Parc national des Volcans is a famous destination also referred to as Volcanoes national park in Rwanda which is located in the north western part of the country. Volcanoes national park is made up of steep slopes, bamboo forest, open grassland and heath and also swamps. This national park is famous for gorillas and it is also home to wildlife species including golden monkeys, buffalos, bushbucks and a variety of bird species.
The best time to visit Volcanoes national park is during the dry season from June, July, August, September and October as well as in December, January and February. The national park can also be visited during other months of the year.
Gorilla trekking in Parc national des Volcans
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is carried out in Parc national des Volcans which is home to the mountain gorillas.
There are 12 habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes national park and they include the Susa, Igisha, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Agashya, Kwitonda, Umubano, Hirwa, Bwenge, Ugyenda and Muhoza. Each of the gorilla groups is led by a silverback who is takes care of the rest of the group.
A gorilla permit in Volcanoes national park costs 1500 USD and a total of 80 gorilla permits are issued daily in the national park. Booking the gorilla permits in advance is recommended to avoid missing out on the activity especially during the high season when many tourists visit Rwanda and booking of permits can be done through a trusted licensed tour operator and also through the Irembo platform.
During gorilla trekking in Volcanoes national park, only 8 people are permitted to visit a gorilla group. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda starts at Kinigi at 7:00 am and children below the age of 15 years are not allowed to engage in the activity. The search for gorillas can take a few hours or go up to a whole day and when the gorillas are found in their natural habitat, tourists can enjoy recording videos and taking photos and also observing the gorillas.
Recommended attire for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes national park includes walking shoes, gaiters, waterproof jackets, gardening gloves, long sleeved shirts, hats and also sunglasses. It is also recommended to pack snacks and water for the hike during the search for the gorillas in Volcanoes national park.
Annually, an event known as kwita izina is held in Rwanda and it is a gorilla naming ceremony. The gorilla babies born in Volcanoes national park are named during the ceremony and this helps during monitoring the number of gorillas in the national park. This ceremony is also a good opportunity to meet the park rangers and other staff, enjoy cultural music and dance performances and talk about gorilla conservation.
Apart from Volcanoes national park, gorillas can also be seen in Bwindi national park in Uganda which costs 700 USD, Mgahinga national park in Uganda at 700 USD and also Virunga national park in Congo at 400 USD.
Other activities in Parc national des Volcans
Volcanoes national park is also a destination where activities such as volcano hiking, visiting the Dian Fossey tomb, visiting the twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo and also golden monkey trekking take place.
- Volcano hiking in Volcanoes national park takes place on Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura which are part of the Virunga ranges. Different trails are used during hikes in the national park and the shortest hike is to Lake Ngezi at the foot of Mount Bisoke which takes 3 hours to hike while getting to the summit of Mount Bisoke which is at 3700 meters takes about 5 hours and can also last a whole day.
Mount Karisimbi has the highest peak in Rwanda at 4507 meters and the hike to the summit takes 2 days. Hiking Mount Muhabura takes about 1 day and this mountain is about 4127 meters high.
- The twin lakes which are Lake Burera and Lake Rubondo can also be seen during hikes on Mount Muhabura. Another attraction seen around these lakes is the Rusumo falls which can be seen in the montane forests and the hike to the falls takes about 3 hours.
- The Dian Fossey tombs are about 30-minute drive from the park headquarters of Volcanoes national park. This activity takes about 2 to 3 hours of hiking through forest and it takes place in the saddle area between Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke. Dian Fossey played an important role in promoting conservation of the gorillas and other primates and she also carried out research about the gorillas.
- Golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes national park and the activity starts at Kinigi headquarters. The golden monkeys can be seen around the slopes of Mount Karisimbi and in the bamboo forest around Mount Sabinyo. The terrain is easier to trek to get to where the golden monkeys are in the national park as compared to the gorilla trek. This activity costs 100 USD during a trip to Rwanda.
- Visiting the Musanze caves is another activity to do in Volcanoes national park and it is believed that these caves were used for refuge by ancient kings in Rwanda and for storing food supplies during the war. This activity costs 50 USD and is done with an experienced guide.
How to get to Volcanoes national park
Volcanoes national park is 2 hours drive from Kigali city making it easy to get to the destination and engage in the various activities.
The national park is located in Musanze and there are both public and private means of transport which can be used to get to Volcanoes national park during a tour in Rwanda which is also known as the land of a thousand hills.
Where to stay in Volcanoes national park
During a safari to Volcanoes national park, the types of accommodation to choose from include budget accommodation, midrange accommodation and also luxury accommodation and some of these hotels include Sabyinyo silverback lodge, Bisate lodge, Singita kwitonda lodge, One and only gorillas nest, 5 volcanoes boutique hotel, Le Bambou gorilla lodge and many others.