Volcanoes National Park is home to some of the Virunga’s towering volcanoes. Comprising five volcanoes, the Virunga’s are utterly spell binding and few would argue that this is not one of the most exciting national parks in Africa.
Of all the extraordinary sights and attractions in this protected area, the one that really draws people here are the great endangered mountain gorillas.
Volcanoes National Park is celebrated as the setting for the book and film Gorillas in the Mist approximately 400 of these endangered animals live peacefully, making the area one of the best and easiest places to track gorillas.
As oldest in Africa, offers the life-changing opportunity to trek through the dense Afro – montane forest with golden monkeys swinging overhead, in search of these grandiose animals. The beady eyes of three-horned chameleons will watch your feet trampling across the forest floor.
The gorilla trekking tours are not the only activities on offer in the park, as guided nature walks to the Dian Fossey research center (Karisimbi) and challenging hikes take visitors through this incredibly bio-diverse area.
The trek begins with a briefing at the park’s headquarters and is followed by a hike up the bamboo terrain of the mountain.
There are guides for each group of trekkers to lead you to the habitats of the gorilla families and the maximum number per group of trekkers is 8 people only.
Once you have sighted a family of gorillas, you can only spend an hour with them in which you can take unforgettable videos and photos, and see these endangered primates in the entire world.
It was in this park that Diane Fossey spent 20 years of her life studying mountain gorillas and it was largely her dedication to these animals which ensured their safety from the terrors of poaching.
The park now acts as a conservation area for mountain gorillas and is home to around half of the world’s population.
It is for this reason that gorilla trekking permits must be arranged before coming to the park and strict conservation rules be abided by.
Golden monkeys are also an endangered primate species and a bucket list activity when on a safari in the Volcanoes National Park. They have been habituated to better the experience for the tourists.
Most of the golden monkeys can be found in the bamboo forest at the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes. The golden monkey tracking experience comes with guide to ease your way through the tracking, share the Park’s history, facts about the primates and lead you to the golden monkey hot spots.
The Volcano hikes
If you love to hike and find yourself at the Volcanoes National Park, you will have two hiking options to choose from; the Day and Overnight Hike.
The Day Hike leads you to Mount Bisoke one of the volcanoes in the Virunga ranges. It stands at 37,000meters with a crater lake at the top.
The Overnight Hike is along Mount Karisimbi the second highest volcanic peak in the Virunga Ranges.
Along this trail are diverse vegetation zones from bamboo, Afro – Montane to savannah. This hike is also known to be one of the most challenging hikes in the Volcanoes National with a snow-capped peak especially in the dry season of June, July and August.
Exploring the Musanze Caves
These age-old caves were once used to store food supplies for the kings of Rwanda in times of war. Today, they are quite a scene to behold when visiting the Volcanoes National Park in the Musanze or Ruhengeri province of Rwanda.
The cave ceilings are studded with lots of bats whose eyes sparkle when you shine your flashlight to the ceiling.
As you move towards the end of the cave and into the daylight, all you will have heard in the midst of the cave’s silence are your footsteps and the thick dew drops hit the cave’s floor. A walk through these caves is literally a walk down memory lane.
Iby’Iwacu Village now known as Gorilla Guardians Village is close to the park making it a perfect sendoff place to visit as you leave Volcanoes National Park. The activities here can be done whether you opt to stay a few hours or overnight.
Are you searching for a new menu? Try preparing or even eating the traditional meals and drinks such as banana juice or brew banana beer. For the botanist or medical personnel, try the local herbal medicine grown and brewed fresh from the garden.
After your curiosity has been quenched, unwind to the traditional music, dance and folklore by the local people and dance troops.