Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, Gorilla Trekking Safaris in Volcanoes Park is the Rwandan section of the great volcanic massif called the Virunga Mountains that straddles the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and Volcanoes National Park Rwanda dubbed the safe haven for the mountain gorillas is situated in northwestern part of Rwanda and it’s bordered by national parks like Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
The park is home to five of the eight stunning volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains namely: Karisimb volcano, mountain Bisoke, Mountain Muhabura, Gahinga Volcano and mountain Sabyinyo which are covered in rainforest and bamboo vegetation that dominate Volcanoes national park.
Spanning on a 160sqkm area in the northern part of Rwanda, Volcanoes national park is the oldest national park in Africa.
It was initially a small area around Karisimbi, Mikeno and Visoke volcanoes which was gazetted in the year 1925 to protect the world’s Mountain gorillas which were facing the threat of extinction as a result of poaching.
In 1929, the park was extended into Rwanda and the then Belgian Congo and was named Albert national park managed and run by the Belgian Colonial Authorities.
After Congo gaining independence in 1960, the park was divided into two, and upon Rwandan independence in 1962 the new government agreed to maintain the park as a conservation and tourist area, despite the fact that the new republic was already suffering from overpopulation problems.
The park was halved in area in 1969.Between 1969 and 1973; 1050 hectares of the park were cleared to grow pyrethrum.
In the year 1967, American naturalist Dian Fossey arrived in Volcanoes and hence the park became the base for her to carry out her Gorilla research and conservation activities.
From then she established Karisoke Research Centre where she spent most of her time in the park working hard to save the gorillas from extinction by bringing their plight to the attention of the international community.
She was later killed in the year 1985 by the unknown assailants who attacked her at her base in Volcanoes national park.
The park continued to suffer at the mercies of poachers though conservation efforts were also under way. In early 1990s, the park became a battle field for the Rwanda’s civil war which paralyzed tourism activities until 1999.
In 2005, in a bid to boost conservation and gorilla tours in Volcanoes national park, Rwanda introduced the annual baby naming ceremony for baby gorillas known as ‘Kwita Iziina’ which has seen great results in as far as gorilla population in volcanoes is concerned.
With the help of dedicated wildlife rangers, comprehensive monitoring, and community education programs, the endangered gorilla population in the Virungas experienced a nearly 20 percent increase in the early 2000s.
But in 2007, at least ten gorillas in Virunga National Park were lost to murder and chaos. Gorillas in other Virunga parks are faring a bit better, as is the other half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, which lives in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, just 24 kilometers north of the Virunga Mountains.
Many conservation initiatives in Volcanoes national park Rwanda are meant to aid mountain gorillas, and it is believed that their numbers may be steady or slowly increasing.
Still they continue to face major threats from habitat loss and poaching. Efforts to change attitudes towards the mighty animals have seen them become an important source of income for the local economy through the tourists they bring, and turned poachers into vocal advocates for conservation.
Strategically located in the land of thousand hills, Volcanoes national park Rwanda is an exceptional national park endowed with different Vegetation types.
The lower slopes of the park are covered with montane forests which are under extinction due to increasing Agricultural activities carried out by the local communities around the park. Between 2400 and 2500 m, there is Neoboutonia forest.
From 2500 to 3200 m above sea level, bamboo forest occurs, covering about 30% of the park area. From 2600 to 3600 m, mainly on the more humid slopes in the south and west, is Hagenia-Hypericum forest, which covers about 30% of the park.
This is one of the largest forests of Hagenia abyssinica. The vegetation from 3500 to 4200 m is characterized by Lobelia wollastonii, L. lanurensis, and Senecio erici-rosenii and covers about 25% of the park.
From 4300 to 4500 m grassland occurs. Secondary thicket, meadows, marshes, swamps and small lakes also occur, but their total area is relatively small.
The Park contains a flora and fauna of exceptional diversity, making it one of the most vital protected areas in Rwanda and the whole of East African Region.
It is also one of the ecologically richest regions of Africa and worldwide. In particular, the most important world endangered populations of the Mountain gorillas that use the diversified natural habitat found in the areas covered by Volcanoes national park.
Volcanoes national park Rwanda is natural home to unique mammal species and the commonly known being the species of Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei).
Other mammals include the threatened species of golden monkey, black-fronted duiker, buffalo, Spotted Hyena and bushbuck.
Though not easily seen, there are also some species of elephants in the park. In terms of Avi-flora, the park houses 178 unique bird species, with at least 13 species and 16 subspecies being endemic to the Virunga in Congo and Ruwenzori Mountains in Uganda.
Tourist Attractions in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Birds in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda has a sum total of 180 bird species. Close to 15 formerly recorded bird species were eminent during a biodiversity survey conducted in 2004, however it is probable that a number of additional forest specialists have actually gone off track since the year 1980.
the Grauer’s rush warbler a vulnerable local bird species living in the swamp, whereas at least sixteen Albertine Rift endemic are also present, among which are the handsome francolin, Archer’s ground robin, dusky crimson-wing, Rwenzori turaco, red-faced woodland warbler , Rwenzori double collared sunbird, collared apalis, Rwenzori batis and the strange weaver.
Dian Fossey Grave Site
Dian Fossey was an American zoologist, primatologist and anthropologist who committed her life to the conservation of the Mountain Gorilla by conducting an 18 year comprehensive study about the fateful ape.
Having been raised with dejection and lack of parental love from the step father following her mother’s divorce with her father, Dian found love and comfort with the animals.
At the age of six, Dian started horse raiding before she worked on a farm with of her hospital friend after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy from San Jose State College in 1954.
With the support and funding from Louis and Mary Leakey who were operating anthropological research in Oldvai Gorge in Tanzania, Dian found her way into Democratic Republic of Congo where she established her camp at Kabara to begin her study about the mountain gorillas in 1967.
On July 9, 1967, soldiers arrived at the camp to escort her and her research workers down, and she was locked up at Rumangabo for two weeks.
Fossey eventually escaped through bribery to Walter Baumgärtel’s Travelers Rest Hotel in Kisoro, where her escort was arrested by the Ugandan military.
With the advice from Leakey, Dian gave up going back to Congo and started her research on the Rwandan side of the Virungas where she established her camp at a place between Mt. Karisimbi and Visoke, which was to later be known as Karisoke after combining the two names, Karisimbi and Visoke.
On September 24, 1967, Fossey founded the Karisoke Research Center, a remote rainforest camp nestled in Ruhengeri province in the saddle of two volcanoes (Visoke and Karisimbi) at an elevation of about 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) up Mount Visoke and covering an area of 25 square kilometers (9.7 sq mi).
Unlike the mountain gorillas in Congo, the Rwandan mountain gorillas had never been habituated and only knew humans for poaching which made them fearful to human presence hence making it had for Dian to study them at close range.
She started anti-poaching campaigns with a team of her staff, who would carry out patrols rescuing some of the gorillas whose parents were killed during the raids.
The gorillas in her study range soon got protection as those in the western side of the park where she was not reaching continued to suffer the plight.
Elephants were also hunted from the same forest for their ivory until when they were almost no more.
Dian was later known by locals as Nyirmachabelli, or Nyiramacibiri, that was directly translated as “the woman who lives alone on the mountain’.
