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PARC NATIONAL DES VOLCANS (VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK)

Volcanoes national park is Rwanda’s most attractive protected park, it’s located in Ruhengeri musanze district in the north western region of Rwanda near the edge with the Virunga national park in the democratic republic of Congo and Mgahinga gorilla forest national park in Uganda.  Volcanoes national park is part of the Virunga Mountains, which is arrange of six extinct and three active volcanoes situated in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic republic of Congo. The park can be reached out in just about 2-3 hours’ drive from Kigali Rwanda’s capital and largest city up to the park, its easy access can enable one to do gorilla tracking and drive back to Kigali on the same day. The park covers an area of about 160sqkm and it is regarded as the oldest national park in Africa and it was gazetted in 1929 during the Belgian colonial times and it was then named Albert National park and extended into DRC. It was confirmed to remain a national park after the Rwanda independence to protect the Mountain gorillas that were facing the threat of extinction as a result of poaching. The park is regarded as one of the three countries that houses the rare mountain gorillas the other two are Uganda and the democratic republic of Congo; however Rwanda is regarded as the best safari destination for gorilla tracking as Rwanda gorillas are a little easier to track than that of Uganda and Rwanda houses almost a half of the world’s gorilla’s population. Tracking mountain gorillas is according to us, one of the absolute highlights of the journey anywhere in Africa the delight and excitement when meeting these gentle giants cannot be explained.

George Schaller in 1960s and more recently an American zoologist Dian Fossy 1967 studied the behaviors of mountain gorillas to human standard for over a period of 20 years. Dian Fossy established her research base at a place between Visoke and Karisimbi volcanoes that was yet to be known as Karisoke research center. She fought herd against poachers and fronted the campaign of mobilizing resources against poaching activists, however her work was put to an end in 1985 when she was killed by the said poachers whom she had made herself very unpopular. She was buried at the research center next to the grave of her favorite gorilla called Digit. Without her persistent efforts to have poaching stamped out and the work of committed locals since her death, there is possibly wouldn’t be any gorillas remaining in Rwanda, and Rwanda could not be much known in terms of tourism as its today. Volcanoes national park is the only place for tracking mountain gorillas, however the park is also a home to other primate species likes the golden monkey (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), they are also regarded as endangered, the park also hoses mammal species like spotted hyena, buffaloes, elephant, black fronted duiker, and bushbuck can also be seen. It also hosts over 250 species of birds including at 29 endemics to Rwenzori Mountains and the Virungas.

Tourist activities done at the park include

Gorilla tracking:

Tracking gorillas in the volcanoes mountain or bamboo forest is regarded as a magical experience you will never forget in life. Mountain gorillas are the second close relative of man sharing almost 95% of human DNA make up, they are so fabulous fan to watch in their nature habitat. Tracking mountain gorillas begins very early in the morning after reporting at the park headquarters to receive a short briefing from the park officials on safety measures and what to expect during the day about gorillas tracking. You are reminded to carry your passport and your gorilla permit in order to verify that you are the right owner of the permit. You will get assigned to a group about 8 members per group maximum and each group is assigned one gorilla family to trek as Rwanda is blessed with 10 habituated gorilla groups ready for tracking which means that 88 members can track gorilla in Rwanda. Each person is assigned to the group he/she fits, for example those age 45 years and above and those who are less fit are assigned to easy to find’ gorilla families which do not wander far away from the trail heads. And those who are physically fit may be given a specific group. However you should note that given the fact that gorillas are wild animals it is not a guarantee that they must be near or easy to find, The one you may consider easy may turn to be the difficult and those you may consider difficult can be seen easier on a specific day, so this makes the total experience very interesting and difficult to predict.  You also remained to come with your tracking gears like gloves, trekking boots/shoes, rain jacket since it can rain at any time, walking stick if necessary, bottled water and sometimes packed lunch. Ounce you meet these giants you expect to stay with them for only one hour while studding their behaviors as well as taking as many photos as you can.

