Volcanoes National Park is only 2 hours and 30 minutes drive from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. The park is characterized by montane forest, bamboo forest, and volcanic mountains and it is located in the northwestern parts of Rwanda covering an area of 160 km2and it encompasses five of the eight volcanic mountains which form the Virunga volcanic region. The five volcanic mountains include Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga, and Sabyinyo. The park also borders the Virunga National Park in DRC Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Over 1,063 mountain gorillas are remaining in the whole world but the three Gorilla national parks form the greater Virunga massif (Volcanoes National Park, Virunga National Park, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park) host over 604 rare Mountain Gorillas of the world’s population.
So the rest of the population totaling over 459 gorilla individuals call Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda their home. The park also hosts the Golden monkeys which is one of the beautiful primates also known as the sky monkey. The park has over 10 groups or families of the rare Mountain Gorillas and a silverback known as the male mountain Gorilla is the head of the family. The gorilla groups include the Susa Group, Sabyinyo Group, Amahoro Group, Group Thirteen (Agasha Group), Kwitonda, Umubano, Bwengye, Hirwa, Karinsimbi, and Uganda.
TOURISM ACTIVITIES AT VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
- Gorilla trekking
This is the most thrilling and incomparable activity which everyone is yearning to do in the whole world and it can only be done in Rwanda, Uganda, and DRC Congo. It involves walking and searching for the rare Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat. With Gorilla trekking in Rwanda, you have to make sure that your gorilla permit has been bought in advance at most a year because the permits are very competitive and it is sold on a first come first serve basis. On the day of your Gorilla trekking, you will be briefed by the ranger guides early in the morning then you will be grouped into 8 people who will later be assigned to track a specific gorilla family. The gorilla tracking starts at 8:00 am and it might take 2-6 hours depending on where the Gorillas spent the night on the previous day. So the ranger guides know where they are. Return to ranger post where you will be given certificates for completing your gorilla trekking activity. Upon finding the rare Mountain Gorillas, you will only interact with them for an hour
- Golden monkey trekking
Golden monkey procedures are the same as gorilla trekking activity where you will be briefed early in the morning then start the golden monkey trekking at 8:00 am. It takes a half-day of walking and looking for the golden monkeys. Upon finding them, watch them for an hour as they play, swing on the bamboo trees, feed the young ones, and couple.
- Mountain hiking
Given the fact that volcanoes national park encompass five volcanic mountains which have promoted mountain hiking including mountainSabyinyo (3.674 m), Gahinga (3.474 m), Bisoke (3711 m), Muhabura (4.127 m), and the Karisimbi which is the highest volcano with an altitude of (4.507 m). The hiking takes 6 to 8 hours walk and all these volcanic mountains are dormant however the active one is DRC Congo, mountain Nyiragongo.
- Visiting Dian Fossey tombs
Dian Fossey is still remembered for her tireless effort to conserve the rare Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The place is located in northwestern Rwanda in the district of Burera, Musanze, Rubavu, and Nyabihu. So it is in between Mountain Bisoke and Karasimbi in Rwanda. Dian Fossey dedicated her time to studying and discovering the Mountain Gorillas and there were only 250 Mountain Gorillas in around 1985 and that is why she is a widely known researcher on the rare Mountain Gorillas.
The last writing found on the book in her cabin read “when you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate on the preservation of the future.”
When time went on, her skull was found split into two by the machetes and it said this was one of the tools used by the poachers she had fought with for years to protect the rare Mountain Gorillas. So the poachers killed her so that they can easily find ways of poaching in Volcanoes National Park.
She had many Gorilla friends and today she was buried next to her dead gorilla friends which were killed by the very poachers who killed her. After her death, memorial services were held in Washington D.C., New York, and California. The cabins in which she and her staff lived do not exist anymore except for a few bare foundations, overgrown with weeds.
- Cultural experience
This is an interesting activity and in the due course, you will walk into the nearing communities where you interact with the local people around the park and above all, you will visit the IbyIwacu cultural experience where you will learn the lifestyle of the local people, way of their living, visit the King’s house, and enjoy the traditional dance the Intore. You will also listen to the traditional stories about the local traditional healers, taste their traditional dishes, a local brew made from the bananas, and also learn how the local crafts are being made like baskets.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
The best time to visit volcanoes national park is in the dry season but it will also depend on the activity you need to be part of. The dry season starts from December to February of every year and also from June to mid-September of every year. So the rest of the month is for the wet season. However, this does not mean that there are no tourism activities taking place during the wet season but you can always put on good and right gears for hiking because the wet season is slippery. During the wet hotels give discounts to have client’s at their facilities and even the park activities are also discounted
RWANDA GORILLA TREKKING GUIDELINES
The Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Rules and Guidelines are meant to make sure gorilla safaris go efficiently. Rwanda known to many as the land of a thousand hills is home to the endangered mountain gorillas. Inhabiting the remote forested mountains in volcanoes national park situated in northwestern Rwanda, mountain gorillas are some of the closest wild human beings relatives.
Volcanoes national park is home to half of the mountain gorilla population in the Virunga massif with a total of 10 habituated mountain gorilla families that are open to tourist visitation. On a single day – all year round, tourists heading for a gorilla safari in Rwanda first gather at volcanoes national park headquarters in Kinigi where they are briefed, allocated to the mountain gorilla family they will be tracking and to the guide who will be leading them in this great wildlife expedition. Tracking gorillas start in the morning and ranges from 1 to 8 hours of hiking depending on the movement of the gorillas and the luck of the tourists. Gorilla Adventure Tours organizes amazing and budget gorilla trekking safaris in Rwanda all year.
