Exploring Volcanoes National Park

The most famous destination in Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park has become synonymous with mountain gorilla tracking safaris and no visit to the country would be complete without visiting these majestic primates. The town of Musanze (more commonly known by its former name Ruhengeri) is the hub of gorilla trekking tours in Rwanda, with plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants, and is easily accessible on a 1-2 hour drive from the capital Kigali.

Volcanoes National Park’s Headquarters are based in the nearby village of Kinigi, the administrative centre for permits and the place where you gather in the morning for briefing before starting on the gorilla treks. There is no other wildlife experience quite like an encounter with mountain gorillas. That precious hour spent in their company – watching the group playing, sulking, teasing each other, eating, or dozing just like we do – is extraordinary and amazing making gorilla tracking safaris in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park being among the best in Africa.

Rwanda is now home to ten habituated groups of mountain gorillas that are scattered all over Volcanoes National Park. You’ll leave early in the morning for your briefing at the Park Head Quarters and then in parties of eight will be taken to your allocated group with a guide. Gorilla trekking can be arduous – some of the groups wander high up the mountainsides – but it is always utterly rewarding.

Even without mountain gorilla safaris, Volcanoes National Park would be fascinating. Its altitude ranges from about 2,500m to the peak of Karisimbi, at 4,500m, resulting in extensive bamboo forests and some of the last remaining afro-montane forest habitat on the planet. On the higher slopes you’ll find an almost otherworldly habitat of thick moors with endemic giant lobelia and groundsel. As well as its infamous mountain gorillas, the Park harbors a spectacular array of rare and endangered animals and plants.

There is a variety of other primates, including the endemic golden monkeys, plus forest elephants, buffalo, giant forest hogs (Africa’s largest swine), bush pigs, bush bucks, black-fronted duikers, spotted hyenas, and around 200 species of birds. Several other primates have made Volcanoes National Park their home too and it’s possible to track two troops of habituated golden monkeys, a totally different experience to gorilla tracking.

Golden monkeys tend to inhabit the bamboo forests on the lower slopes, so the walk to reach them is relatively easy. Again, once you find them, you’ll have just an hour in their presence. They’re fast-moving little creatures, and very entertaining as they constantly swing through the bamboo or chase each other in circles all around you. They’re also very pretty, with shiny reddish-gold backs that blend in perfectly with the golden bamboo. Enjoy such a memorable safari with Rwanda Gorilla Safaris.

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