Volcanoes National Park is a remarkable and ecologically diverse protected area in northwestern Rwanda. The park protects the Rwandan sector of the Virunga Mountains, which are; Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Muhabura.
This chain of steep free-standing mountains, spanning altitudes of 2,400m to 4,507m, and linked by fertile saddles formed by solidified lava flows, ranks among the most stirring and memorable of African landscape. The highest of these five Virunga Volcanoes in the Park is Karisimbi (4507 meters) on the border with the DR Congo, and Mgahinga and Muhavura on the Ugandan border.
Besides the five Virunga Volcanoes in the Park, Volcanoes National Park is beyond a shadow of a doubt most famous for preserving the endangered mountain gorillas. However, there are also many other attractions a visitor to this Park will enjoy such as golden monkeys, hike to Dian Fossey’s former camp and grave on the forested slopes of Karisoke and overnight hike to the highest point of the summit of Karisimbi, among others.
Attractions and activities in the Park:
Endangered Mountain Gorillas
Being a habitat of the endangered mountain gorillas, Volcanoes National Park is a perfect place for carrying out mountain gorilla safari excursions. This makes the park one of the most special areas in the world still residing these beautiful apes; other areas being Bwindi and Mgahinga in Uganda, and Virunga in DR Congo.
Naturally mountain gorillas do climb trees but most of the times prefer being on the ground and it’s where you will usually find them during the trek. Mountain gorillas have almost the same DNA as of humans and their life style doesn’t differ much from that of humans. Like humans, these apes live in families (habituated gorilla families) and each habituated gorilla family is spearheaded by one adult male usually known as a silverback because of silver hair that embellishes the dark fur.
Palpably mountain gorilla trekking is the best tourist attractions in Volcanoes National Park and perhaps in Rwanda entirely. Mountain gorilla trekking is a mesmerizing and memorable safari experience in the Park. Mountain gorillas are fascinating animals to the extent that some try to interact with their visitors, often approaching them and greeting them as they walk past. The trek normally takes one to six hours depending on which family you are trekking and where it resides in the Park. Usually visitors spend one hour with the gorillas and it is prohibited to smoke or eat in their existence.
Trekking Golden Monkeys
Golden monkeys are the other major attraction in the beautiful Volcanoes National Park. Golden Monkey trekking is also a famous safari activity in this Park and like gorilla trekking, the activity starts early in the morning with briefings at the park’s headquarters at Kinigi.
It is a cheaper activity as compared to gorilla trekking in the same park and it is a very memorable experience as well. Golden monkeys are widely spread in the forests of northwestern Rwanda and southwestern Uganda (Mgahinga National Park). These beautiful golden monkeys stay in bamboo forest and they are naturally shy animals.
Hiking the Dian Fossey Tomb
Dian Fossey was an American zoologist who spent about 18 years in Rwanda – particularly in Volcanoes National Park studying and preserving mountain gorillas from 1966 until her assassination in 1985. The hike through the forest to the adventurous Dian Fossey Tomb takes approximately 6 hours to-and-from, along the way, on a lucky day; you may spot buffaloes, golden monkeys, elephants and some bird species that Dian committed her life to.
Exploring the Musanze Caves
The eye-catching Musanze Cave is one of the beautiful hidden attractions in the famous Volcanoes National Park. This fascinating cave is good for tourist walks, trails and stairs that take you in the dark interiors of the caves that show a good picture of a home with several rooms. The site is nestled at the foothills of Volcanoes National Park, and from there one can easily see primates and birds.
The Park resides over 200 bird species such as; the dusky crimson wing, Ruwenzori turaco, strange weaver, ground robin, francolins, red faced woodland warbler, Ruwenzori double collared sun bird and the Archer’s ground robin, among others which will make your bird watching experience so memorable in the Park.
Hiking the Virunga Volcanoes
Another amazing experience in Volcanoes National Park is a hike to the Virunga Volcanoes. The most popular hike in the Park is a two days’ hike of Mount Karisimbi. The other popular alternative is a one-day hike to Mount Bisoke to its beautiful crater lake.
Accommodations in the Park
Volcanoes National Park comprises of several safari lodges and camps to accommodate tourists of all classes who wish to spend more days there. Among the accommodations in the park includes: Singita Kwitonda Lodge, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Bisate Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Sabyinyo Silver back Lodge, Five Volcanoes, and many more.