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A Guide to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park

A Complete guide to Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, the world’s favorite destination for mountain gorilla trekking. This travel resource provides a comprehensive look at the Volcanoes National Park (also known as Parc National des Volcan) in Northern Rwanda including park information, what to see, what to do, and more.  You are now one-step closer to enjoying great adventures in the most accessible national park for gorilla trekking in Africa. Plan your safari with exclusive information on booking a safari to the park, how to make reservations for gorilla permits, hotels or safari lodging, extensive information to plan your visit, guide to gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, hiking  maps and much more. Our comprehensive guide to gorilla trekking offers information on how to plan for a gorilla trek, etiquette for gorilla watching, what to pack, best time to see gorillas and more. So what can you expect to gain from this travel resource?

Go Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Experience an unforgettable gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park in Northern Rwanda. Let us help create a perfect tour for your safari in Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills.

About the Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park

The Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is one of the most prestigious national parks in Africa. The park is located in Musanze District in the northwestern part of Rwanda. The park is an iconic tourist destinations that is visited all year round most especially by tourists looking to meeting the great apes in the wild.

Since reopening in 1999, the park has received a good number of visitors each day who opt to go gorilla tracking in Rwanda. With about a third of the world’s 1000 mountain gorillas living in this park, tourists can get the chance to have a rare glimpse into the pensive eyes of the endangered apes within this remote side of Rwanda.

Apart from the celebrity gorillas, however, the park has the most spectacular scenery and rich biodiversity. The park is part of the Greater Virunga Conservation Area and covers more than 160km2. The park also protects  five of the eight Virunga volcanoes and these are Mount Muhabura, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Gahinga, Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke.

Made famous as the research base of the late American primatologist Dian Fossey and, subsequently, as the setting for the film Gorillas in the Mist, the park continues to uphold its reputation as a destination for unrivaled wildlife encounters. The edges of Mt. Sabyinyo are also where you will find Fossey’s tomb, as she was buried among the gorillas she grew to love so dearly. Experienced guides will take you through this impressive montane ecosystem on a gorilla trek in Rwanda, where you can witness the sights and sounds of the heart of Africa.

Things to See in Volcanoes National Park

This corner or northwestern Rwanda is a breath-taking unforgettable place where culture, adventure and conservation intersect. The Volcanoes National Park boasts almost 100 bird species but is more famous for being home to world’s last remaining mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

The often neglected twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo and the nearby Rugezi swamp are recognized for their excellent water birding opportunities. With in the area there are a number of community based tourism tours on offer, for example: visiting villages, agric-production plants, an ethno botany tour or even a group of local fishermen using traditional methods, or simply sit back and take in the breath taking scenery of the area.

Mountain Gorillas

Rwanda Silverback Gorilla
The Volcanoes National Park is famous for its gorillas, the star attraction of the Virungas. The park hosts over half of the remaining population that live in the Virunga Massif. Seeing the mountain gorillas is a previlege! Read More

Dian Fossey Grave

Dian Fossey Cementery
Would you like to follow and trace the footsteps of Dian Fossey, the American researcher featured in the popular movie ” Gorillas in the Mist”? You can hike to the tombs of the iron lady who did much to protect the mountain gorillas. The hike takes two too three hours through the bamboo forest where she did most of the work. Read More

Golden Monkeys

PNV Golden Monkeys
The golden monkey is an old world order monkey that is endemic to the Virunga Region. It is characterized with a bright orange- gold body thus its name! You can see this rare monkey during a hike through the Volcanoes National Park and the nearby Mgahinga National Park that is also found in the Virunga Region. Read More

Musanze Caves

Musanze Caves
Near the Park are the Musanze Caves that were created about 65 million years as a result of vulcanization within the Virunga Mountains. The caves are some of the most popukar attractions and can be visited all year round. See the brilliant views of cascading lights from the surface, interesting rock formations, and bats that colonized the walls of the caves. Read More

