Volcanoes National Park is the most accessible park in Africa for travelers looking for a gorilla trekking trip in Africa. Located in Northern Rwanda in a region called Musanze (Ruhengeri), the park is one of the most visited park in Eastern Africa, receiving thousands of travelers looking for a mountain gorilla trekking experience. The park is part of the Virunga region and it is located along the boarder with Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. This corner or northwestern Rwanda is a breath-taking unforgettable place where culture, adventure and conservation intersect.
The park is most famous for hosting the mountain gorillas, a rare sub specie of the gorilla. Nearly a third of the world’s population of the mountain gorillas live in the park. The park has a very long history of conservation, first gazetted in 1925, as a small area bounded by Karisimbi, Visoke and Mikeno, purposely to protect the mountain gorillas from poachers who were threatening their existence. By 1929 it was extended further to the Belgian Congo to form the Albert National Park, a huge area covering 8090 km². After Congo attaining its independence in 1960 and Rwanda in 1962, the Rwandan government re-gazetted the park as a conservation and tourist area.
The park is also the base for the famous American primatologist Dian Fossey who carried out her research into the gorillas. She arrived in 1967 and set up the Karisoke Research Centre between Karisimbi and Visoke. She spent most of her time in Volcanoes National Park, and is widely credited with saving the gorillas from extinction by bringing their plight to the attention of the international community. Unfortunately Dian Fossey was murdered by unknown assailants at her home in 1985 reportedly poachers whom she had spent her life fighting against. She is featured in the popular film Gorillas in the Mist, and she was buried in the park in a grave close to the research center. If you love conservation, you can’t end your trip without taking a hike to the Karisoke Search Centre and support the Dian Fossey Grave.
From 1992 to 1999 the park was tangled in the Rwanda civil war, the research centre was abandoned, and all tourist activities (including visiting the gorillas) were stopped. After restoration of peace and order, the park was reopned in 1999 when the area was deemed to be safe and under control. Since then gorilla tourism is thriving and thousands of travelers have visited the park on gorilla safaris.
Though most travelers visit the park for gorilla trekking, there are lots of other things to do on a Rwanda safari through this national park.
- The park is a home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains including Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo which are covered in both rainforest and bamboo.
- Numerous rivers such as Nyabarongo River flow through the park that support many animal species,
- There are several other animals in the park including large golden monkeys, duiker and buffalo, as well as some 178 bird species including at least 29 endemics to Rwenzori mountains and the Virungas.
Things to Do
There are lots of things to do in Volcanoes National Park and these include;
- Gorilla tracking – the major attraction that pull tourists to the country.
- Golden Monkey tracking – See the golden monkeys in a dense canopy on a hike through the forest
- Dian Fossey Hike – Hike to the grave yard of Dian Fossey, learn about gorilla tourism and conservation at the Karisoke Research Centre. This is a full day activity
- Volcano Hikes – You can a hike on three volcanic mountains that lie within the park