A Safari in Rwanda offers best tourist activities and things to do especially in Volcanoes national park where visitors engage in different tours to create everlasting memories. Travelers can enjoy the beautiful nature through guided walking tours and see some of the wildlife of Rwanda while visiting Volcanoes national park Rwanda.
Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park is located in Musanze village in northern province, just 2 and 1/2 hours from Kigali the capital city of Rwanda. It is the most visited park in Rwanda because of its iconic attraction ”the mountain gorillas” and golden monkeys.
Volcanoes national park Rwanda is part of the Virunga conservation area and has 5 of the 8 virunga volcanoes in the virunga region namely Mount Sabinyo, Gahinga, Mount Muhabura, Mount karisimbi and Mount Bisoke. The Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park (VNP) is the oldest national park in Africa gazetted in 1925. The park is well known for Mountain gorilla trekking but there are other animals to see besides gorillas. These include golden monkeys, buffaloes, bushbucks, elephants and over 170 bird species plus a lot of plant life. Check below are the top tourist activities and best things to do when you visit Volcanoes national park Rwanda;
Volcanoes national park is one of the only 4 national parks in the world that host mountain gorillas and gorilla trekking is the main activity that attracts so many travelers in this beautiful park. Mountain gorillas are endangered, therefore Seeing these endangered specie in their natural habitat is so rewarding and creates lifetime memories.
Mountain gorillas are found in 3 countries in the whole world, Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda. In Rwanda mountain gorillas can only be seen in Volcanoes national park which has 12 habituated gorilla families that are open to visitors for trekking. The habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes national park Rwanda include Agasha, Amahoro, Umubano, Ugenda, Susa, Kwitonda, Bwenge, Sabinyo, Hirwa, Karisimbi and more.
Gorilla trekking activity starts at 7 am with briefing at Kinigi park headquarters, thereafter visitors get assigned to gorilla family and start a guided hike in search for the gorillas. Trekking may take 2-5 hours depending on the family being tracked and walking speed of the participants. Once they find gorillas, visitors get to spend a period of 1 hour with these endangered species observing their behaviors, learning about them and taking photos.
A Gorilla trekking permit is required to go see gorillas. This document which must be booked early in advance is issued by Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and each gorilla permit costs USD 1500. Eligible tour operator will help you to book and arrange transport and accommodation for you depending on how many days you would like to spend around the park. Gorilla trekking activity is regulated by allowing few people to visit them per day, Only 8 people are allowed to track on habituated gorilla family per day. Therefor to ensure you get best experience from arranging your trip to seeing gorillas, its more advisable to deal with tour agency who knows all procedures and guidelines. You just bring yourself to enjoy this amazing activity.
Volcanoes national park is one of the only two national parks in East Africa where golden monkey tracking is done another one being Mgahinga national park in Uganda. Golden monkeys are a rare species of monkeys that is endangered. Golden monkey tracking is less strenuous than gorilla trekking since monkeys feed around the lower slopes of the mountain where they can be easily be trekked. It can be done alongside Gorilla trekking and it’s cheaper than gorilla tracking, costing USD 100 to buy the permit.
There are two habituated families of golden monkeys in Volcanoes national park and this has helped overcome the shyness of these golden monkeys allowing the daily visits by visitors and tourists. Seeing these endangered species active jumping from one tree to another is so rewarding.
Volcanoes national park has the 5 of the 8 virunga volcanoes namely mount Bisoke, Karisimbi, Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura. These offer great trekking trails experience with magnificent views of the surrounding. Hiking to the top of any one of these mountains gives spectacular views of the vegetation, birds, wildlife and the landscape of the park. There are different hikes to all the above volcanic mountains with each hike being so rewarding in its own way.
Mount Karisimbi is the highest mountain among the virunga volcanoes, standing at an elevation of 4507 meters above sea level. Hiking this mountain takes up to 2 days to reach the summit where you get great views of mount Nyiragongo, Muhabura and Nyamuragira volcanoes. Hiking takes approximately 5 hours and more depending on the hike taken. No hiking experience needed but rather one has to be physically fit to trek up the hills for hours. For those interested in Day hiking, Mount Bisoke volcano is the most favorite and interesting as you get to see the crater lake on top before descending back. Mount Bisoke hike takes approximately 5-7 hours in total depending on the walking speed and dryness of the walking trail. other hikes takes you to Mount Muhabura, and Mount Sabinyo. Arrange your hike with your tour company to take you through the guidelines and booking this interesting volcano hiking tour.
When visiting Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, visitors need not to miss hiking to see Dian Fossey’s grave that is located between Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes near the Karisoke research center that she started. Dian Fossey arrived in 1967 and carried out research about mountain gorillas for about two decades until she was murdered by poachers in 1985. She was buried near her favorite gorilla called Digit. When you visit her grave you will still see Digit’s tomb and other graves of gorillas that were killed. The hike to and from Dian Fossey’s tomb takes about 6hours. You will learn about her life, her research and the legacy she left behind.
Volcanoes national park is comprised of a rain forest, different volcanic mountains, lakes and a lot of wildlife. Taking a nature walk or cycling allows you get so close nature. You can visit the Buhanga forest a sacred forest for Rwandan kings to learn about the past traditions, nature walk around the volcanoes national park offices allows you to enjoy outstanding views of the five volcanoes from a short distance, a guided walk to musanze market is also intersting to learn about how the people go about their daily lives and more.
Rwanda’s Twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo are located in the village between Musanze and Uganda Border of Cyanika in the northern province of Rwanda. A hike to the twin lakes burera and Ruhondo is an amazing experience for any traveler on a Rwanda tour. If you are looking for something to do after your gorilla trekking tour in Volcanoes national park, nature walk to visit these beautiful lakes will be perfect for you. The trail will start in Musanze town, taking you down to Mukwangwa River where you will walk through the rural setting as you learn about the day to day lifestyle of Rwandans as you visit the lake Ruhondo. It’s a 3 hours guided walk by the community/ local guide who will tell you stories related to community members and formation of the lakes. If you are interested to do this tour, organize it with a tour consultant who will add it on your tour itinerary for your Rwanda safari.
Musanze caves are located at the mountain slopes of Volcanoes national park, there are many bats in the cave and these caves are in a shape of a house with many passages. These caves are as a result of volcanic activities that tool place around the Virunga volcanoes. They were formed from the balstic lava layers from the volcanoes of Bisoke and Sabinyo. There are many path ways leading in and out of the caves and an entrance 2 km wide. You will learn about the history and formation of these caves when you visit Volcanoes national park. The caves have great scenery and are good for photography.
Rwanda is blessed with a rich culture and visitors can engage and participate in some of these cultural activities by paying a visit to the communities around the park. You get to learn the culture, foods, music and drama of The Rwandese people. You can visit Gorilla Guardians Village / Ibyiwacu cultural village and learn how to prepare local meals, how traditional marriage in Rwanda and local beer, learn the traditional medicine and end with the cultural entertainment. Visiting this cultural village after your gorilla trek in Volcanoes national park is too entertaining as you learn and participate in the cultural traditions of Rwanda.