Buhanga EcoPark

Buhanga Eco Park
The Muhanga Ecopark is of great biological and cultural significance within the Rwanda. There are well developed trails that lead you through towering trees! The forest is a habitat for a variety of birds and butterfly species. The forest is an ancient sacred site that was used by the past Rwandan kings (Omuami) for coronation rituals and thus a great cultural site not to miss. Read More

Wildlife

Elephants in Volcanoes National Park
The park hosts an amazing array of flora and fauna. From large mammals to incredible bird life there is a lot to see in the Volcanoes National Park. Check out the amazing checklist of mammals, reptiles and amphibians, birdlife in the Virunga etc. Read More

Birds in Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park hosts almost 180 bird species in 1980.  Close to 15 formerly recorded bird species were eminent during a biodiversity survey conducted in 2004, however it is probable that a number of additional forest specialists have actually gone off track since the year 1980.  the Grauer’s rush  warbler a vulnerable local bird species living in the swamp, whereas at least sixteen Albertine Rift endemic are also present, among which are the handsome francolin, Archer’s ground robin, dusky crimson-wing, Rwenzori turaco, red-faced woodland warbler , Rwenzori double collared sunbird, collared apalis, Rwenzori batis and the strange weaver.

Top Things to Do in Volcanoes National Park

There are many activities to be enjoyed in the Volcanoes National Park. Here are the top adventure activities to do in the area;

Although visited predominantly for the mountain gorillas, there are several other tourism sites and opportunities in the park and surrounding area. There is a chance to climb to the mount Bisoke’s beautiful crater lake or even the hike to the summit of the  Karisimbi mountain, the 5th highest mountain of Africa.

Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla Trek
Tracking mountain gorillas in the Virunga is a peerless wildlife experience, and one of Africa’s indisputable travel highlights. It is difficult to describe the simple exhilaration attached to first setting eyes on a wild mountain gorilla. Read More

Hike to Dian Fossey’s Tomb

Hike to Dian Fossey Grave
This trek involves a 30 minutes’ drive from the park headquarters to the trailhead and then a 10 minute stroll to the park boundary. The trek takes anything from 90 minutes to three hours, depending on your fitness level. Read More

Golden Monkey Tracking

Golden Monkey Tracking
Take a nature walk though the Virunga Mountains and get to see the little known golden monkey. This rare species is also IUCN listed as ‘endangered’. This primate is restricted range within the Albertine Rift. Read More

Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village

Ibyiwacu Gorilla Experience
It is situated next to the car park at the trailhead for the Sabyinyo Group and Group Thirteen, this award- winning venture was founded in 2004 by Edwin Sabuhoro of Rwanda Eco- tours to help improve the livelihood of communities. Read More

Volcano Hiking

Mount Karisimbi
Hiking the Virunga Volcanoes is one of the adventures not to miss. Several hiking trails have been developed in the park and popular hikes include Karisimbi Hike, Mount Visoke Hike, Trek to Dian Fossey Grave etc. Read More

Bird Watching

Virunga Birdlife
There are over 180 species of birds that are protected in the Virunga Mountains in Northern Rwanda and bird watching is one of the adventure activities that you should not miss. Read More

Mountain Gorilla Tracking in Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda

This interesting activity today remains the most prominent in this park, with a sum of close to 96 gorilla permits being issued every day, with 8 assigned to each of the 12 habituated groups.

The exhilarating climb to the gorilla’s natural habitat of shady bamboo forest offers fantastic views in all directions, before the trackers are immersed in the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest, alive with the calls of colourful birds and the chattering of rare golden monkey. Nothing can prepare one for the impact of encountering a fully-grown silverback gorilla, up to three times the size of an average man, yet remarkably peaceable and tolerant of human visitors.

The bustling market town of Musanze has a memorable setting at the base of the Virungas. On the outskirts of town, the natural bridge at Musanze – a solidified lava flow – is a fascinating relic of the volcanic activity that shaped this scenic area. Also within easy day tripping distance of Musanze are the seldom visited but lovely Lakes Burera, Ruhondo and Karago.  Visitors could also base themselves in Rubavu or Kigali and – with an early start – head to the Parc des Volcans and Ruhengeri as a day trip.