Her work went on well and she soon found favor and friendship with the mountain gorillas where she befriended a silver back known as digit.
The death of Digit in 1978 was a big blow in Dian’s heart after digit was short as he was trying to protect a baby gorilla known as Kweli from poachers.
Digit was buried at the camp at the Karisoke Research center but Dian’s patrol efforts were strengthened as she attracted public sympathy and started getting support from international society through international bodies like African Wildlife foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, Fauna Preservation Society and the Mountain Gorilla Project, which Dian blamed for not actively engaging in conservation through anti-poaching patrols.
Dian Fossey’s anti-poaching patrols led to the arrest of many poachers who were sentenced to jail and some are still serving their sentences.
Dian was murdered in 1985 in her tent at her research institute by unknown murders where she was found lying in a pool of blood in the early morning of December 27, 1985.
Fossey is buried at Karisoke, in a site that she herself had constructed for her deceased gorilla friends. She was buried in the gorilla graveyard next to Digit, and near many gorillas killed by poachers. Memorial services were also held in New York, Washington, and California.
Rising at an elevation of about 4507m above sea level, Karisimbi is Africa’s fifth highest mountain and the highest stratovolcano among the eight major volcanoes of the Virunga massifs of the central Africa.
It strides along the border between Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda on the western branch of the Eat African Rift valley. Karisimbi lavas have been dated from 0.24 Ma to 0.010 Ma indicating that the volcano is very young.
The name Karisimbi is derived from the word ‘amasimbi’ in Kinyarwanda which literally means “white shell”, referring to the white-capped summit which is often seen on top of this volcano.
It is bordered by Mikeno Volcano on the north, Bisoke on the east and Nyiragongo on the western side of the Rift Valley.
The mountain is situated in Volcanoes national park Rwanda, popularly known for the mountain gorillas and hence can be hiked by any traveller on Rwanda mountain gorilla trekking safaris.
Karisimbi is also close to the Karisoke research center where the grave of the re-known mountain gorilla conservationist and American zoologist; Dian Fossey lies.
This means that one has a chance to visit the grave as well as trek the golden monkeys in addition to the Mountain gorillas.
Mount Bisoke: Mount Bisoke is an active volcano that lies on the border between Rwanda and Congo along geographical co-ordinates of 1o27’39”S 29o28’54”E. mount Bisoke stretches between Virunga national park in Congo and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Mount Bisoke is part of the Virunga ranges and it rises up to an altitude of 311m or 12 175ft above sea level.
Although this range is an active volcano its slopes are covered by dense tropical rain forest vegetation but its peak doesn’t form snow. At its peak, the mount has a crater lake
MT Sabinyo: With an altitude of 3669m, mt Sabinyo lies north east of lake Kivu and west of lake Bunyonyi. At the peak of mount Sabinyo, is the intersection of all the boarder lines of three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and D.R. Congo hence giving a visa free entrance to all countries in one place without much fuss. the name “Sabinyo” means an “old man’s teeth” and just like the meaning of its name, mt. Sabinyo has had its top reduced to resemble the gum and teeth structure of an old man when observed from a far as a result of constant erosion and weathering processes. Mount Sabinyo is located using the geographical co-ordinates of 01o24’S 29o36’E
Mt Gahinga: Towering to the sky with an altitude of 3474m, mt Gahinga is the smallest of the three mgahinga ranges with a caldera on top spanning to a width of about 180m, long time ago, mount Gahinga had a crater lake on its summit but this has been reduced a swamp now. this peak was named after the piles of volcanic rocks that piled up downslope in the local people’s gardens. Mount Gahinga can be found at the geographical co-ordinates of 01o23’14”S 29o38’37” E
Mt Muhavura: At an altitude of 4127m, mt. Muhavura is the third highest of the 8 peaks of the Virunga ranges complex and highest of the Mgahinga ranges in Uganda. its name means “The guide” as it can be spotted from anywhere in Kisoro as long as there is clear visibility. mount muhavura can be located at the geographical co-ordinates of 01o23’00” S 29o40’00” E.
Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
The mountain gorillas (Gorilla Gorilla Berengie), the world’s most endangered ape, are found only in small portions of protected afro Montane forests in Volcanoes national park situated in northwest Rwanda, southwest Uganda in Bwindi, Mgahinga and eastern DRC in the Virunga National Park.
The mountain gorilla is one of many species unique to these forests. The forests are also home to many wonderful birds, primates, large mammals, reptiles, insects, plants and also ensure continued water and medical plant resources for the local communities.
Hidden high among the forested, hilly areas of volcanoes national park in Rwanda, the mountain gorilla was not well-known to science until 1902, when two were first confronted by a German explorer who was on his hiking safari to Rwanda’s Karimbi and Visoke Mountain housed in Volcanoes national Park.
It set the starting point for the relationship. For much of the time since, due to deforestation and poaching, it has seemed that the mountain gorilla was swiftly destined to be lost to the world again. Not long after the species’ greatest champion, the American zoologist Dian Fossey was killed in Rwanda in 1985-there were fewer than 300 of the giant primates left in the wild.
Today nearly 440 representing half of remaining 840 mountain gorillas live in the Virunga Mountains of central Africa –distributed in three national parks of Volcanoes in Rwanda, Virunga in Congo and Mgahinga in Uganda.
Mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park can climb trees, but most of times they are found on the ground moving in social communities of 25- 30 individuals.
These groups are organized according to engrossing social structures. Gorilla Troops are led by one dominant male gorilla called a silverback because of the swath of silver hair that adorns his otherwise dark fur.
Troops also include several other young males, some females, and their offspring. The leader organizes troop activities like eating, nesting in leaves, and moving about the group’s 0.75-to-16-square-mile (2-to-40-square-kilometer) home range.
Mountain gorillas have longer hair and shorter arms than their lowland cousins. They also tend to be a bit larger than other gorillas.
While planning your Rwanda safari, one should not miss out on the magnificent opportunity to visit Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park consisting of 125Sqaure Kilometres of mountain forest and home to the six Virunga Volcanoes and the world famous mountain gorillas.
The lushly forested slopes of the mountains form an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is arguably the most poignant and memorable wildlife experience in the world: gorilla trekking.
The exhilarating climb to the gorilla’s natural habitat of shady bamboo forest offers fantastic views in all directions, before the trackers are immersed in the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest, alive with the calls of colorful birds and the chattering of rare golden monkeys.
Nothing can prepare one for the impact of encountering a fully-grown silverback gorilla, up to three times the size of an average man, yet remarkably peaceable and tolerant of human visitors.
A cave is a natural underground space large enough for a human to enter.
While visiting Volcanoes national park, have the chance to tour the Musanze Caves two kilometers long underneath that were recently unveiled to be visited by tourist in 2013 by the Rwanda Development Board together with the Rwanda Defense Forces.
The caves can be sited north of the country in Musanze District; the site has had a major facelift with establishment of tourist walkways, trails and stairs that take you to the dark interior of the caves that illustrates a picture of a house with several rooms and corridors. The floor is paved and there are some stairs to ease movement.
Visit the volcanic region of Rwanda to sight the Caves believed to be as a result of volcanic eruption decades ago that offer an in-depth understanding of the geological and geographical historical development of the globe.
