Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is a top destination for gorilla trekking safaris in Africa and this is the most famous attraction that makes visitors to continuously move to Rwanda. The experience of tracking of the mountain gorillas and seeing them for one hour up-close unhindered by bars in zoos has become the highlight of one’s African Journey. This once in a lifetime experience is offered in selected countries. Besides Rwanda, you can only enjoy gorilla trekking in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The park reopened to tourism in June 1993, but it was evacuated in April 1994 because of the genocide. Later in 1995, it once again reopened to tourism. By then, gorilla tracking was finally resumed on a permanent basis in July 1999, since when the number of tourists visiting the Virungas had increased rapidly.

First and foremost, one should never expect to find gorillas in a zoo anywhere in the world. You can only see them in the wild and Volcanoes National Park is the favorite destination to visit. There are presently 10 habituated gorilla groups that tourists can track in Rwanda. Some of the most popular gorilla groups are Susa Group, Sabinyo Group, Amohoro Groups, Agasha Group, the Kwitonda Group, the Umubano Group, the Bwenye Group, Hirwa Group, Karisimbi Group and the Uganda Group.

Get Prepared for the Gorilla Trek

Gorilla tracking involves moving long distances, passing through thick vegetation and small paths which are at times muddy during the rainy season.  Rain might make it a bit more difficult to pass through. However the paths are passable and you will move at your own pace.

You only need to carry enough of water along the way and you can also use the assistance of a porter to carry your day pack.

A walking stick will also make your trek a bit easier.

There is a gorilla group that is just right for you to visit and for you to enjoy that one hour in the presence of the gorillas.

The mountain gorillas of Rwanda are found in the higher altitude of the Virunga Volcanoes in Volcanoes National Park. The 10 different gorilla groups that are open for visitation require various levels of physical fitness. Therefore visitors must be realistic about their own physical fitness. If you have physical limitations such as a heart condition, that must be taken into consideration and as a last resort, you can be carried in and out by porters at an extra cost.

Gorilla Families of Rwanda

The gorilla families groups you will be visiting in the Volcanoes National Park are habituated meaning that they are used to the presence of humans and will go about with their daily routine while you are observing. Before going on  a gorilla trekking expedition, you will be briefed about the gorilla watching rules and regulations that need to be strictly followed while in the presence of the family visited. These rules are aimed at protecting the well being of the gorillas so that they can be protected for future generations.

When Is the Best Time to Visit the Mountain Gorillas?

Rwanda is a destination that can be visited all year round. Therefore you can go on a safari in Rwanda any time of the year. However you need to be aware of the peak and offpeak season so that you can plan a perfect holiday for yourself.

The weather and climate found in the Volcanoes National Park tends to be very wet.  The dry season is from June to September and from December to February and they are also the high season months.  At times you have early morning rains and afternoon thunderstorms and showers.  Gorilla tracking is year around and people flock from around the world 12 months of the year for Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

Currently, the cost of a gorilla permit is 1500 USD per person in Rwanda.  This is not just an arbitrary figure, but the money received from permits is used in conservation and support of local communities who now see Gorilla Tourism as a benefit and it has dramatically reduced poaching of any kind in Volcanoes National Park.

The Volcanoes Park is part of a contiguous 433km² Trans frontier conservation unit that also includes the Virunga National Park and Mgahinga National Park, which protects the DRC and Ugandan sectors of the Virunga respectively. Currently, the three National Parks are managed separately today. At the time of independence, Rwanda’s new leaders confirmed that they would maintain the gorillas which were already known internationally despite the pressing problem of overpopulation.

Ranging in altitude from 2400km to 4507 the Volcanoes National Park is conquered by the setting of volcanoes. This chain of steep, all free standing mountains linked by fertile saddles which were formed by solidified lava flows, is one of the most stirring and memorable sights in East Africa .

The easiest way of reaching Volcanoes Park is through Musanze formerly known as Ruhengeri, which can easily be reached on public transport from Gisenyi, Kigali on the day you track. You need to be at the ORTPN office in Kinigi, by the park entrance, by 07.00, but this isn’t a reliable option in case you are using public transport. There is no public transport between Musanze and the park headquarters at Kinigi.

Where to spend an Overnight/ Accommodation facilities

The Park does not have any accommodation and overnight camping is not accepted. You can check with ORTPN about camping possibilities nearby. For those on a restricted budget, the best option is to have overnight in Musanze, but smarter and more convenient accommodation is available near the park headquarters at Kinigi or at the superior but more distant Virunga Lodge overlooking Lake Burera.