Activities in Volcanoes National Park

Are you planning your trip to Rwanda but you do not which outdoor activities to participate in? Is Volcanoes National Park your dream destination in Africa? Without Volcanoes National Park, probably the tourism sector in Rwanda wouldn’t be as vibrant as it is to date. Also known as Parc National de Volcans, the Volcanoes national park is situated in Musanze province, Northwestern Rwanda and it inhabits several tourist attractions all of which offer visitors with a wide range of activities to choose the best that suits within their interests while on safaris in Rwanda. Among the notable natural attractions in this remarkable national park include the five Great Virunga Mountains ranges (mount Bisoke, Gahinga, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo and Muhabura), the rare mountain gorillas, Rivers, caves, Lakes and many more. The park was first gazetted in 1925 making it one of the oldest protected areas in Africa. With variety in offer, Volcanoes National Park is exceptionally one of the most sought after destinations by visitors on safari in Rwanda.

For visitor experiences in the Volcanoes national park, below are some of the exciting and breathtaking activities that you shouldn’t miss to engage in while on safari in Rwanda:

Mountain gorilla trekking

Rwanda’s tourism industry today boosts largely because of gorilla trekking. Most tourists, who come for safaris in Rwanda, travel mainly to see the rare mountain gorillas in the thick bamboo vegetation of Volcanoes National Park. The park features ten habituated groups that have been set for visitors to track every day. They include the Susa A group which derives its name from the Susa River and known to have been monitored by Dian Fossey-the famous primatologist, Sabyinyo family which is headed by the hugest silverback gorilla “Guhonda” in the entire Volcanoes National Park, Amahoro, Hirwa, Ugenda, Agashya, Kwitonda, Umubano, Karisimbi and Bwenge. To track a gorilla family in Volcanoes National Park, you will need to have a permit at hand. Rwanda sells trekking permits at $1500 per person and accessing one offers you a golden chance to strike your imaginations with these dramatic wild creatures. The permits can be obtained through a tour operator or through the Rwanda Development Board. The 10 habituated gorilla families translate to 80 permits and only eight visitors are assigned to track one group per day. The trek takes from 30 minutes to 8 hours depending on location of gorillas, nature of the habitat, visitor speed and many other factors. Visitors are given only one hour to be with the apes in the wild, explore their behavior and take as many photos as possible. Across the world, it is only in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo where you can catch a glimpse of these rare species while they are still in their natural habitat. Mountain gorillas are listed as the critically endangered species and there are fewer than 900 that are left in the entire world today. Therefore, a trip to Rwanda Volcanoes National Park rewards endeavors with the most amazing and thrilling experiences of lifetime. The park is accessible within 2 to 3 hours’ drive from Kigali International Airport.

Golden monkey tracking

Besides tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda, the Volcanoes National Park is where silver meets gold! The golden monkeys are a few fascinating creatures that are worth tracking while on safari in Rwanda. They are largely found within the Great Virunga Mountains ranges of Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The golden monkeys are a sub species of the Sykes monkey also famous as the blue monkey. There are 2 groups that have been habituated for visitors to track all of which consist of 80 individuals. The adventure begins at 7:00am local time. For lifetime experiences with these striking creatures, permits can be purchased at $100 per visitor. The trek can last up to four hours with only one hour of face to face encounter with the primates. Most of these unique species largely live within the bamboo forest of Volcanoes National Park and can be sighted playing or feeding. Like mountain gorilla trekking packing list, if you are interested in this tremendous adventure, you will need to come with long trousers, long sleeved shirt or T-shirt, hat, light rain jacket or poncho, waterproof hiking boots but should be light weight for you to hike, waterproof daypack, energy giving snacks, a bottle of drinking water, camera, insect repellent, first aid kit, walking stick (this can be got from the park headquarters) and many others

 Birding

Safaris in Volcanoes National Park are not only for mountain gorilla or golden monkey tracking but a place for you to also go for bird watching while on Rwanda safari. The park features among a few Important Birding Areas (IBAs) in Rwanda. There are over 200 distinct bird species that call the park their home with mainly the Albertine rift endemics. For visitor sightings, the notable birds include the Rwenzori Turacos, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, Handsome Francolin, strange weaver, dusky crimson wing, collared apalis, archer’s ground robin, Grauer’s rush warbler, red faced woodland warbler and many more. If you are planning any birding tour in Rwanda, consider Volcanoes National Park a must to visit destination. You will need a binocular and camera for bird watching and many others.

Hiking to the Dian Fossey tomb site

The Dian Fossey tomb hike is one way that you can best explore more about Dian Fossey’s conservation life. For some of you watched “Gorillas in the Mist” movie, it entails more about Dian Fossey’s life and her research camp in the Volcanoes National Park. The trek to the tomb site lasts for about 3 hours where you find the beloved gorillas “Digit” and her resting site. Dian Fossey is known to have saved the critically endangered mountain gorillas that the world is proud of today. Her research work and conservation was facilitated by the Karisoke research center that she established at a time of her research in 1967. She conducted her research on mountain gorillas for over 18 years but unfortunately she was murdered by unknown people in 1985. The surrounding area features spectacular scenic views and wildlife species, birds as well as primates. Hiking permits are sold at $75 per visitor. The trek also comes with views from golden monkeys and at times the rare mountain gorillas and birdlife.

