Volcanoes National Park
If you are after the life-changing Gorilla trekking Safaris in Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is the only place to go.
Also part of the Virunga Massif, Volcanoes National Park covers a total area of 160 square kilometers and is located in the Eastern part of Rwanda.
This Park in the rolling hills of Rwanda is home to five of the eight Virunga Volcanoes namely: Mount Karisimbi, Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhabura, Bisoke and Mount Sabyinyo.
It started as a small area around Bisoke, Mikeno, and Karisimbi volcanoes established to provide habitat to the species of Gorillas that were facing the threat of extinction. Later this protected area was extended to Rwanda in 1929 and was under the management of Belgian king.
After DR Congo gaining their independence in the early 1960s, the Park was divided; Rwanda remained with Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park for DR Congo.
In 1967 Volcanoes National Park was joined by a great American zoologist “Dian Fossey” who withdrew from doing Mountain Gorilla research in DR Congo and focused on Rwanda.
With a view of raise conservation campaigns towards saving the life of Gorillas, Dian Fossey established a research center “Karisoke” in Volcanoes National Park.
After some years, Dian Fossey was shot dead by the rebels in 1985. It was agonizing but this did not stop the conservation of Gorilla lives in Volcanoes National Park. Thanks to Dian Fossey that currently, the Gorillas are just increasing in numbers.
Other than Mountain Gorillas, Volcanoes is home to the species of Golden Monkey that inhabit the bamboo forested areas, 178 species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and different insect species.
Wild animals as well thrive, on a lucky day you can sight buffaloes, elephants, bush-bucks, black-fronted duiker, spotted hyenas, and more.
This Park is located in Musanze district. From Kigali city, it takes about two hours for the drive up to Volcanoes National Park. This Park ranks as the easily accessed Park amongst the three National Parks in Rwanda.
Alternatively, you can go by airplane from Kigali airport up to Kinigi airstrip, from this airstrip you will be transferred by your guide up to the park headquarters.
A one-day Gorilla trek is possible from Kigali though you need to wake up very early in the morning for the Journey to Kinigi.
Top Activities done.
This is the main activity and reason for a safari to Volcanoes National Park, though some other activities are offered, there is often an addition to Gorilla Trekking safaris.
This lifetime experience grants a chance to meet face to face with the Mountain Gorillas in the Jungles. Most travelers refer to it as a lifetime experience hard to forget.
It is done in a group, early in the morning; a briefing is first conducted at the Park offices to highlight trekkers all about it takes for the Mountain Gorilla trekking experience.
After briefing and gorilla family allocation along with park ranger guides, the jaw-dropping journey to the Jungle starts in search of these apes.
After locating their presence, you are allowed to interact with them for only one hour. Later return to the Park offices for other simple activities or return to the lodge for some relaxation and refreshments.
A permit is required for Gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park; this costs $1500 USD per person. It’s usually booked in advance.
Golden Monkey Tracking.
If you can’t make for the expensive Gorilla trek, you choose Golden monkey tracking. Similarly, it involves meeting face to face with the Golden monkey primates in the Jungles.
Not like Gorilla Trekking, with Golden monkey tracking, there is no limit on the number of people to track. But rather they usually depend on the number of people available for the excursion per day.
Golden monkey also starts with a briefing in the morning at the Park offices, later the journey starts following the permanently established trails.
Golden monkeys are mostly found in the mountainous bamboo forested areas; therefore physical fitness is a must in order to be part of it. The tracking permit costs $100 USD per person.
Bisoke & Karisimbi Hike
For an adventure in Rwanda, a one-day Bisoke hike is here for you. Also known as Visoke, this volcano is one of the active volcanoes within the Virunga Massif.
It lies between the borders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo standing at 12175 feet high. Its peak and the greater part of it is in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
It is one of the easiest Mountains to hike in Rwanda, feasible even for novice hikers. The trekking up to the summit takes about 6 – 7 hours. Climbers who are short of time can do this even in three hours.
It is a less demand hike but hikers should be healthy, physically fit, and with all hiking requirements ready to deal with the muddy trails, stinging insects and thorny plants.
Bisoke hike is more than nature encounters to unmatched panoramic views of crater lakes, alpine vegetation, fog-filled summit, rolling hills, and towering volcanoes along with stretching forests.
During the hike, chances are high that you will behold one of the habituated Gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park
It starts in the morning after a briefing conducted at the Park offices. From the briefing point, visitors are transferred for about 40 minutes up to the starting point.
Porters are also available for hire at a cost of $10 USD. Porter’s work is to help in carrying your luggage and passing the difficult sections by pulling you up.
Reaching the summit is the dream of everyone. After the excitements, descend back. The permit for this one day experience costs $75 per person.
Mount Karisimbi Hike
At a height of 4507 m, Mount Karisimbi ranks the highest volcano in the Virunga region and eleventh in Africa.
This inactive volcano lies between Rwanda and DR Congo borders surrounded by other volcanoes such as Nyiragongo, Bisoke, and Mikeno.
Its name Karisimbi is a Kinyarwanda word which means “White Shell”. It was named relating to the snow that covers the Volcano’s summit during the dry season. This volcano is renowned for its caldera and two crater lakes.
Visitors to Volcanoes National Park usually combine this experience with the Gorilla trek. It may be strenuous but this is a lifetime adventure not to miss.
All trails to the top winds through dense forests, steep slopes, and lush vegetation that are worth beholding with your open eyes.
Trails are muddy during the rainy season, it’s recommended to do the hiking during dry seasons between January – March, and July – October.
It’s a two-day experience and requires physical fitness, good shape such that you can navigate through the steep and difficult sections. You can hire porters for additional help at a cost of $20 USD per person.
From the top, hikers are impressed by stunning views of inland vegetation, other towering Virunga volcanoes like Nyamulagira, Muhabura and Nyiragongo. All expedition which includes ascending and descending takes about thirteen hours. The permit costs $400 USD per person.
Dian Fossey Hike
A visit to Volcanoes National Parks seems incomplete without a visit to Dian Fossey’s graveyard, a conservationist who started the campaigns towards saving lives of Gorillas.
This graveyard is located near her established Karisoke Research center between Mountain Bisoke and Karisimbi. The experience can be done a day before your Mountain Gorilla trekking or after.
Being part of the hike is one of the best ways to commemorate Dian Fossey, a great Wildlife Conservationist in Africa
At her research center, you will learn about her works and also contribute towards the project she started in 1967.
On the way to the graveyard, you can come across unique plant species, wild animals like elephants, antelopes, primates like Golden monkeys, and more. Ascending to and descending back takes about 4-5 hours and the permit costs $75 USD per person.