Volcanoes National Park Rwanda in Tourist Activities
Also known as Parc Nationale des Volcanos in French, the Volcanoes National Park is located in the north west of Rwanda protecting the Rwandan side of the Virunga massif thus bordering with Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Congo’ Virunga National Park. More about volcanoes national park
Tourist Activities in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
The different tourist activities that are carried in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. Read more about the Tourist Activities in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Mountain Gorilla tracking / trekking, Volcanoes National Park is the only park in Rwanda where mountain gorilla trekking can be conducted. The activity starts at 8am local time at the park headquarters Kinigi. Those who are able to arrive before that time catch up with traditional Kinyarwada dance performance and a thrilling cup of Rwandan coffee all presented to the gorilla trekkers for free. The gorilla family allocation is conducted at the site and this is followed by briefing by the rangers in respective gorilla family groups allocated to the trekkers as per the group of eight (8).
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The travellers then drive to the respective starting points for the allocated gorilla families. Heading to the jungle involves hiking encounters, enjoyment to the various bird species as they make their melodies, impressive views of the lush flora and the Volcanoes. The slopes might be challenging depend on which family that one has been allocated to as some involve hiking the steep slopes of Karisimbi Mountain. The gorilla trekking encounter tend to last 2 – 8 hours depending on the gorilla movements for that day and one (1) of full direct encounter with gorillas is availed to the trekkers to maximise the experience. The trekking encounter allows you take as many photos as you can but one has to observe the gorilla trekking rules and regulations like the minimum distance of 7m and avoiding flash photography among others. The Rwanda Development Board puts a minimum age for gorilla trekking at 15 years and to trek gorillas, you need a gorilla permit and on Rwanda a gorilla permit costs $750 per permit.
Golden Monkey Tracking, Apart from gorilla trekking, Volcanoes National Park offers impressive golden monkey tracking. The golden Monkeys are critically endangered Species that only thrive in the Virunga Massif alone. The golden monkey tracking commences at 8am at Kinigi Park headquarters tend to last 4 hours including one (1) full hours of direct encounter with the. They commonly dwell in the Bamboo zone of the Volcanoes and their golden patches, chatters and playful moments make the golden Monkey tracking encounter memorable. The golden Monkey tracking permit costs $100
Birding, There are 178 bird species existing in Volcanoes National Park of which 13 of these Species and 16 sub species are restricted in range to Virunga and Rwenzori Mountains. Therefore, birding can be conducted in the park. The bird species that can be encountered include; Rwenzori turaco, dusky crimson-wing, Archer’s ground robin, francolins, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, red-faced woodland warbler, strange weaver, collared apalis and Rwenzori batis.
Karisoke Mountain Climbing, The Karisimbi Volcano is noted to the highest of the all the Virunga Volcanoes that number to eight (8). The mountain towers up to 4,507m above sea level and taking the first postion in terms of high in Rwanda and sixth (6th) in Africa following Kilimanjaro, Kenya, Rwenzori, Meru and Ras Dashen. The climb the peak of Mount Karisimbi and back takes two (2) days and the encounter gives you an opportunity to explore the grave yards of Dian Fossey a famed Primate Conservationist at Karisoke Research Station though a visit to it would attract an added cost.
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The climb takes you through a range of vegetation zones including wild celery and Bamboo that cover the lower mountain slopes supporting the counts of mountain gorilla, hagenica forest before reaching the groundsel and giant Lobelia. You pitch at 3,700m for the first night with the views of Bisoke Mountain before approaching splendid giant lobelia and groundsel. The first camp is pitched at 3,700m with clear views of Mount Bisoke. On the following day, you embark on the hike to the summit which is a bit challenging before embarking on the descend to the starting point about 6 hours.
Hiking the Dian Fossey Grave, Dian Fossey was a famed American Primatologist who dedicated her life to research about Mountain gorillas and advocate for their conservation. She established a research station and named it Karisoke between Karisimbi and Bisoke Mountains. She died in 1985 in unclear circumstances and she was put to rest at the site along with her favourite silver back called Digit. Therefore, undertaking a hike to the Dian Fossey site is a way of paying tribute and commemorating her remarkable works towards the conservation of these Species.
Twin Lakes Walk, The Lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo adjoin each other and appear as twins. Thus, the twin lakes walk exposes to these lakes and their remarkable beauty and the impressive sights of Russumo falls. There are impressive boat rides organised on any of the lakes and brings you closer to the locals as they paddle their canoes in search of fish. There are possible bird opportunities including African Marsh Harrier, Long crested Eagle, Stonechat, and Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eater, Grey-throated tit, Common Moorhen and Paradise Fly catchers. The twin lakes tour can be done in the morning and in the afternoon.
