Volcanoes national park Rwanda
Volcanoes national park Rwanda which is also known as Parc National de Volcans is the most visited national park located in the north western part of Rwanda in Musanze village bordering Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda and the three national parks form the Virunga conservation area. Volcanoes national park in the oldest national park in Africa in that it was gazetted in 1925 mainly to conserve and protect the endangered mountain gorillas. The park covers a total area of 160 square kilometers and harbors various wildlife species.
Attractions in Volcanoes national park
Mountain gorillas, volcanoes national park is famous due to the fact that it harbors the endangered mountain gorillas which are the major attractions. The national park is a home of over 15 habituated gorilla families which are available for trekking daily.
Golden monkeys, these are the second major attractions in volcanoes national park after the mountain gorillas. the golden monkeys are playful primates which jump from one tree to another and the park has about 2 habituated golden monkey families therefore visitors who participate in golden monkey trekking will have breathtaking and interesting experiences.
Birds, volcanoes national park is a home of over 200 bird species with 16 species endemic to the Albertine rift. the park is one of the best birding destinations with bird species like handsome francolin, African marsh harrier, long crested eagle, grey throated tit, paradise flycatcher, Rwenzori batis, strange weaver, red faced woodland warbler, archers ground robin among others.,
Volcano mountains, volcanoes national park harbors 5 of the 8 Virunga volcanoes and they include Mount Bisoke which is 3,711 meters above the sea level, Mount Karisimbi which is 4507metres above the sea level, Mount Muhabura which is 4127metres above the sea level, Mount Sabyinyo which is 3645metres above the sea level and Mount Gahinga which is 3474metres above the sea level.
Dian Fossey Research center, this is an institute that was built by a European primatologist for the protection of the mountain gorillas that were under the threat of poaching. When you visit the institution you will be able to see her grave yard and that of her favorite gorilla friend digit.
Twin lakes, volcanoes national park also harbors the twin lakes that is Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo which are surrounded by mountains.
Things to do in Volcanoes national park
Gorilla trekking is the major activity that is carried out in Volcanoes national park which gives you an opportunity to move into the tropical rainforests in search of the habituated gorilla families and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. Volcanoes national park harbors over 15 habituated gorilla families where some gorilla families are reserved for research and other families available for trekking.
Gorilla trekking in the park starts in the morning with a briefing about the rules, regulations, and expectations during trekking at the Kinigi park headquarters. After the briefing you will be grouped into 8 people to trek each habituated gorilla family and grouping is done according to age, physical fitness, personal preferences so that the visitors who are not physically fit are allocated a gorilla group that is nearby.
Gorilla trekking in volcanoes national park starts at around 8:00am and takes about 30 minutes to 6 hours depending on the location of the gorillas and once they are found, you will be able to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat taking photos, videos, learning about their habits, behaviors lifestyle among others.
Any visitors interested in gorilla trekking in the park is required to first purchase a gorilla trekking permit which costs $1500 per person for all nationalities and allows you to spend one hour with a habituated gorilla family though trekking itself takes about 30 minutes to 6 hours.
Golden monkey trekking
Golden monkeys are the second major attractions in volcanoes national park after the mountain gorillas. The park offers golden monkey trekking an incredible activity where visitors move into the forest in search of the habituated golden monkeys. Golden monkey trekking starts with a briefing at the park headquarters where after you will be grouped into 8 people and then start trekking in the jungle.
Golden monkey trekking in the park takes about 2 to 4 hours and when the golden monkeys are found, you will be able to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat learning about their behaviors, habits, watching them playing from one tree to another as you take photos and record the moments. Just like gorilla trekking visitors interested will have to first acquire a golden monkey trekking permit in order to engage in golden monkey trekking which costs $100 per person.
Volcanoes national park harbors 5 of the 8 Virunga volcanoes including
Mount Bisoke which is 3711metres above the sea level and takes about 6 hours to climb to the top and when you reach the top, you will have clear views of a crater lake.
Mount Gahinga which is 3474 meters above the sea level and getting to the top also takes about 6 hours. During hiking you will have views of the swamps, crater lakes, primates, birds and on top of the mountain you will have great views of a shallow crater swamp with unique sub-alpine plants, lobelia among other.
Mount Karisimbi, this is one of the highest volcanic mountains among the 8 Virunga volcanoes that is shared between Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Karisimbi is a dormant mountain that is 4,507 meters above the sea level and its summit is covered by snow especially during the dry season.
