Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

By Bushtracks
August 10, 2022

Volcanoes National Park is in northeast Rwanda. The park is a 2-hour drive from Kigali and is the last edge of the West African rainforest. Volcanoes National Park is in a mountainous region with high altitude virgin rainforests, full to the brim with vibrant and unique wildlife species. It is a travel destination like no other.

It is one of the three habitats for mountain gorillas on the planet and the only place in which you can view wild mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

The rainforests are at a high altitude, and temperatures are some of the lowest found in Africa. In Volcanoes National Park, it rains throughout the year. The fertile volcanic soils and abundant water have resulted in a verdant and life-filled rain forest.  The forest is characterised by bamboo, small patches of shrubs, grassland areas, swamp and wetland vegetation in the valleys, and heath on the tips of the volcanos. It offers the ideal conditions for gorillas and other unique wildlife species.

The park is also home to endangered Golden Monkeys, buffaloes, black-fronted duiker, hyaenas, and bushbucks. There are 178 species of birds, with about 27 endemic varieties.

In terms of activities, gorilla trekking safaris top the list. This is the main reason most people visit the Volcanoes National Park and is strictly regulated to prevent overtourism and ensure the safety and health of the gorillas. Each person who would like to do a gorilla trek must procure a gorilla trekking permit prior to their visit to the park. In addition, you must be older than 18 and healthy at the time of the trek. This is because gorillas easily fall ill with human diseases. Each group of gorillas may only be visited by a maximum of eight visitors per day, and visitors may stay with the gorillas for one hour. The hikes to view the gorillas change depending on where they are in the forest and how far you have to go to find them, but in general, conditions are muddy, wet, and often include steep and strenuous climbs.

Despite the physical challenge, your hour spent with the gorillas will surely be one of the most magical of your life. It is simply one of the greatest wildlife adventures on earth. You will be peaceful and energised after melting into the forest beside them as they go about their daily life, eating, playing, resting, and parenting in a way that is uncanny in its resemblance to us.

The best times for gorilla trekking are December to February and June through to September, as these are the times with the least rain. Be aware that during these months there is a high demand for gorilla permits and your permit will need to be secured months in advance.

Although the gorillas are high on most visitors’ bucket lists, there is more to do here than just spending time with them. Enjoying the beautiful surrounds, viewing golden monkeys on a trek, bird watching, fishing, hiking, taking part in community life, and learning about the culture of the Batwa people are just some of what’s on offer.

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