Volcanoes National Park
Safari suitability: 8/10Find your tour
Excellent opportunity for gorilla viewing. Park is well-run and well-maintained.
What YAS members think
- 96 permits are issued each day
- 12 gorilla families can be found in Volcanoes NP. They are: Susa, Igisha, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Agashya, Kwitonda, Umubano, Hirwa, Bwenge, Ugyenda and Muhoza
- 10% of permit fees go back to local communities
- Active volcanoes
About Volcanoes National Park
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?
Rwanda experiences four seasons and depending on your tolerance for precipitation, you may wish to plan your trip accordingly. The heavy rain season is mid-March to mid-May. During this time there are normally less visitors to the park but the trekking is also more strenuous and the gorillas may be harder to spot due to the misty conditions and dense foliage.
Dry season of Volcanoes National Park
Mid-May to mid-October is the dry season. This is the most popular time to visit Volcanoes as the trekking tends to be slightly easier and the gorillas may be easier to spot due to the reduced vegetation.
Rainy season of Volcanoes National Park
Mid-October through November is the short rain season, which makes for slightly more difficult trekking than in the dry season, but not as strenuous as in April or May. The short dry season runs from December through March and is another good time for trekking and gorilla viewing.
Deciding the gorilla trekking was just too expensive for mid-twenties budgets, my travel partner and I decided to do a volcano hike. We chose Bisoke based on our guidebooks review and the tour operator's recommendation. It's the second-easiest hike, but don't let that deceive you because man, is it challenging! The total hike takes about six hours and climbs in elevation from 8,000 to 11,000 feet, with the trail following natural volcanic paths up the mountain. We went in April and it was quite muddy despite it being unseasonably dry. In fact, there were times I was worried I was going to lose a shoe in the cakey, sticky mud we'd sink into! Additionally, the plants aren't the friendliest either. They have nettles bordering the trail which you very easily bump into and instinctively grab onto when you slip, which leaves a pins and needle feeling on the part of your body that touched it for up to an hour after. Why would I recommend this, you ask? Because it's the most gratifying feeling to be able to make it to the top and look below into the water-filled crater, peering over the the DRC just on the other side. We were beyond lucky enough to also spot two gorillas on our decent back to the base, one pregnant female making herself visible to our group as she climbed into a tree to continue munching on leaves. Fortunately for us, the gorillas don't pay attention to who paid the permit to see them and who didn't. We were one lucky group!
We trekked mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park for about 3 hours, this activity is out of this world. Whoever goes for a vacation should include gorilla trekking on their bucket list. We had an amazing experience.
If you are in Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is a fantastic place easily accessible from Kigali. The mountain gorilla trekking is very well organized, you can do this via a tour agency or on your own. A must-do experience while in Rwanda! You get to spend an hour with the gorilla family once you locate them. It. Is an experience you will never forget, the hour goes by in a jiffy. These creatures are magical, with soulful eyes, and very human like behavior. We saw a family with a 2-year old playing with his 4-year old brother, while a mother was nursing her baby boy. The silverback was pretty mellow, but did treat us to a chest thumping show. Once you observe these wonderful creatures for any length of time, it is hard to imagine how poaching has almost managed to make these ancestors of our extinct. The park has done a wonderful job of conservation and preservation so it is gratifying to see that the mountain gorilla population may finally be on an upswing. In any case, while not cheap, keep in mind that your $$$ funds this amazing work. The and trackers were amazing. They take real pride in the work they are doing, and they know the various gorilla groups that they have habituated really well. Thank you
I was fortunate enough to trek the mountain gorillas in two countries and two parks. My first trekking experience was my best. I did Volcanoes and had such a great experience. The trek was more scenic and I felt the guides and rangers were better here. It is more expensive than Bwindi but it also looked like they were doing more to give back to the local communities here. I would gladly return.
I was fortunate to have the possibility to visit the park at the end of 2015. It was a totally amazing experience. At first I was really impressed by the country of Rwanda. So different from what I expected. A well-organized country that still had managed to keep the origin. We stayed at hotel in Musanze and the hotel helped with arranging transportation to the park. When we arrived at park there was a local dancing and singing group performing along with serving coffee or tea. They divided us into groups and a guide were assigned. We had a really good guide. Very dedicated to his work. He told about the park, the gorillas, the mountains and informed us about the members "our" group. Then a short ride to the starting point of our walk. We were offered to have a carrier. It was local men from the village living on carrying backpacks for tourists. It was not expensive, so even if you perfectly well can carry your own backpack, its a good way to support the members of the village by hire a carrier. Then the walk started. Through fields of eucalyptus trees. Then we went into the park and it was getting more steep. The walk was shorter than I expected and then we met up with guards watching "our" group 24 hours, seven days a week, to protect them from hunters. We left backpacks and other stuff with the guards and the carriers and took the final climb up to the group. Suddenly we met the old man and his wife. The former silver back. He was patiently sitting there, not paying much attention to us. After a while, taking pictures, we moved on and then met the son, the present silver back. He was taking his morning nap. Around him was several females and kids. We spent an hour together with the group. A totally amazing experience. I could hardly believe it was true being close to them and they totally accepted us being there. I can highly recommend this trip. Its quite expensive for tourist, 750 USD, but totally worth it. The monies cover the cost of the guards protecting these vulnerable and amazing animals.
