Have you ever heard about Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda? Have you ever heard about Dian Fossey? Volcanoes National Park is one of the few renowned homes to the endangered mountain gorillas. It is the park that is featured in movies like the “Gorillas in the Mist, and it is part of the larger Virunga region premiered in the 2014 movie “VirungaMovie” produced by NetFlix.
Volcanoes National Park is situated amidst the five out of eight Virunga ranges namely Muhabura, sabyinyo, karisimbi, Visoke/ Bisoke and Gahinga volcanoes. The strategic location of the park plus the endowment of Mountain Gorillas makes the park one of the most important tourist destinations in Rwanda and the world at large. It’s only three hours drive from Kigali to Volcanoes National park and the journey rewards visitors the view of the mighty virunga ranges and valleys en route.
Currently, Volcanoes national park hosts ten gorilla families like Sabinyo group, susa gorilla family, Amahoro group, Group 13, Umubano group, Kwitonda gorilla family, Hirwa gorilla family, karisimbi gorilla group, Ugenda gorilla and Bwenge gorilla group. Each gorilla group is allowed to be visited by a maximum of eight people thus 80 people visit the park daily – this happens in peak season when each group receive visitors.
Volcanoes national park was gazetted in 1925. This park is mostly known after the famous primatologist Doctor Dian Fossey who arrived in this park in 1967 setting up Karisoke Research Centre between Visoke and Karisimbi, Dian Fossey, later was assassinated by poachers she had vehemently fought all her life as portrayed in her autobiography – Gorillas in the Mist. Her graveyard at the research centre has to date become agreat tourist attraction.
Though most travelers who visit the park go for mainly gorilla tracking, there are lots of other things to see! The Volcanoes National park Golden monkeys, Spotted Hyena, buffaloes, elephants, black-fronted duiker, and bushbuck. The park also harbors 178 bird species including at least 29 endemics to Rwenzori Mountains and the Virungas.
Volcanoes national park is occupied by rain forests which are characterized by high rain fall and bamboo forest – type of flowering perennial evergreen plants in the grass family. The bamboo forests are not dark as tropical or rain forest thus making it easier for Gorilla tracking.
Unlike in Uganda, Rwanda Gorilla trekking is much easier due to the following reasons:
Volcanoes National park is easily accessible – 3 hours drive from Kigali international Airport making it possible for one day Gorilla trekking safari – for visitors with the tight schedule.
Volcanoes national Park is endowed by bamboo forest- easily penetrable when searching for the gorillas – Unlike the tropical forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga forest national Park.
In Volcanoes National park, visitors are given chance to choose the gorilla group they wish depending on the level of fitness or health conditions. Strong trekkers can decide to trek the gorilla group in distant area and the weaker ones choose to trek a nearby Gorilla group (2-3 hours) walk.