Musanze cave can be explored after gorilla tracking in Volcanoes national park in case you will have time. The place is located on the foothills of Volcanoes national park, meaning that you can easily visit this place after gorilla tracking.
Adventure other spectacular sites and views of the nearby areas including the Buhanga Eco-park known for coronation of Rwandan former kings, the panoramic view of the twin lakes namely Burera and Ruhondo, Karisimbi Volcano climbing, Bisoke Volcano climbing, trek to Dian Fossey grave, golden monkeys trekking and the famous mountain gorillas trekking.
Twin Lakes Burera & Ruhondo
Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo are the two most neglected lakes of Rwanda. These are beautiful lakes located at the base of volcano Muhabura and close to the border with Uganda.
They are surrounded by steep hills and large waterfalls with a backdrop of the Virunga volcanic mountains.
These twin lakes are great spots to be visited after watching the gorillas in the Rwandan mountains. Lakes Burera and Ruhondo are close to the gorilla-tracking Centre of Ruhengeri and used to be referred to as neglected gems but things have changed and Burera and Ruhondo are popular with tourists.
Their deep blue waters ringed by steep hills and tall waterfalls with the outlines of the nearby Virunga Volcanoes provide a spectacular backdrop, particular as seen from the comfortable Foyer de Charité guesthouse on Lake Ruhondo.
Tourist Activities in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Mountain Gorilla Trekking
It’s the most popular and the highly rewarding activity which is carried out at the forested hills of volcanoes national park.
Volcanoes national park has an estimated total of 440 mountain Gorillas representing half of the world’s endangered species of the apes.
In the park, 10 gorilla families have been habituated for tourism and research purposes. Hence 10 groups of 8 people each are the allowed to trek on a particular day.
Gorilla Trekking activity through the forest starts with a quick briefing from the park rangers about the etiquettes of gorilla trekking, visitors are then grouped in groups of 8 people maximum and each group is assigned one gorilla family to trek.
Assigning of the groups highly depends on the fitness and age of the trekkers. For example, those above 45 years and the ones with less fitness are assigned gorilla families which do not wander far away from the trail heads.
Hence there is need for those visitors with special interests about specific groups to inform their guides to help them negotiate with rangers before assigning the groups such that they may be assigned those specific groups too.
Being wild animals in their natural habitat, what may be regarded as easy to find may not necessarily be, as the animals may wander far as they search for food .
Therefore, it is not a guarantee that they may be near or easy to find. Even those which are allocated to the physically fit and energetic tourists and considered to be strenuous to trek, may be easily encountered within few hours of trek which makes the total experience interesting and un predictable.
Each gorilla tracking group consists of a main guide and two scouts who carry AK-47 guns, one walking in front and another behind the group.
The reason for armed scouts is for protection and safety of the tourists in the forest against wild elephants or angry, wild gorillas.
The scouts are trained to fire shot into the air first in order to scare away the animals but this is only done on rarest occasions when all other options like hiding away from such dangerous animals have been done.
Mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park has never heard of any case where such animals attacked the tourists and the scouts had to fire bullets though on many occasions, they advise to hide or remain still until the animals go away. However the policy of the National Park is to be safe rather than sorry.
Tourist group will also have a pair of trekkers who are sent out early morning (prior to visitor’s arrival in the park) to find out the location of the specific gorilla family and to assess their movements. Trackers communicate the gorilla’s movements to the guide so that he can decide on the best approach to meet the gorilla family.
If you do not trust your fitness, please endeavor to let your guide know such that he may help you to hire a porter at the park gate. A porter is hired between $15 to $20 depending on what he is going to carry.
The Bisoke Crater Lake Hike
Mt. Bisoke is a dormant volcano, located within Volcanoes National Park, and it also forms part of the Virunga mountain range bordering Rwanda and DRC. It is about 3 hour’ drive from Kigali capital city of Rwanda.
Starting off the Bisoke cater hike requires you first to meet your guide and group at the park reception. At the station also expect to have a briefing about the hike from one of the Park rangers.
They will then guide you and your vehicle to the parking area to begin the hike. Note that the road from the reception to the parking area is very rocky and muddy depending on recent rains; you may require a 4×4 to access the starting point for the hike.
The Bisoke hike is guided. This hike leads you to the top of Mt. Bisoke. It is a strenuous and challenging as gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park therefore if your going for it, it’s advisable for you to set aside a full day to do only the hike as it requires you to have energy.
Do not attempt this hike if you are unfit because you may stop halfway and turn back. There are porters that can be hired to help you carry the hiking equipment’s to the top, it’s very beautiful and totally worth the effort, you are rewarded with magnificent views of the forest and the Crater Lake.
Some tips when going for this hike: Be sure to book the hike in the dry season, otherwise be prepared to contend with mud and more volcanic mud that literally sucks you down.
While hiking, you are heartened to keep your eyes and ears open because you may come across a group of mountain gorillas on the hike.
Mount Karisimbi Hike
Climbing Mt Karisimbi is a strenuous but very rewarding 2 days hike.
The climb starts early in the morning taking 6 hours and involves navigating through the Bisoke side before reaching the first stopping place at an altitude of 3,700 meters for overnight camping before finishing off the journey the next day.
A hike to Karisimbi’s summit is not an ordinary one, but also affords sights and views of various bird varieties, primates like monkeys and Gorillas since the volcano lies in the primates’ park of Volcanoes national park.
It is also known for its exotic plants in its four belts of vegetation, from the dense forest at its base to the barren volcanic core at the summit.
The hike up the summit is characterized of muddy trails especially during rainy season, though due to the altitude, it can rain at any time of the day.
You need relatively good health and stamina to hike through the slippery slopes to reach the summit which is white capped as a result of hail and sleet which accumulate in the higher elevations from its frequent storms.
This implies that one may have to incur an extra cost of hiring a porter ($20 per day) to help in carrying your luggage and hiking equipment.
Karisimbi is also close to the Karisoke research center where the grave of the re-known mountain gorilla conservationist and American zoologist; Dian Fossey lies.
This means that one have a chance to visit the grave as well as trek the golden monkeys in addition to the Mountain gorillas.
Iby’Iwacu Cultural Encounter-
Iby’Iwacu village is suitaed around Volcanoes national park in Nyabigoma, Kinigi, Musanze district, Northern Province- Tourists can have a visit to Iby’Iwacu to share with local people home and heritage treasures including lifestyles, cultural activities, artifacts and ways of living of local people.
Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village gives visitors a rare opportunity to interact with the local people, in their environment, with a taste of their unique culture and traditions.
Visitors are genuinely welcomed by the community as special guests while they proudly present to visitors aspects of their traditions and beliefs.
The only way to get to know people, is getting close and interacting with local people, and taking part in their daily activities and most of all with them.
The encounter exposes visitors to have a guided community walk to visit different sites and experience the everyday lives of the local people.
Culture guide will take visitors to see the king’s house replica with all the houses interpretation of all parts and stories attached to this cultural treasure.
Be enthroned and become a king for some time while exercising king’s powers as presented to you by a village elder through a village ceremony.
Visitors can also enjoy different types of traditional dances like Intore dance and famous songs of the gorillas sang by the famous Ngayabatema while listening to the melody produced by traditional musical instruments including African drums.
