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Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park or Pariki y'Igihugu y'Ibirunga is a 160 sq kilometer conservation area in Western Province, Rwanda, and is known for being home to mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) and the rare and endangered golden monkey (Cercopithecus kandti). The park has a base built by primatologist Dian Fossey and the headquarters of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

Volcanoes National Park is home to 5 of 8 volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains are Mount Karisimbi (4,507 meters or 14,790 feet), Mount Muhabura (4,127 meters or 13,540 feet), Mount Bisoke (3,711 meters or 12,180 feet), Mount Sabyinyo (3,674 meters or 12,050 feet) and Mount Gahinga (3,474 meters or 11,400 feet).

Xvlor Volcanoes National Park Volcanoes National Park

The park was first confirmed in 1925 by Belgian colonial authorities as a small area bounded by Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno to protect gorillas from hunters. In 1929, the park's borders expanded further into Rwanda and into the Congo to form Albert National Park covering an area of 8090 sq kilometers.

In 1958, about 700 hectares of parks were cleared for human settlements. Congo became independent in 1960 and the park was divided into two after Rwanda's independence in 1962. The American naturalist Dian Fossey came in 1967 to research the gorillas and establish the Karisoke Research Center between Karisimbi and Visoke.


Vegetation varies due to the large altitude range with some low mountain forests. At an altitude of 2400 meters to 2500 meters is the Neoboutonia forest, 2500 meters up to 3200 meters is Arundinaria alpina (bamboo) covering 30% of the park area and 2600 meters up to 3600 meters mainly on the humid slopes in the south and west is the Hysteria abyssinica and Hypericum forest which covers 30% of the park.

Vegetation at 3500 meters up to 4200 meters is Lobelia wollastonii, Lobelia lanurensis and Dendrosenecio erici-rosenii covering about 25% of the park. At 4300 meters up to 4,500 meters is a meadow. The park also has secondary bushes, meadows, swamps, and small lakes, but the total area is small.

Volcanoes National Park is renowned as mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) and other mammals including golden monkey (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), black-fronted duiker (Cephalophus niger), buffalo (Syncerus caffer), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus). The park has 1760-7040 imbabala (Tragelaphus sylvaticus) and several elephants. At least 178 species of birds with 13 species and 16 endemic subspecies.

Location: Western Province, Rwanda.

Routes and public transport: Flights to Gisenyi Airport in Gisenyi City, then drive to Musanze Town (Ruhengeri) for 58 kilometers, then Kinigi Town for 10 kilometers. Alternate flights to Kigali International Airport in Kigali City, then drive to Musanze Town for 99 kilometers, then to Kinigi Town. Volcanoes National Park

Xvlor Volcanoes National Park

Advice: Volcanoes National Park Headquarters is located about 3 kilometers north of Kinigi. While it is possible to reach Kinigi by bus from Musanze City, almost all visitors come to the park headquarters with their own wheels (usually through tour operators).

From Volcanoes National Park Headquarters use a 4WD vehicle and permission is required to start climbing to where the gorilla is located. Most of the parking area is within a 30-minute drive. For solo travelers, the best option is to join the group at Musanze.

The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) runs several activities for travelers including:
  • Gorilla Trekking
  • Golden Monkey Trekking
  • Climbing of Karisimbi volcano (two-day trek with overnight camping at an altitude of 3,800 meter)
  • Climbing of Bisoke volcano (one-day)
  • Hike to Dian Fossey Grave
  • Hike to Volcano Creator Lake and caves
  • Iby’Iwacu cultural village tour

Visiting Rwanda for gorilla tracking can take place throughout the year, but the best time is during the dry season from December to early March and June through September. Some equipment may be rented or provided by a tour operator.

Recommended: Bring day packs, long sleeves and trousers, sturdy hiking boots (preferably waterproof), insect repellents with DEET, at least 1-2 liters of drinking water, utility gloves, walking stick, wide width cap and sunglasses (with optional neck strap).

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