Volcanoes National Park is at the corner or northwestern Rwanda. This Rwanda National Park is a breath-taking unforgettable place where culture, adventure and conservation intersect.
Volcanoes National Park is also known as “Parc National de Volcans” (or PNV as it’s known by locals). The park lies along the Virunga Mountains, with 8 ancient volcanoes. Volcanoes National Park shares border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Just a short two hour drive from Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, Volcanoes National Park is a central location for exploring some distinctly Rwanda safari experiences.
Most people going to Volcanoes National Park have the mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda as the top agenda. At Parc National de Volcans you will enjoy the dramatic landscape also offers thrilling hiking and visits to the fascinating golden monkeys.
Parc National de Volcans is also one of Rwanda’s conservation epicenters. There are many non-profit organizations bases near Volcanoes National Park. Here, visitors can pay homage to the legendary scientist and gorilla advocate Dian Fossey. This includes a hike to her tomb or a visit to the Dian Fosse Gorilla Fund that continues her legacy of research and advocacy to this day.
Near Volcanoes National Park is the bustling and vibrant markets of Musanze. It is from this place that you are able to immerse yourself into everyday Rwandan culture. Go deep into the earth with Musanze’s caves – one of the area’s newest attractions.
Location and Size of Volcanoes National Park
Spanning on a 160 SQ. KM. area in the northern part of Ruanda, Volcanoes national park is part of the great Virunga volcano conservation region spanning to cover Virunga national park Congo and Mgahinga national park Uganda. It was initially a small area around Karisimbi, Mikeno and Visoke volcanoes which was gazetted to protect the Mountain gorillas which were facing the threat of extinction as a result of poaching.
How to Get to Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is located in a small village called Musanze previously well-known as Ruhengeri. The area is very accessible by public transport from Gisenyi or Kigali or from the airport. The drive to Volcanoes national park is 2 hours and hence one can do gorilla trekking in Rwanda on the same day and drive back to Kigali after thereafter. You will be required to arrive at the headquarters of ORTPN in Kinigi, at Parc National de Volcans entrance, by 7:00 am. Therefore, if you hope to trek Rwanda gorillas for one day, you have to wake up very early for your journey so that you are on time. However, there isn’t any public transport from Musanze to the headquarters of the park at Kinigi.
History of Volcanoes National Park
In 1929, Virunga was extended into Rwanda and the then Belgian Congo and was named Albert national park managed and run by the Belgian Colonial Authorities. During early 1960s, the park was divided as Rwanda and Congo gained their independence and by the end of that decade, the park was almost half of its original size.
In 1967, the American zoologist Dian Fossey who had been doing research on mountain Gorillas in the forests of Congo fled from insecurity. She established her research base at a place between Visoke and Karisimbi volcanoes that was yet to be known as Karisoke research center. She spearheaded the conservation campaign of the mountain gorillas and mobilized resources to fight against poaching in this area. This was a fight she put up until her murder in 1985. She was buried at the research center next to the grave of her favorite gorilla called Digit.
Volcanoes National Park continued to suffer at the mercies of poachers though conservation efforts were also under way. In early 1990s, Parc National de Volcans became a battle field for the Rwanda’s civil war which paralyzed tourism activities until 1999. In 2005, in a bid to boost conservation and gorilla tourism in Volcanoes national park, Rwanda introduced the annual baby naming ceremony for baby gorillas known as ‘Kwita Iziina’ which has seen great results in as far as gorilla population in volcanoes is concerned.
What to Do in Parc National de Volcans
Mountain Gorilla Tracking
Gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is second to none in attracting tourists into the country. The mountain gorillas are critically endangered, with fewer than 900 left in the wild worldwide.
Time is running out to see these gentle giants in their natural habitat, which is why this experience is at the top of most visitor’s lists.
Mountain Gorilla Families in Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park has 11 habituated gorilla families. In visiting the park, you may come to meet any of them – Susa, Amahoro, Sabyinyo, Ugenda, Hirwa, Umubano, Karisimbi, just but to name a few.
Each gorilla group can be seen by a maximum of eight people per day. To visit, you must book a gorilla permit in advance, which is priced at $750 USD each. A maximum of 88 gorilla permits are on offer each day and are given on a first come, first serve basis.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda starts in the morning with assembly at the park headquarters for a briefing about the activity.
This is followed by a hike through the bamboo forests of Volcanoes National Park, keeping an eye out for the gorillas in their natural habitat.
The trek can take anywhere from one to six hours depending on the movement of the mountain gorillas across their habitat. You’ll spend a maximum of one hour with the gorillas, where you’ll be able to take photos and videos.
Trekkers are accompanied by trained Tour Guides who are well-informed about different wildlife in the park and will lend a hand along the trek. They could carry your daypack or offer you a helping hand if you were to get stuck in the mud!
Golden Monkey Trekking
Rwanda Golden monkeys trekking takes place in Volcanoes national park and at the same time 7:00. This is just like gorilla trekking in Rwanda. These rare species are also listed as endangered – and Volcanoes national park currently has two habituated golden monkeys’ troops that are available for visiting by tourists in the park, both of which make about 80 members.
Golden monkeys in Rwanda live in the bamboo vegetation towards the base of the volcanoes and habituation has helped them to overcome their initial shyness to accept their daily visit by researchers and tourists.
Trekking golden monkeys and gorillas is a similar experience – in a small group of no more than eight people, and you can spend one hour with the monkeys once you find them.
They are very active creatures, and jump from tree to tree which is really interesting and a little difficult to photograph! The golden monkey trek is worth going for while in Volcanoes National Park and if you’re interested in wildlife, this is a rare and delightful experience not to be missed!
Dian Fossey Tomb Tour
Hiking to the Dian Fossey Tomb is one of the most sought after Rwanda safari activities carried out while visiting Volcanoes national park for a gorilla trip. The trek involves a 30 minutes’ drive from the park headquarters to the trail head to access the Karisoke research camp. Here visitors walk for 10 minutes to the park boundary.
The walk from the park boundary to the research center where the Dian’s grave is, takes about an hour to 1 hour and a half hours. It affords one good views of forest hogs, forest elephants, a variety of primates and bird species.
This hike is an incredible experience physically, emotionally and intellectually. It is so inspiring to learn about someone who was so dedicated and left a legacy that exists even today. The hike involves moving through the forests and hiking up the slopes. Therefore requires some relative degree of fitness and patience.
At the site you will find the house from where Dian Fossey was mysteriously murdered in 1985. However, the more peaceful is the place where she was buried just next to her favorite gorilla friend, Digit. This also include about 20 other mountain gorillas either killed by poachers or suffered death for other reasons.
Twin Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo
The twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo were named so because they are situated in the same areas and their physical connection. They are located within Musanze district a walk away from the Volcanoes national park. The lakes offer tourists a beautiful view of landscape, wetland habitat, and water birds.
Other activities in Parc National de Volcans
There are other activities that one can indulge in after trekking Rwanda gorillas. They include:
- Hiking Karisimbi volcano (3,800 m)
- One day hike of Bisoke volcano
- Iby’Iwacu cultural village Tour
- Musanze Cave Tours
|Languages spoken||French, English, Kinyarwanda|
|Currency used||Rwandese Franc (RWF)|
|Area (km2)||160 SQ. KM|