Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is found in North-Western Rwanda. The Park spans an area of 62 square miles and is mostly covered by equatorial rainforest. Volcanoes National Park attains its name from the fact that it is home to 5 of the 8 volcanoes that form the ranges of Virunga. The volcanoes within the park are Sabyinyo, Muhabura, Karisimbi, Gahinga and Bisoke. It’s equally bordered by rich ecosystems of Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, and Virunga National Park in D.R Congo

History of Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park first attained gazette status in 1925. It was initially a very small expanse made up of mountains Bisoke, Karisimbi, and Mikeno. The major goal at the time was merely the conservation and protection of the mountain gorillas from rampant poaching activities. It can be fairly said therefore that it was the first gazette National Park on the African continent.

The Park was extended in 1929 when more land was attributed to it as far as colonial Congo. From 1967, shortly after the arrival of American primatologist Dian Fossey, the Park became an extensive conservation area for the mountain gorillas. Karisoke Research Center was later founded with its base between the mountains Visoke and Karisimbi. Numerous mountain gorillas were saved due to the institute’s efforts and by the time of Dian Fossey’s murder in 1985, Karisoke Research Center’s Mountain gorilla conservation works had caught the attention of the international community. The Park survived the 1994 Rwanda genocide and presently blooms with numerous wildlife species besides mountain gorillas.

Uniqueness of Volcanoes National Park.

Volcanoes National Park is the only park with mountain gorillas in Rwanda. This feature makes it the most visited Park in the country. Tourists come from all over the world to trek the primates. The Park also has geographic features that make it outstanding i.e. the five Virunga volcanoes of Sabinyo, Muhabura, Karisimbi, Gahinga, and Bisoke.

Attractions in Volcanoes National Park

Mountain gorillas

As noted, the park is the only destination in Rwanda to find these primates. The mountain gorillas within the park are an extension of the Virunga ecosystem which is the only area in which the mountain gorillas are found globally. The Park has over 13 habituated gorilla families readily available for Trekking.

Golden monkeys

Apart from the mountain gorillas, the Virunga ecosystem similarly houses the golden monkeys that are only found in the area globally. The species has an outstanding physical appearance which makes it the main center of attraction. They similarly roam around the jungles of Volcanoes National Park.


Volcanoes National Park has a recorded number of over 178 bird species. Since the Park is located in the western rift of East Africa, over 13 bird species are endemic to the region. Some of the birds migrate from as far as the Congo River basin, and others from the far land areas of the Great Lakes region.

Virunga volcanoes

There are five, with each standing individually within the park. They include mountains Muhabura, Sabinyo, Gahinga, Karisimbi and Bisoke. Each of these mountains has distinct features such as the difference in elevation, area cover, and geographic formations like cones, calderas, and craters, among others.

Activities in Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla trekking.

This is the most common activity and is done by tracking the available mountain gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park. For one to trek mountain gorillas, they are required to have a trekking permit purchased from the Rwanda Development Board or through a local tour operator.

Each permit costs $1,500. Trekkers are grouped into 8 individuals per group to participate in the trek. The trek takes an average of 2 to 7 hours depending on the movements or shifts in the gorilla families. This is done with the help of rangers who not only act as guides but also provide security to the trekkers.


The bird species are over 178 species and these are both lowland and highland birds since the national park is filled with highlands and valleys. The birders therefore get a fun day in the jungles as they view and take photographs of the birds present such as the forest Eagles, blue turaco, Rwenzori Nightjar, handsome spurfowl, African Darter, and African forest kites, among others.

Golden Monkey trekking

The golden monkeys are beautiful creatures and are situated in specific sectors within the park. The trekking starts in the early hours of the day. Therefore, by 7 A.M, visitors are briefed, and if the numbers are many, they get divided into two groups. The guides and rangers are then assigned and the tourists take on the trekking.

Over 80 golden monkeys are composed in each of the two habituated troops present within Volcanoes National Park. It’s a good experience to see them interact and jump on the trees in the park.


Since the park has volcanoes, they are open to hiking. The hikes are generally done on mountains Bisoke and Karisimbi. The hike takes an average of 6 hours for the seasoned and fit hikers with intervals of resting along the way. Descending takes about 2 hours. The scenery as the tourists ascend is strange and awesome and leaves the majority of the hikers amazed.

Musanze cave expedition

The caves were formed as a result of volcanic activity. They are over 2 kilometers long and have a wide opening enough for the humans to get into. There are established stairways for the tourists to walk through and access the darker parts of the cave’s interior.

Hike to the Dian Fossey’s tomb

As visitors take a hike on mountain Karisimbi, after about 1-2 hours of hiking, they come across the tomb of Dian Fossey. Next to where she lies, is the grave of her favorite gorilla friend Digit who was similarly murdered as he was protecting his family from poachers. The tourists get to learn about Dian’s works and also pay their respects.

How to get to Volcanoes National Park?

From Kigali City, travel to the park by road is about 2 hours. From the Rwanda-Uganda border, the drive is 30 minutes from Cyanika, Kisoro district. Those who need can also consider air services by Akagera Aviation to the park.

When to visit

Certainly, June-September or December-February are the best months for visitors to Volcanoes National Park. These are dry seasons with fewer interruptions from the heavy rainfall.