When most tourists hear about Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, what comes in their minds are Mountain gorillas and gorilla trekking safaris. However, there is more to this Park than meets the eye.

Situated in the Northwestern corner of Rwanda, this Park is a home to several attractions including mammals such as the obvious ones-critically endangered Mountain gorillas. Volcanoes National Park was established in 1925 with an aim of protecting these exceptional Giant Apes that were facing extinction. Nonetheless, Golden monkeys, Elephants, Buffaloes, spotted hyenas, Bush bucks and Giant forest hogs among others call this site home. Also, over 180 species of birds are sheltered within this Park, not forgetting the five Virunga Volcanoes that include Mount Bisoke, Karisimbi, Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura.

With such phenomenal attractions, Volcanoes National Park is undoubtedly a haven to numerous tourist activities that include;

Gorilla trekking

Being one of the four Protected Areas in the World that offer shelter to these critically endangered primates, gorilla trekking is undeniably the key tourist activity that draws thousands of tourists from all parts of the Globe.

There are currently over 300 gorillas and 10 habituated families to be tracked and these include Umubano, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Ugenda, group 13/Agashya, Bwenge, Sabinyo, Susa A, Susa B (Karisimbi and Amahoro. Add this Park as your number one destination for gorilla trekking so as to experience what everyone describes as mind-blowing. The adventure starts from Kinigi Park Headquarters with briefing at 7:00am before finally venturing into the Jungles at 8:00am.  Permits for the activity cost $1500 per person and allows tourists to spend one hour with a habituated gorilla family.

Golden monkey tracking

Volcanoes National Park is also known for golden monkey tracking because it is a home to these endangered primates. There are currently two habituated families that can be tracked within the bamboo forests of this exceptional park. Just like gorilla trekking, this activity also begins from Kinigi Park headquarters with briefing on the tracking guidelines, and permits cost only $100 per person.

Volcano hiking

Hikes are conducted to the Peaks of Mount Bisoke and Karisimbi (highest of all the mountains in the Virunga Massif) where tourists are rewarded with the views of the other Virunga Volcanoes and the breathtaking twin Lakes. Interestingly, hiking Mount Karisimbi rewards climbers with the views its snow-capped summits.

The Dian Fossy grave hike

This invigorating hike leads tourists to the grave of the passionate woman who dedicated 18 years of her life to conserving the mountain gorillas within Volcanoes National Park before she was mysteriously murdered in her cabin in 1985. After three hours hiking, you will see Dian Fossey’s Tomb lying next to the grave of her favorite gorilla named Digit. Not only that, you will come across the remains of Dian’s former Karisoke Research Center and the home she regarded as a Mausoleum. Interestingly, you are likely to encounter several mammals such as golden monkeys, buffaloes, bush pigs, elephants, bird species and if lucky the Mountain gorillas during this Hike.

Dian Fossey’s life and work was documented in “Gorilla in the Mist” film. Watch the movie and you will learn to appreciate her efforts and Giant Apes more.

Cultural encounters

The important and interesting cultural encounter around Volcanoes National Park is the visit to Iby’iwacu Cultural Village. This Village is found near the Park hence a perfect option to combine with your gorilla trekking safari. It is where the past meets the present because you will get a chance to experience some of Rwanda’s traditional lifestyles and cultures before modernization.

You will be rewarded with a number of activities that include drumming lessons, community walks to the neighboring villages to learn about their daily activities, visit to the former King’s Palace, enjoy entertainment in their invigorating traditional dances and songs, visit to the traditional healer as well as learning how to prepare some of the local dishes as well as visit to the Batwa people.  You will also get a taste of the traditional meals and drinks that include banana beer and juice.

Bird watching

With over 180 species of birds including 13 Albertine rift endemics and 16 species endemic to the Rwenzori Mountains that call Volcanoes National Park home, tourists can now engage in birding within the jungles. Some of the notable bird species include the handsome francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, dusky crimsonwing, the collared apalis and the strange weaver among others.

Other activities are conducted outside but near Volcanoes National Park and they include Hike to the twin Lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo, visit to Musanze Cave and exploring Buhanga Sacred Forest among others.

Therefore, Volcanoes National Park is a must-visit destination for Rwanda safaris because it rewards tourists with exhilarating activities such as gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, cultural encounters, bird watching, hike to Dian Fossey’s grave and Volcano hiking among others.