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Home » National Parks in Rwanda » Volcanoes National Park Rwanda » Tourist Attractions in Volcanoes National Park

Tourist Attractions in Volcanoes National Park

Birds in Parc National des Volcans; Volcanoes National Park 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.

Mount Karisimbi; 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, 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.

4 Days Gorilla Safari in Uganda RwandaMountain Gorillas; Mountain gorillas (Gorilla Gorilla Berengie) are the world’s critically endangered ape species. These are only thriving in small protected and conserved afro Montane forests of Volcanoes national park located in northwest Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable national park, Mgahinga Gorilla park and the Virunga National Park in eastern DRC. The mountain gorilla is one of many species unique to these forests.

Hidden high among the forested, hilly areas of volcanoes national park in Rwanda, the mountain gorilla was not famous to the world until 1902, when two were first encountered by a German explorer who was on his hiking safari to Rwanda’s Karimbi and Visoke Mountain perfectly located in the heart of 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.

Currently, 480 Mountain Gorillas representing half of remaining 880 mountain gorillas thrive in the Virunga Mountains of central Africa –distributed in three national parks of Volcanoes in Rwanda, Virunga national park in Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla Park in south western Uganda.

Mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park can climb trees, but most of times they are seen on the ground moving in social communities of 25- 30 individuals. These groups are organized according to engrossing or enchanting social structures. Gorilla Troops/families are led by one dominant male gorilla called a silverback because of the swath of silver hair that adorns his otherwise dark fur. Troops/groups also include various other young males, some females, and their offspring. The leader organizes troop/family 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.

For visitors planning safari to the land of thousand hills, one should not miss out on the fascinating chance to visit Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park consisting of 125Sqaure Kilometres of mountain forest and home to the six Virunga Volcanoes as well as the world famous mountain gorillas. The lushly forested slopes of the mountains form an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is undeniably the main poignant and memorable wildlife experience in the world: gorilla trekking.

The thrilling climb to the gorilla’s natural habitat of shady bamboo forest provides fantastic views in all parts, before the trekkers 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.

Musanze Caves; A cave is described as a natural underground space large enough for a human being to enter. While visiting Volcanoes national park, have the chance/ an opportunity to tour/visit the Musanze Caves which are two (2) kilometers long underneath earth.These were recently unveiled/opened to be explored by visitors in 2013 by the Rwanda Development Board together with the Rwanda Defense Forces.

The famous caves are located 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 enjoy the sights of the Caves believed to be formed as a result of volcanic eruption some decades ago. The tour will offer an in-depth understanding of the geological and geographical as well as the historical development of the world. Musanze cave can be encountered after memorable gorilla tracking in Volcanoes national park in case you will have time. The place is perfectly situated 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 main ignored water bodies of Rwanda. These are pleasant lakes sitauted 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.

Dian Fossey HikeDian 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.

Golden Monkey Tracking in Volcanoes National ParkGolden Monkeys Trekking; The famous activity carried out in Volcanoes national park starts at the same time like gorillas trekking. These threated species are very fascinating and very attractive which forms experience of its own. Volcanoes national park currently has two habituated golden monkeys’ troops that are available to be visited or explored by visitors on their golden monkey 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.

Encountering golden monkey’s offers life time experience and a maximum group of trekkers are allowed to encounter one habituated golden monkeys. Once tracked, visitors are given one fter 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.

Hiking in Volcanoes National Park

Hiking Bisoke VolcanoThe 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 HikeMount 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 located around Volcanoes national park in Nyabigoma, Kinigi, Musanze district, Northern Province- visitors can have a tour to Iby’Iwacu to share with local communities home and heritage treasures including lifestyles as well as cultural activities and artifacts.

Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village offers tourist’s a unique chance to interact with the local Rwandese, in their natural environment, with a taste of their fascinating culture and traditions. The only option you can 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 toursists 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.

Tourists 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 a golden chance for one to 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.

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 480 mountain Gorillas representing almost half of the world’s endangered species of the apes. In the park, ten (10) gorilla families have been habituated for tourism and research purposes. Hence (ten) 10 groups of eight (8) visitors each are the allowed to trek on a particular day. Gorilla Trekking activity through the forest begins with a quick briefing from the park rangers about the dos and don’ts of gorilla trekking, travellers are then divided in groups of 8 people maximum and each group is assigned or allocated 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.