To be among the 8 members who are allowed to track in each gorilla group you have to possess a gorilla permit which is at a fee of $1500 per person per tracking and you are advised to book your Permit at least 3 to 6 months in advance, especially during Rwanda’s high season of June – September and December to February and permits are booked on first come first served basis the earlier the better. We do not encourage you to book a gorilla’s permit yourself since us www.bwindinationalpark.com  among other reliable tour operators can book for you a gorilla permit without any extra change. A 3 Day gorilla trekking safari in the best itinerary you can have for your gorilla tour in Rwanda.

Golden monkey tracking:

Just like mountain gorillas, golden monkey are also listed as endangered and currently are tracked in the volcanoes national park. There are two habituated golden monkeys troops that are available for visiting by tourists and there about 80 members at the park. Tracking begins very early in the morning at 7:00am after reporting at the park headquarters to receive a short briefing from the park officials about the dos and don’ts while with these elusive monkeys. After the ranger guide will head you to the forest to begin the activity. Golden monkeys most of the time live in the bamboo vegetation towards the base of the volcanoes that’s kabatwa or karisimbi. Just like gorillas tracking time is unpredictable it can go from 30 minutes to eight hour so a reasonable degree of fitness is needed. These creatures are fabulous fan to fun to watch, they are active creatures and jump from tree to tree which is really very interesting although not like gorillas golden monkeys are a little difficult to photograph, you only allowed to stay with them for only one hour observing their behaviors as well as taking as many photos as you can (a flash camera is not allowed) and only eight members are allowed to track in each group. Golden monkey tracking is at a fee of $100 per person per tracking.

Iby’Iwacu village tour:

If you’re among those interested in learning more about the African way of life, volcanoes national park offers this activity. You will be fortunate to have a visit to Iby’Iwacu village in the northern province Kinigi musanze district of Rwanda to share with the local people, life style and also test their local food. This Cultural Village is much dedicated at showcasing the ways of living, traditional lifestyles and dances to tourists. They will entertain you through their cultural dance and music and they will also pass you through their interesting stories about traditional medicine from a local traditional heal, their historical background about how they have managed to live in the area for over 50,000 year, and if interested take part in their activities like cooking, dancing and singing . Don’t miss community walk, it’s so interesting.

Dian Fossy tomb tour:

For any gorilla safari in the volcanoes national park don’t miss to visit a grave yard of Diane Fossy who was a prominent primatologist who carried out research on the behaviors of mountain gorillas for a period of over 20years until when she was murdered in 1885 by poachers whom she had made herself very unpopular. 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. From the park headquarters to the research centers where she was killed takes about 1-1and half hours and the walk provide an opportunity to come across several species of animals like forest elephant, giant forest hogs, a variety of primate species and various species of birds. Ounce you reach at the site you will learn more about Diane Fossy who was so dedicated and left a legacy that exists even today. Without her, mountain gorillas would not be herd of in Rwanda. You will find a house where she was buried at the research center next to the grave of her favorite gorilla called Digit and about 20 other mountain gorillas either killed by poachers or suffered death for other reasons. The hike to the Dian Fossy is somehow tough as it involves passing through the forest and slopes so a relative degree of fitness is needed and it is regarded as a full day activity.

Bird watching:

Rwanda is known as a bird paradise out of about 1450 species of birds that live in the country, volcanoes national park only is home to over 250 species of birds including at 29 endemics to Rwenzori Mountains and the Virungas giving a good platform for bird lovers to enjoy watching plenty of them.  On any activity at the park you can’t miss seeing several species of birds. Birding can take place either in the morning or in the evening and the park has kin bird watchers who are notonly experienced but also passionate in the field.  Some of the bird species expected to see include the Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori Batis, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Archer’s Robin-chat, Rwenzori Hill Babbler, Grauer’s Rush, Neumann’s and Grauer’s Warbles, Masked Mountain Apalis, Stripe-breasted Tit and Strange Weaver, and a full range of Rwenzori double-collared, purple-throated, blue-headed, the list is endless.

Mount trekking:  for those who are physically fit the park provide a challenging hike to volcanoe mountains it can go from 1-10 days depending on the travelers fitness climb the Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo,