The Volcanoes National Park is an English of the former French naming the parc Nationale des volcanoes which is positioned to the north west of Rwanda sheltering the Rwandan section of the entire virunga volcanoes that comprise of 8 mountains shared by Rwanda along adjacent countries of Uganda and the congo border. The volcanoes national park is notably the home of the mountain gorillas that are critically endangered world over and it shares 5 volcanic mountains that form the virunga massif including the karisimbi, Gahinga, Sabyinyo, Muhavura and bisoke.
The park was established in 1925 and can be noted that this was the first park to be gazette on the mountain gorillas and ensure their continuity. The boundaries of volcanoes national park were enlarged in 1929 to feature the sections of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and its name then was altered to Albert National Park stretching over a geographical spread of 8090 km2 under the management of the Belgian colonial government who were the colonial government who were the colonial masters of the two states by then. Following the independence, Park was separated following the boundary. The Rwanda side was reduced in 1969 to create more space for the growing population.
Volcanoes National Park in the years that followed became rich ground for the mountain gorilla research and the famous dian fossey the American primatologist arrived in the park and concentrated on the researching and promotion of the mountain gorilla conservation. A research station was set up in between karisimbi and bisoke and was named karisoke deriving the name from the two volcanoes. Though Dian Fossey lost her life in the year under unclear circumstances, her legacy and the research station still stands today.
A multi storey building has been set up in musanze town to accommodate the karisoke works and coordinate mountain gorilla research in the area. The famous book of dian fossey named the gorillas in the mist was transformed into a movie. By sigourney weaver. The volcanoes national park is perched on a mountainous landscape and is as a result features verdant vegetation that varies according to the raising altitude . At 2400-2500m, there thrives lower montane forest which was lost to farming, 2500 – 3200m there is neonotonia forest while the bamboo forest covers about 30 % of the park which make the food verdant for the gorillas.
At 2600 – 3600 m there thrives loberia lanurensis, senecio erici-rosenii and Lobelia wollastonii . The elevation of 4300 – 4500 m in elevation features a secondary thicket, marshes and meadows. The volcanoes National Park is greatly recognized world over by its numbers of the mountain gorillas with 10 groups of habituated gorillas dedicated for tracking and the two groups dedicated for research. The park also supports the endangered golden monkeys, other fauna like spotted hyena, black fronted duiker, buffalo, along with bushbucks though rarely seen. 178 bird species of which 13 species and 16 subspecies are restricted in range to mountains of Virunga and rwenzori.
ATTRACTIONS IN VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Volcanoes National Park, together with Mgahinga I Uganda and virunga in Congo form the greater virunga massif that apparently supports 480 mountain gorilla population. Which is more than half of their global population standing at 880 with the rest thriving in Uganda’s Bwindi impenetrable National Park.
Volcanoes National Park has undertaken the habituation of a section of these gorillas and apparently, it features two habituated research groups of pablo’s shida and Beets me. Apart from the research groups, the volcanoes National Park also supports 10 habituated gorilla families dedicated for tracking by travelers on gorilla trekking safaris.these include susa A ,susa B,amahoro ,umubano,kwitonda,guhonda,kwitonda,hirwa,ugenda,bwenge and group 13.
Volcanoes national park also features impressive wildlife that can be explored on Rwanda gorilla safaris. They include black fronted duiker, buffalo, spotted hyena,and bushbuck.
The endangered golden monkeys can also be encountered while on safari. These thrive in the virunga massif and the Gishwati in Rwanda on the global scale and they feature magical golden patch on their back which forms the background of their names. They exist in the bamboo zone of the park and are among the unique primate species worth encountering on Rwanda safaris.
Bird watching is another activity that one can undertake while on a gorilla tour in Rwanda. The park fatures account of 178 bird species of which 13 species of these and 16 subspaecies limited to the mountain of rwenzori and virunga massive. The range of birds include Rwenzori Turacco among others. Talking about scenery ,volcanoes National park is gifted to be sharing 5 out of the eight mountains in the virunga massif and these include the famous karisimbi mountain (4507m), which is the highest of the entire mountain chain.Muhavura (4127m) , Bisoke (3711m) Sabyinyo (3645m)along with Gahinga (3474m). Appearing in this form, the volcanic mountains present one of the great scenic views on the continent of Africa. They feature beautiful vegetation on their slopes and magical peaks not forgetting crater lakes like lak e Ngezi. all these combine to derive magical scenic views if explored on safaris in Rwanda.
