Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is found in northwestern side of Rwanda and is the home to the endangered mountain gorillas. The park borders the  Virunga National Park in the eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in south western Uganda. Volcanoes National Park Rwanda also known in French as Parc National Des Volcans is a preserve for the gorillas in Rwanda. Volcanoes Park Rwanda is also a home to five out of the eight volcanoes that characterize the Virunga Mountains. These include Mount Bisoke, Karisimbi, Gahinga, Muhabura and Sabyinyo, all covered with bamboo and rainforests. Volcanoes Park was also the base for the zoologist Dian Fossey, a gorilla activist who was murdered in 1985 by the alleged poachers. Fossey was at the frontline of fighting against poachers in her conservation efforts for then then critically endangered mountain gorillas.

In 1925, it’s when Volcanoes National Park was first gazetted as a minor area limited to Karisimbi, Visoke and Mikeno with a sole aim of protecting the endangered mountain gorillas from deadly poachers. This was the first National Park to be set up in the whole of Africa. Consequently, in the year 1929, the park borders were widened more into Rwanda and the Belgian Congo to formulate the Albert National Park, a massive zone of 8090 km2, managed by the Belgian colonial establishments who were in control of both the colonial clusters. About 700 hectares (1729 acres) of the park were cleared for a human use and settlement in 1958.

Shortly after Congo, then Zaire attained independence in 1960, the park was divided into two sections. And following Rwanda’s 1962 independence, the new government decided to preserve the park as a tourist and conservation area even when the new administration was by now anguishing from the problems of overpopulation. The park area was split fifty by fifty in 1969 and between 1969 and 1973; 1050 hectares (2593.5 acres) of the park were cleaned for the growing of pyrethrum.
In the years later, the park became the base for an American environmentalist and ecologist, Dian Fossey for doing her research among the gorillas. Fossey came in 1967 and started the Karisoke Research Centre in between Visoke and Karisimbi. From that time onwards, she committed much of her time inside the park. She is far and wide recognized for saving from extinction the gorillas by conveying their predicament to the awareness of the global community. She was assassinated in 1985by unknown attackers at her home, a tragedy suspected to have been committed by poachers she had fought for a long time. Her life afterwards was depicted on the large screen in the popular film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’, so-called after her biography. The grave of Fossey is in the park at a place near the research center and also amongst the gorillas whose fate characterized her adult life.

During the Rwandan Civil War of the 1990s, Parc National Des Volcans became a battleground, with the headquarters of the park being attacked in 1992. At that time, the research centre was left un-attended to all tourist activities including gorilla trekking were suspended. There was no work at the park until 1999 when the park was thought to be out danger. At the moment, the Rwandan army that has maintained countrywide security keeps a keen surveillance around the park and the surrounding areas to ensure total peace.

Park Vegetation

Vegetation at the park differs substantially due to the large elevation range within it. There is certain lower montane woodland (now mainly lost to agriculture). In between 2400 and 2500 m, there is Neoboutonia jungle. From the height of 2500 to 3200 m, bamboo forest (Arundinaria alpina) exists, occupying around 30% of the park land area. And from 2600 to 3600 m, is Hagenia-Hypericum forest, ordinarily on the more moist gradients in the south and west and covers nearly 30% of the park. it is among the biggest wooded area of Hagenia abyssinica. The foliage from 3500 to 4200 m is featured with Lobelia wollastonii, Senecio erici-rosenii and L. lanurensis and takes roughly 25% of the park. From 4300 to 4500 m, grassland happens. Secondary thicket, marshes, meadows, swamps and small lakes also occur; even their total area is comparatively small.

Animal Life

The park is distinguished for the mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei). Other mammals found at the park consist of golden monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), buffalo (Syncerus caffer), black-fronted duiker (Cephalophus niger), bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) and spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta). Some elephants are also reported to be in the park although these are at present very uncommon. Around 178 bird species are recorded with at least 13 species and 16 subspecies prevalent to the Virunga and Ruwenzori Mountains.