Visitors can also enjoy listening to interesting stories about traditional medicine from a local traditional healer and get to know how medicinal trees, shrubs, grass are used to cure local patients.
The cultural memorable encounter creates an opportunity one can have taste of Rwanda’s local foods by having a local lunch or dinner with local people. Attend a local banana brewery process and have a taste on local banana beer.
Explore the Batwa pottery making experience, lessons and engagement. Take part in daily life activities to get to know the local people, their culture, and their ways of living since the village is fascinating with a variety of cultural experience.
Golden Monkeys Trekking
The prominent activity also takes place in Volcanoes national park and it starts at the same time 7:00AM just like gorillas.
These rare species are also listed as world endangered species and Volcanoes national park currently has two habituated golden monkeys’ troops that are available to be visited by tourists on their gorilla safaris in Volcanoes national park.
Golden monkeys in Rwanda live in the bamboo vegetation towards the base of the volcanoes and habituation has helped them to overcome their initial shyness to accept their daily visit by researchers and tourists.
Trekking golden monkeys and gorillas is almost the same experience and only a small group of not more than eight people are allowed to visit one specific habituated group of golden monkeys and after meeting the golden monkeys, tourists are allowed to spend one hour with the monkeys.
Golden monkeys are very active creatures, and jump from tree to tree which is really interesting and a little difficult to photograph.
The golden monkey trek is worth going for while in Volcanoes National Park and if you’re interested in wildlife, this is a rare and delightful experience not to be missed.
Dian Fossey Tomb Tour
Trekking to the Dian Fossey Tomb is one of the most sought after safari activities carried out while visiting Volcanoes national park for a gorilla trip.
The trek involves a 30 minutes’ drive from the park headquarters to the trail head to access the Karisoke research camp where visitors walk for 10 minutes to the park boundary.
The walk from the park boundary to the research center where the Dian’s grave is, takes about an hour to 1 hour and a half hour and affords good views of forest hogs, forest elephants, a variety of primates and bird species.
This hike is an incredible experience physically, emotionally and intellectually. It is so inspiring to learn about someone who was so dedicated and left a legacy that exists even today.
The hike involves moving through the forests and hiking up the slopes and therefore requires some relative degree of fitness and patience.
At the site you will find the house from where Dian Fossey was mysteriously murdered in 1985 but the more peaceful is the place where she was buried just next to her favorite gorilla friend, Digit and about 20 other mountain gorillas either killed by poachers or suffered death for other reasons.
Mountain Gorilla Families in Volcanoes National Park
Scientifically termed as Gorilla beringei beringei, mountain gorillas are typically gentle and amazingly shy and calm animals that have thick and long fur and this enables them to live in cooler temperature climatic zones, each gorilla can be identified basing on its nose print which is unique to each individual, adult males can weigh as much as 195 kg with a standing height of 168cm or 66 inches while their female counterparts can weigh 100kg with a height of 140 cm or 55inches.
Mountain gorillas are diurnal animals as they are very active in the early morning and evening hours which they use for foraging or eating, they maintain an herbivorous diet which consists of leaves, fruits, tree branches and bamboo shoots.
these gentle mountain giants are both Rwanda’s and volcanoes national park’s tourism signature symbol. These gorillas live in families of about 5 to 30 and is headed by a predominant male called a silverback due to its silver like lining on its back.
It should be noted that, not all gorilla families that habituate in volcanoes national park can be viewed by tourists because not all of them have been habituated for human interaction and also there is a high risk of passing diseases between humans and gorillas. Volcanoes National Park has 10 habituated gorilla families and these include
Susa A Gorilla Family
Named after river Susa that runs through the territory this gorilla group calls home, gorilla family Susa is the epitome of gorilla tracking in volcanoes national park.
Susa A normally habituates the higher altitudes of Bisoke mount and sometimes this family can go so high in the mountains that it becomes a bit tenuous to track it but this shouldn’t put you off tracking this family since before you set out to track it there is always an advance party of rangers dispatched to track it and find its current location then it signals your current guides about the direction and location of the group hence making it quite easy for you to track the family.
So if you are in for a physically challenging tracking session, this is the gorilla family that will surely never fail to meet your tracking expectations.
Susa A used to be the biggest gorilla family in volcanoes national park with 42 individuals but due to conflicts within the family, some gorillas broke away hence Susa A now remains with only 28 gorilla individuals with 3 silverbacks and this group defined the odds by having one of the adult females give birth to twins something that’s quite rare in this elusive species of gorillas. The twins are named Impano and Byishimo.
Susa A has sentimental value attached to it because this was the particular group that Dian Fossey based her research on while here in the volcanoes park.
Named after the highest peak of the Virunga ranges, Karisimbi peak, the Karisimbi family calls the slopes along mt. Karisimbi home.
This gorilla family is a splitter faction from Susa A group and as a result it reduced the Susa A numbers from 42 members to around 28 members after the split.
Because of this split, the Karisimbi group was 1st referred to as Susa B but its name changed to Karisimbi in 2010.
The split from Susa was engineered by Nyakangaga silverback which was younger and ambitious hence it broke away from Susa A with about 13 members to start its own family.
At one point in time, this family had about 15 members but due to conflicts and annexation among gorilla families some of its members left and now the composition of Karisimbi family stands at 11 members under the leadership of Nyakangaga as a dominant silverback, 3 other silverbacks, 1 blackback, 1 adult female and 2 infants.
Due to its location at Karisimbi peak, this group is considered one of the hardest to track hence if you are up for a challenging but manageable gorilla tracking experience, this is the gorilla group that’s perfect for you.
Sabyinyo gorilla family.
Named after one of the Virunga ranges known as mount Sabyinyo which actually means an old man’s teeth in the local Kinyarwanda dialect, Sabyinyo gorilla family is one of the easiest families to track here as it habituates at the lower slopes of mt. Sabyinyo which lies at the edge of the park. Sabyinyo family was formerly referred to as “amavubi” family which means wasps in Kinyarwanda because it was one of the hardest family to habituate but this family disintegrated in 1992 due to the untimely death of the dominant silver back this caused many of the female gorillas of this group to be annexed by other gorilla families.
The remaining gorillas formed a new group that was named Sabyinyo and this group is now comprised of 9 individuals led by a dominant silverback named Guhonda which is the oldest and largest silver back in volcanoes weighing up to 220kg.
Guhonda has remained the dominant and undisputed leader of the family despite the presence of 2 much younger and strong contenders like a silverback named Ryango within this family.
Other family members here include 3 adult females and 2 sub adults and 1 juvenile. Tracking the sabyinyo family is a luxury fair-tale as its located near a luxury lodge called Sabyinyo silveback lodge.
Named after a local Kinyarwanda word Amahoro which means peace, its naming is indeed consistent with the manner in which this family conducts itself which is peace above and before anything else and because of the peaceful nature of the dominant silverback named Ubumwe which means togetherness, the family has always lost a number of its members as they easily get annexed by aggressive gorilla families without a major challenge posed by the dominant silverback.
As of today, amahoro family consists of 17 members with Ubumwe as the leader then 2 blackbacks, 5 juveniles, 5 adult females and 4 young ones.
