Things to and See in Volcanoes National park Rwanda
Top 5 things to do in Volcanoes national park Rwanda: Volcanoes national park also known as Parc National de Volcans (PNV) is the top most visited destination located in Northern Province of Rwanda in Musanze village. It is one of the oldest national parks in Africa in that it was gazetted in 1925 mainly to conserve the endangered mountain gorillas. Volcanoes national park is also a home of other wildlife species including animals like buffaloes, forest elephants, duikers, bush pigs, forest hogs, spotted hyenas, primates like the endangered mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, chimpanzees, bird species, Volcanic mountains among others.
Top 5 things to do in Volcanoes national park
- Gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking is one of the major activities carried out in the park which gives visitors an opportunity to move into the forest in search of the habituated gorilla families and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. Volcanoes national park is a home of about 18 habituated gorilla families where 12 gorilla families are open for trekking and other families reserved for research. Gorilla trekking in the park starts in the morning with a briefing about the rules, regulations and expectations. After the briefing you will be grouped into 8 people, allocated a gorilla family to trek and a park guide who is well conversant with the gorilla trails in the jungle.
Trekking of the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park starts at around 8:00am and takes 30 minutes to 6 hours depending on the location of the gorillas. Once the gorillas have been found you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat which gives you an opportunity to learn more about their habits, behaviors, take photos and record the moments. Visitors interested in gorilla trekking are however required to have a valid gorilla trekking permit which costs $1500 per person for all nationalities and can be accessed through Rwanda Developed Board or a trusted tour operator like Achieve Global Safaris.
- Golden monkey trekking
Golden monkey trekking is the second best done activity in the park. Volcanoes national park is a home of two habituated golden monkey families which are available for trekking on a daily basis. golden monkey trekking starts in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarters where after you will be allocated a golden monkey group to trek and a park guide who will be show you the trails to follow during trekking. Golden monkey trekking takes about 30 minutes to 4 hours and once the golden monkeys have been found you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat learning about their behaviors, lifestyle, watching them swing from one tree to another as you take photos and record the moments.
- Volcano climbing
There are 8 Virunga mountains which are found in three countries namely Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. 5 Virunga mountains out of the 8 are found in Volcanoes national park and they include Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Gahinga, Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Muhavura.
Hiking Mount Karisimbi, this is the highest mountain among the Virunga volcanoes standing at an elevation of 4,507metres above the sea level. Hiking mount Karisimbi is strenuous and takes 2 days where by on the first day you will have an overnight at an altitude of 3700metres and continue hiking the next day. During hiking you will have great views of the bird species, primates, vegetation among others and when you reach the top of the summit you will have great views of Muhabura volcanoe, Nyamulagira volcano, Mount Nyiragongo, a large forest among others.
Hiking Mount Bisoke, the volcanic mountain is located at the border with Democratic Republic of Congo and stands at an elevation of 3711m above the sea level. Hiking mount Bisoke takes about 6 hours and it offers spectacular views of a crater lake on top.
Hiking Mount Muhavura, this mountain is shared by two national parks that is Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda. The volcanic mountain stands at an elevation of 4127 meters above the sea level and during hiking you will have spectacular views of the landscape, twin lakes that is Lake Burera and Ruhondo among others. Hiking takes about 6 to 8 hours and once you reach on top you will have great views of the Crater Lake.
Hiking Mount Gahinga, the volcanic mountain stands at an elevation of 3474 meters above the sea level. It’s one of the shortest volcanic mountains in the park hence favorable for the inexperienced hikers. During hiking you will have great views of the primates, vegetation, bird species and when you reach on top you will have great views of a swampy caldera.
Hiking Mount Sabinyo, the volcanic mountain can either be hiked from Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda or Volcanoes national park. The mountain stands at an elevation of 3645 meters above the sea level and when you hike to the top you will be standing in three countries at the same time that is Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Dian Fossey Hike
This is an interesting activity in Volcanoes national park where you will hike through the forest to the research center where you will view Dian Fossey’s grave a primatologist who was murdered during 1985 carrying out research about the mountain gorillas. The hike takes about 3 hours and offers spectacular views of the primates, animals, birds, vegetation among others. You will also view the grave of digit Dian Fossey favorite friend and other grave yards of about 20 gorillas which were either killed by poachers or suffered death due to other reasons. Hiking to the research center gives you an opportunity of learning about Dian Fossey and the legacy she left behind.
- Community tour
This is an incredible activity in Volcanoes national park where you will have an opportunity of meeting and interacting with the local people around the park. During the community tour you will visit Iby’iwacu cultural village where you learn about the local peoples lifestyle, way of living, visit the kings house, enjoy traditional dances like Entore, listen to interesting stories about the local traditional healer, taste their traditional dishes, taste their locally made brew from bananas, be entertained through music, dance and drama, learn how to made craft items like baskets, mats among others.
When to visit Volcanoes national park
Volcanoes national park can be visited anytime throughout the year though the best time is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. During the dry season there is less rainfall in the national park therefore access roads and gorilla trekking trails in the forest will be passable compared to the rainy season when the trails are muddy and slippery.
How to get to Volcanoes national park
Volcanoes national park is located in the northern part of Rwanda and can be accessed by road transport means. When travelling to the park you will fly to Kigali international airport and then connect to the Volcanoes national park which takes about 2 hours’ drive.
Volcanoes national park can also be accessed by public means of transport though not recommended by boarding a bus from Kigali to Musanze and then hire a private taxi to the park headquarters because public means of transport are not allowed in the park