Lake Ngezi Hike, The Lake Ngezi is a small crater lake on the raised slopes of Mount Bisoke which is one the eight Virunga volcanoes. The Lake Ngezi is at 11km distance from the mountain top and the hike to the lake involves 3 – 4 hours offering impressive views of the flora and birds en route. The park ranger is in your company for guidance and protection. The site offers you the views of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Caves Walk, The ancient Musaze caves are impressive natural features that are positioned in the north west of Rwanda dating far back to 65 million years ago. The caves have got 31 entrances and extend underground to 2 Kilometres forming a cathedral like natural feature that is worth exploring while on Rwanda safaris and tours.
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At the moment, the Musaze caves are the most visited caves among the 52 caves which are located in the northern Rwandan Province. The locals especially the children like to play near them showing that this feature has for long been part of the community life and it is part of their heritage. Visiting the caves requires you to put on a helmet with a torch for lighting not forgetting the nose and mouth cover in the company of the armed guides. The Rwanda Ministry of Defence Reserve Forces worked alongside Rwanda Development Board to develop the caves for use.
The Musaze Caves are believed to have been formed out of lava Basalt layers that flowed from the Volcanic Mountains of Bisoke and Sabyinyo. They have various rooms and if you wonder from the main path, you may get lost. The Musaze caves exploration lasts about 2 hours where you encounter the bats hanging upside down on the cave walls.
Though the walking paths are clearly indicated, one is always engulfed with fear that the ground may collapse or a rock might fall which in turn adds on the remarkable memories thereafter. Like other caves, the Caves of Musaze have got rooms within a point as to why their explorers are argued to avoid diverting from the main guided route. The caves presented a refugee for the Rwandese during the times of war in the traditional Africa and during the 1994 genocide.
Buhanga Sacred Forest Nature Walks, The Nature walks in Buhanga Sacred forest allow you to explore the small forest of Buhanga of which the locals attach great culture and traditions. History gives it that the Kings of Rwanda would take a bath in the forest waters before their coronation and as a result people feared cutting tree from there or farming close to it as they considered as sacred. The traditions have it that Buhanga forest tends to change colors in various seasons of the year. The forest walk can be conducted in the morning and in the afternoon and the forest has counts of birds and butterflies. There are designated walkways denoted by lava stone.
Tourist Attractions in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Mountain Gorillas, In science, the mountain gorillas are known as Gorilla beringei beringei and are noted to be the descendants of the ancestral monkeys which are known to have lived in Africa and Arabia at the beginning of the Oligocene epoch about 34 – 24 million years ago.
Golden Monkeys, are also critically endangered on a world scale as given by IUCN. They exist in the Virunga massif on a world scale and have got golden patches in their back that forms the ground for their naming. They thrive in the Bamboo zone of the park presenting a relaxed hiking encounter to explore them. They are unique species worth encountering.
Scenery, Regarding Scenery, Volcanoes National Park shares five (5) out of eight (8) Volcanic Mountains that form the Virunga Massif and these include Karisimbi Mountain which towers to 4507m and the highest of the eight Volcanoes, Muhabura (4127m), Sabyinyo (3634m), Bisoke (3711) and Gahinga (3474). Standing in form of series, these volcanic mountains present one of the most remarkable sceneries on the continent of Africa and beyond.
Wildlife Apart from the mountain gorillas, Volcanoes National Park also has other wildlife species that can be encountered on safaris in Rwanda. They include; black – fronted duiker (Cephalophus niger), buffalo (Syncerus caffer), Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus).
Overview about Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park is the only home to the critically endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda and it shares five (5) of the eight Volcanoes that form the chain of the Virunga massif. The Volcanic mountains which are shared by this park include; the Gahinga, Muhabura, Sabyinyo, Karisimbi and Bisoke.
Established in 1925, Volcanoes National Park was the first park to be gazetted in Africa comprising of the land mass of Mounts Bisoke, Karisimbi and Mikeno with the intention of offering protection to mountain gorillas from the issues like poaching. The boundaries of the park were increased in the year 1929 to incorporate more areas of Rwanda and Congo and the name was changed to Albert National Park covering a geographical spread of 8090 km² administered by the Belgian Colonial government who were the colonial masters of Rwanda and Congo by then. After the independence of Rwanda and Congo, the Albert Park was spilt into two following the boundary. However, the Rwanda side was further reduced to provide land for pyrethrum growing in the year 1969.
Volcanoes National park in the subsequent years provided a ground for the famed Dian Fossey, an American Primatologist who dedicated her life for the conservation of mountain gorillas by carrying out substantive research about them. Arriving in the year 1967, Dian Fossey set up a research station in the middle of Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke and named it Karisoke Research Station getting the name from the two mountains. The site still stands up today and her favourite Silverback Digit is buried at the site and even her herself following his unclear death in the year 1985. A range of documentaries and movies have been recorded demonstrating her significant role towards the mountain gorilla conservation in the Virunga Massif. The famous one has been gorillas in the mist.
