Volcanoes National Park is also popular as Parc National des Volcans which is a hub for the best tourism activities in the Republic of Rwanda. Volcanoes national park is perched in the Northern Part of Rwanda covering an area of about 160 sq. Km. Volcanoes National Park is among the major plant and wildlife protected areas in the 1920s which is almost the same as the Virunga National Park in DR. Congo and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda.
Volcanoes national park, Virunga national park, and Mgahinga gorilla national park all together configure what is called the Virunga conservation region which aims at protecting the endangered giant mountain gorillas. The creation of Dian Fossey in Volcanoes national park in 1967 which led to the establishment of the Karisoke Research Center made more publicity for the Volcanoes national park and reduced the act of poaching. Dian Fossey’s efforts led to greater funding sources for the gorilla conservation programs that ensured the survival of the endangered mountain gorillas.
Volcanoes National park is famous because of protecting endangered mountain gorillas, beautiful mountainous landscapes, lakes, green forests, rivers, and other sizeable populations of wildlife species which also makes volcanoes national park stand out. Volcanoes national park accommodates four major volcanoes which belong to the Virunga chained Volcanoes. These four Volcanoes include Mount Bisoke (3,711m), Mount Karisimbi (4,507m), Mount Gahinga (3,474m), Mount Sabinyo (3,634m) and Mount Muhabura (4,127m).
Besides hosting the 30% of the remaining endangered mountain gorilla population surviving in the wild, mountain gorillas mostly feed on bamboo shoots as well as the lower altitude vegetation cover, other endangered species surviving in Volcanoes national park within the lower altitudes such as the beautiful golden monkeys. Volcanoes national park also protects the clans of wild chimpanzees and other small primate species that call that park home. Larger mammal species in Volcanoes national park such as forest Elephants and buffaloes can also be spotted in small groups. Volcanoes national park also accommodates leopards, forest Hogs, bush pigs, Duikers, and Spotted Hyena. Volcanoes national park’s Bird watching has become so popular considering the high number of bird species present in the park, Volcanoes national park protects bird species such as Rwenzori Turaco and the beautiful Francolins.
Volcanoes National park’s Tourists Attractions
Gorilla trekking experience is the major tourist activity in the volcanoes national park. Although, there are many other incredible ranges of tourist activities that potential travelers can choose from. Travelers can easily get spoiled for choice and may wish that they had more time to participate in all the activities within the Volcanoes National Park. Volcanoes national park’s major tourist attractions include mountain gorilla trekking experience, golden monkey trekking, visiting the grave of Dian Fossey, Hiking the chained mountains, and a tour of the twin lakes of Ruhondo and Burera. Take a look at these activities in more detail below.
Mountain Gorilla Trekking: Volcanoes National Park is among the 4 national parks in the world harboring the endangered mountain gorillas. The remaining three national parks protecting mountain gorillas include the Virunga in Congo, Mgahinga Gorilla, and Bwindi impenetrable in Uganda. There are higher chances to see mountain gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla national park and Bwindi impenetrable forest national park of Uganda. Rwanda habituates over 10 mountain gorilla families that are available for trekking under the guidance of experienced and well-motivated park rangers. It is important for travelers to note that they should be in good shape before planning on embarking on this activity since it has proven to be demanding depending on the location of the gorilla family you were assigned to.
Trackers can also hire the services of a porter who can help carry a piece of extra luggage at a cost of approximately $10- $15. Rwanda mountain gorilla trekking permits cost $1500 per person. The mountain gorilla trekking Permits can be acquired directly from the Rwanda Development Board or from a tour operator. Gorilla trekking dress code consists of long sleeve shirts, long trousers, rain jackets, hand gloves, and hiking boots.
Track Golden monkeys of Volcanoes: Golden monkey trekking has been famous over the years and it is now second after watching the mountain gorillas. Spot the endangered golden monkeys feed, groom themselves, and swing on the bamboo tree, Golden monkey trekking at Volcanoes national park costs $100 per person. One golden family may consist of up to nearly 100 individuals and is normally led by a dominant male. Golden monkey trekking can happen before or after mountain gorilla trekking. Tracking the Golden Monkeys is less demanding than mountain gorilla trekking because golden monkeys don’t move to the high altitudes searching for fresh food like the mountain gorillas. Golden monkeys prefer to feed within the Bamboo shoots which normally grow along the base of the volcanoes. Golden monkey permits may also need to be booked prior but we recommend travelers make an early booking.
Visit Dian Fossey Tomb: Visiting the Dian Fossey gives you a clue about one of the world’s greatest primatologists. Because Dian Fossey’s courage and determination made the poaching of wild animals and the mountain gorillas greatly reduce in Volcanoes National Park. Without Dian Fossey’s efforts, mountain gorillas would not survive in the world. Dian Fossey is credited for the introduction of new ways of making mountain gorillas comfortable around the human presence through the inventiveness of the sounds which brings the gaining of acceptance and trust from the dominant silverback. Today thousands of visitors go there to pay homage to Dian the great conservationist by visiting the Karisoke Research Center and her graveyard which is situated between Mount Bisoke and Mount Karisimbi.
Hike Mount Karisimbi Volcano: Mount Karisimbi is a Volcano standing at about 4,507m above the ground. Hiking Mount Karisimbi is among the top active tourist activities in Musanze. Mount Karisimbi Volcano is the fifth tallest mountain in Africa which requires mental and physical fitness in order to conquer the 2-day Mount Karisimbi hike. Hiking Mount Karisimbi involves moving through the thick forests before reaching at an altitude of 3700m as the first stopover, rest and enjoy your overnight. Hikers then continue hiking to the last steep section which starts in the morning and ends up at the peak. Mount Karisimbi summit offers great views of the Volcanoes National Park to its hikers, the whitened snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains, Mgahinga Gorilla national park, Mount Nyiragongo and all the remaining chained Virunga volcanoes.
