Volcanoes National Park, situated on the North Western border of Rwanda with D.R. Congo and Uganda, is a place of wonder and natural beauty. Covering approximately 160 sq. km of lush forest land, the park is home to the towering Virunga Volcanoes, consisting of Karisimbi, Bisoke, Gahinga, Muhavura, and Sabyinyo.
Volcanoes National Park is situated on the North Western border of Rwanda with D.R. Congo and Uganda. The park covers approximately 160 sq. km of dense forest land and is easily accessible from Kigali airport by road. The road trip takes about two and a half hours to arrive in Ruhengeri, the gateway to the park. The park is characterized by the majestic Virunga Volcanoes, including Karisimbi, Bisoke, Gahinga, Muhavura, and Sabyinyo.
Volcanoes National Park is famous for being the natural habitat of Rwanda’s endangered mountain gorillas, a critically endangered species shared only by Uganda and D.R.Congo in the entire world. The park also offers sightings of other primates, such as golden monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, pottos monkeys, blue monkeys, and more. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the abundant birdlife in the park, including Albertine endemics. Some of the bird species you may encounter include Rwenzori Turaco, White-Tailed Blue Flycatcher, Scarley-tufted Malachite Sunbird, and Kivu Ground Thrush, among others.
The main and most sought-after activity in Volcanoes National Park is gorilla trekking. To engage in gorilla trekking, you need to book a gorilla trekking permit in advance. The park is home to about 13 gorilla trekking families open for tourist visits, including Amahoro, Sabyinyo, Susa, Group 13, Kwitonda, Karisimbi, Umubano, Hirwa, Ugenda, Bwenge, and others. The park’s topography is generally steep, making the hike to locate the gorillas more strenuous. Therefore, it is advisable to do some fair exercises before gorilla trekking to prepare physically for the experience. During the trek, you will be allowed only one hour with the mountain gorillas to minimize human interference with their natural habitat.
Additionally, visitors can participate in the Kwita Izina Day, the annual gorilla naming ceremony in Rwanda. The ceremony celebrates the registration of newly born mountain gorillas and is a testament to the conservation efforts that have led to the increase in the gorilla population.
For those interested in other wildlife experiences, golden monkey trekking is available. The trekking permits can be booked from the ORTPN, and visitors get to observe these unique monkeys in their natural habitat.
Nature enthusiasts can indulge in birdwatching in Volcanoes National Park, which is considered Rwanda’s birding destination. With over 178 bird species, including Albertine endemics, the park offers fantastic opportunities for birdwatchers to spot various avian species.
Hiking enthusiasts can embark on challenging hikes to the volcanic peaks in the park, such as Karisimbi, Bisoke, Gahinga, Muhavura, and Sabyinyo. The hikes offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and, on clear days, even the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains can be seen.
History and conservation enthusiasts can follow in the footsteps of the renowned American primatologist, Dian Fossey, by embarking on a Dian Fossey Trek. The trek takes visitors to the Karisoke Research Center, which was set up by Dian Fossey to study and protect the mountain gorillas. Her dedication to gorilla conservation eventually led to her tragic death in 1985, and she was buried alongside her beloved gorilla friends.
Visitors have a range of accommodation options to choose from in Volcanoes National Park, catering to various budgets and preferences. Some of the accommodations include luxurious lodges such as Virunga Volcanoes Lodge and Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, mid-range options like Kinigi Guest House and Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, as well as more modest accommodations such as Le Bambou, Hotel Mille Collins, Best View Hotel, Faraja Hotel, and Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, among others. Whether you prefer a high-end lodge or a more rustic experience, there are suitable options to make your stay in Volcanoes National Park memorable and comfortable.
Volcanoes National Park is primarily accessible by road from Kigali Airport. The journey takes approximately three hours through winding roads, offering beautiful views along the way. Daily public transport is available from Kigali to Musanze, and from there, visitors can hire private means to reach the park. Additionally, scheduled and charter flights to Kisoro or Kihihi Airstrip are available, but it’s important to arrange ground transfers in advance as the flights do not land directly in Volcanoes National Park.
Volcanoes National Park is open to tourists all year round, offering different experiences during each season. The peak seasons from June to September and December are the busiest and most popular times to visit. During these months, the weather is generally drier, and the ground along the trails is less boggy, making it more comfortable for trekking. However, it is essential to book gorilla trekking permits well in advance during these peak periods, as they tend to sell out quickly.
The wet months from March to May and November are also open for visitors. While the weather can be wet and chilly during this time, it presents a unique opportunity for discounted gorilla trekking permits, as the Rwanda Development Board may offer special rates. Birdwatchers may find the wet months particularly appealing, as it is a breeding season for several bird species.
When preparing for your visit to Volcanoes National Park, it is crucial to pack appropriate gear for the activities you plan to undertake. Comfortable and sturdy hiking boots are essential for gorilla trekking and other hikes in the park. A rainproof jacket or poncho is advisable to protect against unexpected rain showers and dew dripping from the leaves. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers with a dirt-friendly color like Khaki will protect your skin from sharp surfaces and biting nettles while trekking. Bring insect repellant to shield yourself from stinging insects in the jungle. Additionally, pack an extra mask to change into when visiting the gorillas to avoid any potential transmission of infectious diseases. A camera without a flash will allow you to capture unforgettable moments during your gorilla trekking experience without disturbing the gentle giants.
For more detailed information about Volcanoes National Park and the services offered by Trek Africa Tours, please feel free to contact us by email or phone. We are dedicated to providing you with a memorable and enriching experience during your visit to this remarkable destination. You can also check out our TripAdvisor page to see what others are saying about us and our exceptional services.