VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Rwanda’s most important tourist hotspot is the 160-sq-km Volcanoes National Park, which protects Rwanda’s sector of the Virunga Mountains, at least six extinct and three active volcanoes that straddle the Ugandan and Congolese borders and protect more than half the global population of the charismatic mountain gorilla.
Volcanoes National Park is a magnificent and ecologically diverse destination. This chain of steep free-standing mountains, spanning altitudes of 2,400m to 4,507m, and linked by fertile saddles formed by solidified lava flows, ranks among the most stirring and memorable of African landscape. The tallest member of the chain and the most westerly part of the national park is Karisimbi (4507m) on the border with the DRC, and Mgahinga and Muhavura on the Ugandan border.
Mountain gorilla tracking is the most popular activity in Volcanoes National Park; the park is home to mountain gorillas. However, the most important activity after gorilla tracking is a visit to the habituated family of the golden monkey, a hike to Dian Fossey’s former camp and grave on the forested slopes of Karisoke and an overnight hike to the highest point of the summit of Karisimbi.
Activities in Volcanoes National Park
Mountain gorilla tracking is a squint wildlife experience in the Virunga; these vast animals weigh three times the weight as well as the average man. Mountain gorillas have no tails, shorter arms and dense black hair than lowland cousins, Gorillas are visited on a daily basis than any other wild animal, and they are fascinating animals to the extent that some try to interact with their visitors, often approaching them and greeting them as they walk past.
It is very important for tracker to pack lunch, mineral water, and cameras are highly recommended for the trek. The hike usually takes one to four hours depending on which group you are tracking. Usually visitors spend one hour with the gorillas and it is prohibited to smoke or eat in their presence.
GOLDEN MONKEY TRACKING
A beautiful Monkey with bright rufous-red on the back, cheek & tail, has black legs, crown and tip of the tail, pale patch around the nose and the mouth. Golden monkeys are widely spread in the forests of northwest Rwanda and southwest Uganda, these monkeys stay in bamboo forest and they are naturally shy animals.
Approximately 200 bird species have been recorded at Volcanoes National Park; among the great marvelous birds commonly seen are the dusky crimson wing, Ruwenzori turaco, strange weaver, ground robin, francolins, red faced woodland warbler, Ruwenzori double collared sunbird and the Archer’s ground robin.
Hiking the Volcanoes National Park is the best offer to assorted tourists, ascending the Karisimbi is a good activity for trekkers. Another alternative is to climb Mount Visoke to its remarkable crater lake.
Hiking to Diane Fossey, an American researcher who began her research in Kabara in Congo and later moved to Rwanda where she built her camp on the saddle between two Virunga volcanoes. Diane stayed with the Gorillas for 18 years in Rwanda; she was mentored and inspired by Louis Leakey and Jane Goodall respectively.
On this trek tourists are able to see buffaloes, monkeys and warthogs that live inside the forest, the trek usually takes three hours. Camp guides will show you around and traveler will be able to see Diane Fossey’s grave, the hut in which she lived for so many years as she did her research on mountain gorillas, and Digit’s grave, one of her favorite gorilla which was murdered by poacher.
Volcanoes National Park has 10 habituated gorilla families which are for tourism intentions, a maximum of 8 people can visit each gorilla group per day spending a maximum of one hour each visit, these groups are;
Susa Gorilla Group
This group was first studied by Diane Fossey on the slopes of mount Karisimbi. It is comprised of 40 individuals with 3 silverbacks; the second largest group of mountain gorillas in the world. The group is the hardest to trek as it tends to span high in the mountains. Susa group is totally catchy, with gorillas genuinely tumbling the bush and Bamboo forest.
Sabinyo Gorilla Group
This group lies on a gently forested area between Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabinyo, the group consists of 11 individuals and 2 silverbacks. The group is located on a flat to gentle sloping, and the trek takes around 40minutes or less, generally the slopes aren’t too intimidating though very slippery after rain. The group is led by the largest and powerful silverback Guhonda and heaviest gorilla ever at 220kg.
Amahoro Gorilla Group
Amahoro which meaning peaceful, this group consists of 17 individuals and 1 silverback. The group was named after its peaceful silverback called Ubumwe .
Umubano Gorilla Group
Umubano literally meaning live together, the group consists of 11 individuals and 1 silverback. This group was originally a member of Amahoro group but split after Ubumwe and Charles fought, and later Charles grabbed a few females from Ubumwe and formed his own group.
Hirwa Gorilla Group
This was formed in 2006 by a silver back that had broken away from Susa group; the group consists of 9 individuals i.e. 1silver back, 3 babies, 3 adults females and 2 sub adults females.
13 Gorilla Group
This group had only 13 individuals with 1 silverback and 12 adult females, but today the group consists of 25 individuals. This group is the dearest to the guides, because its silverback is more approachable than those in other groups.
