Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda’s Gorilla Haven
The renowned Volcanoes National Park is situated in the Northwestern Province of Rwanda, near the Musanze area. About 160 km2 in area and made up of varied bamboo, marsh, grassland, and heath zones, the park is known as Parc National des Volcanoes. It is also named after the summits of Mount Karisimbi (4507 m), Bisoke (3711 m), Sabinyo (3634 m), Gahinga (3474 m), and Muhabura (4127 m).
It is bordered by Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park. The presence of gorillas make Volcanoes national park a major tourist attraction for gorilla trekking. Additionally, building a research facility for gorilla conservation by a renowned primatologist, Dian Fossey increased Rwanda’s fame and made Volcanoes the country’s most well-known park.
Within Volcanoes National park, you may find the Buhanga Eco-Park and the Musanze Caves, which were created 62 million years ago after the most recent estimated volcanic explosion. The park’s features, like its rugged terrain, lakes, rivers, wildlife, birds, and four different types of vegetation, all boost visibility and guarantee that you will only have a few uncommon encounters while you are there.
Wild life in Volcanoes: Numerous wild animals are protected by the park’s diverse habitat. Along with gorillas, other creatures in the area include buffaloes, golden monkeys, spotted hyenas, bushbucks, gigantic forest hogs, Colombus monkeys, forest elephants, and vervet monkeys
Birds in Volcanoes: The park is situated at the confluence of the East African savannah and the West African rainforest. Additionally, the proximity of Lake Kivu to the park attracts birds to the area. Beautiful francolins, Rwenzori double collared Apalis, Red-faced Woodland Warblers, and Rwenzori Batis are just a few of the species.
Things to do in Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking: Within the park’s lush vegetation, this is the primary tourist destination. There are approximately 12 fully habituated gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park, each with at least one silverback who oversees the females, the young, and daily activities. A gorilla hike in Rwanda can only begin if a minimum of 8 people have paid the 1500 USD permit fee to see a specific group of gorillas. Susa, Agashya, Amahoro, Kwitonda, Bwenge, and Hirwa are some of the groups available. To participate in the activity under the supervision of a ranger, you must be at least 16 years old. Remember to get your permit in a timely manner.
Golden monkey trekking: These should be added on your bucket list when you plan your visit to the park. Visitors can witness a wide range of species while participating in this activity in addition to gorilla trekking in the park. The Virunga region is where golden monkeys, a subspecies of blue monkeys, are most regularly spotted. Due to the fact that you can enjoy this activity before or after your gorilla tour, it has grown in popularity. Each group in this workout has more than 100 participants, and a man directs each one.. $100 USD is the price.
Dian Fossey tomb hike: The Karisoke Research Center, which was built on September 24, 1967 between Mount Bisoke and Karisimbi, is where you may find Dian Fossey’s tomb who a conservationist for gorillas in America. Next to her favorite gorilla, Digit, her gravestone was placed close to the cemetery. Without her groundbreaking work, visitors to gorilla reserves would not be able to engage with them, and they would find it difficult to adapt to humans. Pay the $75 USD climb to her tomb to honor her for all of her wonderful efforts while on your gorilla safari.
Mountain hiking: The climbers up the volcano will have a good time as well. These excursions take you to Mount Karisimbi (400 USD for two days), Muhabura (100 USD), Bisoke, and Gahinga (75 USD). All of these hikes are planned for the day and overnight, and their summits include beautiful vistas, including snow.
Iby ‘iwachu cultural visit: This is an excellent place to stop as you leave the park. Tourists participate in local culture by dancing, singing, and visiting herbalists to sample their culture during the activity, which is also known as the gorilla guardians’ village. You can also try their regional fare, which includes juices like banana brew. You will not want to miss out on this low-cost activity, which costs only $35.
Twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo: If you prefer being outside in a beautiful setting, you should visit these lakes. The lakes’ hills and deep bottoms are well known, but the scenery is what really draws the eye. There are numerous birds and nearby waterfalls, allowing for relaxing activities such as canoeing and photography.
Exploring Musanze caves: A gorilla safari in Rwanda would undoubtedly be incomplete without a visit to Musanze. These tunnels were once used to store food during battles, but they have now captured the hearts of many. When you first enter the caverns, the bats hanging from the ceiling will begin to shine. Only your footsteps will be audible at the end of the caves, where silence reigns supreme. This activity costs only $50.
Bird watching: For birders, this is another exhilarating encounter. Over 200 different bird species can be seen in the park, many of which are exclusive to the Albertine Rift and cannot be found anywhere else. Some of the species to watch out for include the handsome francolin, the rwenzori batis, and the rwenzori turaco.
Best time to visit the Volcanoes National Park
Regardless of the activity, it is always scheduled at the park throughout the year. However, because the roads are navigable during the dry season, most visitors prefer to visit the park during this time. The relevant months are June through September, and December through February. Heavy rains from March to May and October to November make the roads slick and muddy, but they are ideal for photographers and chimp trekking.
The park is a 1- to 2-hour drive from Kigali. Volcanoes can be reached in 4-5 hours by car from Nyungwe and 5 hours by car from Akagera. Keep in mind that no scheduled flights from Kigali to the park exist.
The drive to the park takes only 30 minutes from the Ugandan border in Kisoro, 2.5 hours from Bwindi, and 10 hours from Entebbe International Airport via Mbarara-Kisoro.
Accommodation options in Volcanoes National Park
Accommodation options range from upscale to budget-friendly both inside the park and outside. The choice of a facility would rely on one’s preferences and budget. Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Bisate Lodge, Virunga Lodge, Kwitonda Lodge, Da Vinci Lodge, Kinigi Guest House, and Muhabura Lodge are just a few of the best.
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