Volcanoes National Park Rwanda – Home to Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, Rwanda Gorilla Trekking
A clear view of the 3 Mountains that make up the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is a home to the gravely endangered Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda. This is the park where several gorilla trekking tours for 1 day, 2 days or 3 days are carried out. This attraction was elevated to a national park status in 1925 purposely to save from harm the endangered rare and much sought for Gorillas. Just an hour and half drive from Kigali, this first National Park in Africa park covers an Area of 130 km² (2,500 Hectares) in the northwestern Rwanda region of Ruhengeri. It borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park on the Ugandan part. It is home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains which include Karisimbi (4507M), Bisoke (3711M), Muhabura (4127M), Gahinga (3474M) and Sabyinyo (3634M).
A sign Post to Volcanoes National Park Offices at Kinigi
The mountain gorillas at this park are grouped into habituated gorilla families that are allocated a minimum of eight tourists per day for trekking. When trekking gorillas, visitors are expected to follow the available set tracking rules and guidelines for safety reasons on the part of the animals and humans.
The park was the base for Dian Fossey, a well-known primatologist or a gorilla conservation activist who one time wrote about it saying, “In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat, are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rain forest – the Virungas”.
Volcanoes National Park protects the sharp slopes of the superb Virunga mountain ranges, home of the extraordinary mountain gorilla and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which clutch close evergreen bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and moorland. At the height above sea level of 2,400 m – 4,507 m, the park’s yearly rainwater stand at 1,975 mm (the high at 3030 m, with a noticeable decline to the west and mean annual temperature at 9.6 °C.
Taking an electrifying trek through the cultivated foothills of the Virungas, presents stimulating views in all directions. Then, abruptly, the trail enters the national park, immersing trekkers in an extraordinary closeness of the rain forest, alive with the calls of colourful birds and chattering of the unusual golden monkey, and overwhelmed with fresh spoor of the mountains’ indefinable populations of buffalo and elephant.
Through openings in the forest cover, the best peaks are glimpsed, effortlessly accessible and among the highest in Africa, beckoning an ascent. The full of activity market town of Ruhengeri has an unforgettable setting at the base of the Virungas. On the outer edge of town, the natural bridge at Musanze – a solidified lava flow, is a captivating leftover of the volcanic activity that shaped this scenic area.
Also within simple day tripping distance of Ruhengeri are the rarely visited but lovely Lakes Burera, Ruhondo and Karago. Ruhengeri offers a good collection of low-priced and reasonably-priced small hotels and guest houses, including the Gorilla’s Nest Hotel. Visitors could also base themselves in Gisenyi or Kigali and with an early start head to the Volcanoes National Park and Ruhengeri as a daytime excursion.
The Park’s Animal Life is excellently acknowledged for the Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) whose trekking is the most done activity there. Apart from gorillas, additional mammals include, black-fronted duiker (Cephalophus niger), the golden monkey (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), buffalo (Syncerus caffer), Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus). Some elephants reportedly live in the park, even though these are now very irregular. The park has 178 recorded bird species including the Ruwenzori turaco and the good-looking francolins. Out of the 178 species, at least 13 species and 16 subspecies are prevalent to the Virunga and Ruwenzori Mountains.
The Park Vegetation
The park plant life varies significantly owing to the large altitude range within the park, with some lower montane forest which is at present largely gone agricultural. Stuck between 2400 and 2500 m, there is Neoboutonia forest. From 2500 to 3200 m Arundinaria alpina (bamboo) forest occurs, covering about 30% of the park area. From 2600 to 3600 m, largely on the more moist slopes in the south and west, is Hagenia-Hypericum forest, which covers about 30% of the park.
This is one of the largest forests in Africa with Hagenia abyssinica. The vegetation from 3500 to 4200 m is typified by Lobelia wollastonii, L. lanurensis, and Senecio erici-rosenii and covers about 25% of the park. From 4300 to 4500 m grassland occurs. Secondary undergrowth, meadows, marshes, swamps and small lakes also occur, but their entire area is comparatively small.
Tourism Activities Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
There are numerous activities in the park for travellers and these include.
- Gorilla Tracking, there are four adapted groups of gorillas open to tourists, allowing for a total of 32 permits per day and tourists are allowed to spend an hour with the gorillas. Gorilla tracking is booked in advance. And tracking begins at 07:00 Hrs at ORTPN Kinigi office.
- Tracking Golden monkeys, golden monkeys have two families open for tracking; Kabatwa at the base of Sabyinyo and Musanga at the base of Karisimbi. The tracking exercise starts in the morning from ORTPN Kinigi/ Ruhengeri office.
- Cave exploration that is, visiting Musanze cave and the natural bridge.
- Climbing of Bisoke volcano, this is a one day exercise.
- Karisimbi Volcano climbing, this is a two day trip with overnight camping at an altitude of 3,800 m.
- Visiting the tomb of Dian Fossey, an eminent and notable primatologist.
- Tour of the lakes (Lake Burera and Ruhondo).
A distance from Ruhengeri and volcanoes one can organise a half day excursions to Lake Karago or half day pleasure trip to Lake Kivu. If you conclude trekking in time, return happily for overnight.