Safaris to Volcanoes National Park 

The beautiful town of Musanze, formerly known as Ruhengeri is the base for gorilla trekking tourism in Rwanda. The area has lots of accommodation facilities, cafes and restaurants and is effortlessly reachable on a 2 hour drive from Kigali. The headquarters of Volcanoes National Park are established in the proximate Kinigi village. Kinigi, the place where all tourists converge early morning for briefings before beginning on their gorilla hikes is the managerial centre for permits.

The dispensing of gorilla trekking permits is stringently controlled in Parc National Des Volcans and it is therefore worthwhile to plan your vacation well in advance especially when you intend to visit Rwanda in a busy period running from June to September so as to warranty obtainability.

Activities at the Park

  1. Gorilla Trekking, There park has ten habituated gorilla groups for tourists to visit permitting a total of 80 permits per day, with each family hosting 8 guests. by 7:00 am, tourists transfer to the park head office for a pre-tracking updating. One hour is granted to the tourists once they meet the gorillas.
  2. Golden monkey visits.
  3. Mounting of Karisimbi volcano for two days with overnight go camping at an highness of 3,800 m.
  4. Hiking of Bisoke volcano for one day.
  5. Tour of the lakes and caves.
  6. Visiting the burial place of Dian Fossey.
  7. Touring of Iby’Iwacu cultural village

The majority of proceeds from visiting the park go to conserving the park and safeguarding the wildlife plus helping improve the lifestyles of the local people in the surrounding areas.

Gorilla Trekking

Safaris to see gorillas in Rwanda also termed as Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda are the main activities in the park. Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo are the only three countries on the globe where mountain gorillas are found. Tracking Gorillas in Rwanda is over and over again termed as ‘life changing’ and with noble reason. With a projected 880 Gorillas only remaining in the world, to see them in their natural habitat is a justly exceptional experience.

Mountain Gorillas make their households in the midst of the bamboo-covered hills of the Volcanoes National Park in the Virunga Mountains in northern parts of Rwanda. When trekking to see gorillas, you will be led by your professional trackers and guides to one of the fully-habituated gorilla families where you stay for one hour. Treks in the mountains can take between 1 to 4 hours based on the allocated family and their location on that day. The excursion back can similarly take just as long but you will find it easier since it’s mainly involves descending than ascending the hills. Also the excitement you feel after seeing the gorillas often energizes!

When going for gorilla trekking, you get pre-trek briefing on particular etiquette and rules for visiting them. Gorillas live within a height above sea level of 2500 to 4000m. There are porters to help carry packs and cameras and helping you while footing along your walk.

Rwanda Gorilla Permits – Tickets for Park Entry to See the Gorillas

Book your gorilla permit and be assured of tracking. Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is in charge of selling Gorilla permits. And one can contact them directly for bookings. But since RDB is not a tour operator, better you book your permit via a safari operator who will as well organize the whole safari for you from the beginning to the end.

Gorilla Permits Costs:

USD $1500 per person for non-nationals

These fees are all inclusive of the charges for park entry.

Gorilla Families at the Volcanoes National Park

There are 10 habituated Gorilla families or Groups at the Volcanoes National Park. These are the groups that are availably accessible for gorilla trekking tours with 8 persons being permitted per each group. Tourists are given one hour to be with the gorillas from the minute they spot them. The gorilla groups are; Sabinyo, Amahoro, Susa group, Umubano, Group 13 (Agasha group), Kwitonda, Bwengye, Hirwa, Ugenda plus Karisimbi.

The volcanoes National Park is a segment of the enormous Virunga mountains. At minimum, over 480 mountain gorillas inhabit the Virunga and survive at a highness ranging from 2,300- 4,500 meters in the lower parts of Virunga National Park (DRC) and the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda plus a smaller number in Mgahinga National Park found in Uganda.

The gorilla groups are divided into two sections. There are those for doing research activities and are only accessible by academicians and scientists. These groups are Pablo’s Shida’s and Beetsme, both boast of the largest number of individuals. The second fragment of gorillas is those in 10 groups adapted for tourism program and are the ones trekked by visitors.

