When planning to visit Volcanoes National Park, several questions linger in your minds and one of them is “what wildlife species can I see when I visit Volcanoes National Park. A safari to Rwanda can involve watching several wildlife species which provides an insight to the real reason why this country’s tourism sells like a hot cake hence one of the top African countries to visit for a life changing safari.
This 160 square kilometer national park is located in the Northwestern part of Rwanda, in Musanze district (Ruhengeri) bordering Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. It is 105kilometers West of Kigali and a 2 hours drive to this spectacular Park. Was the first national park to be established in Africa and has existed since 1925. Ever since that, it has always been the most visited Park in Rwanda. The sole purpose of its establishment was to conserve the Extinct Mountain Gorillas. The National Park is on a mountainous terrain with attitudes ranging from 2400meters to 4507 meters above sea level which offers a good habitat for these Giant creatures. So many interesting features form parts of this park including five volcanoes (Karisimbi at 4,507m, Muhabura at 4,127m, Bisoke at 3,711m, Sabyinyo at 3,634m and Gahinga at 3,474m).
Different wildlife species inhabit the Volcanoes National Park and they include the following:
The Volcanoes National park is incredibly a home 300 of the exceptional mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei). Mountain gorillas are acknowledged to be descendants of the old world monkey Oligocene Epoch dating back to approximately 34-24 years ago. These Giant Apes are very unique from other species of gorillas because of their exceptional features including the thicker and darker fur on their skin and are larger than the others. This Park has 10 habituated families of these endangered species of gorillas for tourists to visit. This is one of the paramount reasons as to why most tourists visit this Park. Tracking to see the Mountain Gorillas is an adventurous and a memorable opportunity that leaves reminiscences of the entire expedition. A face to face encounter with these Giant Apes is such a wonderful and exciting moment that cannot be easily described or explained by someone else except yourself when you get involved in it.
The National Park is comprised of distinctive vegetation zones located in areas or varying elevations. These have different plant species unique to the area. From 2400-2500mters above sea level, there exists the lower montane forest which mostly includes pristine farmlands. From 2600-3200 meters, there thrives a Neoboutonia forest and Bamboo forest which forms only 30% of vegetation in this altitude. The mountain gorillas usually feed on this bamboo. This is followed by Hagenia woodland, and then Hypericum zone exists. At 3500 to 4200m there is Lobelia zone and from 4300-4500m there is a thicket, mashes and non woody plants (grassland). All these vegetation zones have unique species of flora which are of interest to botanists.
Golden monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis kandti).Are a sub-species of the Blue monkey (Sykes monkey).These unique primate species together with the mountain gorillas form the real beauty of this National Park. Just like the mountain gorillas, they are habituated into groups to make them used to the presence of humans and there are two habituated golden monkey groups. They are found in the Afromontane and Bamboo forest towards the foot of the Volcanoes. Do not miss the delightful opportunity to trek the golden monkeys and learn more about them including their behavior. They are active, usually jump from one tree branch to another, are nosy, and play a lot on the ground. The astounding golden colored fur on their backs makes them outstanding. There are more interesting features to be unfolded and visiting the park to trek the golden monkeys is worthwhile.
The Elephant (Loxodonta Africana) and buffalos (Syncerus caffer) also exist in this park (two of the big five). Also present is the Giant Forest Hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni), Deer like Duiker, Spotted Hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), Bush Bucks (Tragelaphus scriptus), Bush Pigs (Potamochoerus larvatus) and Black-Fronted Duiker (Cephalophus nigrifrons).
There are over 180 recorded bird species whereby 16 species and 13 species are endemic to Rwenzori and Virunga Mountains respectively. Some of the bird species that exist include Archer’s ground robin, Red-faced woodland warbler, Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori batis, Grauer’s rush warbler, Handsome francolin, Strange weaver, Dusky crimson-wing, Rwenzori double collared sunbird and collared apalis among others.
In conclusion, numerous wildlife species exist in Volcanoes National park which include the prominent Mountain Gorillas, the unique Golden Monkeys, Elephants, Buffalos, bird species like the Rwenzori turaco and plant species of the various vegetation zones. The most exciting aspect about Volcanoes it that even when you have paid just for one activity, chances are that you can end up also sighting other wildlife species in this Park.