Volcanoes National Park
Home to the majestic mountain gorillas!
It is estimated that only around 800 mountain gorillas remain in the wild today and the Virunga Mountains that straddle the countries of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), home more than half of these incredible primates. The Rwandan section of the park is called the Volcanoes National Park and whilst it is one of the most biographically diverse areas on the planet, the main attraction is to trek through the jungle to come face-to-face with the majestic gorillas.
The Volcanoes National Park is around 160 square kilometres and is the oldest national park in all of Africa! What was once a small area around the volcanoes of Karisimbi, Mikeno and Visoke, facing high threats of poaching and extinction of the gorillas, soon became a focal conservation area as the American zoologist Dian Fossey began her research in 1967. Today, the national park still retains a strong historical connection to mountain gorilla conservation, and whilst there are 10 gorilla groups accessible to tourists (around 175 gorillas), there are another 10 families that still remain protected for research purposes, continuing the legacy of Dian Fossey. Trekking through the wilderness in search of a family of gorillas and its dominant silverback is definitely the main attraction for tourists to the Volcanoes National Park. The park is only a 2-hour drive from Rwanda’s capital Kigali, so it is easily accessible for those looking to do a day trip to see the gorillas. Alternatively, accommodation close to the park headquarters allows guests to spend a few days embracing the remoteness and beauty of the national park, combining gorilla treks, nature walks, volcano hikes and many more.
Activities in Volcanoes National Park
Famous for its habituated mountain gorillas, the Volcanoes National Park attracts those looking for a once in a life time experience. Although the 10 families of gorillas in the park are somewhat used to human presence, it is important to remember they are wild animals which could be unpredictable unpredictable. This is why there are many rules and restrictions when it comes to trekking with the gorillas. Apart from trekking to see the gorillas, visitors can also see the endemic golden monkeys of the national park. Similar to the mountain gorillas, a one-hour time limit is applied for time spent with the golden monkeys. However, unlike the gorillas, who live in the higher slopes of the mountains, the golden monkeys tend to inhabit on the slower slopes, so reaching them is easier. Generally, activities in the Volcanoes National Park are based around being active and adventurous. Visitors can climb a number of volcanoes, including Karisimbi and Visoke and can visit nearby lakes. Many of the lodges also put on traditional dance performances in the evening, whilst others work closely with the community and offer visits to local primary schools, orphanages and sustainable projects across the settlements.
At a glance...Volcanoes National Park
- Size 160 square kilometres
- Location Western Rwanda
- Recommended time 2/3 nights
- Time to visit Year round
- Safari Activities Gorilla and golden monkey trekking
- Topography Thick and dense forest
- Main species Mountain gorillas, golden monkeys