Along side Gorilla trekking, tourists can also enjoy other activities like Golden monkey tracking, hike to karisoke research centre to vist the tombs of Dian Fossey -an American primatologist conducted her ground-breaking studies about the behavior of the mountain gorillas. 3 years following her death, Dian Fossey’s work was uncovered to a crowd audience with the launch of “Gorilla in the mist”, a cinematic story of her impressive life filmed right on location within the Volcanoes Park. The “Gorilla in the Mist” attracted international attention to the troubles of the mountain gorillas and created unparalleled awareness in the gorilla-tourism programme which had been launched in the park about 10 years earlier. Back in 1990, the impressive Volcanoes Park was actually the most organized as well as most popular mountain gorilla habitats in the whole of Africa and so gorilla tourism was perhaps the leading earner of Rwanda’s tourist revenue.

After tracking gorillas, tourists can also visit the beautiful twin lakes of Burera and Buhondo for a scenic view and boat ride or take afternoon community walk to nearby places for entertainments and cultural studies.

Hiking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

The Volcanoes National Park is not only focused on gorilla tracking, but also conducts additional activities such as trekking and hiking which today are well organized, varying from 2 day ascent of the impressive Karisimbi to a non – tiring nature walk to a group of stunning crater lakes, although the most thrilling innovation is that today tourists can actually visit the habituated groups of the endemic golden monkeys.

Fortunately, Hikes today are being offered to the various visitors that come to this park.  The Karisimbi is the most elevated mountain on this chain and is situated on Rwanda’s border with Democratic Republic of Congo. Traveling eastward, you will find other major peaks in the national park among which are the Visoke on the border of DRC; Sabinyo at the meeting of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, and the Gahinga as well as Muhabura on the border of  Uganda.

Climbing the Karisimbi is a 2 day expedition priced at US$150; ORTPN offers guides though trekkers must have appropriate clothing as well as camping equipment.  Nonetheless a shorter alternative priced at US$50 is the climb of Mount Visoke all the way to its stunning crater lake found at 3,711 meters; the ascent goes for close to 2 hours.

For the less physically fit walks of close to 2 or 3 hours priced at US$30 to the closer crater lakes as well as in the verdant forest are quite enjoyable and in addition will be mostly rewarding to those interested in watching birds.

Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

To the north of Rwanda lies the Volcanoes national park, which protects the Rwandan portion of the virunga mountains, a trans frontier conservation area that includes protected areas in Uganda and the DRC and forms a complex of mostly dormant volcanoes, it includes Rwanda’s highest point, Mount Karisimbi (4,507 m), and the two active volcanoes, mount Nyiragongo and mount Nyamuragira.

Spanning Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda are the Virunga Volcanoes Mountains, a dramatic, thickly forested range comprising six extinct and three active volcanoes.  It should be noted that more 300 mountain gorillas are protected here – this is almost a third of the world’s existing population – and is the scene for what is often described as Africa’s easiest gorilla trekking.

The Musanze town (former Ruhengeri) is also a base point for cross-border gorilla tracking – you can easily go gorilla trekking from PNV to Virunga National Park and Mgahinga National Park.

Park Fees

The pay per private non-commercial vehicle is $10.00 and $5.00 for pedestrians or bicyclists. Non-commercial groups entering the park in a bus or vehicle with a capacity of 15 persons or more will be charged $5.00 for each person on board.

Plan Your Trip to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park

Start here for basic information about the Volcanoes National Park such as; getting there, getting around, and more. Find answers to the most frequently asked questions such as when to visit the park, the best times to go gorilla tracking, what to pack, and guidelines for visiting the park. Are you planning a gorilla trekking adventure far in advance? Check our articles to learn more about gorilla trekking, the best time to see gorillas, gorilla families to visit, gorilla-watching guidelines, etc.

