Uganda it is done in Mgahinga and Bwindi national parks.

Currently Volcanoes national park has a total of 11 habituated mountain gorillas for visitation and each allocated 8 permits for tracking hence a maximum of 88 visitors are allowed to go gorilla trekking every day. Each gorilla family has something unique to offer in terms of character, size, dominance among others. Below are names of habituated groups in Volcanoes National Park which you can track during your visit to Rwanda for safaris and Tours.

  • Bwenge gorilla family
  • Titus gorilla group
  • Karisimbi / Susa – B gorilla family
  • Susa (A) gorilla family
  • Ugenda gorilla family
  • Umubano gorilla family
  • Group 13 / Agashya gorilla family
  • Kwitonda gorilla family
  • Sabyinyo gorilla family
  • Hirwa gorilla family
  • Amahoro gorilla family

To track mountain gorillas in Rwanda, visitors must buy a gorilla permit through a trusted tour operator like Africa Adventure vacations for a specific preferred date of tracking.  Each gorilla family is named based on different situations and it is led by a silverback.

When a young silverback challenges the dominant silverback, he must go away with some females from an existing group to form his own family.

Cost of Gorilla Tracking permits in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

From May 2017 Rwanda Development Board (RDB) increased gorilla permits in Volcanoes national park Rwanda from $750 to $1500 for all nationals to improve the wellbeing of the surrounding community of the park and sustain the conservation of the park for future generation. This initiative made Rwanda one of the top luxury gorilla trekking safari destinations in Africa with limited option for price sensitive travelers to go for Rwanda tours.

The double increase in the prices of gorilla tracking permits in Volcanoes Rwanda brought a few adjustments and innovations I.e. a visitor can have a specialized gorilla trek at a cost of $15000 and $30000 for a minimum of 3 visitors for 3 consecutive days to give travelers a chance to choose the best way to create the most unforgettable experience with mountain gorillas.

There is also a special discount on gorilla permits for tourist visiting all the three national parks of Volcanoes, Nyungwe and Akagera national parks in the months of May to November of $1050 and $1275 for any delegate in Rwanda for conferences and meetings. There is also another offer of $5000 for 3 consecutive days on Mountain gorilla filming and professional photography in volcanoes national park and then $12,000 for filming and photography crew per day with maximum number of 8 people.

Mountain gorilla permits can either be bought through a tour operator like Africa Adventure Vacations or directly from Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

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