Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Volcanoes national park Rwanda: Volcanoes National Park also known as Parc National des Volcans in French is the oldest national park located in the northwestern part of Rwanda in Musanze village bordering with Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda. Volcanoes national park is a home of the endangered mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, mammals like buffaloes, elephants, black-fronted duiker, hyenas, bushbucks, a variety of bird species, and five of eight Virunga volcanoes which are mount Karisimbi, mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabinyo.
Top things to do and see in Volcanoes national park Rwanda
Gorilla trekking is the most famous activity done in the park and it involves moving into the forest in search of the mountain gorillas and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. Volcanoes park harbors about 11 habituated gorilla families and Gorilla trekking activity starts early in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarters. After the briefing visitors will be divided into groups of 8 people where each group will be allocated a gorilla family to trek depending on various factors like age, personal preferences and physical fitness. Trekking of the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park starts at around 8:00am and takes 30 minutes to 7 hours depending on the location of the mountain gorillas. once the gorillas are located you will be able to spend one hour with them in their environment which gives you a chance to observe their habits, lifestyle, behaviors, watch them play, feed, breastfeed, groom young ones, take photos and record the moments.
Golden monkey trekking
Golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes starts early in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarters just like gorilla trekking. after the briefing visitors will start trekking in the jungle in search of the golden monkeys which takes about 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on their location. During trekking you will follow trails with left over bamboo shoots and once the golden monkeys are found you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat which gives you an opportunity to watch them jump up in trees, watch them feed, play, hunt among others.
Volcanoes national park harbors 5 out of the 8 Virunga volcanoes namely mount Karisimbi which stands at an elevation of 4,507 meters above the sea level, mount Bisoke which is 3,711 meters above the sea level, mount Sabyinyo which stands at an elevation of 3,645 meters above the sea level, mount Muhavura which stands at an elevation of 4,127 meters above the sea level and mount Gahinga which stands at an elevation of 3,474 meters above the sea level. Hiking in Volcanoes national park is done on four of the Virunga volcanoes expect mount Sabyinyo because of its sharp ridges and enormous craters hence it was declared dangerous for hiking in Rwanda though it can be hiked on the Ugandan side. There are different hiking trails which offer spectacular views of vegetation zones, primates like golden monkeys, variety of bird species, mammals among others.
Volcanoes national park is a home of more than 200 bird species including Albertine rift endemic, globally threatened birds and migratory birds. Bird watching in Volcanoes national park is best done in the morning with a bird guide who will help you to spot different bird species like archers ground robin, white tailed blue flycatcher, black and white manikin, Rwenzori batis, Grauer’s rush warbler, kivu ground thrush, African green broadbill, handsome francolin, red faced woodland warbler, strange weaver, Rwenzori turaco, collared apalis, dusty crimson wing, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, Bateleur, blue spotted wood dove, baglafecht weaver among others.
Exploring Musanze caves
Musanze caves are one of the top tourist attractions in Volcanoes national park. The caves are 2 kilometers long and are believed to have been formed as a result of volcanic eruption by lava basaltic layers from mount Bisoke and mount Sabyinyo about 65 million years ago. During the cave exploration you will be accompanied by guides who will take you through the cave with established walkways, trails and stairs while explaining their geological history right from formation and how they offered refuge to a number of people during the time of war up to their present state. During the cave exploration you will also enjoy spectacular views of the green vegetation cover, several bats hanging on the cave walls, listen to whispers and echoes from human voices among others.
Iby’lwacu cultural tour
This is an interesting activity in Volcanoes national park which gives you an opportunity to visit cultural villages neighboring the park. During the Iby’iwacu cultural tour you will be able to interact with the Banyarwanda people, visit their farmlands, learn how to make local beer from bananas, learn how to grind millet on a flat shaped stone, taste their traditional foods, enjoy their traditional entertainments, buy crafts items among others.
Best time 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, July, August, September, December, January and February. The dry season is also known as the peak season and during this period there is less rainfall in the national parks there vegetation will be thin hence making wildlife viewing easy, trekking and hiking trails in the park will be dry and passable compared to the wet season when the trails are muddy and slippery.
Volcanoes national park can also be visited in the wet season during the months of March to May and November. The wet season is the best period for bird watching because bird lovers will be able to view colorful bird species, visitors will explore the park with few crowds and some lodges offer discounts which favors budget travelers.
Where to stay during your safari in Volcanoes national park
Volcanoes national park has several accommodation facilities where visitors can stay during their safari in the park. the accommodations range from luxury, midrange and budget including Five Volcanoes Boutique hotel, Virunga Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Best View Hotel, Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel, Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, Garr Hotel, Villa Gorilla, Kinigi Guest House, Hotel Muhabura, Ruzizi Tented Camp, Karenge Bush Camp, Gorillas Nest Lodge, Le Bamboo Gorilla Lodge, La Palme Hotel, Bisate Lodge, Garden Place Hotel, Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge among others.
How to get to Volcanoes national park
Volcanoes national park is located in the northwestern part of Rwanda and can be accessed by road transport means where you will drive from Kigali to the park headquarters which takes about 2 hours drive.