Tracking this group is a bit stretching as it habituates along mount Bisoke and once in a while it scales up the mount making its tracking a bit challenging but your efforts will be highly rewarded as the members of this family will sometimes indulge you in their plays hence giving you once in a life time personal experience with these gentle land giants.
Agashya family is also sometimes referred to as group 13 and this is because at the time of its habituation process, this group had 13 members under the leadership of a dominant silverback named Nyakairima.
Nyakairima was disposed of his dominancy by another silverback within the family named agashya which means news in the local dialect of Kinyarwanda.
The take over occurred after a bloody battle for dominance between nyakairima and agashya in which agashya emerged victorious.
Agasya for a long time had assessed nyakairima’s strength in battle and it wasn’t surprising that he emerged as a victor on this particular occasssion.
Nyakairima however, is highly credited for his role in expanding this family to its current composition of 25 members under a new leadership of agashya as a dominant silverback, 12 females, 3 juveniles, and 7 babies.
As of today agashya is highly security conscious and very protective of the group and will lead his family to higher grounds whenever he feels threatened. This family habituates on the lower slopes of mount sabyinyo.
Umumbano gorilla family is under the leadership of a dominant silverback called Charles. Umumbano family came into existence after a bitter contest between Charles and Uhumbwe the leader of Amahoro and this lead to the break away from Amahoro group where Charles was tired of taking orders from the dominant silverback Ubumwe hence he fought Ubumwe and Ubumwe allowed him to break away from the Amahoro group with 2 females and form his own group which was then named Umumbano group. Umumbano family as of today consists of 13 members with Charles as their leader then 1 sub adult, 6 infants and 3 adult females.
Umumbano and Amahoro gorilla families usually meet but they now never fight hence peace prevails between these 2 families after settling their disputes and Umumbano was named so after a Kinyarwanda word umumbano which means live together to match with the current situation existing between these 2 gorilla families.
This family came into existence in the volcanoes national park in 2003 after crossing from the neighboring Virunga national park in D.R. Congo where its believed it faced pressure from other gorilla groups hence a decision to move to a new location and start afresh.
By the time of its crossing from Congo, this family was under the leadership of Kwitonda as a dominant silverback but its leadership has now shifted to a younger silverback called Akarevuro after the unfortunate passing of Kwitonda in September of 2012 who was aged 40 years.
The post mortem carried out on Kwitonda’s body that was only discovered 10 days after his demise indicated that he had passed away from old age related complications.
Before the demise of Kwitonda, he had started allowing the young male gorillas to mate with the adult females in the group as a way of ensuring the continuity of his family because he knew that he was no longer strong enough to protect his family which it so much needed since it was a relatively new family in the area.
This family consists of 28 members making it the 2nd largest group in the volcanoes park and it habituates in areas around mt. Sabyinyo and mt. Gahinga.
Hirwa family is named after a Kinyarwanda word Hirwa which means lucky one. This family came into existence after bitter brawls erupted between Munyinga the leader of this family and the leader of Susa family because Munyinga always wanted to mate with the females in the Susa family which already had a dominant silverback.
After bitter disputes between the Munyinga and the leader of Susa group, Munyinga was allowed to break away from Susa group with 2 adult females and start a family of his own, Munyinga also managed to annex other female gorillas during the early stages of forming the Hirwa group and now this group consists of 16 members which include odd defying set of twins. The Hirwa family habituates the slopes of mt. Sabyinyo.
Named after a local Kinyarwanda word ugenda which means mobile, this gorilla family is indeed very mobile as its always on a constant move from one place to another looking for the freshest feeders to eat.
The Ugenda group comprises of 11 members with 2 other silverbacks. Ugenda group habituates along the slopes of mount Visoke and will give you an experience like no other as you will traverse areas around this mount as you track this group.
Bwenge family was named after a kinyanrwanda word bwenge which means wisdom. This family was formed when its leader Bwenge decided to split from his natal group and got joined by another female but as time has gone by Bwenge family has grown to a strong number of 11 individuals.
Bwenge family is of strong importance as some of its members got featured in the 1988 documentary film gorillas in the mist that was shot in honor of Dr. Dian Fossey’s work with the gorillas.
This group also faced a very traumatizing period when 6 of its infants died of a sudden death.
Titus was a male gorilla that was born during the time Dr. Dian Fossey was researching about gorillas in this area.
However, Titus’ family was brutally murdered by poachers and only Titus survived this horrific experience which saw all his parents and siblings perish.
He was however adopted by another gorilla group that natured him till he grew up having survived a premature birth and breathing difficulties.
As a young male, Titus was ambitious and he teamed up with another young silverback Beetsme who had chased away all other male gorillas only leaving Titus to be his “right hand man”, these 2 were joined by 5 other female gorillas who flee from other groups and formed the Titus family.
Due to Titus’ ambitions, in 1991, he shockingly challenged beetsme to a fight where Titus emerged victorious hence becoming the ultimate leader of the group.
During Titus’ reign, he managed to father over 20 babies and in 2007, Titus also got a dose of his own medicine when his own son Kuryana fought his father Titus and then he broke away from the family to form his own family.
Titus lived up to a reap age of 35 years leaving behind him a legacy of perseverance and ambition like no other male gorilla.
The Titus group lives along the slopes of Karisimbi and Visoke ranges hence it requires some physical stamina to track this group due to the high altitudes involved during the tracking of this group.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Safari information
In the whole world, travellers can only trek the endangered species of the mountain gorillas (Gorilla Berengei Berengei) in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.
In Rwanda, these primates can be trekked in the stunning Volcanoes National Park. Approximately 480 mountain gorillas live in the Virunga massifs and reside on the altitude range of 2,300 to 4,500 meters in the hilly areas of the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, as well as Virunga National Park (in the DRC).
In Rwanda, the Gorilla families are divided into 2; those for study or research purposes which are strictly accessed by scientists plus researchers only.
Among these are Beetsme and Pablo’s Shida’s which have the highest number of gorillas. As of 2015, there are 10 Mountain gorilla groups habituated and maximum of 8 individual tourists are allowed to visit each habituated gorilla family.
Among the ten habituated gorilla families that are for tourism purposes in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park include the Susa Gorilla group, Karinsimbi Gorilla group, Sabinyo family, Hirwa Gorilla Family, Amahoro Gorilla Group, Bwengye Gorilla family, Group 13 (the Agasha group) and the Kwitonda Gorilla group. Ugenda Gorilla Family, Umubano Gorilla Group.
With a gorilla permit costing US $ 750 per person per trek, part of your contribution goes to conserving these mountain gorillas.
How To Book Gorilla Permit in Rwanda.
Gorilla permits can be booked at the RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office in person. However, booking Gorilla permit through tour operator is the best option and usually tour operators charge an extra fee between 20-50USD on top of US$750 and this happens when you only need a permit from them.
The extra between 20-50USD per permit is attached to help them in administrative costs like make calls to RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office, pick the permit from RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office where the permits are sold officially and then deliver it to you.
In case you involve us in the whole process of planning for your Rwanda gorilla safari, we shall not charge you the extra USD 50 because we understand that you will use our other services like guiding services, transfers among others.
The procedure is almost similar as above, except that the tour agencies tend to speed-up the process and most likely you will get you gorilla permit confirmation faster.
