Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda
Located in the far northwest of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park protects the steep slopes of the Virunga mountain range, and is a rich mosaic of ecosystems that are home to more than half the world’s endangered mountain gorillas.
Everything you need to know about Volcanoes National Park
Situated far up in the northwest of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) protects the steep slopes of the Virunga Mountain Range. It is the oldest national park in Africa, and is home to more than half of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Named after the chain of dormant volcanoes that make up the Virunga Massif, the park was the base for world-renowned primatologist Dian Fossey, and subsequently became the filming location for Gorillas in the Mist – the autobiographical film that portrayed Fossey’s life on the big screen. The park is considered one of the best gorilla trekking destinations in the world.
Where is the park located?
Easily accessible from Rwanda’s capital Kigali – located only 80kms away – the Volcanoes National Park is located on the Rwandan slope of the Virungas and covers 62 square miles (160 square kilometres) of rainforest. The Virungas are an expansive mountain range that straddle the countries of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and make up a branch of the Albertine Rift Mountains. The park encompasses five of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains, namely Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo, and is home to roughly half of the world’s wild population of mountain gorillas.
About the park
What type of wildlife will we see?
The park has areas of very high and low altitude, which allows for a vast change in landscapes. As altitude changes, forests and bamboo thickets become marshes and grasslands. Due to its diverse ecology, you’ll experience a great diversity in wildlife.
While it may be one of the most biographically diverse areas on the planet, the main attraction to Volcanoes National Park are the endangered mountain gorillas. Another highlight is the golden monkey – a subspecies of Sykes monkey – which is endemic to the Virunga mountains, inhabiting bamboo forest below 3000m. Other mammals include the rare forest elephant, black-fronted duiker, and bushbuck. The park is also home to around 180 species of bird, with endemics such as the Rwenzori double-collared sunbird.
Top experiences to enjoy at Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking is the number one reason so many people visit this extraordinary region – and for good reason. Volcanoes National Park is home to around 400 of these magnificent animals, and there are between 10 and 12 habituated tribes that call the mountainous slopes home. A trek to see them face-to-face is a life-changing experience.
The forest, however, is packed with loads of other incredible creatures including the rare golden monkey, and fantastic birding. A visit to the park can also be combined with an adventurous hike to the tomb of the late American primatologist, Dian Fossey, who is buried between the beautiful volcanic peaks of Bisoke and Karisimbi. There are also guided walks, mountain biking, and cultural experiences on offer.
When to visit Volcanoes National Park
The best time to visit the Volcanoes National Park is during the dry months between December and February, and June to mid-September when gorilla trekking is at its best. This season allows for exceptional spotting of gorillas and other wildlife.
Though March to May, and October and November, are considered the rainy months, it’s important to note that sometimes there can be days on end where there is no rain at all. This time of year is when the forests are lush and green, and new plant life attracts an abundance of birds. This is a great time for birders, as well as avid photographers.