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Rwanda Volcanoes National Park Attractions, Activities, Gorilla Trekking, Accommodation Lodges Tel: +254723684974

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Edited date:

19 Aug 2020 17:47:45 +0300

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Rwanda Volcanoes National Park Attractions And Activities - An Introduction

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda alias Parc des volcans is an award winning adventure destination, a high altitude resort in the beautiful settings of the Virungas, a world heritage site for conservation of mountain gorillas, a nature lover's paradise famous for its unique, popular attractions and activities like gorila trekking, hiking and tracking, mountain climbing, bird watching, bush or cultural tours and sightseeing, a redzevous for the world rich and famous who desire adventure, finest dining and wining in the most beautiful and luxurious lodges. Despite the numerous tourist attractions and activities available in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park gorilla trekking is the main pull. Other attractions include the spectacular peaks of Mt. Muhabura (the guide), Sabyinyo (old man,s teeth), Gahinga (a pile of stones), Karisimbi, Bisoke. Besides gorilla hiking other activities in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park (parc des volcans) include golden monkey trekking, mountain climbing, bird watching and excursions to Lakes Ruhondo and Burera which gives visitors (tourists) a chance to interract with local communities. More challenging are scaling the three peaks of Karisimbi, Bisoke and Muhabura. For a complete primate experience Rwanda volcanoes gorilla trekking is best combined with chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest, Kyambura Gorge or Gombe National Parks. It can also be combined with visits to Serengeti, Masai Mara, Queen Elizabeth and climbing Mts Kilimanjaro and Kenya.


Besides Rwanda, gorilla trekking is also available in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Mgahinga National Park, in Uganda, and Virunga National Park in Congo.

Rwanda Volcanoes National Park is part of the bigger Virunga (Birunga) Conservation area which includes Mgahinga and Virunga National Parks in Uganda and DR Congo respectively. These three parks are the home of Mountain gorillas. The history of Volcanoes National Park (Parc des Volcans) dates back to 1925 when a small triangle between Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno was set aside to protect the Mountain Gorillas. Boundaries were later extended into Rwanda and DR. Congo (Zaire) to form the bigger Albert National Park.

Volcanoes was the first National Park in Africa. The park is famous for Mountain Gorilla tracking and its golden Monkeys. A good gorilla trekking safari experience takes minimum four days with two gorilla treks. The safari can be combined with visits to the nearby Lakes Burera, Ruhondo, Kivu and the local villagers. The gorilla safari can also be combined with chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park.

Location:

Volcanoes National Park is located Ruhengeri 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Kigali to the Northwest of Rwanda. The park occupy an area of about 130 Km2.

Rwanda Volcanoes National Park Attractions and Features

The main features and attractions in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park include the following.
  • The Virungas with five peaks-Karisimbi (4507M), Bisoke (3711M), Sabyinyo (old man's teeth) (3634M), Gahinga (a pile of stones) (3474M) and Muhabura (the guide) (4127M).
  • The last families of mountain Gorillas on earth.
  • Other primates including the rare golden monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis kandti)
  • Mammals lieCape buffalo, black fronted duiker;
  • a profusion of bird life including the Ruwenzori turaco, and beautiful francolins
  • In the vicinity the beautiful lakes Burera and Ruhundo.
  • The Virunga ecosystem is composed of 4 major vegetation zones: Bamboo (base altitude), Hagenia and Hypericum forest (2600-3300m), Sub-alpine (3300-4000m), and Afro-alpine (4000m+).
  • Crater Lakes-Between Bisoke and Sabyinyo volcanoes lies lakes Ngezi, Nyirambubu, Gasindikira and Muraro. Crater lake is at the peak of Bisoke. Visit to the lakes can be organized. High altitude makes it generally cold, especially during the evenings.

Gorilla Tracking Rwanda Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla Tracking safaris in Volcanoes National Park takes place in altitudes of about 2000 Meters above sea level. Volcanoes / Virunga Mountains experiences a modified equatorial climate. Volcanoes National Park (Par des Volcans) is both hilly and cold. The grounds are usually wet and the paths are full of stinging-nettles. Besides, the rains are random.

Thus proper preparation is important in terms of dressing and equipments.