Contact us and let us know of the dates you want to tour Uganda with the days you want to see the gorilla permits.
Afterwards we shall let you know if the days you want for your gorilla tour are available for gorilla tracking and tentatively book them for you (but with no guarantee).
We send you our bank details for you to send the money for gorilla permits.
It takes about 16 hours for us to receive the money from your bank and pay for your permits. We shall send you acknowledgement for the money and the official RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office Receipt (by scan and email). Please ensure you pay the bank charges when authorizing the transaction.
We do not charge any fee for gorilla permits buying/booking if you are booking the rest of the tour (or a part of it) with us.
In case we do charge, this is to cater for any costs like telephony, transport, etc. we incur to get you the permit.
Send us your passport details to register your gorilla permits. Usually, we only need the Full names, passport number, and nationality.
Let us help you book you Gorilla Permit and Safari (no fees on permits)
We register your names and get the gorilla permits. We send you scanned copies of your gorilla permit.
As soon as the payment has been received, the permits for gorilla tracking will be purchased. Getting a gorilla permit is not a guarantee of seeing a gorilla. However, the chances of seeing them are 98%.
Please note: You must be over 15 years of age to obtain a gorilla viewing permit.
What Is The Cost For Gorilla Permit in Rwanda?
The cost of gorilla permit in Rwanda includes the park entry fees various according to nationality and seen below.
USD $750 per person for non-nationals
USD $375 for foreign residents
30,000 Frw for Rwandan citizens
The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) shall refund 50% of the gorilla tracking fee for any visitor showing signs of illness.
Any sick visitor shall not be allowed to track the gorillas if declared unfit by the Warden in Charge. This only applies to visitors who have travelled all the way to the park.
How Much Does It Cost To See The Gorillas of Rwanda?
The most important fee is USD750 which is the actual cost of a gorilla permit per person per trek. Besides that, you have to spend on transport and accommodation.
We do not encourage you to do it yourself because it can turn to become expensive safari and hence you can contact us to organize for you each and every thing at affordable price.
Gorilla Trekking Guidelines in Rwanda
- i) To minimize possible transmission of human diseases, visitors are asked to maintain a distance of 7m (about 22 feet) from the gorillas. If you are sick with a cold, flu or other contagious illness, please do not visit the gorillas.
- ii) Viewing time is limited to one hour.
iii) Maximum 8 visitors per group.
- iv) Spitting in the park is strictly prohibited.
- v) Should you need to cough, cover your mouth and turn away from the gorillas?
- vi) When with the gorillas, keep your voice low.
vii) Try not to make rapid movements that may frighten the gorillas.
viii) If a gorilla should charge or vocalize at you, do not be alarmed, stand still, look away from the gorilla and follow your guide’s directions.
- ix) Do not litter.
To enhance your enjoyment:
The security of our visitors is our highest priorities. There is no need for concern about personal security.
The climate in Musanze is changeable and you can generally expect both sun and rainfall during the day.
Musanze, at 1,700m above sea level, is generally quite cold, particularly in the evening, so warm clothing is advised.
Recommended clothing is long trousers and shirts when in the forest to avoid nettle stings.
Study walking shoes or hiking boots are essential. You may find raingear useful.
Bring a water bottle and a small snack although eating, drinking and smoking near the gorillas is forbidden.
Photography is permitted, although you may not use flash.
Porters are available to help you carry your daypack for a small charge.
Mountain gorillas live at high altitude and this may cause difficulties for some visitors. You should pace yourself, walk slowly and drink plenty of water. No one should feel deterred from making this trip.
What Is The Best Time To Track Gorillas in Rwanda?
While Mountain gorilla trekking can be done throughout the year in Rwanda the land of thousand hills, many tourists under taking gorilla trekking safaris to Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park often prefer encountering the mountain gorillas during the high season in the months of June to September and then December, January and February.
In Rwanda, the first rains start coming in late February through March, April and May and hence various travellers tend to avoid undertaking gorilla safaris to Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park for fear of getting muddy and all wet while tracking the gorillas.
However, during these months, because of the rains there’s plenty of gorilla food down slope and it’s much colder on the upper slopes.
So the mountain gorillas keep on the lower slopes where they find it warmer and get food easily. So if you track the gorillas during these months, most likely your trek won’t be a long one – many trackers find the gorillas after 2 hours hike and by 2:00pm local time they are back to their respective lodges.
The seasonality of the tourists on Rwanda gorilla trekking safaris also depends on the general weather back in the tourism generating areas.
For instance during summers season in Europe, the number of gorilla trekking safaris to Rwanda increase and then in winter season, it safaris greatly lower or decrease.
Weather / Climate in Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park
The climate in the Volcanoes national park is typically damp, with daytime temperatures averaging 50°F (10°C).
Dry Season: June to September and January and February are the driest months and best for gorilla trekking, but be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at any time.
Rainy Season: The long rains are from mid-march to mid-May, when many roads become impassible. It also usually rains in October and November.
What to Wear to Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda
When planning for your gorilla trekking safaris to Rwanda to encounter the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat of Volcanoes national park, we advise you to come with a few things that are useful for you to attain your longa waited ultimate experience that involves trekking mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s mountainous Volcanoes national park.
Have a small backpack as it is useful to help you carry your water, packed lunch, camera and binoculars.
You need light weight hiking boots for this activity/strong waterproof walking boots due to nature and altitude of the forest. So get shoes that come above the ankle bone.
Take a light jumper and lightweight breathable waterproof jacket/trousers as temperature is variable and weather conditions can change any time in Volcanoes national park.
Lightweight long wool socks which are comfortable for a mountain tropical forest
A few long-sleeved shirts/trousers. Please ensure that you trek in your long sleeved trousers/shirts to avoid insects such as safari ants entering your trousers.
Sweater for cool evenings and chilly mornings due to nature and altitude of the place
Bush hat with a brim for sun protection. Please carry a hat to protect you from the strong sun rays if it is hot.
You may also need to carry some Sunglasses too with neck strap
Sun cream is also necessary
Video/photo camera, extra lenses and Reserve batteries. Photography is an important component of your safari and make sure that you have your camera ready, charge your batteries very well and if necessary, carry extra batteries as you will need to take many photographs in the one hour you will have with the gorillas.
Films and torch-LED models are light weight and have a good battery life
Insect repellants to protect you from Mosquito bites as volcanoes national park has mountains and a tropical forest so many insects are accommodated there in.
Garden gloves that will protect you from germs and other items that may scratch your hands.
Binoculars. Don’t forget that you are on safari and you want to have clear views of everything so during your trek in search for the rare mountain gorillas, you will have a chance to spot some other wildlife species like birds, primates and large mammals
A glove to grip vegetation and it’s also best to have different layers of clothes since the temperatures tend to change.
Energy Giving snacks. Gorilla trekking can take from 30 minutes to eight or so hours and that’s why a certain level of fitness is required. To add on that, we advise that you carry some energy giving snacks as supplements and lots of drinking water as you never know when you will return.
Hiring a Porter for your gorilla safari is a top tip -You will need a porter to give you a push on the way to the gorillas as trekking/hiking can take some time. You will pay some fee to a porter but it is worth it.
