Volcanoes National Park

The impressive Virunga volcanoes span countries; Uganda, Congo and Rwanda and are arguably the most inspiring sights once can ever fathom at in the whole of East Africa. These rugged series of hills have a total of 8 peaks towering to a height of 15,000 feet in some areas. Out of all the 8 peaks, 5 are in Rwanda and what better way to view the Virungas other than in Rwanda. The bottom is lined with a dense rainforest that later give way to breathtaking views of grassland and alpine moorland in the highlands. Sitting in the far northwest of Rwanda, the Volcanoes National Park protects the steep slopes of this outstanding mountain range, home of the rare mountain gorilla as well as the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, swamp, open grassland and heath.

This park became very famous in 1967, when an American zoologist Dian Fossey who had been doing research on mountain Gorillas in the forests of Congo fled from insecurity and established her research base at a place between Visoke and Karisimbi volcanoes that was later came to be known as Karisoke research center. Through her efforts she spearheaded the conservation campaign of the mountain gorillas and also mobilized resources to fight against poaching in this area which had been going on for a long while, a fight she put up until she was murdered in 1985. She was buried at the research centre next to the grave of her favourite gorilla called Digit.

Despite the conservation efforts under way, the park continued to suffer at the mercies of poachers. To make matters worse the park became a battle field for the Rwanda’s civil war in the early 1990s which paralyzed tourism activities until 1999. In a bid to boost conservation and gorilla tours in the park , Rwanda introduced the annual baby naming ceremony for baby gorillas In 2005known as ‘Kwita Iziina’ which has seen great results in as far as gorilla population in volcanoes is concerned.

Visiting the park you will experience an exhilarating trek through the cultivated foothills of the Virungas offers stirring views in all directions. The trail further enters the national park, immersing you in the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest, alive with the melodies of colourful birds and chattering of the rare golden monkey, and littered with fresh spoor of the mountains’ elusive populations of buffalo and elephant., the magnificent peaks can be glimpsed through gaps in the forest canopy and they are easily accessible and among the highest in Africa, beckoning an ascent.

In Musanze there is a bustling market town which has a memorable setting at the base of the Virungas. On the outskirts of town, you will find the natural bridge that was formed by a solidified lava flow which is a fascinating remnant of the volcanic activity that shaped this scenic area. In addition within easy day tripping distance of Musanze are the seldom visited but exquisite Lakes Burera, Ruhondo and Karago. Musanze town presents a good selection of upper-range and mid- range hotels as well as reasonably-priced small hotels and guest houses for the budget travellers.
Finding your way to Volcanoes National park

Volcanoes National Park is located in a small but popular village called Musanze previously well-known as Ruhengeri, which can be easily reached by public transport from Gisenyi or Kigali or from the airport. By road it is a 2hr drive to Volcanoes national park hence one can do gorilla tracking on the same day and drive back to Kigali after the trek. Since gorilla tracking starts very early in the morning, you will be required to arrive at the headquarters in Kinigi, at the park entrance, by 7:00 am. This means that if you intend to to trek gorillas for one day, you have to wake up very early for your journey so that you are on time.