Susa Group or Susa A Family

This is the gorilla group that Dian Fossey, a celebrated gorilla preservationist exceedingly studied. The group derives the name from Susa River which flows through their habitation range. The group is the most intricate in hiking due to its high elevation. Nevertheless, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Tourism & Conservation trackers would impeccably know in advance where the members were a day before trekking by visitors takes place. Seldom, tourists have been stopped from trailing the group because of its far-flung location.

Suza group is very amazing with a household size as of now of 28 gorilla individuals. The group has three Silverbacks (male gorillas). Suza was the largest group earlier before it divided into two. The bigger gorilla cluster had 42 members. Visiting and observing the gorillas was massive and the animals could be seen all over the place. This family is also popular with the young playful twins christened Impano and Byishim. Suza group also has one of the oldest identified familiarized gorillas called Poppy. This was born in 1976 and is believed to be from one of the original gorilla groups by Dian Fossey.

Karisimbi Family or Susa-B

Karisimbi disjointed from the Original family, Susa and is at the moment dubbed as Karisimbi Group/Susa-B. This group that continuously lives on the slants of Karisimbi Volcano (4507M), the highest height in Rwanda is comprised of 15 members. This group is well suitable for tour by serious trekkers. Kirisimbi put up their home amazingly up on the inclines of the Karisimbi caldera. On that note, an expedition to this group could turn into a long-day hiking undertaking. The family at times travels to upper altitude, making pursuing very tasking. On the other hand, the tourism and conservation guides from Rwanda Development Board (RDB) know clearly in advance the possible locations to trace the group on the following tracking day. The fact that this family is in far areas, doing treks to it are limited.

Sabyinyo Gorilla Group

Sabyinyo Gorilla Family is the most effortlessly easy to get to group in the Volcanoes National Park. This gorilla cluster has a dominant silverback, Guhonda, the largest silverback among all the groups as its head. Guhonda is distinguished by his enormous bodily appearance. The group head has succeeded in keeping his main challenger, Ryango, outside the family as a lonely silverback. Different from other groups, this one has a little number of members, even though they are exciting as a family. Sabinyo that gets the name from Sabyinyo Volcano, which means ‘the old man’s teeth’, is also among the very nearest families at the edge of the park. The group has 8 members comprising of 1 Silverback, 3 females, a non-female adult and 2 young ones plus a baby.

Amahoro Gorilla Group

Amahoro in Rwandese language means ‘peaceful’. Implying this is the most extremely peaceful families out of all the 10 groups. It has 17 members including 1 Silverback, 5 females adults, 2 Sub male adults, 2 black backs plus 2 Juveniles and 5 Babies. Nonetheless, harmony at Amahoro happens at an expense. Ubumwe, the head silverback is so diplomatic and calm that he has lost any group members to Charles, the silverback at the Umubano group. To access Amahoro group, one must withstand a relatively sheer ascent but the hike is soundly worth an effort just in case bumps into contact with this peaceful group.

Agashya Group

Agashya family previously called “Group Thirteen”, is commonly found near the Sabinyo group. This group around 25 gorilla members including two silverbacks.

Kwitonda Group

Kwitonda Group is blessed with 18 individuals and was habituated in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The family later transfered to Rwanda in 2005. It didnt return ans is at the moment open for seeing.

Hirwa Group

The Hirwa Group boasts of about 11 members including one silverback and  twins.

Bwenge Group

Bwengye Group si named after the family silverback. The group has 11 members and can be a tough trek.

The Ugende Group, which means “on the move” has its 11 members ever moving to various areas making it hard to trek.

The Best time for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda, best time to visit Rwanda

The best time to go for gorilla trekking in Rwanda is during the longer dry spells from June up to September and the shorter dry seasons between December and February. However, people can still visit Rwanda for gorilla safaris throughout the year and tourists almost attain a similar satisfaction. Many gorilla lovers always ask this question of when is the best time to do Rwanda gorilla trekking at the Volcanoes National Park. Many people on various platforms like trip advisor, lonely planet and many more have expressed their presumably ideal periods.

