Volcanoe National Park, Positioned and Spanning on a 160 sqkm area in the northern province of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Parkwhich runs along the border with the DRC and Uganda, protects the steep slopes of this magnificent Virungas mountain range which is rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.
Comprising of five volcanoes that it derives its name from including; Karisimbi the highest at 4,507m, Bisoke with its verdant crater lake, Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura, the Virungas are utterly spellbinding and masses would proclaim it as one of the most alluring national parks in Africa.
Volcanoes national park was gazetted in 1929 by the Belgian colonial authorities as Albert national covering Rwanda and the then Belgian Congo. The park was later divided into two basing on national boundaries during the early 1960s in the course of gaining independence for both states and by the end of this decade, the park had reduced in size close to half its original size.
The American zoologist Dian Fossey who was researching about the incredible gentle mountain Gorillas in Congo fled to Rwanda due to insecurity in 1967 establishing a research camp between Visoke and Karisimbi later proclaimed Karisoke research center an act that saw the revival of the great volcanoes national park as spearheaded the conservation campaign of the gentle giants by soliciting resources to combat poaching, a struggle she engaged in with vigor had it not beenmurder in 1985. Dian Fossey was laid to rest at the research center besides her favorite gorilla’s grave named Digit.
Following her death, poachers continued to prevail over conservation though there seemed to be some efforts to confront it. Conservation was further dismantled to little hopes of revival in the early 1990s as the park was turned into a battle ground during the Rwanda’s civil war that paralyzed all the tourism activities in 1999. A bid to revive and boost conservation as well as tourism activities in Volcanoes national park was later adopted in 2005 after peace was restored in the country.A number of genius Rwandan brains sat down, thought and resolved to introduced the annual baby naming ceremony for baby gorillas known as ‘KwitaIziina’ that has seen great results in gorilla population in volcanoes.
There is probably no need to remind you, trekking and spending time with the famous gorillas through the mysterious intimacy of the rain forest is a draw card to most tourist though there are extraordinary sights and attractions around the Virungas. The park is also endowed with calls of over 200 species of colorful birds and chattering a number of other primates including the rare golden monkey species.
Rwanda is one the three African countries that mother the few remaining endangered mountain gorillas in their natural environment. Trekking these beautiful, intelligent and gentle giants is one of the continent’s most spell binding and memorable experiences.
An up-close encounter with the mountain gorillas is one of the most thrilling wildlife encounters in the world, and Volcanoes National Park is a prime place to see them. Gorilla Permits cost US$1500 (including park entry) and are booked through RDB. Trips leave from the park office in Kinigi at 8.00am daily, but you should report to park headquarters by 7.30am for a briefing about gorillas and allocation of groups. With the help of trackers, opportunities of finding the gorillas are almost guaranteed. But mountainous and terrain can present hikers with quite a challenge if the gorillas are a fair distance away. The path is often steep and slippery, and it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours to reach them, so you’ll need to be in reasonable shape. If you think you’re going to struggle it’s strongly advised you hire a porter (US$10) who can carry your day pack and lend a hand getting up and down the hill. Walking sticks are also a very good idea.
Note; you must be over 15 years of age to trek the gorillas.
While inevitably overshadowed by the gorillas, golden monkey a very rare subspecies is a relative newcomer on the wildlife scene of East Africa, but is rapidly rising in popularity. Golden monkeys, which are a subspecies of the wider-spread blue monkey, are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley and are distinguished by their gold body. Permits to trek golden monkeys are quite easy to get at RDB in Kigali, Musanze, or Kinigi at only US$100. As with gorillas, you spend an hour with these beautiful creatures who live in large groups and are quite playful. Tracking starts at 7.30am, and the guides can find the habituated troop 85% of the time, though they are less easily spotted if it’s raining. The golden monkey track is a gentle steep but an interesting two-hour trek through former farmland to the bamboo forest. On a clear day, you may view the Virunga Volcano range and come across buffalo and duiker.
Nick named the Land of thousand hills due having many mountains including the largest share of magnificent Virunga mountains, Rwanda is a great destination for exhilarating mountain hiking. 5 out of the 8 volcanoes situated in the Virunga ranges are found along the borders of Rwanda as mentioned below. Mountain Karisimbi,Bisoke, Sabyinyo, Gahinga as wella as Muhavura. The prominent and famous Volcanoes national park known park known for gorilla trekking and relaxed vacations in the land of a thousand hills derive her name form these five volcano ranges.