Hike Mount Bisoke Volcano: Mount Bisoke is a Volcano that forms the wider Virunga chain of Mountains. Hiking Mount Bisoke only takes one day and is slightly easier compared to hiking Mount Karisimbi. However, hikers should be fit to complete hiking Mount Bisoke up to the summit. Mount Bisoke hiking permits are sold at $75 per person and like all other activities in volcanoes national park, every activity starts with a morning briefing at Volcanoes national park’s headquarters before heading out to the starting point.
Hike Mount Muhabura: Hiking Mount Muhabura is among the adventurous volcanoes to climb while planning to visit the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Mount Muhabura stands at 4,127m, which makes it the third highest volcano among the Virunga ranges. Hiking Mount Muhabura starts at 1200m height up to by the summit, travelers pass through the beautiful green forests.
Visit the Twin Lakes of Ruhondo and Burera: After trekking, mountain Gorillas visit Rwanda’s Twin Lakes of Ruhondo and Burera. A boat trip in the deep waters of the twin lakes rewards travelers with the beautiful sounds from different bird species and the vast hilly landscape offering waterfalls. Visit the twin lakes islands which give travelers time to mingle with Rwanda’s locals so that you can learn more about the rich heritage and culture which defines them from other tribes in Rwanda.
How to travel to Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park can be accessed from Kigali. The journey from Kigali international Airport to Volcanoes national park only takes two hours to reach Musanze District which is located in the Northern province of the countryside. This implies that travelers can participate in mountain gorilla trekking in one day if they start traveling at 4 am from Kigali city. Travelers can as well use public means of transport to Gisenyi then Musanze from Kigali city and then again hire a private car which can take you to the park’s headquarter. But the best alternative is to use the services of a Tour company who will organize everything for you ranging from picking up from the airport and taking you to the Park Headquarters in Kinigi where the briefings for all the activities are done in Volcanoes national park. Travelers can also access Volcanoes national park from Uganda but he or she has to endure the long drive of approximately 10 hours from Entebbe or Kampala via Mbarara or Kisoro and finally cross the border then drive straight to Volcanoes national park.
What is the right time to visit the Volcanoes National Park?
Regardless of the activity, you have chosen to participate in at Volcanoes National Park, you should be sure to do it throughout the year. However, most travelers prefer to visit Volcanoes national park during the dry months. Rwanda’s drier months range between June to September and from December to February. This is the best period for mountain Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes national park because the slopes of the mountain are easier to hike. The wet months of March to May and then October to November receive heavy rainfall that makes the hiking trails slippery and muddy. Photographers and most nature lovers should visit volcanoes and national parks in the rainy season to view the lush scenery. The wet season is the best for bird-watching safari in the park when the migratory birds are also available. Mountain gorilla trekking can be combined with other activities in top other national parks in Rwanda.
Accommodation to stay near Volcanoes National Park
The accommodation facilities located around Volcanoes National Park are classified into three categories which are Luxury lodges, Mid-range lodges, and budget lodges. The choice of these hotels to select from depends on the travelers’ budget. The hotels around Volcanoes national park are of good quality regardless of the category you have chosen. These hotels also offer room services, a lounge, bar, a restaurant, and more. Let’s check some of the lodging facilities worth contacting near Volcanoes national park.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge: The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge has situated just 3km from the Volcanoes National Park headquarters and at the foothills of one of the chained Volcanoes. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is managed and owned by SACOLA, a community Trust. Sabyinyo silverback lodge’s strategic location offers its residents an entire view of the beautiful ever-green farmlands and Virunga chained volcanoes towering from a distance. The lodge has a friendly staff that is available for service 24/7. Sabyinyo Silverback lodge Other services include general sitting areas, spacious bedrooms, fireplaces, bathrooms, a general dining room, and a games room.
The Virunga hotel: The hotel is situated in the heart of Musanze and the journey from the Virunga hotel to Volcanoes national park only takes 15 minutes to the Park’s headquarters. The Virunga hotel offers 25 self-contained rooms which are furnished with bathrooms, 24/7 running water, free internet access, a fridge, satellite Tv, and telephone landlines.
La Palm Hotel: La Palm Hotel is categorized as a 3-star hotel providing a range of quality services which is affordable. La Palm hotel provides both local and international food. All meals can be served in your room on an order. The hotel’s bar is always fully stocked with varieties of drinks, soft and hard drinks. Other services being offered at the hotel include free Airport pickups & drop-offs, free WiFi, a room telephone, a large parking space, and two conference rooms.
Five Volcanoes Hotel: Five Volcanoes Hotel is a top luxurious accommodation facility that is located in a tranquil and peaceful environment in the Musanze district along the main road which leads to Kinigi. Five Volcanoes hotel is relatively new but offers VIP Cottages, family suites, Deluxe Double rooms, and Standard rooms. Five Volcanoes hotel rooms are all self-contained and offer the best services including a fridge, restaurant, flat screen TV, kettles, a minibar that is fully stocked, laundry services private parking, maximum Security is assured and smoke detectors are installed.
Besides the above hotels, Volcanoes national park offers other high-top quality lodges to contact for your mountain gorilla encounters such as Mountain Gorilla View Hotel, Villa Gorilla Lodge, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Jack Hanna Cottages, and Kinigi Guest House.