What to Expect During The Gorilla Trek (Actual Day)
After finalizing everything with your tour operator / agent and now your gorilla permit is ready, and you packed all the necessary gear like gloves, trekking boots, long sleeved wear, rain jackets, snacks and packed lunch, walking stick (if necessary), among others, this is what you expect on the trekking day.
Carry your passport with you as you head to the park headquarters for an early morning pre-tracking briefing by park officials.
Your gorilla permits will be crosschecked with your passports to verify that you are the right owner of the permit.
At this moment, you are expected to be ready with your packed lunch since no one is certain about the time you will take to see these gorillas.
A cup of tea/ coffee is served as you are being entertained by the local traditional dancers to give you a good start of a strenuous yet exciting day, before the ranger guide gives you tips on how to conduct yourself on this trek.
After a quick briefing on safety measures and what to expect during the day, you will be grouped in groups of 8 people maximum and each group is assigned one gorilla family to trek.
Rwanda has 10 gorilla families, hence 10 groups of 8 people each are the ones allowed to track on a particular day.
Assigning of the groups to trek highly depends on the fitness and age of the visitor. For example, those above 45 years and the ones with less fitness are assigned the ‘easy to find’ gorilla families which do not wander far away from the trail heads.
However, even those with special interests about specific groups may inform their guides to help them negotiate with rangers before assigning the groups such that they may be assigned those specific groups too.
Being wild animals in their natural habitat, what may be regarded as easy to find may not necessarily be, as animals may wander far as they search for food and therefore, it is not a guarantee that they must be near or easy to find.
Even those which are allocated to the physically fit and energetic tourists, that are always regarded as strenuous to track, may be easily tracked on a particular day which makes the total experience interesting and un predictable.
Each gorilla tracking group consists of a main guide and two scouts who carry AK-47 guns, one walking in front and another behind the group.
The reason for armed scouts is for protection in the forest against wild elephants or angry, wild gorillas. The scouts are trained to fire shots into the air first in order to scare away the animals but this is only done on rarest occasions when all other options like hiding away from such dangerous animals have been done.
However, we have never heard of any case where such animals attacked the tourists and the scouts had to fire bullets though on many occasions, they advise to hide or remain still until the animals go away. However the policy of the National Park is to be safe rather than sorry.
Your group will also have a pair of trackers who will have been sent out in the early morning (prior to your arrival in the park) to find the location of your specific gorilla family and to assess where they may be headed.
Trackers communicate the gorilla’s movements to the guide so that he can decide on the best approach to meet the gorilla family.
If you do not trust your fitness, please endeavor to let your guide know such that he may help you to hire a porter at the park gate. A porter is hired between $15 to $20 depending on what he is going to carry.
How Easy It To Find the Gorillas
The length of your overall experience and the amount of time it will take to actually meet your gorilla family is said to vary widely. It may take as little as 30 minutes to find your gorilla family and as long as 2-8 hours.
The forest is verdant, humid and somehow light and there are no discernible trekking paths. The terrain is full of hills and steep volcano slopes where you will be required to pull yourself up steep grades by grasping onto branches, plant roots, bushes and more.
Follow the lead of the guide as to the best path and form to take. If you need a break, let your guide know. It is also advisable that you carry with you some energy giving snacks and bottled mineral water to quench your thirst and give you more energy.
What Happens When I Encounter Mountain Gorillas?
Once your group finds the gorilla family the clock starts ticking.
You are advised to stay quiet, move slowly and avoid sudden movements in order not to irritate the gorillas. Instead sit down and avoid looking directly into the eyes of the gorillas as this may also irritate them thinking that you want to fight them.
It’s not a problem to look a gorilla in the eye, but if he begins charging at you, hold your ground but lower your eyes to indicate that you do not want a confrontation but rather you are submissive.
Prepare your cameras and get ready to take as many photos as you want but please remember to remove the flash lights and sounds.
The gorillas may be feeding from the ground resting, moving around or up in the trees playing about in the branches.
Try to get yourself the best view for photographs and learn all their behavior. Follow them in case they are moving but at a recommended distance which should be not shorter than 7 meters.
The most important thing is you staying near your guide and following his instructions always.
The trackers will often clear the brush with their machete so you can get a clearer and closer look at the gorillas. It is incredible how graceful and peaceful these animals are, especially considering their incredible size.
You’ll be amazed when you see the silverbacks (mature males) get up and move around showing control over the territory.
How to Get to Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park is located in a small village called Musanze previously well-known as Ruhengeri, which is very accessible by public transport from Gisenyi or Kigali or from the airport.
The drive to Volcanoes national park is 80kms about 1- 2 hours and hence one can do gorilla tracking on the same day and drive back to Kigali after the trek.
If you have flown into Rwanda via Kigali airport, volcanoes national park is only 120km or a 3-hour drive away from Kigali airport and if you are crossing into Rwanda from Uganda, Volcanoes National Park lies only 37km or a 1-hour drive away from Cyanika border post between Uganda and Rwanda in Kisoro.
You can charter a helicopter flight to volcanoes national park from Akagera Aviation company which offers helicopter flights to this park in their state of the art helicopters flown by experienced pilots with capacity to carry from a single passenger to 5 passengers per flight.
All international flights to Rwanda are received at Kigali international airport which receives flights from all over the world with airlines such as Rwanda’s very own Rwanda Express, Brussels airlines, Kenya airways, Ethiopian airways, South African airways, Fly emirates and many more plying to Kigali from various destinations around the world.
Volcanoes National Park at a Glance
Name: Volcanoes National Park
Location: continent- Africa, region- eastern Africa, country- Rwanda, direction- north western direction from Kigali city Rwanda’s capital.
Geographical co-ordinates: 1o29’S 20o32’E.
Responsible governing body: Rwanda Development Board
Size:160sqkm Year of designation: 1925
Elevation of Volcanoes National Park: highest point is mt. Karisimbi at 4507m above sea level.
Climate of Volcanoes National Park: tropical rainforest climate with 2 peak rainfall seasons during the months of March –May and September- November.
Attractions in Volcanoes National Park: mountain gorillas, common chimpanzess, Dian Fossey tombs site, 178 bird species with 13 being endemic to the Rwenzori mountains, 5 out of 8 Virunga ranges
Activities in Volcanoes National Park: gorilla tracking, chimpanzee tracking, nature walks, hiking, birding
Accommodation in Volcanoes National Park: Bisate lodge, Amokoro Songa lodge, Five Volcanoes Bontique hotel, Mountain gorilla nest lodge, Sabyinyo silverback lodge, hotel Muhabura, Gorilla solution lodge, Da vinci hotel, Faraja hotel, La palme hotel
Accessibility of Volcanoes National Park: the park is accessible by both road and air transport means
Best time to visit Volcanoes National Park: visiting is possible throughout the year but highly recommendable to visit during the rainy season months of September- November and March- May for gorilla tracking.
Accommodation in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge-Luxury
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is located in Musanze district close to the Parc National des Volcan’s headquarters excellently located for gorilla trekking.
The lodge is situated at the foothill of the Virunga ranges comprising of a beautiful views of the Volcanoes rolling hills and the surrounding countryside.
