Located in North-western province of Rwanda, Volcanoes National park is the oldest known national park in the entire African continent. It borders the Virunga National park in DRC and Mgahinga national park in South-western Uganda. The Parc National des Volcans (PNV) in French or Pariki  Y’lgihugu y’ibirunga in Kinyarwanda is found in a small town called Musanze and it takes about two hours to reach the park from Kigali. A gorilla tour to Volcanoes national park is purely a life changing adventure which rewards travelers with close encounter to the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitats.

The park was initially a small area around Karisimbi, Mikeno and Visoke which was gazetted to protect the mountain gorillas which were undergoing extinction due to excessive poaching. Currently the park shelters five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga mountains which are; Mount Karisimbi, Mount Muhavura, Mount. Gahinga, Mount Bisoke and Mount Sabyinyo and it covers 160km2 of rainforest and bamboo.

In 1967,  a lady known as Dian Fossey, a zoologist, was doing research on mountain gorillas in Congo fled away due to excessive insecurity and reset her research base at a place between Visoke and Karisimbi  volcanoes that was yet to be known as Karisoke research centre. She contributed so much to gorilla conservation and reduced poaching activities in Rwanda. Un luckily, she was later murdered in 1985 and buried next to her favorite gorilla called Digit.

The primates in Volcanoes National park are the endangered mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), mammals such as golden monkeys, buffaloes, bushbucks, hyenas, black-fronted duiker. Some reports claim that elephants also exist in this park but it is so rare to land on one. The park also contains above 178 species of birds of which 12 are species and 15 are subspecies. They are endemic to the Virunga conservation Area and the great Ruwenzori Mountains.

Activities

Gorilla trekking

Gorilla trekking is the commonest activity in Volcanoes National park. The park has 11 habituated gorilla families namely: Susa, Amahoro, Sabinyo, Ugenda, Hirwa, Umubano, Karisimbi among others.

The trekking activity starts in the morning and a maximum of 8 people are allowed per group to visit one particular gorilla family for one hour. The trek also takes from one to six hours under the guidance of a tour guide.

Golden monkey trekking.

Golden monkeys are common in Volcanoes national park. The trek starts in the morning with at assembly in Kinigi and they are less strenuous to hike like gorilla trekking. Trekking golden monkeys in this park requires  USD100.00

Mountain Hiking Adventures.

Mount Bisoke stands at 3700 meters above sea level with a deep crater lake on the top. Hiking this mount Bisoke is a wonderful experience unlike gorilla trekking and it requires physically fit climbers due to the high elevation and length of the climb.

Hike to Dian Fossey Tombs.

Dian Fossey was an American primatologist who spent time with the gorillas and contributed to their conservation. Her good work is still remembered and celebrated to date. She was later killed by poachers and was buried between the beautiful volcanic peaks of Bisoke and Karisimbi near Karisoke Research Centre. The hike to the tomb takes about 6 hours through the thick forest  and you can spot elephants, golden monkeys and buffaloes along the way to the tomb.

There is also guided and unguided walks around the park for example a walk to the cute twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo either by foot or on a canoe. A guided walk through Nyange community will allow you to see how locals earn a living as a way of weaving, brewing and iron smelting.