Wondering about what to do in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park? Here is the bucket list of things to do during your visit to Africa’s oldest national park. From the popular gorilla treks to the rare opportunity to track golden monkeys in the bamboo woodland, there are lots of things to do during your safari.
For those with enough time to explore more of Rwanda, be sure to hit one, two or more adventure activities that have been listed below. Here are the most popular adventure activities that await you to engage in during the visit to northern Rwanda;
Gorilla trekking is undoubtedly the major draw of most visitors to the remote Volcanoes National park. The park is home to over 300 of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas and it is the best destination for gorilla trekking in the world. There are twelve gorilla families that have been habituated for tourism. Therefore every day a maximum of eight visitors are allowed to track a habituated gorilla group.
With the maximum of 8 persons allowed to visit a gorilla family per day, only 80 permits are sold per day for Volcanoes National park. The number of tourists allowed to visit the mountain gorillas was set in order to ensure that there is minimal impact from tourist visits on the ecosystem.
Every morning, gorilla treks start with reporting of trackers at the Kinigi Park Headquarters at 7am for pre-tracking briefing. After the briefing, tourists are assigned gorilla families to visit and then the walk to meet up the mountain gorillas begin at 8am.
Gorilla permits for the Volcanoes Park cost $1500 per person and one permit guarantees a maximum of 1 hour stay with the gorillas.
Visiting the grave of Dian Fossey Grave is another adventure not to miss during your visit to the Volcanoes National Park. A hike to Dian Fossey Grave and her gorilla Digit is one of the ways you can pay tribute to the iron lady who spent almost 20 years protecting the mountain gorillas that were dwindling in numbers. Her conservation efforts paid off and the mountain gorillas are now off the IUCN’s Critically Endangered Species List.
During your adventure in Rwanda, make an effort to visit her grave at the Karisoke Research Centre. She was buried close to her favorite silverback-Digit, who was also murdered by poachers as he was saving a baby gorilla.
Besides the Dian Fossey Grave, you will also be able to see her old Karisoke Research camp that was established between Mount Karisimbi and Bisoke. This hike takes about 3-6 Hours.
The fact that Volcanoes national Park is a haven to over 180 bird species including 16 species that are Albertine Rift Endemic and 13 species limited to the Virunga Mountains, this Park is definitely a birdwatcher’s Paradise. Birding in Volcanoes Park offers birders a chance to identify diversity of birds and the park shelters diversity of Albertine rift endemic species. The birds to look out for in Volcanoes Park include Dusky crimson wing, Doherty’s bush shrike, African long-eared owl, handsome francolins, dusky turtle dove, archer’s robin chat, lagden’s bush shrike, brown-necked parrots, scarlet tufted sunbird, Rwenzori apalis, Rwenzori nightjar, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, to mention but a few.
The Volcanoes national Park is one of the few places where you can track the endangered golden monkeys, an old world monkey that is endemic to the Albertine Right. Just like gorilla trekking, the activity starts with reporting to the Park headquarters for pre-tracking briefing. The group of tourists will be split into two and hike into the bamboo forest start by 8am.
A permit to track the golden monkeys costs US$100 per person and upon meeting them, visitors have up to one hour to watch and photograph them
The number of persons who visit a golden monkey troop is limited to ensure that small groups are maintained. Tourists who visit to track these unique creatures will be split into twi and there are two troops that have been habituated for tourism.
Tracking the golden monkeys is an inspiring activity with a total of up to 40 permits issued daily.
Volcanoes National Park is a home to five volcanoes that comprise the Virunga Massif, and they include Mount Bisoke (at 3711 meters), Mount Karisimbi (at 4507 meters), Mount Sabinyo (at 3634 meters), Mount Gahinga (at 3474 meters) and Mount Muhabura (at 4127 meters). Hiking/climbing is mostly conducted for Mount Karisimbi, Bisoke and Muhabura where tourists enjoy the breathtaking views of the surrounding areas and the other Volcanoes. Hiking Mount Karisimbi (that costs $175) leads tourists to its white-capped summit. Tourists can also climb Mount Bisoke which is not as strenuous as Mount Karisimbi and leads to the Crater Lake that characterizes the summit of this Volcano. The Mount Bisoke hike costs $75 per person (cost includes $50 for the guided trip and $25 for the Park entrance fees). All these mountain hikes start by arrival to the Park headquarters by 7am for briefing then the actual adventure starts by 8am.
Other hiking activities include hiking for example from, mountain Bisoke to the Crater Lake, trekking, Nature Walks, Climbing Karisimbi, Climbing Bisoke, Visiting the Musanve Cave and the natural bridge.
With the numerous wildlife, bird and plant species found in this park, Nature walks are undeniably conducted in Volcanoes National park. Popular nature walks include those that lead tourists to the Musanze market to interact with some of the local people, community walks to the Nyange community, and walk around the Twin Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo as tourists enjoy the magnificent scenery of the area. Popular Walking trails include the 3 hours’ Ngezi Lake trail (considered the shortest trail in the Park) where tourists can encounter monkeys and some bird species. Lake Ngezi a small Crater Lake on Mount Bisoke. Another famous walk is the hike to the Sacred Buhanga forest (with breathtaking nature walking experience to explore the rich historical and cultural encounters of Rwanda and visit to Musanze Caves (outside the Park) in Musanze Province.
Ibywacu Cultural Experience
There is also the Iby’Iwacu cultural village walk where tourists can experience the cultural customs and traditions of the three tribes of Rwanda (Hutu, Tutsi and the Twa). While in this cultural village, tourists are entertained in cultural dances, music and drama, tourists visit the King’s house, participate in preparation of traditional dishes using firewood and grinding millet using traditional grinding stones.