ACTIVITIES TO UNDERTAKE IN VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Gorilla tracking is one of the major activity that is undertaken in the park. Gorilla trekking commences at Kinigi park headquarters at 8am local time .the prior arrival offer the free magical views of the kinyarwnda dance performances along with a warm cup of coffee that enables the trekkers to neutralize the mountain coldness that is always much in the morning . The gorilla families are allocated by the park rangers and briefing is carried out at 8am local time in groups of eight standing in your respective gorilla groups.
This is later followed by a drive to the trail head and then trekking commences.the encounter tend sto last between 2 and 8 hours and involves one hour of direct encounter with the mountain gorillas. The trek in the jungle involves hiking impressive landscapes that are at times challenging with slipperly surfaces and steep terrain . the views of flora ,the birds and the forest add spice beyond the gorillas alone.
The gorlla permits issued solely by the Rwanda Development Board cost $1500 each through out the year and the minimum of 15 years is the lowest age to track gorillas. Golden monkey tracking commences at 7am from the park headquarters at kinigi and does not have a group limit interms of numbers .the entire experience normally takes 4 hours and this involves onr full hour with the golden monkey as they feed, play and make interesting sounds .the permit costs $100 and is issued solely by the Rwanda Development Board.
karisimbi volcano stands as the highest of all the eight volcanic mountains that form the virunga massif .it rises 4507m above sea level and stands as the 6th highest in Africa . the climb to the summit of karisimbi takes 2 days on round trip and the first camp is pitched at 3700 m with the beautiful views of mount bisoke . The second day allows you to summit the mountain and descend back to the starting point. the encounter exposes the views of various geographical features ,vegetation zones and amazing sceneries. The climb to karisimbi requires 2 days notice to the park Authorities and costs $400 exclusive of the tent $10 and the porters who are paid Rwanda francs 5000 per day.
Rising to 3711m above sea level .the hike takes one day round trip thus offering an adventure excursion for the limited time travelers or as an extension of gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda . the climb to this volcano commences at 7am and takes around 7 hours round trip and offers the sights of beautiful flora ,impressive views of the scenic virunga mountains and the crater lake of Ngezi.
HIKING DIAN FOSSEY GRAVE
The American Primatologist Dian Fossey established a research station in volcanoes National Park in 1967 and she named it karisoke . She dedicated her life to research about the mountain gorillas and championing their conservation . She did a lot of great things including initiating the active gorilla conservation that aimed at eliminating poaching through armed patrols . she set up the digit fund which later resulted into the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund international that still stands up to today.she lost her life in 1985 inunclear circumstances when she was found dead at her Research center in karisoke .thus undertaking a hike to Dian Fossey site and paying tribute to her is a historical and ethical tour that you can have in Rwanda. A permit costs $ 100 per person.
TWIN LAKES VISIT
Lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo appear as twin lakes because they adjoin one another. The walk to the twin lakes presents magical views of the lakes and the beautiful sites of Russumo falls. You encounter the locals paddling the canoes and others riding their wooden boats on these lakes as they fish. The walk presents impressive bird views like the long crested eagle. African marsh harrier, stone chat, grey throated tit and many more.
Lake Ngezi is located on mount bisoke and appears small a crater lake that is at 11 km stretch from the summit of the Bisoke mountain. The hike to the lake is about 3-4 hours with sights of beautiful mountain flora and birds en route.Since the lake is within the park boundaries, you are accompanied by the ranger for protection and guidance, while at the lake you enjoy the impressive views of the neighboring DR Congo.
Musanze caves are historical that are positioned in musanze district outside of volcanoes National Park undertaking a caves walk to the musanze caves allows the Guest to explore the caves that are 65 million years old featuring a count of 31 entrances and over 2km long inside. these caves were created from the flow of basalt layers of lava that flowed from volcanic mountains of sabyinyo and bisoke. The caves walk takes about 2 hours and the experience costs $50. it can be done in the afternoon and the protection from the Rwanda soldiers is provided. The canes played a historical role as they used to act as a refuge for the Rwandan Royals during the times of war in traditional Rwanda and a store for the supplies. The caves also sheltered many people during the genocide in 1994.