Volcanoes National Park is located north west of Rwanda just a 3 hours drive from Kigali Rwanda’s capital city. The park is Rwanda’s ultimate primate tracking destination. Its home to a number of wildlife species including the endangered mountain gorillas. It has montane vegetation cover ranging from green plants at lower slopes, bamboo forest, grassland, swamps and heath.
This beautiful national park has part of the Virunga massif a chain of volcanic mountains that stretch to Uganda & DRC. The Virunga mountains in Volcanoes National Park include mount Karisimbi , Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Muhabura, mount Gahinga and Mount Bisoke. These are forested and its where the mountain gorillas live.
Wildlife in Volcanoes National Park
There are various wildlife species and the park is one of East Africa’s important Primate ecosystems. Its home to the rare mountain gorillas that are endangered with about 1000 remaining on the entire planet. These mountain gorillas live in the Virunga massif and Bwindi Impenetrable national park in southern western Uganda.
The Virunga massif comprises of Volcanoes national park, Virunga national park DRC and Mgahinga Gorilla park in southwestern Uganda. Of all these, Volcanoes National park has half of the gorilla population making it the ultimate gorilla tracking destination of the three gorilla parks in the Virunga massif.
Golden monkeys are among some outstanding wildlife species in the park with other mammals including forest buffaloes and elephants. The Forest buffaloes and elephants are however rarely seen given the forested nature of the park.
As earlier communicated the park is home to half of the mountain gorilla population in the Virunga massif. Mountain gorillas are endangered primate species that live in the forested mountains in the tropical rain-forests. They live in families ranging from 5 to 20 or more individuals headed by a male gorilla called Silver-back.
The park has over 10 habituated gorilla families that are open to tourist visitation. Each gorilla family is restricted to be tracked by only 8 tourists per day. They are allowed to stay in the presence of gorillas for only one hour taking photos and interacting with them. A hike to meet the mountain gorillas takes a 1 to 6 hours or more depending on the movement of the gorillas. Mountain gorilla tracking activities start early morning at 7:00am with a briefing at the park headquarters.
Golden Monkeys are other endangered primates in this beautiful Rwanda. They are covered with golden fur and just like mountain gorillas, they also live in families of up-to 30 individuals. They often live in bamboo forests where they are usually seen and are pure vegetarians. They feed on bamboo leaves, shoots and fruits, flowers, invertebrates and shrubs.
Before tracking to the golden monkeys, tourists starts with a briefing at the park headquarters in the morning. They are then guided to the forest taking 1 to 4 hours to get to them.
There are a number of bird species here some of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift valley. Often seen birds include Ruwenzori Turaco, Bateleur, red-backed shrike, brown-necked parrot and many others. Most of the birds are seen while hiking in the forest.
Virunga Volcanic Mountains
Volcanoes National Park has 5 of the Virunga massif volcanic mountains that are great attractions to mountain climbers. They include Mount Karisimbi, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga and Mount Bisoke with a crater lake on its summit.
The four except mount Karisimbi can be hiked in one day a round journey taking 5 to 8 hours depending on the hiking experience. Mount Karisimbi is the highest mountain and can be hiked in 2 days having an overnight in the mountain.
When to Visit
You can visit Volcanoes National park any time of the year though activities can be enjoyed in the dry season. The dry season season is from June to September and from December to March with minimal disturbances of rainfall.
Lodging in Volcanoes national park vary from budget to luxury. Many of the lodges are within the parks premises just a few minutes drive to the park headquarters. Budget accommodation options include Muhabura Hotel, Kinigi Guesthouse, Da Vinci Lodge, Le Bambou Lodge are among mid range lodges. Luxury lodges in the area include Bisate lodge, Five Volcanoes Hotel, Sabyinyo Silver-back Lodge, Virunga Lodge among others.