Volcanoes National Park, also known as Parc National de Volcans is part of the great Virunga conservation massif extending to cover the Uganda gorilla safari destination of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Congo gorilla safari destination of Virunga National Park.
Covering Mount Mikeno, Karisimbi and Bisoke ranges, Volcanoes National Park Rwanda was gazetted to conserve and protect the Mountain Gorillas which were undergoing a threat of extermination due to poaching and habitat destruction. Later in the 1960s, a gorilla conservationist, Dian Fossey (RIP) fronted a campaign to conserve the Mountain Gorillas and mobilized resources necessary to deal with poaching in this region. In the 1990s, the park became a war zone during Rwanda’s civil war which temporarily paralyzed tourism activities, until 1994 when conditions went back to normality, and gorilla tracking in Rwanda resumed, but at a relatively slow pace.
The efforts to boost conservation and Mountain Gorilla tourism in Volcanoes National Park were enhanced further by the inception of the annual gorilla naming ceremony known as “Kwita Iziina”, an event that has continuously attracted the global attention, and emerged one of the best tourism events in Rwanda and East Africa.
Despite the fact that Volcanoes National Park has seen several challenges; it’s still the most outstanding destination for gorilla safaris in Rwanda and even the entire world due to its positioning as the easy to trek gorilla destination. It is part of the greater Virunga massif where an estimate of 480 Mountain Gorillas, more than a half of the world’s total gorilla population thrives.
Volcanoes National Park is perched in a remote north western district called Ruhengeri, only 116km about 2 hours’ drive from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali and hence one can do gorilla trekking in Rwanda and drive back to Kigali immediately after the tour.
There are about twelve habituated gorilla families that you can visit while on a gorilla safari in Rwanda. It’s fascinating how you have to walk through the marshy jungles, the steep slippery slopes, uneven surface and climb over rocks, tree logs, and during rainy conditions, vegetation becomes dense and foggy. The time you will take to find the allocated gorilla family is unpredictable, but 2 – 8 hours is the estimate depending on gorilla group’s mobility.
There is no particular specialist trekking requirements needed, though the minimum recommendable essentials are the long trousers, walking boots, and a long sleeved shirt just to guard you from the stinging nettles and biting ants, plenty of drinking water, and of course a porter is recommended as well to help carry the heavy luggage.