VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK RWANDA
Welcome to Volcanoes National park Rwanda Africa’s oldest national park dating back to 1925 when it was established. Volcanoes National park or Parc National des Volcanos in French and Pariki y’lgihugu y’Ibirunga in Kinyarwanda lies in Musanze town (formerly Ruhengeri) in the north-western part of Rwanda covering a total area of about 160km2 bordering Mgahinga national park in Uganda and Virunga national park in DR Congo.
In 1929, the boundaries of the park where larger than its current size since it consisted of Rwanda and DR Congo under the governance of their colonial masters the Belgian Colonial government. It was named Albert National park by then covering over 8090km2 but this reduced with the gaining of independence in the 1960s by both Rwanda and Congo reducing the Rwanda side to its current size.
Able to offer some of the most spectacular scenery in Rwanda, the park forms part of the great Virunga Conversation Area which stretches through the countries of Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The prak is home to 5 of the 8 volcano mountains in the Virunga region which include Mount Karisimbi, Bisoke, Sabyinyo, Muhabura and Gahinga.
Mountain gorilla conservation was the main reason for the park’s establishment and is a popular gorilla sanctuary in Rwanda housing the larger number of the mountain gorillas in the virunga region. This is due to conservation efforts by Dian Fossey an American primatologist who had been researching about mountain gorillas in the jungles of Congo but fled to Rwanda due to insecurities and established a research section between Karisimbi and Bisoke. Through she lost her life in 1985, Dian Fossey spearheaded much of the conservation work in Volcano national park which still stands today. She was buried at her research section along her favourite gorilla Digit. Karisoke research section still stands and coordinates gorilla conservation in the Virunga region.
Mammal Species in the National park
The park is home to a variety of mammal species although mountain gorillas and golden monkeys are more dominant in the park. The Virunga region in the only home on earth for these primates that’s why they are more recognized in Volcanoes national park. Besides that, the park is also home to other wildlife species including buskbuck, spotted hyenas, forest elephants, fronted duiker, buffalo, bushpigs, giant hogs, vervet monkeys, colobus monkeys and many others.
The park is also home to 178 bird species with 16 sub species and 13 species endemic to the Virunga volcano region and Rwenzori region due to the fact that the park is located at the edge where to western African rain forest meets the savannah of East Africa and the great East African rift valley. Bird species in the park include Collared Apalis, Rwenzori double colored sunbird, Grauer’s rush warbler, Rwezori batis, strange weaver, dusky crimson-wing, Rwenzori turaco and more. It’s a great destination for a Rwanda birding watching safari to watch the Rift Valley endemics.
Activities, what to do in the park
- Gorilla trekking: Volcanoes national park is the only place where gorilla trekking is carried out in Rwanda. The park has 10 habituated gorilla families which you can track during your visit on a Rwanda gorilla safari and the trekking starts at Kinigi park headquarters 8pm. Gorilla groups for trekking include Umubano, Kwitonda, Amahoro, Hirwa, Ugenda, Susa A, Susa B, Bwenge, and Group 13.
- Golden monkey tracking: Beside gorillas, the park also house golden monkeys which can be tracked on your Rwanda safari. The monkeys reside in the Bamboo vegetation zone of Volcano national park and have been habituated for tracking.
- Birding: A bird watching safari is one of the activities you can undertake on a Rwanda safari trip to volcano national park with over 178 bird species, including 13 species and 16 sub species endemic to this region.
- Mountain climbing: Volcano national park is also an ideal pace for hikers and mountain climbers due to its 5 volcanic park. Hikes to Mountain Karisimbi rising to 4507m above sea level takes 2 days beings the 6th highest peak in Africa and hikes to mount Bisoke rising to 3,711m above sea level take 1 day and all they can be hiked on your Rwanda safari trip.
- Hiking to the Dian Fossey tomb: Dian Fossey is the famous primatologist who dedicated her life to conserve gorillas. Hiking to the tomb of Dian Fossey can be done to pay tribute to her and appreciate the work and efforts she put up. She was buried beside her favourite gorilla Digit.
- Nature walk to Musanze caves: This dates back to over 65 years ago. The caves are historial to the people of Rwanda and their beauty, size which are over 2km long leave travellers wondering. They also acted as a hiding group for the Rwandese during the genocide war.
- Visiting Iby’Iwacu village: A village tour can also be done to this village believed to be the gorilla guardians’ village and find out how people leave with the gorillas, experience the lives of the locals, learn songs, dances, hear stories from the locals and learn about the African cultural style on your Rwanda safari trip.
- Hiking to Lake Ngezi and have impressive views of the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Twin lakes walk to Lake Ruhondo and Bulera which present spectacular views and sights along the walk.
How to get to the Volcano National park
Volcanoes national park is about 113km from Kigali Rwanda which is a 2hr drive to a small town Musanze formerly known as Rushengeri. The park can be accessed by road transport from Kigali or Gisenyi