Introduction To Rwand National Parks

Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda – Best Things to do and see – Gorilla Tracking / Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park – Accommodation

Volcanoes National park also known as Parc National des Volcans is Rwanda’s most popular national park known mostly for mountain gorilla trekking. And although the stars of Volcanoes national park are mountain gorillas, it offers much more.

The park is located in the northern district of Musanze, was recognized in 1925, making it the oldest national park in Africa.

It is part of the Virunga Conservation Area covering 125 km² and which spans to Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, continuing to Virunga National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park respectively and has five Virunga volcanoes that Sabyinyo (3.674 m), Gahinga (3.474 m), Bisoke (3711 m), Muhabura (4.127 m), and the Karisimbi which is the highest volcano at an altitude of 4.507 meters above sea level. All these five volcanoes are extinct and the active ones are in Congo with Nyiragongo which erupted in January 2002 and Nyamulagira in July 2002.

The Virunga is composed of 4 major vegetation zones that bamboo which is at the base altitude), Hagenia and Hypericum forest (2600-3300m), Sub-alpine (3300-4000m), and Afro-alpine (4000m).

It should be noted that this park was Dian Fossey’s base for a long time

Best Activities in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

  1. Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla Tracking
    Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla tracking is the most popular activity in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Mountain Gorillas are highly endangered and can only be found in three countries in the whole world. These are Rwanda (Obviously), Uganda and DR Congo. Tracking Mountain gorillas on the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes is an experience that cannot be compared to another. The tracking is highly guided by a great team of rangers, guides and porters who make sure that you have a magical experience. The trek starts by a briefing at the park offices with a cup of Rwanda coffee and entertainment from the cultural dancers.

You are then led into the park, searching for the mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park takes 2-7 hours before meeting the mountain gorillas. The time taken to see mountain gorillas depends on where these beautiful giant gorillas nested the previous night. Once you come face to face with them, you are allowed only one hour with them. The whole experience observing them how they interact with each other, feed and play is a once in a life time experience.

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park can be done on a 2 Days gorilla trekking tour (Day 1: Pick up from Kigali and transfer to Volcanoes National Park, Day 2: Gorilla tracking and transfer back to Kigali) or you can choose from the different suggested itineraries in Rwanda which can be tailor made to suit your tour needs and budget.

  1. Golden Monkey Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
    The other popular activity in Volcanoes National Park is golden Monkey tracking. Golden monkey tracking is a great experience as well and should not be missed out while visiting the park.

There are two habituated troops that can be tracked with the guidance of rangers and guides. The track allows visitors to come up close learning more about them and taking their beautiful photos.

The activity can be combined with gorilla tracking and or with other activities in the park. It starts in the morning at 8am with a briefing.

Golden monkeys are highly endangered and could face extinction. They can only be found in the Virunga mountain ranges of DR Congo, Mgahinga Gorilla National park in Uganda and Rwanda. They mostly live in the bamboo forests.
The largest habituated troop lives in the Sabyinyo are and has about 80-100 members and this is the most visited too.

There is no age limit for Golden Monkey tracking and can be done throughout the year.

  1. Golden Monkey Habituation
    Golden Monkey Habituation takes goes for a whole day and begins at 7am. The golden monkeys being visited here are very shy and not used to human presence and the habituation process is to prepare them for future treks.
  2. Iby’lyacu Cultural village
    After you gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park, you can visit Iby’lyacu Cultural village. You will learn about the cultural of Rwanda that includes music and dances and learning about herbal medicine that the people used before modern medicine, learn ways of the ancient Rwanda Kingdom. Visitors will be welcomes by the beautiful sounds of drums and joyful dancers. Most of the dancers and performers at the village are ex-poachers. The activities at the center are interactive and can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages.
  3. Bird Watching
    Volcanoes National park is home to many birds and butterflies which can be explored on guided bird watching trails, by a knowledgeable bird watching guide.
  4. Bisoke Hike           
    Take a hike to Mount Bisoke, one of the Virunga Volcanoes. Although challenging, this hike offers great views especially of the beautiful Crater Lake at the top. Bisoke Mountain peak is at 3,000 Meters above sea level.
  5. Visit Dian Fossesy Grave
    Visitors staying around Volcanoes National park can hike the ‘Dian Fossey Tomb Trail’. She is very key in mountain gorilla conservation and did most of her research about mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National park but also in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Congo’s Virunga National park.
  6. Visit the twin lakes:
    Go for a visit to the twin lakes Bulera and Ruhondo located a stone throw away from Volcanoes National park. They offer breath taking sceneries

Gorilla Families in Volcanoes National Park

There are about 5 habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park that can be visited during gorilla trekking. These are;

  • Susa group has 35 individuals
  • Amahoro group has 11 individuals
  • Sabyinyo A – group has 13 individuals
  • Sabyinyo B – group has 4 individuals
  • Group 13 has 7 individuals

Some of the Gorilla trekking requirements in Volcanoes National Park

  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Water proof trousers
  • Long sleeved Shirt/blouse
  • Water proof raincoat/jacket
  • Sun Cream
  • Gloves
  • Insect repellent
  • Backpack for carrying water/packed lunch
  • Camera

Cost of Activities in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda

The costs of the activities are per person.

