Volcanoes National Park, the home for the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda covers 160sq km area in the north Rwanda and is the oldest national park on the African continent. With its protected gorilla species, the park facilitates Gorilla Trekking Safaris in Rwanda, attracting dozens of visitors every day from various corners of the globe.
Volcanoes National Park or Parc National des Volcans in French is found in the northwestern side of Rwanda bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park to the Ugandan side. The national park is also a home to five out of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains. These volcanoes include Bisoke, Karisimbi, Gahinga, Muhabura and Sabyinyo which are covered in the tropical rain forest and bamboo.
A visit to see gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park is chastely a life-changing undertaking.
In 1929, the park was stretched into Rwanda and by that time Belgian Congo and was titled Albert national park run by the Belgian Colonial Authorities. In the early 1960s, the park was shared as Rwanda and Congo became independent by the end of that decade, the park was nearly half of its original extent.
In 1967, Dian Fossey, a zoologist from the US who had been doing study on mountain Gorillas in the woodlands of Congo escaped from insecurity and put up her research base between Visoke and Karisimbi volcanoes that would later be named Karisoke Research Center. Fossey led the conservation crusade of the mountain gorillas and managed to mobilize funds to battle against poaching in the area, a battle she sustained until her massacre in December 1985. She was laid to rest at the research center near to the grave of her beloved gorilla baptized Digit.
The park remorselessly went ahead to suffer the problem of poachers despite the fact that conservation efforts were in place. More on a sad note, the park became a battle ground during the civil wars in Rwanda in 1990s, a thing that weakened tourism activities up to 1999. In an attempt to improve conservation and gorilla safaris in Rwanda, the government introduced the yearly baby gorilla-naming ceremony for all the newborns and this was branded as ‘Kwita Iziina’. This event has achieved great results in increasing and strengthening the gorilla population in Rwanda.
Besides gorillas, the park a home to golden monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), black-fronted duiker (Cephalophus niger), Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta), elephants, buffaloes (Syncerus caffer), and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) among others. Volcanoes also harbor 178 species of birds including at least 29 prevalent to Rwenzori Mountains and the Virungas.
HOW TO GET THERE
Volcanoes National Park is in an area called Musanze formerly renowned as Ruhengeri. The park is accesibble by road Gisenyi or Kigali. It takes 2 hours to reach the park from Kigali. One can as well do gorilla trekking on the same day and conveniently return to Kigali in the evening. For a one-day gorilla safari, one is required to wake up early enough. But in case time is adquete on one’s travel programme, it is prudently advisable to drive to the park and stay overnight around the nearby accommodation facilities.
The major activities at the park include:-
- Gorilla trekking.
- Golden Monkey Tracking.
- Hiking Karisimbi volcano (3,800 m).
- Mount Bisoke volcano climbing.
- Hiking to the Dian Fossey gravesite at Karisoke Research Station.
- Touring the twin lakes of Ruhondo and Bulera.
- Iby’Iwacu cultural village tour.
Accommodations around Volcanoes National Park
- Mountain Gorilla View Lodge.
- La Palme Hotel.
- Mountain Gorillas’ Nest lodge.
- Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel.
- Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel.
- Garr Hotel.
- Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge.
- Hotel Muhabura.
- Virunga Lodge.
- Kinigi Guest house.
- Le Bambou Gorilla Village.
- Virunga Hotel.
- Red Rocks Rwanda.
- Home Inn.
- Villa Gorilla.