What To Bring

Please bring the following items with you

  • Long trousers/ pants- to avoid stinging nettles The trousers must be strong enough to withstand occasional pulls from thorns.
  • Long sleeved shirts/ t-shirts. To avoid stinging nettles
  • Gloves- These are required to avoid injury to your hands. Remember the grounds are wet and slippery.
  • Hiking boots- Please bring average waterproof sturdy walking boots reaching ankle level not mountain climbing boots. Something light and hardy will do.
  • Warm cardigan- Volcanoes can get extremely cold. A warm cardigan is required to keep off cold.
  • Long sleeved Rain Coat or anorak -it can rain anytime in Volcanoes National Park even on hot days. The downpours are heavy and extremely cold.
  • Water proof container for your cameras. Yes I know there are waterproof cameras but even them to be sure just put them in a waterproof container. When you are slipping and falling in muddy grounds you do not want your precious photos damaged or do you?
  • If you desire headgear (hats), a baseball cap is recommended as gorillas are familiar to them.
  • Enough water- minimum of 2 litres of drinking water to avoid dehydration. Carry four just in case the hike proofs longer than expected. Sometimes it can be 8 hours.
  • Film Camera- A film camera for domestic use is recommended.
  • A camera
  • Bird Watching

  • If you are interested in birds, you can bring Field guide to birds of East Africa by Fanshawe and a pair of binoculars.

Rwanda Volcanoes National Park Accommodation, Lodges, Hotels

Rwanda Volcanoes National Park Lodges are categorized into three

  • Luxury from USD 450PP to USD 1000PP per night and over
  • Luxury lodges include Bisate, Sabyinyo SilverBack Lodge, Volcanoes Lodge, Kwitonda Lodge

  • Mid Range Lodges/ Hotels from USD 150 to USD 250 PP per Night Full Board
  • In this category are Mountain Gorilla View Lodge are Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Gorilla Nest Lodge, Le Bambou Lodge

  • Budget Lodges/ Hotels USD ≤50 to USD 75 PP per night Full Board
  • In this category and lodges within Ruhengeri/ Musanze like Center Chez John, Les Palms,

Rwanda Gorilla Families In Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Gorillas are social animals staying in groups or families of 6 to 40 or more individuals. A family comprises of the Alpha male (called the silver back), subordinate males (Black backs), females, juveniles and young ones. Each family has its own territory and a home range, where they forage for food. Territories are aggressively or physically defended against male intruders. Territorial fights are fatal and may lead to the death of the territorial or alpha male. Besides humans and diseases , a mature mountain gorilla has very few enemies.

Gorilla groups in Rwanda also called families are divided into two. The study groups/ families which are accessible to scientists and the tourist groups/families which are open for tourist tracking. The Study groups have the largest number of individuals. Study groups include Beetsme, Pablo's, Shida's and Bwenge. Besides these, there are seven(10) tourist groups hence 80 permits per day. The famous 7 are,-Susa, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Kwitonda, Group 13(Agashya), Umubano and Hirwa. Sometimes, these are joined by a migrant group from Uganda. Most of the potential gorilla trackers have diverse questions ranging from the best time to track, the existing gorilla families, accommodation facilities, when to buy permits, tracking rules and regulations and what to bring. We will answer most of these questions and many more on request. Seven gorilla families open for tourists. Only 8 tourists allowed per group per day.

Susa Group/ Family

the largest group with 41 gorillas. The group is very impressive with three silver-backs and several-black backs, females and several youngsters. Part of the fame of this group are playful 5 year old twins named Byishimo and Impano.The group roams the slopes of Karisimbi Volcano(4507M). Though the group is a bit difficult to track sometimes it is very near. Always find out their location from guides a day earlier

Sabyinyo Group/ Family

One of the easily accessible groups. The group has 8 members led by the biggest silverback known in the entire jungle called Guhonda.

Amahoro Group/ Family

Amahoro meaning peaceful has 17 members led by the peaceful Ubumwe. Amahoro is a more strenuous group to access compared to Group 13 or Sabyinyo

Group 13/ Family(Also Called Agashya)

When first habituated this group had only 13 members hence its name. Now the group has approximately 25 members.

Kwitonda Group/ Family

This migrant group from DR Congo has 18 members led by Kwitonda which means "humble one." It has two silverbacks and one blackback. Though the group tends to wander far, it is now permanently in the Rwanda Section of Virungas. Together with Susa this is one of the difficult groups to track.

