Volcanoes National Park
Beautiful and biodiverse, Volcanoes National Park in the Virunga Mountains is home to endangered mountain gorillas. Be inspired by these powerful, yet gentle giants. Steep slopes covered in rich, dense rainforest provide a stunning natural setting for your adventure.
I loved watching the chimpanzees going about their daily activities: nest-building, baby-sitting, playing, collecting food. We even had ringside seats to a challenge to the alpha male and his response. This was really special. I also loved the opportunity to see the landscape on the trip down to Nyungwe and to talk with my guide, Emmanuel, about Rwanda, about his life and his plans.
Volcanoes National Park, or Parc National des Volcans, occupies a spot in the northwest corner of Rwanda. To say it is stunning is an understatement. The steep slopes of the volcanoes are covered with dense green rainforest, a dramatic location for what is an unforgettable experience for those lucky enough to do it – trekking to see the fascinating mountain gorillas.
The park is a safe haven for both the gorillas and the rare golden monkeys which you can also see here - comical fellows who gather together in large troops, leaping from tree to tree, keeping still just long enough for you to get a photograph. It’s not just about primates; there is culture, history and conservation to hold your attention if you just scratch beneath the surface.
- Gorilla trekking in Rwanda: Our not-too-distant cousins are the main drawcard for most visitors to the Virungas. For many, it’s a bucket list item, and for those lucky enough to have done it, they’ll want to do it again. Spending that magical hour with these most fascinating animals is a life-changing experience.
- Golden monkeys: Much smaller than gorillas but still captivating are the rare golden monkeys. These too can be visited whilst you are staying in the Volcanoes National Park area.
- Birding: With varied habitats in the park our feathered friends are well represented too. 178 species have been recorded and 13 of which are endemic to these mountains.
- Dian Fossey: Known for her important conservation work with mountain gorillas. Dian Fossey lived and died in the park. Her grave is located at Karisoke close to her beloved gorilla Digit. You can hike to visit her grave, with proceeds going to gorilla conservation.
- Iby’ Iwacu cultural village: A lively and sometimes interactive insight into pre-colonial Rwandan Culture. It’s a chance to meet local Rwandans and see how some former poachers have turned their lives around – tourism as a force for good in action!
- Conservation: Once poached almost to extinction, the gorilla populations are slowly but very surely recovering (though there is still a long way to go). Continuing on from Dian Fossey’s legacy is the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International which monitors and protects the gorillas. The park is also home to the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (known as Gorilla Doctors) who monitor the health of the gorillas and intervene only when absolutely necessary. Last but by no means least is the funds from trekking permits. Whilst the price tag is very steep, it’s a small price to pay for the preservation of a species and the privilege of spending a magical hour with these gentle primates.