The Volcanoes National Park is one of the oldest national parks in Africa. Located in the north western province of Rwanda , the Volcanoes National Park is one of the most popular national parks in Africa. To access the park you have to travel north of Kigali and reach a small town known as Musanze which was formerly known as Ruhengeri. From Musanze continue to a small village called Kinigi. This is the home to the headquarters of this national park that is part of the larger Virunga Conservation Area, home to more than half of the remaning population of the mountain gorillas. The Virunga spreads over three countries and in each country, the conserved area is protected as a different national park; Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in DR Congo.
The Volcanoes National Park is a habitat to the endangered Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda that are always available for tourists who prefer going for gorilla trekking expeditions in Africa. The park also shelters five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains which are:
- Mount Karisimbi,
- Mount Bisoke,
- Mount Muhabura,
- Mount Gahinga and
- Mount Sabyinyo
The prk is covered by over 160 km2 of rain forest and bamboo vegetation.
Within the park there are about 300 mountain gorillas and Rwanda has become a favorite spot for gorilla watching in the world. Today the Rwandan part of the Virungas hosts 12 habituated gorilla groups that can be visited by tourists who go on gorilla safaris. The chances of meeting the mountain gorillas in Rwanda are high and no other destination offers easier hikes than Rwanda.
There are no Mountain Gorillas found in a zoo anywhere in the world, you can only see them up-close in the wild as in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The major attraction of the park is the endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei). Besides its huge population of Mountain Gorillas, this park also harbors the endangered Golden Monkeys, buffaloes, black-fronted duiker, hyenas then bushbucks. A few reports also clam that a small number of elephants can be found at the park but on very rare occasions. The bird life spans at 178 species with about 12 of the main species and 15 of the subspecies being endemic to the Virunga conservation area and the great Ruwenzori Mountains. Several activities are run by the Rwanda Development Board for tourists with the main one being gorilla trekking.
The gorilla family groups you will be visiting in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park are habituated. This means that they are used to the presence of people and will go about with their daily routine while you are observing. Before the trekking starts, you will be briefed about Gorilla etiquette that needs to be strictly followed while in the presence of any Gorilla Group.
Currently, the cost of a permit is 1500 USD per person in Rwanda. This is not just an arbitrary figure, but the money received from permits is used in conservation and support of local communities who now see Gorilla Tourism as a benefit and it has dramatically reduced poaching of any kind in Volcanoes National Park. Length of Gorilla Trek depends on the location of your gorilla group and it can be from a few hours to all day if the groups are higher up on the Volcanoes.
Other activities however include Golden Monkey tracking, twin lakes visit, mountaineering, visiting Dian Fossey’s tomb, touring Iby’Iwacu cultural village plus a few community visits.