Volcanoes National Park has 8 habituated groups of gorillas available for daily tracking and up to 8 visitors are allowed per day, for one hour only. Gorilla treks can be over and done with in less than 3 hours or, in adverse circumstances, take 8 or more hours. The guides are well-trained, fluent in English and it's best to make use of the blue uniformed porters, as even a bag pack eventually gets heavy, especially when carrying a few litres of water, for oneself and to spare for others who did not think ahead. Bring sturdy boots and wear long sleeved shirts or wind breakers as the thorns and branches otherwise inflict bloody scratch marks. One final recommendation ... take the extra time to visit Lake Kivu as Gisenyi where some fine beach side resorts like the Lake Kivu Serena or the Paradis Malahide offer fine hospitality. Alternatively take time out and cross Uganda Boarder to Lake Mutanda where Chameleon Hill Lodge offers an amazing hospitality!
This is a really nice place to go. Theo have 12 different gorilla families in the mountains and we visited the amazing Sabyinyo group. Our guide was very good and knowledgeable. Usually they recommend a distance of at least 7 meters to the gorillas but this time the gorilla silver back came up to us very close as you can see on my profile pictures. The weather was really good this day with no rain and not too much sun. When it's raining it must be very slippery to walk up and down that hills. Before we went up on the mountains it was a show of local dancing with a lot of drums. I must say that I am really impressed of the way Rwanda has taken care of the gorillas and strongly recommend a visit both to Rwanda in general and specially to Volcanoes Park.
For a number of years now we've wanted to see the silver back gorilla. It's KAE that allowed us to realize this dream. Our guide was extraordinarily kind and patient. His knowledge of the fauna helped us discover some remarkable animals that others wouldn't have had seen. As for the mountain gorilla, to see these animals get up close to us is a rare and moving experience. Especially in the wake of our trip to QENP, where were our knowledgeable guide helped us spot the tree-climbing lions of Ishasha. An flawless organization that was at our disposable day and night, with expert knowledge of the flora and fauna. A must-do trip. ________________________________________________________________ Depuis de nombreuses années nous souhaitions voir les "silver back". C'est KAE qui nous a permis de rréaliser notre rêve.Le guide KAE était d'une gentillesse etd'une disponibilité extraordinaire. Ses connaissances de la faune nous ont permis découvrir cette faune si remarquable que d'autres n'auront peut être pas vue. Quant au gorille, voir ces animaux se rapprocher de nous restera une expérience rare et très émouvante. D'autant que cette visite venait après celle du parc Queen Elizabeth en Ouganca où là aussi les connaisances de notre guide nous a permis de découvrir par exemple les lions arbiricoles de Ishasha. Une organisation sans faille, une disponibilité des tous les instants, des connaissances très complétes. Un voyage à faire
Nothing can prepare you for your first sighting of a silverback gorilla. He is HUGE! He could easily rip you limb from limb and you immediately respect and admire this docile creature and wish man were more like his primate cousin. The trek was tough, and there were leeches and mosquitoes to deal with, but I would do it again in a second, even with the increased prices.
The existence of gorillas in Africa's rain forests has been known for centuries not only in Africa but the whole world. 2000 years back,early records were taken by the sailors that landed from the North African province as they tried to capture some apes in the western lowland and the eastern lowland. in the early 1900, the other specie of the mountain gorillas was identified, some what bulkier than its lowland cousins. Mountain gorillas rank among the rarest animals in the world with just 840 gorillas in the existence. Half of the total number are in Bwindi impenetrable forest National Park and the bigger number in Parc National Des Volcans Ruhengeri. Have a memorable experience Gorilla tracking in Parc National des Volcans with your guides leading you through the forest,get a grip of yourself, this is not a joy ride, there are steep areas, rough and rugged foot path but meeting the giant ape will be worth your effort. You always enjoy an hour with the gorillas, you are going to find out that gorillas are extremely social and dwell in groups with the dominant being the silver back with their female mates usually viewed nursing their babies. While on your gorilla trip to Parc National Des Volcans, do not hesitate to stop over at the Karisoke research center. This center was established by American Zoologist Dian Fossey, who had dedicated part of her life for safety of the mountain gorillas, therefore we can not talk about gorillas in Rwanda and miss out Diana Fossey. Here you can also see the grave of Digit, one of her most treasured primate friends.
Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) is situated in northwestern Rwanda bordering Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Volcanoes National Parks main attraction is the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) living in the lush hills within the park. There are about 10 gorilla families and your reservations allow you an hour watching each family eat, sleep, and move about. I really loved susa family of mountain gorillas and felt like I were part of the family. I was never disappointed and the experience was well worth it! This wonderful park is also home to several other species including the spotted hyena, golden monkey and buffalo. The park is also a birdwatchers seventh heaven, with 178 recorded bird species. Come visit Africa, come visit the gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Driving to Volcanoes National Park from Kigali
If you are landing in the capital city of Rwanda, Kigali, it is roughly a 2.5 hour drive to reach Volcanoes in normal conditions. The roads are mainly tarmacked and traffic is normally minimal outside of Kigali.
The following airlines travel to Volcanoes National Park
Coastal Aviation is an airline operating out of Dar es Salaam - charter flights. Coastal Aviation flying to some 100 strips located in some of the most isolated pockets of the East African Region. The scheduled Coastal network also connects visitors to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda with the world-famous Serengeti, links the emerging tourism destinations of Mozambique with the Southern Tanzania parks of Selous and Ruaha, and unites the tropical island paradises of Pemba, Zanzibar, Mafia and Fanjove Private Iaslandwith the National Parks and towns of the mainland. Our state of the art fleet is composed of 20 aircraft and has been expertly-adapted to the African safari environment, without compromise to safety and comfort. Visit website
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We are a Rwandan based aviation company specializing in helicopter solutions,pilot training among other services tailored to your every need. We offer aerial excursions within Rwanda and her neighbors in the East Africa community. Our top destinations are Akagera, Nyungwe, Volcanoes National Park and Bisate Lodge. Visit website
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