The lodge is built and operated by Governors’ Camp. The lodge is owned by a Community Trust, SACOLA, which uses rentals and community fees from the lodge to drive socio-economic and conservation initiatives in the communities adjacent to the National Park.
The lodge comprises of 8 cottages all having a stunning views of the Virunga Volcanoes, and are well spaced offering good privacy.
The cottages are spacious comprising of a sitting room area with a fireplace, bedroom, dressing room, 24 hour electricity and a large bathroom with bath and shower with hot and cold running water.
The cottages also have a sheltered balcony where visitor can relax, have breakfast, and read a book or marvel at the views. Other facilities at the lodge include a library and games room in the main lodge, bar and restaurant and staff on standby to help you.
Guest cottages and the main lodge building have been beautifully constructed and appointed and the lodge is the perfect base from which tourist can base to explore this unique and fascinating corner of Africa.
In the local area around Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge there are some interesting cultural and social projects to visit.
These include the Iby’iwacu Cultural Village where ex poachers have turned their lives around and now work to celebrate local Rwandese culture, the bustling and colourful Musanze Market, Kinigi Cultural Village and Community Walk created by the Sabyinyo Community Lodge Association, the Sonrise High School and the beautiful and enchanting Buhanga sacred forest.
If you would like to explore a little further, there is plenty to see and do in the larger Northern Province area of Rwanda.
There is the tropical Rubavu Lakeside resort, hiking in the ecologically important Gishwati Forest, trips to the scenic Twin Lakes, cruises on Lake Bulera and treks to the Russumo falls.
The rates showed in the table are for Mid-Season Rates and for high season you add US$150 to the Mid-Season rates.
|Number of people||Mid-Season Rates|
|2 adults sharing||US$750|
|1 adult per night||US$970|
|children under 12||US$470|
|Tour Guide per night||US$297|
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge- Mid-Range/Standard.
The Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is a new, mid-range lodge, perfectly located near Volcanoes national park and hence making it the best place to base while on gorilla tracking safaris in Rwanda.
The 30 individual stone and thatch cottages have been built on 4 acres of land on the slopes of Mt Sabinyo and each have en-suite facilities, a small lounge with a fire place and a private veranda.
The bungalows are large, with plain plastered walls and are simply but comfortably furnished. The cottages are of a good size and are well positioned to give visitors privacy from one another.
There is a separate restaurant and bar area where meals both local and international meals are served to the guests.
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge provides good value for money at the same time as great views and easy access to Volcanoes National Park.
The lodge grounds are very well maintained and from here there are beautiful views of the volcanoes. Electricity and hot water are currently supplied by a generator which does not run all day but this may be changed to mains power very soon.
The central area has a basic bar and a restaurant. We would advise you to you to dress warmly for dinners during the winter months. Stay here for the great location and super views without the need to breaking the bank.
The activities organized in the lodge mainly involves Gorilla tracking, golden monkey tracking and local village/cultural.
Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel-Mid-Range
Gorilla Volcanoes Hotel is a modern hotel with a unique character and a pleasant ambience strategically situated in Musanze north of Kigali.
The hotel comprises of 31 spacious comfortable rooms with an ensuite bathtub and shower. An impressive bar is attached with the restaurant.
A hearty breakfast is served from 06:30 AM to 10:30 AM. For guests who get up early morning for gorilla trekking in the volcanoes park.
Trekkers are requested to inform the hotel management in advance to prepare breakfast at which time they wish to have it. Each day, from noon to late evening, one can place his or her order from the “à la carte” menu.
The Spacious hotel also provides an outdoor terrace which is very enjoyable and sociable place. The place is the best to relax and refresh and also meet to share the highlights of the daily excursions, or even discuss your business.
The Facilities offered in the hotel include the accommodation facilities in the 31 spacious rooms which offer privacy and comfort.
The precious one Restaurant also called The Urugano in the local language prepares both local and international dishes .
The restaurant is near the lodge’s large bar which has both local and international drinks. Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel has one beautiful Swimming Pool where visitors can enjoy swimming in the cool, fresh waters of the pool.
The hotels event room is wide enough to accommodate meetings, get together parties, and bird days among others.
Kinigi Guest House-Budget
The Guest House locally known as “Village Touristique de Kinigi” is situated in Eastern North of Rwanda, in Kinigi district, only 11 Km from Ruhengeri City.
It is the comfy gateway to the majestic beauty of the volcanic mountain range, the natural habitat of the rare mountain gorillas.
Kinigi Guesthouse was founded as an income generating project for the “Association de Solidarité des Femmes Rwandaises” (ASOFERWA), a non-profit making organisation of mainly widows and orphans).
The income generated from the Kinigi guest house is used to pay school fees for local orphan children, purchase land for agricultural projects, support groups of widows, and provide a market for art pieces of the local artists
The Guest house is constructed at the bottom of Sabyinyo volcanic mountain with an altitude of 4,480 m. Kinigi Guest House is a comfortable base to the panoramic commanding beauty of the volcanic mountain ranges of Virunga, the natural habitat of the rare mountain gorillas.
Kinigi Guesthouse is ideally situated within very few minutes from the ORTPN head office and proximity and ideal location of Kinigi Guest House make the early morning gorilla trekking departures from the office much more convenient.
The Guest House accommodates over 40 people and all rooms have electricity and warm water. For more discerning guests, there are four (4) VIP suites and an ideal hall with 400-seat capacity, for conferences, seminars, weddings and other social functions.
Whoever wants to see wonderful gardens and enchanted areas, can always visit Kinigi Guest House. The rooms are spacious and furnished with hot showers, ensuite bathrooms and mosquito nets for the guests.
The guesthouse offers guests four shared dormitories-popularly known as “dorms” (each with 4 beds). Guests have access to shared bathrooms and hot water showers in the building next-door.
Kinigi Guest house is well maintained and the Virungas Mountains and volcanoes provide breathtaking magnificent views on a clear day.
Kinigi local community members are employed at Kinigi guest house, food and other items are sourced from the local Kinigi community.
The social responsibility concept behind Kinigi Guesthouse is investment in the local community and provision of responsible tourism accommodation
The hotel is located north of Kigali in Musanze province opposite the Musanze district headquarters. The hotel comprises of 30 rooms and apartments that offer a cozy environment to relax in after gorilla trekking or a day visit to the Northern area of Rwanda.
The Services offered by the hotel include; self-contained rooms with warm shower and some with a bath, own access with a small individual balcony, equipped with satellite TV, free WIFI-internet access and laundry service is available.
While at the hotel’s front office, you will be warmly welcomed by members of staff with the necessary knowledge to help you get necessary information about the region, bank exchange rates against hard currency, attraction areas, tour guide facilities and other information regarding the local market and accommodation prices in different regions of the country.
For accommodation and related services, the hotel’s front office welcomes guests 24hours a day, but customers are advised to make anticipated bookings since they are located near a busiest town and tour destination.
They have got three room categories made of doubles, twins and Singles, all self-contained with hot shower.
When touring or passing by the Northern Province, never miss an occasion to experience food service and breakfast specialties in the hotel lying on the outskirts of the town alongside the road to Kivu Lake shores.
Once sat in the dining, you can make whatever kind of order without worrying about timetables and schedules. Food service is always performed by professional members of staff with various cooking styles and delivered in a quick and accurate manner.