Preparation

Every successful and memorable African safari starts with preparation. That is psychological, physical, and sometimes educational. Here are a few things that come on top mind when preparing to visit Volcanoes national park in Rwanda.

 About Gorilla Trekking in PNV, Rwanda

Mountain gorilla trekking is the most popular gorilla trekking activity on the African continent. Even though gorillas can be tracked in countries such as the Central African Republic, Gabon, and Congo among several other locations. It is only in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo where you can find the endangered mountain gorillas. Of all the gorilla subspecies, it is only the mountain gorillas that until now cannot survive outside their natural habitats. It is this fact among several other reasons that gorilla trekking is more popular in Uganda and Rwanda than in other African countries. In Rwanda, Volcanoes national park is the only location where you can trek gorillas. Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes national park has been specially designed as a luxury eco-tourism activity. Though most of the attention has for a long time been drawn to the $1500 permit, many people miss the highlight of how the population of mountain gorillas in the world has more than doubled due to similar prohibitive yet supportive conservation endeavors.

Kwita Izina – The Gorilla Naming Ceremony

The annual Kwita Izina (naming) gorilla-naming ceremony is predicated upon a common African practice of infant naming where commonly the grandfather or grandmother gives a name to their grandchild. In Rwanda, the naming ceremony is often attended by family and friends. In the effort to promote gorilla conservation, the Rwanda development board among several other conservation stakeholders took it upon themselves to adopt the human culturally known and practiced exercise of naming human babies and applied it to naming infant gorillas.

Gorilla Families in Volcanoes National Park

There are twelve habituated gorilla groups/families that can be visited for your unforgettable gorilla trekking safari. They include Group 13/Agashya group, Hirwa group, Umubano group, Kwitonda, Susa Group/Susa A group, Sabyinyo gorilla group, Karisimbi group/Susa B, Amahoro Group, Bwenge family and Ugenda group. Each of these ten groups has unique characteristics which makes it different, special and sets it apart from the others. You can choose to visit all of them to explore their unique features.

Gorilla Trekking Permits for Rwanda

To go gorilla trekking in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park, you must have a valid gorilla permit. Each of gorilla trekking permits for Volcanoes National Park costs US$ 1500 per person and they can be booked via the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) or through the reliable local tour company/operator.

What to Carry for a Gorilla Trek in Rwanda?

The essentials every Rwanda traveler should have when visiting Volcanoes National Park for mountain gorilla trekking include long socks, trousers, long sleeved shirts, daypack, waterproof walking/hiking/trekking boots/shoes, waterproof rain jacket/raincoat, insect repellent, camera with no flashlight, bottled drinking water, basic first aid kit, snacks, toiletries, sweater and others.

What is the Recommended Wear for Gorilla Trekking

Before you are immersed in the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest to watch the Giant Apes that arte habited in the shady bamboo forest, make sure you are prepared for the hike by wearing appropriately. Make sure to wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts. Avoid shorts and short sleeved shirts that will ruin your excitement when you are cut by sharp grasses and tree branches, wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your head and eyes respectively from the sunshine. Also wear sturdy waterproof hiking boots with enough grip and ankle support, carry a walking stick that will support you during hiking, a camera is very crucial but avoid the flash cameras, drinking water and snacks are also important, carry a rain jacket whether it is a rainy or dry season and a waterproof backpack is also recommended.

Is Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda Safe?

All Rwanda gorilla trekking safaris are safe and secure for all tourists on gorilla tour. All treks to see mountain gorillas are done in gorilla groups that have undergone through habituation (this takes a period of 2 years to make these apes get used to human presence before they are fully opened for tracking).

When is the best time to Go Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda?

Rwanda mountain gorillas can be trekked at any time of the year, but the dry season stands out as the most favorable time. This falls in June, July, August, September and December, January to February of every year, when low or no rains are recorded and the ground floor remains drier. This makes the dry season the best for trekkers to smoothly navigate via the dry trails rather than muddy floor during the wet season from March to May or October to November.

