From the Journal

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Travel Tips

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is renowned for its epic gorilla trekking adventures, but there is so much more to this spellbinding destination. In the spirit of the International Day of Forests, we thought we’d spotlight this park and the significant role it plays in safeguarding a vital ecosystem that would be under constant threat without it’s dedicated stewardship.

Did you know? Volcanoes National Park is situated a short two-hour drive from the country's capital Kigali in north-western Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park that falls within the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. It takes its name from the 8 ancient volcanoes that lie along the Virunga Mountains and currently comprises a 160 sq. km area.

The fauna + flora of Volcanoes National Park

Rwanda’s biggest tourism drawing card by far is its gorilla population, and the Parc National de Volcans (as it is known locally) is certainly no exception. What was initially a small area around three of the region's volcanoes that was deemed a protected zone to safeguard the region's fast-dwindling Mountain gorilla population, was extended into Rwanda in 1929 and eventually divided into two parks in the early 60s, when Rwanda and the Congo gained independence.

American zoologist Dian Fossey was instrumental spearheading the campaign to protect the park's mountain gorillas against continued poaching until her death in 1985. Tourism in the area has grown significantly since 2005, when renewed efforts were put into drawing visitors to the area. Today, the park is home to a stunningly varied eco-system, as well as mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, spotted hyena, buffalo, elephant, bushbuck, duiker, and 170+ bird species.

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Parc National de Volcans

What exactly does gorilla trekking entail?

The Parc National de Volcans is home to 10 habituated gorilla families that are used to human interaction, which makes it possible to enjoy safe, organised trekking excursions within their territory. It is recommended that participants are moderately fit since a fair amount of walking is required to get to these habitats. Appropriate hiking gear such as trekking gloves, boots, rain jackets and a walking stick are required, and you will also need to take along your passport and gorilla permit on the day.

Hiking groups are assigned based on age and fitness, and each group is accompanied by a main guide and two armed scouts who track the trial ahead to ensure that visitors are safe at all times. Once you come upon the gorilla family your group was tracking, the trackers will clear the brush, so you may enjoy an unimpeded view. Direct interaction is discouraged, but you will be able to look on as the gorillas feed, groom, play and interact with each other. Photos are allowed, but flashes and camera sounds have to be off. After an hour, it will be time to head back to the park.

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"...each group is accompanied by a main guide and two armed scouts who track the trial ahead to ensure that visitors are safe at all times."

Top Tip: The Rwandan government only leases 80 gorilla trekking permits per day to ensure that the delicate eco-system that houses the gorillas are not overrun by visitors. As such, it is advised that travellers procure a gorilla trekking permit for their desired dates as soon as their travel plans are finalised. If you book your adventure through Ker & Downey® Africa, we would be able to assist you in doing so.

When is the best time to visit Volcanoes National Park?

Although the park offers trekking experiences throughout the year, the best time to travel is during the drier seasons, which calls between December and March, and June to September each year. This is the best time to spot the gorillas and it makes for better hiking, since the forest floor is not saturated with constant rain. However, it is a good rule of thumb to pack waterproof hiking gear whenever you visit - the weather around the equator is notoriously unpredictable.

If gorilla trekking sounds like your kind of adventure, a Ker & Downey® Africa LuxVenture® Expedition might be exactly the thing you need in your life. Our dedicated Adventurists are out there blazing the trail to tailor African safaris that allow our guests to challenge themselves, connect to the communities they encounter and leave a sustainable legacy as they travel. 

Sound good? Get in touch to find out more about our excursions to Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda and more. It’s a great big world out there, it’s about time you experienced it! If you'd like to find out more, you can download a copy of our Guide to East Africa here.

Bisate Lodge 2
Photo credit | Bisate Lodge, Volcanoes National Park
Bisate Lodge 3
Author Wolfe
Written by

Wolfe spent his youth on his scrambler in the Southern African wild, it was there where he developed a love for treacherous adventures, wildlife and the African bush. His decades of experience in African travel makes him uniquely equipped to guide International arrivals to the continent.