volcanoes national park

Volcanoes National Park

Background Information

“In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat,” wrote the eminent primatologist Dian Fossey, “are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest – the Virungas”.


Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, the Parc des Volcans protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range – home of the rare mountain gorilla – and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath. An exhilarating trek through the cultivated foothills of the Virungas offers stirring views in all directions. Then, abruptly, the trail enters the national park, immersing trekkers in the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest, alive with the calls of colourful birds and chattering of the rare golden monkey, and littered with fresh spoor of the mountains’ elusive populations of buffalo and elephant. Through gaps in the forest canopy, the magnificent peaks are glimpsed, easily accessible and among the highest in Africa, beckoning an ascent.

The bustling market town of Ruhengeri has a memorable setting at the base of the Virungas. On the outskirts of town, the natural bridge at Musanze – a solidified lava flow – is a fascinating relic of the volcanic activity that shaped this scenic area. Also within easy day tripping distance of Ruhengeri are the seldom visited but lovely Lakes Burera, Ruhondo and Karago. Ruhengeri offers a good selection of reasonably-priced small hotels and guest houses, including the newly renovated hotel Gorilla’s Nest. Visitors could also base themselves in Gisenyi or Kigali and – with an early start – head to the Parc des Volcans and Ruhengeri as a day trip.

Where to find Volcanoes National Park

About Volcanoes National Park:
Volcanoes is known for the famed work by zoologist Dian Fossey, who spent 20 years in the park among the gorillas, conducting valuable research and campaigning for their protection. She was tragically killed in the park - a murder suspected to have been committed by poachers.

The famed film 'Gorillas in the Mist' was a film based on Fossey and her life in the Volcanoes National Park, and it was filmed in the renowned park itself.

The Volcanoes NP is home to 5 of the 8 volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains, some of which can be hiked to view the dark lakes that have formed in their craters.

Getting there:
Volcanoes National Park is about 105 kilometers (65 miles) away from the Country’s city and Airport (Kigali), it can be accessed by road and by air. By air you can land in Kigali International Airport after which you drive/be driven for 2 hours to reach the Park.

What to do:
Tracking endangered mountain gorillas through the mysterious intimacy of the rain forest, alive with the calls of 200 species of colorful birds and chattering of the rare golden monkey, is only one of the truly unique experiences in the area. Within the boundaries of Volcanoes National Park are Buhanga Eco-Park, an ancient forest holding Rwanda’s most intriguing folklore and Musanze Caves, formed 62 million years ago after the last estimated volcanic eruption. Hiking, canoeing, mountain biking and village experiences offer something for everyone to enjoy.

When to go:
Rainfall defines the seasons in Rwanda. There is a ‘long rainy season’ that lasts from March until May, during which time the rain is heavy and persistent. June to September brings the ‘long dry season’, which maintains some cloud cover and might bring rare, light showers. The short rains follow in October and November before a short dry spell returns from December to February. The best time for a gorilla trekking safari is in the dry seasons when the hiking conditions are ideal.

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