Getting to the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park Ruhengeri is located a short distance drive from Kigali, about 2-3 hours and from Bwindi or Mgahinga in Uganda, about 3-5 hours’ drive. A comfortable 4×4 vehicle is more preferable for all your road trips to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. What to Pack for a Rwanda Gorilla Trek? If you are visiting Rwanda to see mountain gorillas, the following items should be considered a must-pack: waterproof daypack, hiking boots (waterproof), insect repellents, gardening gloves, gorilla permits, first aid kit, adequate snacks, bottled water, long sleeved shirt, long trousers/pants, sweater, rain jacket or raincoat, sunscreen, safari hat, sun glasses and many others.

Rules and regulation of gorilla trekking

Gorilla trekking is governed by the following rules; avoid littering while in the jungle, a maximum of 8 person are allowed to visit each gorilla group per day, maintain a distance of 7 meters when with the Mountain gorillas to avoid transmitting human diseases and also do not participate in gorilla trekking if you are sick with cough and flue because the fact that these animals share 98% of their DNA with humans, they can easily catch those diseases. Please avoid spitting within the jungles, avoid unnecessary noise when with the Giant Apes, if you have to cough or sneeze turn your mouth away from the gorillas, maximum time of being with the gorillas is one hour, avoid rapid and unnecessary movements because it can scare/frighten them, avoid direct eye contact and when they charge by beating their chest you have to stand still and avoid direct eye contact as a way of avoiding confrontation.

Accommodation Around the Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park

There is no accommodation with in the Volcanoes national park and overnight camping is forbidden. However, there is now a choice of four mid range to upmarket lodges situated within a few kilometers of the park headquarters at Kinigi, all listed below.

The most convenient accommodation at this Park is staying in Kinigi near the park headquarters. For those with a low budget, Musanze is the only option otherwise there is totally no camping in this Park.

The park has all kinds of accommodation choices- budget, mid-range and luxury. The most popular budget accommodation in and around Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park include La Palme Hotel, Hotel Muhabura, Virunga Hotel, Faraja Hotel, Kinigi Guesthouse, etc Midrange Lodging in the park include Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge, Villa Gorilla Lodge, etc. Luxury Lodging close to the Volcanoes National Park include Five Volcanoes National Park, Gorilla Solution Lodge, etc

Highend luxury lodges in the Volcanoes National Park include Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Bisate Lodge, Virunga Volcanoes Lodge, One and Only Gorilla Nest Lodge, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, etc There’s no camping inside the park and overnight camping is not allowed. If not, you can as well consult with ORTPN about camping prospects obtainable.

Would you like to go Camping?

Camping & Lodging

Volcanoes National Park has two drive-in campgrounds which are Namakani Paio (located off of Highway 11), and Kulanaokuaiki (located off of Hilina Pali Road). Important feature of these campgrounds are that they are free and the only fee you have to remit is the park entrance fee. Camping is provided on a first-come basis.

The Namakani Paio campground has restrooms, water, fireplace and pavilion facilities where as Kulanaokaiki has only restroom, fireplace and a vault-type toilet facilities only.

Latest Travel News

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Is It Safe to Go Gorilla Trekking

Getting to know about safety and security of the destination before traveling is incredibly the most crucial factor in travel today. When it comes to mountain gorilla adventures, two important questions need to be addressed. Firstly, how safe is the destination itself and secondly how safe is it to encounter the rare mountain gorillas while

What Makes Rwanda the Safest Destination for Gorilla Trek?

Anyone traveling to a destination he or she is not conversant with would be concerned about the safety and security within the destination. The first question asked by intending gorilla trekkers is “is Rwanda really safe for a gorilla trekking safari? The answer is definitely yes. Mountain Gorillas are exceptional creatures (with only 880 individuals

Essential Things to Pack for a Gorilla Safari

When planning to visit Uganda, Rwanda or Democratic Republic of Congo for gorilla trekking, you need comfortable clothing and avoid shouting colors. Even if you were to stay for 2-3 nights on a gorilla safari, you will be in places where it may be difficult to buy a new clothing or equipment. And the fact