Situated in the northwest corner of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park, or Parc National des Volcans, is one of three parks that encompass the Virunga Mountains. The other two parks to include this chain of nine volcanoes, six of which are still active, are The Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, with DRC possessing the largest portion of land. While it is difficult to obtain exact figures on the size of the park due to historical border changes, it is estimated that Volcanoes National Park is roughly 150 km² (58 mi²) in size.
The star of Volcanoes National Park is undisputedly the mountain gorilla. It is estimated that approximately 350 gorillas live in the Volcanoes Park area, making Rwanda one of the top places for gorilla-viewing. Due to the primates’ susceptibility to human viruses, such as the common cold, gorilla tours are strictly regulated. Guests are permitted only one hour of viewing and are required to remain within a certain distance of them. Visitors who are ill or who are recovering from an illness must not go on safari and, in most cases, will be refunded 100% of their fees when they properly notify their tour operators. In addition to the mountain gorilla, the endangered Golden Monkey species can also been seen and heard in Volcanoes.
A gorilla safari requires a basic level of fitness from all travelers, as the only way to view these lovely creatures is on foot. The trek to see the gorillas can take several hours and consists of hiking uphill through dense rainforest foliage such as bamboo and wild celery. Due to the high levels of precipitation, the ground is often wet and slippery and sturdy hiking boots and full-length trousers are strongly recommended. There is currently no accommodation inside the park and visitors are required to lodge outside of the borders. This makes for early starts but all tour operators are accustomed to this and have well-established itineraries for getting guests to and from the park.
When is the best time to visit Volcanoes National Park?