Tourist Attractions in volcanoes National Park Rwanda
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Being on a mountain landscapes the park features a range of vegetation ranges that vary according to altitude changes. The lower slopes of the park (2400 – 2500) are covered by the lower montane forest which was removed by farming, seconded by the Neoboutonia forest (2500 – 3200 m), Bamboo forest stretching to over 30% of the protected area. The park has one of the largest forests Hagenia-Hypericum thriving at 2600 – 3600m while from 3500-4200m the forest is majorly marked by Lobelia lanurensis, Lobelia wollastonii, and Senecio erici-rosenii. The 4300 – 4500 altitudinal range is denoted by Secondary thicket, swamps, meadows, marshes and small lakes exist in a limited range.
The Volcanoes National Park is majorly known for its counts of critically endangered mountain gorillas and the critically endangered golden monkey species. It also contains black-fronted duiker, spotted hyena, buffalo and bushbuck. Volcanoes National Park has 178 species of birds of which 13 species and 16 sub species are limited in range to the Rwenzori and Virunga Mountains.
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
The Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is an upmarket lodge on the boundaries of Volcanoes National Park about fifteen (15) minutes’ drive to the entrance of the park. It is perched on the foot hills of Karisimbi Mountain. The lodge offers accommodation in a range of thirty (30) chalets with enough space and every chalet has a sitting area overlooking a fire place and a coffee / tea making machine. The lodge features a modern bar and restaurant.
Kinigi Guest House is a budget accommodation establishment located at 11km from the town of Ruhengeri. The Kinigi Guesthouse takes up to forty (40) people and the rooms contain warm water, electricity and the views of the Virunga Volcanoes. The guest house is owned by Association of Solidarity between Rwandan Women ASOFERWA which is a non-governmental organisation that was formed after the 1994 genocide the hit Rwanda and destroyed the Rwandan social fabric. The organisation worked towards building the livelihood of the women and children.
Originally known as the Village Touristique de Kinigi, it is positioned at 11km distance from the town of Ruhengeri presenting an ideal ground for mountain gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. For the up class clientele, there are four (4) VIP Suites and a conference hall with about 400 seating capacity suitable for meetings, exhibition and weddings among other events. The guesthouse also has beautiful gardens.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is positioned close to the Volcanoes Park Headquarters is about few minutes’ drive. Accommodation is provided in six cottages with two (2) suites with private verandas, inbuilt ablutions and living room overseeing fireplace. The lodge also has lush gardens. The main lodge and the guest cottages are well designed and operated under the management of Governors Camp. Sabyinyo Silverback lodge is owned by SACOLA Community Trust and it utilises the fees from the lodge to undertake socio-economic initiatives for the benefit of the community.
Virunga Lodge is a luxury accommodation located on a ridge with impressive views of the Virunga massif and the twin lakes of Ruhondo and Bulera presenting a good ground for gorilla and golden monkey tracking not forgetting the Volcano climbing.
The lodge features a local architectural plan blended with an eco-luxury comfort. Accommodation is presented in eight (8) bandas and each banda features a private terrace with impressive views of the Virunga massif. The lodge features solar power and low flush toilets.
Luxury/ Upmarket Accommodations, Safari Lodges, Safari Hotels in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Every tourist loves to travel but scared of whether they will have the comfort they left back home. For a gorilla safari Rwanda, accommodation can be accessed from areas within Volcanoes national park which is the only mountain gorilla national park in Rwanda. Luxury safari accommodation in Volcanoes national park are the most expensive facilities but worth it for a great safari experience.Read More about Luxury/Upmarket Accommodations in Volcanoes National Park
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is positioned close to the Volcanoes Park Headquarters is about few minutes’ drive. Accommodation is provided in six cottages with two (2) suites with private verandas, inbuilt ablutions and living room overseeing fireplace.
The Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is an upmarket lodge on the boundaries of Volcanoes National Park about fifteen (15) minutes’ drive to the entrance of the park. The lodge offers accommodation in a range of thirty (30) chalets with enough space, a modern bar and restaurant.
Virunga Lodge is a luxury accommodation located on a ridge with impressive views of the Virunga massif. Accommodation is presented in eight (8) bandas and each banda features a private terrace with impressive views of the Virunga massif.
Mid-Range/Standard accommodations in Volcanoes National Park
Being home to the treasured mountain gorillas in Rwanda, mid-range accommodation in Volcanoes national park is available and suits all tourist budgets. Below are some of the recommendable mid-range safari accommodation facilities around Volcanoes National park. Read More about Mid-range/Standard safari accommodations in Volcanoes National Park
Your Safari Route to Volcanoes National Park Rwanda | How to Get to Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
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