These volcanoes are characterized with lush forests and montane vegetations, astonishing crater lakes with one of them on top of the beautiful Bisoke mountain, as well as an incredibly breathtaking scenic views with a range of wildlife including endemic species to the Albertine rift region. This combined with numerous birds brands these mountain ranges the number one spot for the nature lovers. Hiking is famously done on the 4 volcanoes that include the following;
Mount Bisoke also known as “Visoke” is included among the active volcanoes found within the Virunga ranges. With a height of 12,175 ft, Bisoke lies within the borders of Rwanda in Volcanoes National Park and DR Congo in Virunga National Park. However, the summit and greater part of the mountain is situated in Rwanda. The mountain was formed as a result of a rift that gradually dividing sections of East Africa. It has two crater lakes – one at the very top and the other (Lake Ngezi) found along the way. Its last eruption was in 1957, giving it the biggest Crater Lake within the Virunga Mountain ranges. Hiking Mount Bisoke is one day and usually starts in the morning at the Kinigi reception center with briefing from an assigned ranger. Requirements include a hiking permit, passport and other documentation. After registration and briefing, hikers are then transferred from the reception center to the starting point. The journey to the head trail and starting point takes 40 minutes through rough road. At this point you will be provided with hiking sticks from the park officials, as well as meeting the armed rangers to escort you up to the summit, hiring of porters to help with extra luggage is also done here. Porters will also help you navigate difficult sections of the trail by pulling you up or down depending on the terrain you encounter.
With a height of approximately 4507m/14787ft Karisimbi Mountain is the highest volcano and said to be the 5th Volcano in the Virunga ranges s and Africa respectively. The phenomenal and iconic part of this mountain is when it forms snow in mostly be found during the dry season in June, July and August on the top of the volcano of the due to its advantageous position neighboring the equator. Distinguishable from other volcanoes in Rwanda, Karisimbi can only be hiked and conquered by seasoned hikers that as it is the most challenging hike in the Volcanoes National Park. A visitor a duration of 2 days exploring this adventurous mountain with a one-night camping on top at an elevation about 3700m/12139ft.
The other two volcanoes to look out while in volcanoes national park are Muhavura at an estimate of 4127m/13540ft and Gahinga at 3474m/11398ft. These are all one-day hikes that start and end at Kinigi park reception. Hiking Muhavura mountain offers spectacular views of the conic landscapes and valleys including twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo below. The return trip hiking these two volcanoes is estimates at 6 – 8 hours maximum and just like the first two volcanoes, one desires a high degree fitness to conquer the mountains.
Brutally murdered in her home on the 26th of December in 1985. Dian Fossey was the pioneering primatologist established Karisoke Research Centre1967 in the volcanoes to champion the study, conservation advocacy and protection of mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Dian Fossey hike is an incredible experience physically, emotionally and intellectually as it comes with learning about someone who dedicated her entire life to conserving the gorillas in Rwanda. The tomb is situated in between Bisoke and Karisimbi mountains. This 3-6hours rewarding hike starts with a briefing from the base of mountain Bisoke leading to burial place and Karisoke research center. The Dian Fossey trail is extraordinarily unique and beautiful offering amazing views of the montane vegetation and with cute plants like orchids. Visitors on this trail also stand a chance to spot mountain gorillas.
The culture of Rwanda is a very diversified and it has a unified state since pre-colonial times unlike many countries in Africa. One to have an opportunity to experience this unique but diverse culture, a visit to Iby’iwacu cultural village is inevitable.
While here, you meet traditional cultural troops that welcomes you and Usher you into the ancient traditions of honor and hospitality that will make you discover Rwandan culture. Music and dance play an indispensable role in everyday life here, and performances range from dashing demonstrations of bravery and prowess to humorous songs, light-hearted dances, and rural artistry with roots in traditional agriculture. At every stage, you are invited to join and try out the traditional moves and take pictures which keeps memories for long in your life time.
Gorilla trekking being the most selling tourism activity in Rwanda, Volcanoes national park if gifted with a number of accommodation facilities offering visitors with comfortable stay as they prepare for an utmost gorilla trekking experience. Some of the hotels include; Bisate lodge, One and Only Gorilla nest lodge, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, Amakoro Songa lodge, Sabinyo Silverback Lodge, Virunga lodge, Bishop’s house (Luxury), Five Volcanoes boutique hotel, Virunga resort Inn, Amarembo gorilla village lodge, Ingagi park view lodge, Mountain Gorilla view lodge, Davinci lodge (Midrange), Classic resort lodge, Lalocanda (Budget).
Accessibility to Volcanoes national park is quite an easy task as it takes only 2.5 – 3-hours drive to reach the park from Kigali. This is a very safe and smooth road trip as it involves driving on a well-maintained tarmac road right from Kigali to the park reception. Akagera aviation offers charter flights starting from Kigali international airport and landing at either Gorilla nest helipad or Ruhengeri airport. This takes about 30 Minutes and you are already in the park premises.