Mountain gorillas found in Volcanoes Park in Rwanda, Bwindi Forest in Uganda and in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park are among the most threatened species. A gorilla permit in Rwanda is priced at USD 750, whereas in Uganda it’s at USD 600 for high season months and USD 450 for low-season periods (April, May and November).

Rwanda weather and climate conditions

Most of the times, the best time to go to Rwanda is the ideally the same ideal time to do gorilla tracking there. This usually depends on many considerations including individual interests, the purpose of the visit and where specifically one want to go since one’s best time may be another one’s worst!

Therefore, we put for you together a basic guide to the climate and weather in Rwanda. What we give you is from our experience and records but remember that weather patterns in Africa are increasingly becoming unpredictable maybe due to global warming.

In the heart of the African continent, marginally south of the equator, Rwanda’s comparatively high elevation offers it with a extraordinarily amusing humid highland climate, notwithstanding also with sufficient rain. Temperatures diverge significantly among locations because of their highness, but very little from one month to the other in the same place. In the capital city, Kigali, the normal day-to-day temperature is nearly 21°C.

The rain seasons in Rwanda lasts from March to May and this is when rain is much and persistent. And the long dry period runs from June to the middle of September. This is normally the best time to visit the country if you have any willingness and purpose especially regarding gorilla trekking or other tour interests. from October up to November is a smaller wet season followed by a short dry time from December running up to February. Nonetheless during the dry seasons in Rwanda, there is regularly light cloud shield, which helps to restrain the temperatures and as well sporadically brings light rain dips.

Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Lodges

For the most enjoyable gorilla trekking Safari, you need a good accommodation facility before and after the exercise. Around Volcanoes National Park, there are quite a number of decent lodges and hotels for your stay needs. These lodging facilities are in Budget, Midrange and Luxury categories to cater for all budgets and classes of travelers. These facilities have good meals, serene environment, excellent customer care and affordable rates. The lodges and hotels include:-

  1. Best View Hotel
    2. Faraj Hotel
    3. Garr Hotel
    4. Home Inn
    5. Kinigi Guest House
    6. La Palme Hotel
    7. Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge
    8. Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
    9. Muhabura Hotel
    10. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
    11. Sainte Anne
    12. Urumuli Hotel
    13. Virunga Safari Lodge
    14. Volcanoes Lodge
    15. Vuringa Lodge

Gorilla Trekking Rwanda Prices

Gorilla Trekking Permits Rwanda
To track gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, one must pay for a trekking permit at USD 1500. In Uganda, the same permit goes for USD 600. Though, the pride in Rwanda is in the easiness to trek gorillas. The exercise can be done in 1 days, 2 days or maximum 3 days and then after one flies back home. In Uganda, it’s a minimum of 3 days to undertake a gorilla trekking excursion. A safari to see gorillas in Rwanda would begin at least from USD 2000 upwards based on the number of days, accommodation category, extra activities involved plus the number of persons on the tour.

Golden Monkey Trekking Rwanda

Golden monkey trekking is one more activity highlight of the Volcanoes National Park. The Golden Monkey (Spanish for Cercopithecus Mitis Kandti) is a subspecies of the locally widespread Sykes Monkey also known as the Blue Monkey which is prevalent to the high elevation forests of the areas of the Volcanoes National Park. The monkeys are full of fun, meddlesome and regularly use their time playing on the forest ground or skipping from bamboo branches.

At the park, there are two Golden Monkey groups that are habituated, one group embraces about 80 to 100 members and has its territory at Mt Sabyinyo base. Same as the treks to see Mountain Gorillas hikes to see Golden Monkeys occur in the morning hours and guests are allowed to stay for one hour near the monkeys. Exodus to trek Golden Monkeys is from the Headquarters of the park at Kinigi as early as 7:00 a.m. The number of tourists is not restricted and the charge for a Golden Monkey permit is at present at USD 100 per person per a hike. Such permits can either be booked in advance or arranged instantly at the park offices on the morning of the day for tracking. Porters are readily available for hire at the park entrance.

In case you need more information or want to book your golden monkey trekking permit, then you can contact any of the tour operators for help.