VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK – RWANDA
Volcanoes National park Rwanda: Volcanoes National park Rwanda is one of the most visited destination in Rwanda the land of a thousand hills. Volcanoes National park thrill in the North western part of Rwanda in Ruhengeri also known as Musanze where it covers a land scape of about 160km2 and was first gazette in the year 1925. However, when Rwanda faced the challenge of Genocide, the park was as well affected and ended up being closed till in 1999 when it was re-opened for tourism.
The park is as well part of the virunga massif that harbor the endangered mountain gorillas and 8 volcanoes. Virunga massif consists of Volcanoes national park Rwanda, Virunga national park Congo and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda all harboring the mountain gorillas.
Volcanoes National park Rwanda is therefore known as the best destination for both Gorilla trekking and volcano hike since 5 of the 8 volcanos within Virunga massif can be accessed from Rwandan side in Volcanoes national park including Mount Bisoke and Mount Karisimbi which thrill inside volcanoes national park Rwanda , Mount Gahinga and Mount Muhavura that are shared by Mgahinga gorilla national park uganda and Volcanoes national park Rwanda and finally Mount Sabyinyo that is shared amongst 3 countries of Uganda, Rwanda Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tourist activities in Volcanoes National park Rwanda
Mountain Gorilla trekking
This is the major and most thought after safari done in Volcanoes National park Rwanda that became more famous after the release of Gorillas in the Mist film that saw a dedicated American Primatologist Dian fossey come up to conserve and protect the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitats though she was later on murdered by poachers at her Karisoke research center located in between Mount Bisoke and Mount Karisimbi. At the time of writing this article, Volcanoes National park Rwanda is a home to 12 habituated gorilla families and a permit to trek gorillas in Volcanoes national park costs $1500 per person obtained from Rwanda Development Board. This makes it the most expensive permit as compared to a Ugandan permit at $700 and a Congo permit at $400 to trek similar gorillas.
Golden monkey trekking
Apart from mountain gorilla trekking, the park is as well the only destination in Rwanda where one can engage in Golden monkey trekking. Trekking these Golden monkeys in Rwanda is such a rewarding and fascinating experience as you watch these cute primates jumping over the bamboo forest and cheerfully playing. On a lucky day, you will be able to see these Golden monkeys jumping over your shoulders. Take as many photographs as possible since these primates be jumping thus not easy to catch good shots. Just like Mountain gorilla trekking, Golden monkey trekking in the also takes only 1 hour with these primates closely interacting and taking photographs. A permit to trek Golden monkeys costs $100 per person.
Birding and bird watching
The park is also a best destination to visit for Birding and Bird watching safaris. Combining a primate safari with bird watching making an entire Rwanda safari to the park more refreshing. The park thrills with over 200 species of birds thus taking on a guided birding safari with the local guide opens up a door for you to watch as many birds as possible. Some of these bird species include Rwenzori turaco, red-faced warbler, handsome francolin, Archer’s ground robin, Grauer’s rush warbler, dusky crimson-wing, Rwenzori double – collared Sunbird, collared Apalis, handsome francolin and many more.
Since the park thrills with 5 of the 8 volcanoes in virunga massif, Volcano hike is one of the adventurous activities never to miss out. This can be enjoyed alongside gorilla trekking either a day before or after gorilla trekking. The most hiked volcanos in the park are Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke. The other volcanoes, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Gahinga and Mount Muhavura are best hiked from Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda the pearl of Africa.
Visiting Musanze caves
These Musanze caves came up as a result of volcanic eruption leaving behind some underground holes that became caves. These Musanze caves were used as hiding places during the Rwanda Genocide. They are long enough to accommodate people are part of the major tourist attractions of the park.
Dian fossey hike
A hike to summit the grave of the American primatologist Dian Fossey is one of tourist activity enjoyed in the park. This enables hiker to get to know more about the life style of Dian fossey and how she dedicated her life to protect the Gorillas though she ended up losing her life to selfish poacher that murdered her at her research center.
Most people usually substitute Golden monkey trekking with Dian fosse hike though if there is enough time, one can do gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking and hike up dian fossey tomb along Mount Bisoke and Mount Karisimbi.
A hike to Dian fossey starts early in the morning with briefing before setting off on a hike. During the hike, look around for different wildlife species including Elephants, forest hogs, buffaloes and abundant of birdlife among others. While at the grave, you will be able to visit the grave of Dian’s favorite gorilla decimal who was as well murdered by poachers and buried at Karisoke Research Center.
During the Cultural tours, you will visit the Ibyiwacu cultural Village/ the Gorilla guardian village which is the best place to visit while on a cultural tour in Rwanda. The local community members in this Cultural village were once involved in poaching but now they are part of the Conservation Program to ensure that the Gorillas are safe. At the end of the cultural tour, tourists enjoy a thrilling performance of cultural dance and drama.
Guided nature walks
Taking on a guided walks in Volcanoes national park enables tourists to explore different parts of the park and the surrounds on foot. There is an opportunity of visiting the twin lakes of Burela and Ruhondo, visiting the waterfalls and many more.
Visiting Genocide memorial site
This can easily be combined with Kigali city tour with a chance to explore most of the genocide memorial sites that were put in place to commemorate the brutal killings of several Rwandese during the 1994 Genocide.
By road, the driving distance from Kigali Rwanda to the park takes about 2 hours. And from Cyanika border a Uganda – Rwanda border, it takes about 45 minutes’ drive to connect to Volcanoes national park Rwanda thus easy to combine a safari to south western part of Uganda with Volcanoes National park Rwanda.
By Air, Akagera Aviation Services offer flights to the park and any other park in Rwanda.
Where to stay/ accommodation
Here are some of the lodges where to stay in during a safari to Volcanoes national park Rwanda. Some of these accommodations thrill with in and around the park and they include; One & Only Gorilla nest, Virunga lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback lodge, Bisate lodge, Kiningi guest house, Le Bambou gorilla lodge, Kwitonda Lodge, Muhabura hotel, and Mountain gorilla view lodge, Hotel Muhabura, Villa Gorilla, Da Vinci gorilla lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique hotel and many more.