Mount Sabyinyo, the volcanic mountain is 3645 meters above the sea level and visitors who hike to the top will be standing in three countries at the same time that is Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mount muhabura, this is the second highest peak among the Virunga volcanoes which is 4127metres above the sea level. The mountain is shared by two countries that is Uganda and Rwanda therefore visitors interested can hike from either Uganda or Rwanda side. It takes about 5 to 6 hours to reach the top where you will be able to have clear views of a crater lake, the landscape, twin lakes among others.
Volcanoes national park is one of the best birding areas in Rwanda harboring over 200 bird species with about 27 species only found in Rwanda and 16 species endemic to the Albertine rift. Birding in the park can be done in bamboo, grassland and alpine vegetation. during your birding safari you can look out for bird species like Rwenzori batis, white tailed blue flycatcher, archers ground robin, handsome francolin, Ruwenzori turaco, Ruwenzori double collared sunbird, red backed shrike, blue spotted wood dove, Baglafecht weaver, African long eared owl, own necked parrot, grauers swamp warbler, strange weaver, scarlet tufted malachite sunbird among others.
Guided nature walk/hiking
This is a thrilling activity that is done in a group with a park ranger. Nature walks in volcanoes national park give you an opportunity to explore the park as you enjoy fresh air, cool breeze, view different vegetation types, tree species, primates, animals, bird species among others. During the nature walk you can hike to the Dian Fossey research Centre where you will view the grave yard of this European primatologist who had set up an institution to protect and conserve and mountain gorillas that were under the threat of poaching. Hiking to the research Centre takes about 1 to 2 hours and you will also be able to view the grave yard of her favorite gorilla friend Digit that lies next to her grave.
On your safari in Rwanda, you shouldn’t miss out on the Musanze caves which are 2km long covered in lush greenery and also act as habitat for the bats. The Musanze caves were introduced in 2013 by Rwanda Development board as part of tourism attractions.
Boat cruise ride on the twin lakes
Volcanoes national park harbors twin lakes namely Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo which harbor various animals such as buffaloes, crocodiles, waterbucks, bird species like the yellow backed weaver, yellow billed stork, great white pelican, pied kingfisher, grey heron, African spoonbill, grosbeak weaver, black headed weaver among others therefore in order to relax, explore great scenery, landscapes, animal and bird species, you can engage in a boat cruise on the lakes.
On your safari in volcanoes national park you will visit Ibyiwacu cultural village where you will interact with the local people who were poachers of the mountain gorillas but later transformed into conservationists. During the cultural tour you will learn about their lifestyle, culture, how to make art and craft, enjoy activities like crowning of a king, participate in entertainments like traditional dances, music among others.
Where to stay in Volcanoes national park
There are many up-market, midrange and budget accommodations in Volcanoes national park where visitors on a safari can stay including Virunga Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Five Volcanoes Hotel, La Palm Hotel, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Kinigi Guesthouse, Le Bamboo Gorilla Lodge, Gorilla Volcanoes Lodge, Muhabura Hotel, Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge, Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, Gorilla Solutions Lodge, Garr Hotel, Garden Place Hotel, Bisate Lodge Grace Place Hotel among others.
When to visit Volcanoes national park
Volcanoes national park can be visited anytime throughout the year though the best time is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. During the dry season there is less rainfall in the park therefore access roads to volcanoes national park will be passable, there will be short shrubs, bushes which allows clear viewing of the primates like the mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and other animals in the park and the gorilla trekking trails and nature walk trails will be dry and passable compared to the rainy season when they are wet, muddy and slippery.
How to get to Volcanoes national park
Volcanoes national park is located in north western part of Rwanda and can be accessed by road transport means
When travelling to the park, you will fly to Kigali international airport and then connect to the park headquarters by road which takes about 2 hours’ drive.
You can also use public means of transport where by you will fly to Kigali international airport and then board a bus to Musanze town where you will hire a private taxi to the park headquarters.
Volcanoes national park can also be accessed from Uganda where you will fly to Entebbe airport and then drive via Mbarara, Kabale and then connect to the park headquarters via Katuna border. In case you are coming from Bwindi impenetrable national park of Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda, you will drive via Cyanika birder in Kisoro or Katuna border in Kabale to Kinigi park headquarters which takes about 3 to 4 hours drive.
Volcanoes national park is the best gorilla destination in Africa in that you can go for gorilla trekking in the park one day for example you can start you journey at 4am, do gorilla trekking in the park and then drive back to your home destination.