Kwitonda Gorilla Group
The group crossed into Uganda from DRC, due to the Congolese civil war, the group stayed in Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and late crossed to Volcanoes National Park. This group consists of 18 individuals led by 1 silverback called Kwitonda which literally means humble.
Karisimbi Gorilla Group
This group consists of 15 individuals, the group split from Susa group because they used to stay in the same region on Mount Karisimbi.
Attractions in Volcanoes National Park
The park protects the Rwandan sector of the Virunga Mountains, a range of six extinct and 3 volcanoes that sit at the Uganda and Congolese border and protects almost half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas.
Enjoy the sensational Rwanda and see the attractions of volcanoes National Park and its environs.
Volcanoes National Park is a home of mountain gorillas, located in the western part of Rwanda. The ape is only found in southwest Uganda, northwest Rwanda and eastern DRC. Gorillas can climb trees but are normally found on the ground, these apes usually live in communities of up to 20 individuals. Communities are led by one adult male usually called a silverback because of silver hair that embellishes the dark fur.
Gorilla tracking is one of the best tourist attractions at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
GOLDEN MONKEY TRACKING
Scarce golden monkeys have been spotted in the remarkable Virunga Volcanoes National Park. Golden monkey tracking is a popular tourist activity in Volcanoes National Park, this activity starts in the morning at the park’s headquarters at Kinigi, and this activity is less difficult than gorilla trekking.
HIKE THE ADVENTUREOUS DIAN FOSSEY’S TOMBS
Dian Fossey was an American zoologist who spent almost 18 years in the park, studying mountain gorilla communities from 1966 until her death in 1985.
The hike through the forest takes a approximately 6 hours to-and-fro, along the way one is blessed to see buffaloes, golden monkeys, elephants and some bird species that Dian committed her life to.
A cave is a natural underground chamber in a cliff or hillside large enough for human beings to enter. The cave is good for tourist walks, trails and stairs that take you in the dark interiors of the caves that show a good picture of a home with several rooms. The site is located at the foothills of Volcanoes National Park, in actual sense one can easily see primates and birds.
MOUNTAIN HIKING ADVENTURES
Hike Mount Bisoke that stands at 3,711m above sea level, which is topped by a beautiful crater lake, hiking Bisoke requires travelers who are physically fit due to high advancement and length of the climb.
Hike Mount Karisimbi which is the second highest peak in the Virunga ranges, which takes two days and one night. On the top of the volcano, travelers enjoy remarkable views of the other five volcanoes and the scenic twin lakes.
IBY’IWACU CULTURAL VILLAGE
Iby’iwacu means treasure our home of home and heritage situated next to the car park at the trailhead of the Sabyinyo group ad group thirteen, the award-winning venture was founded in 2004. The village offers a busy agenda that lasts for about two hours. At the village travelers experience amazing cultural dances, traditional meals and drinks such as Banana beer and juice for those who may decide to have an overnight stay at the village.
NGEZI LAKE TRAIL
Ngezi is a scenic and shallow Crater Lake at the foot of Mount Bisoke in Volcanoes National park, the trail usually takes 4 hours to-and-fro accompanied by a park ranger, along the trail you can see various monkeys and birds.
This trail gives you tang of the Virunga Volcanoes in Volcanoes National Park.
All activities in Volcanoes National Park start at the park headquarters in the village of Kinigi on the eucalyptus-scattered Virunga foot slopes. Kingi is 12km north of a small village called Musanze also known as Ruhengeri, which is reachable by road transport.
The park is just 2 hours drive from Kigali the capital city on road transport which is the main means of transport that is used by most travelers willing to go for gorilla trekking. However, one can do gorilla tracking on the same day and drive back to Kigali.
Safari Lodges in Volcanoes National Park
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
This lodge is located in the immediate region of Kinigi, situated on community land at the foothill of the Virunga with a beautiful view of the volcanoes hills. Accommodation consists of 8 stone cottages, 2 suites and 14-bed family suite, all spread out across the grassy slopes and well spaced offering good privacy. The lodge has two veranda areas which present scenic views of the Virungas.
The luxurious and well-equipped rooms combine ethnically influenced décor good for country house feel with three fire place, tea/coffee making facility, mini bar, bedroom, dressing room, large bathroom and 24 hour electricity.
Le Bambou Gorilla Village
Midrange safari accommodation located in the vicinity of Volcanoes National Park, accommodation is in large stone cottages with firm big beds, private balcony, en-suite hot shower and a tidy collection of furniture including a wardrobe and a writing desk. Equipped with furnished reception, bar and dining area.
Food is good, & the staff is very helpful and cooperative. Guests are provided with the most luxurious furnishing and lofty quality service.
Situated about 500m from hotel La Palme, the lodge has four large clean tiled rooms with big beds & en-suite hot shower, restaurant and a bar.