Hiking through the Volcano Mountains

Beside primate adventures, Volcanoes National Park also features a number of Great Virunga Mountain ranges that offer breathtaking experiences to hikers and adventure enthusiasts. For hiking adventures in the park; you can climb Mount Bisoke which comes with spectacular Crater Lake on its top. The trek lasts for seven hours plus the two that you spend while descending back to the starting point. The hikes start at 7:00am with briefing from park official and then you will be assigned a guide. Mount Bisoke stands at 3711 meters above sea level and it features a number of stunning floras, and offers opportunity for visitors to catch a glimpse of the remarkable views of Virunga Volcanoes and the Crater Lake “Ngezi.” The hikes are less strenuous and even a person without experience can hike through it.

Hiking through the Karisimbi Mountain

This volcano features as the highest out of all the 8 Great Virunga Volcanoes. It stretches up to 4507 meters above sea level and features as the sixth highest in Africa. To hike to its summit, you need two days and above where you will first camp around 3700 meters and catch a glimpse of stunning Mount Bisoke. The second day takes you to the summit and return to where you started from. The hike rewards visitors with views of many geographical features, vegetation and sceneries. This mountain was named after amasimbi which denotes white shell in Kinyarwanda due to its white capped summit. The trek is breathtaking compared to Bisoke Mountain but the experiences thereafter are worthy it.

The twin Lakes walk

Rwanda features twin like Lakes that join one another. They include Lake Bulera and Ruhondo. The hike to these Lakes rewards visitors with magical views of not only the Lake but also the Russumo waterfalls. You will also meet local residents paddling the canoes while others riding the wooden boats. The walk also comes with views of several birdlife like cinnamon breasted bee eater, common moorhen, paradise fly catchers, and stonechat, grey throated tit, long crested eagle, African marsh harrier and many more. This activity can be done in the morning and afternoon.

Cave exploration

Musanze caves feature among the few most historical sites in Rwanda. They are situated within Musanze town just adjacent to Volcanoes National Park. The caves have existed for over 65 million years and they have 31 entrances and extend up to 21 kilometers inside. They were formed from the flow of Basalt layers of Lava that spread form Virunga Volcanoes of Sabyinyo and Bisoke. The musanze caves offered home to many people as well as storage of supplies and food by the kings of Rwanda during the war time. The exploration lasts for two hours and visitors pay $50. It can be done in the afternoon with an escort. Other caves include the Busasamana caves which are located one kilometer and links up to many other caves such as Kazenze, Mudende and Busasamana regions. There is also Mugongo cave for you to explore and all these are among the famous 52 caves.

Buhanga sacred forest nature walks

Buhanga forest is the stunning site which is worthy visiting for nature walks while on safari in Rwanda. The forest lies outside the Volcanoes National Park boundaries. Buhanga sacred forest comes with spectacular flora and diverse historical and cultural experiences of the Rwandan traditions. It is believed that most monarchical kings of Rwanda used to bath around the forest prior taking over kingship and at the end the site was referred to as a sacred place and people never cultivated on it or even cut down trees. It is also believed to sometimes change colors during certain seasons which mark the year. The walks through this forest can be done in the morning or afternoon. The trails are made of Lava stones and they extend throughout the forest.

Cultural encounters

Gorilla or golden monkey trekking can be fascinating when combined with cultural experience in the community around the park. For cultural enthusiasts, you can engage in Iby’Iwacu cultural village safaris. This cultural encounter was local community project who were previously poachers at the park and now chosen to support conservation and protection of mountain gorillas and other wildlife species. The initiative was mainly to change poachers from their acts to support conservation efforts in the park. The cultural site is situated near Volcanoes National Park and mountain gorillas trekking in the Iby’Iwacu village denotes treasures of our home and heritage. Rwanda historical and present time is kept in its way for tourists to personally engage in cultural experience. It can be visited within a few hours or you can choose to spend a night in a traditional style Rwandan home that will also make up part of your experience in the area. There are also traditional meals and drinks like banana beer or you may have a taste of banana juice. You can be part of people participating in riding a wooden bicycle, grinding millet and sorghum, shooting bows and arrows with the unique Batwa people, be entertained by the Intore dances people and also explore more on banana and sorghum that are used as staple food in Rwanda. You can engage in ethno botany safari with traditional healers. This will help you explore important herbs that are used for treatment and many other performances.

In conclusion, Volcanoes National Park is ideally Rwanda’s tremendous destination that features with breathtaking adventures, primate experiences, birding, and cultural as well as vibrant conservation of natural resources. Consider visiting this park a must and enjoy a variety of activities that will amaze you while on safari in Rwanda