Each of the mountain gorilla families is tracked by strictly a group of 8 tourists in a day which means 88 mountain gorilla tracking permits are available every day.
Currently, Rwanda is the number one and most preferred mountain gorilla-tracking destination. To ensure the wellbeing of the mountain gorillas and the tourists, the Rwanda development board put up mountain gorilla tracking rules and guidelines that should be followed and observed by tourists so that they enjoy the exclusive mountain gorilla safaris to the fullest and they include the following
- Before Encountering The Gorilla, Always follow the guide’s instructions because the guides navigate the national park every day and therefore are aware and understand every part of the forest
- Always keep in the tourist tracking groups especially while in the forest to avoid getting lost.
- Avoid making a lot of noise as it can distract the mountain gorilla and other wildlife species in the forest.
- Avoid littering any rubbish in the national park.
- Do not go for tracking when sick.
On Encounter with the Mountain Gorilla
- Always keep a reasonable distance away from the mountain gorillas at least 7 meters.
- Not using flash photography while taking photos of the mountain gorillas as it may irritate them.
- Minimize noise until you are at least about 200 meters from the gorillas.
- Avoid eating in the presence of mountain gorillas.
- Do not touch the mountain gorillas. When they come towards your way, just remain where you are and avoid direct eye contact with the gorillas. f) Do not imitate the mountain gorilla behavior like beating the chest because it might send the wrong message to the mountain gorillas.
Tourists are allowed to be in the presence of the mountain gorillas for strictly one hour, which is intended to minimize chances of disease, spread from the human’s to mountain gorillas. There are high chances of disease spread from humans to gorillas because about 98%of their DNA is similar to humans.
If the above are observed and well followed by tourists, they can enjoy exclusive and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Tourists heading for tracking should carry enough drinking water because the hike through the forest is a little strenuous causing a lot of sweat and it is, therefore, wise to keep hydrating (drinking water).
Tourists are also recommended to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants because mountain gorilla tracking is done in the forest with a lot of plant vegetation some of which cause skin irritation when in contact. Carrying a raincoat or waterproof pants can never be a bad idea because rainfall in volcanic national parks is highly unpredictable and can therefore occur at any time of the day.
HOW MUCH IS A GORILLA PERMIT?
Each of the three countries where mountain gorillas are found has got a different price of a gorilla permit. The Uganda gorilla permit costs $ 700 per person per day for non-foreign residents, 600 per person per day for foreign residents, and shs 250,000 for the East African nationals. This price includes entrance fees, the permit, armed ranger guides to escort you throughout your trek.
Rwanda gorilla permits cost $1500 per person for the non-foreign residents and the foreign residents, $ 1000 per person for the foreign residents. DRC gorilla permits cost $450 per person per day. Gorilla Habituation Experience takes place in Bwindi impenetrable national park and it costs only $1500 per person and you are given 4 hours to spend with the mountain gorillas.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TREK MOUNTAIN GORILLAS
Since the gorillas live in the tropical rain forests with muddy and slippery grounds, the dry season is known to be the best time to track the mountain gorillas, this is between June to September and then from December to February. Though, it’s known that the gorillas can be trekked during the wet season to make the safari more adventurous and so memorable. This means that gorilla trekking can be enjoyed throughout the year.
WHAT IS THE BEST DRES’S CODE FOR TREKKING?
Dressing the right way for Gorilla trekking is so helpful to every trekker. This includes having hiking boots for easy movements in the slippery grounds, long-sleeved shirts, gloves for protection against rush leaves & thorny bushes, sunglasses, and hats to protect you from the direct sun. Carry rain jackets and warm light jackets that will provide warmth in the cold weather as well as random rain showers. Carry some snacks and a lot of drinking water to cool your thirst.
WHAT IS THE TREKKING TIME?
With regards to gorilla trekking, the trek starts with an early morning breakfast at the lodge and then a briefing at the headquarters by the park rangers/ Guides. Once the trek starts, there is no specific time to spend in the forest but varies depending on the movements of gorillas and where they slept the last night. This also means that the trekkers can even meet the gorillas within a short time or can take up to 6 hours if not the whole day. Though the gorilla trekkers are 99% sure of meeting the gorillas.
WHERE DO THE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS LIVE?
There are over 1001 mountain gorillas that are surviving in Africa and these are found in only three countries including; Bwindi impenetrable National Park in Uganda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It means that for one to see these endangered species, one must visit either Rwanda or Uganda since DRC is not safe for tourists. Gorilla Adventure Tours will always make your gorilla trekking tour in Rwanda quite memorable.
WHAT IS MAINLY INCLUDED IN THE GORILLA PERMIT PRICE?
The price of the gorilla price includes a park entrance, a Park ranger fee, who guides you during the trekking, and other services in the national park apart from the accommodation facility. This also means that the permit covers park entrance fees and Ranger fees.
WHAT IS THE AGE LIMIT FOR THE TREKKERS?
It’s only travelers aged 15 years and above that are allowed to track the mountain gorillas. It’s an authorization that each and everyone below 15 years can’t be allowed to track the gorillas even when you have paid for the permit and traveled with other people in the group. The trackers are advised to read carefully and understand all the frequently asked questions about gorilla trekking and get the answers before confirming any gorilla safari to Uganda, DRC, and Rwanda.