  • Gorilla Trekking permit: US$ 1500
  • Dian Fossey Hike: US$ 75
  • Golden Monkey Tracking: US$ 100
  • Crater Lake Hike: US$ 75 Permits should be booked 3 to 6 months in advance, especially during Rwanda’s high season of June

Weather  conditions:       
Volcanoes National Park is at a high altitude and is generally very cold especially in the evening.
Gorilla trekking takes place throughout the year and all activities in and around the park can be done throughout the year.

Best time to visit Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking and golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park takes place anytime of the year.

March to May – These are long rainy months and gorilla trekking in Rwanda and golden monkey trekking is a bit challenging. Few travellers visit the park around this time and the advantage of this is it always feels like you own the whole park.

June to Mid-September – These are dry months which makes it the best time for gorilla trekking and golden monkey trekking. Hiking through the forest is much easier but you will still need a rain jacket, water proof shirts and hiking boots since it can rain anytime in the forest.

October to November – October and November are also rainy months but short rainy months. Trekking in the park may be a bit touch too.

December to Feb – These are also dry months and favourable for visiting Volcanoes National Park. This time is also the best time for gorilla and golden monkey trekking. So many birds can be seen around this time and most of the trees flower too.

The  vegetation is    still     very    green and the skies very      blue.
We recommend photography safaris in Rwanda around this time.

Accommodation in Volcanoes National Park

There are many accommodation options for each traveller. One can choose to stay in luxury lodges like Bisate Lode, Sabinyo Silverback Lodge, Viruga Lodge, Gorilla Nest Lodge and Five Volcanoes Lodge.

The mid-range lodges are Le Bamboo Lodge, Davince Lodge and Mountain Gorilla View Lodge.

And the budget lodges include Hotel Muhabura, Kinigi Guest House, Virunga Hotel among others.

Just let us know what your budget is and we will always get back with a customized itinerary quotation

How to access the park.
The park can be accessed by road transport. It is about 3 hours from Kigali aiport or town to Volcanoes National Park. We use 4 x 4 WD safari vehicles; either safari vans or        safari land    cruisers.         The park can also be accessed by charter flights and helicopters.

Interesting Facts about Volcanoes National Park
Below are some of the interesting facts about Volcanoes National park. When you visit, you find discover more which you can add to this list

  • Volcanoes National Park is the oldest national park in Africa. It was gazetted as a national park in 1925.
  • It is the only national park in Rwanda with mountain gorillas. So this is the best and the only national park to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda
  • The park has five of the eight Virunga Volcanoes namely (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo). These can be hiked while visiting the park. The others are in Uganda and Congo
  • This is the smallest of Rwanda’s National Parks at 160km2. Imagine it being the smallest but housing five volcanoes.
  • The book “Gorillas in The Mist” by Dain Fossey was written based on mountain gorillas in this park. She spent most of her research time about mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park
  • The Park has been closed on more than two occasions in the last 25 years due to several security issues.
  • It has the least primate species compared to the other national parks in Rwanda.

How to secure Rwanda Gorilla Tracking Permits

If you are interested in Rwanda Gorilla Trekking safaris, you require a gorilla trekking permit.
A gorilla trekking permit for a foreign non-resident costs 1500USD dollars compared to 600 USD dollars in Uganda and 400 USD dollars in DR Congo.

There is also a special discount for a person visiting all the three national parks in the months of May to November to track gorillas for $1050 and $1275 for any delegate that is in Rwanda for conferences and meetings. There is also another offer of $5000 for 3 consecutive days Mountain Gorilla filming and professional photography then $12,000 for filming and photography crew per day (maximum 8 people).

When you book a gorilla trekking safari for Rwanda with us, we spare you the hustle of going back and forth with RDB to buy your gorilla trekking permits.

You can book your permits directly through this website. Simply mail us and we should be able to respond to you within a few hours of time.

Suggested Itineraries for Volcanoes National Park