Umubano Group/ Family

A family of 11, Umubano were originally Amahoro members but broke off after the dominant silverback was challenged by Charles, now the leader of Umubano. When a young silverback challenges the dominant silverback he must steal some females from the existing group in order to form his own family; thus Umubano was formed.

Hirwa Group/ Family-Hirwa

is the most diverse group comprising of gorillas from differently families mainly group 13 and Sabyinyo.

Gorilla Tracking Rules/ Gorilla Tracking Regulations / Dos/ Donts

Gorilla tracking is a million dollar practice with immense economic benefits to the local community, without which the mountain gorilla conservation would be a liability. This daily adventure has made the mountain gorilla one of the most expensive animals though not in league of the teddy bears.

Gorilla tracking in volcanoes national park is a clean practice (eco friendly) which ensures minimal impact to the local community, the environment and the gorillas. Rules and regulations have been put in place for the safety of the trackers, the gorillas and to check adverse environmental impacts. Besides these rules and regulations guarantees the continued existence of the gorilla as species, that is to avoid the extinction of the gorillas.

Encounter with the Gorillas has been described as thrilling, evocative and even emotional. The gigantic silver-backs are gentle and will rarely attach unless provoked. Young gorillas are a bit adventurous even playful and will come to touching distance of individual trackers. They are particularly attracted to bright colours like yellow. In that case avoid them. The following are the rules and regulations of tracking gorillas.

  1. Submissiveness When you encounter gorillas, you are required to portray total submissiveness. Do not look at them straight in the eyes and avoid standing over them. If the male gorilla charge at you, crouch down. Gorillas have freedom of way. Do not drum your chest. Do not shout, talk in whispers. The guides will advice on how to behave on encounter. Always follow the instructions from the guides.
  2. Gorilla Photography/Photographic Safaris. Flash photography is prohibited. Tourists are allowed normal photography and filming for domestic use. Special Photographic and filming safaris may be organized for particular groups. These will include those who want to film specifically for commercial use and documentaries. These will require accreditation cards unlike normal tourists.
  3. Health of the Gorillas There are currently approximately 700 mountain gorillas in the wild. Thus these animals are classified as endangered species. Gorilla tracking if unchecked can endanger the life of gorillas. Gorilla tracking in Rwanda is restricted to 8 persons per day per group. That makes a total of 56 permits per day. Avoid tracking gorillas if you suffer from contagious disease. In case you develop a severe case of flu, your money will be fully refunded if you make this known in advance. However if you attempt to track and fail for whatever reason, or if the guides discover that you cannot track due to disease, you are disqualified for any refunds and may even be fined. Do not sneeze towards them Do not spit in the forest or defecate carelessly. If you need to the guides will help you with a machete to dig a hole to bury your waste.
  4. Environmental consciousness: Gorilla tracking is a clean activity. Leave only your footprints in the national park. Do not litter and if you spot any litter, collect it and take it down with you.Do not collect any souvenirs from the park.
  5. Eating while tracking gorillas:
  6. You can carry your picnic but do not eat in the vicinity of the gorillas. You eating might encourage the gorillas to come and share your delicacy with you.
  7. Chest beating: Please do not imitate the male gorilla chest beating. The silver back will take that as a challenge and charge after you which can result in severe injuries. Please note that you are not liable for any compensation for any animal related injuries in the parks. Though charging has not been reported for a long time, please avoid any provocation as you will come out second best.
  8. Age Limit: Only people of 15 years and above are allowed track gorillas. However young children can engage in other activities in volcanoes like tracking golden monkeys.

When to buy permits

Permits should be bought in advance even 9 months before the dates of tracking. When to buy permits depends on when you want to track. If you wish to track during summer-June, Jul, August and September book even 7 months before the tracking date. It is not advisable to walk into ORTPN office in summer to buy permits as most of the dates are fully booked.

Other Activities in Volcanoes National Park

Apart from Gorilla tracking other attractions and activities in the vicinity of Ruhengeri and Volcanoes include:

  1. Visit to the grave of Dian Forsey and her gorilla Digit
  2. Climbing Bisoke 1 day
  3. Tour of the lakes Burera and Ruhondo
  4. Cave exploration-visit Musanze cave and the natural bridge
  5. Tracking the Golden Monkey. Away from Ruhengeri and volcanoes one can organize the following excursions if you finish trekking in time and return comfortably for overnight
  6. Half day excursions to lake Karago
  7. Half dau Excursion to lake Kivu.