The Volcanoes National Park lies along the Virunga Mountains, with 8 ancient volcanoes, which are shared by Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Just a short two hour drive from Rwanda's capital of Kigali, the park is a central location for exploring one of most amazing and in some cases life-changing experiences you can ever have - Mountain Gorilla trekking. At 160 kms² the Volcanoes National Park is part of a 433km² trans-frontier conservation unit that also includes the Virungas National Park and Mgahinga National Park, which protect the DRC and Ugandan sectors of the Virungas respectively.
Ranging in altitude from 2,400m to 4,507m, the Volcanoes National Park is best known to the outside world as the place for almost 20 years, where American primatologist Dian Fossey undertook her pioneering studies of Mountain Gorilla behaviour. After her tragic death the film 'Gorillas in the Mist' drew worldwide attention to the plight of the Mountain Gorilla and Gorilla Tourism as a whole.
Gorilla Trekking remains the most popular activity in the country and is a sensational and moving experience to get up close to these amazing creatures, of which there are only around 880 on the planet. It’s an once-in-a-lifetime event that should be on everyone’s ‘bucket list’. There are at present 10 habituated gorilla groups for visitors to see and one set aside for research from which the Kwita Izina baby gorilla naming ceremony are selected. This means, a number of 80 gorilla permits are available each day for tourists going watch gorillas on a single day. Gorilla Permits are priced at US$750 per person and we recommend booking 3 to 6 months in advance, especially during Rwanda's high season of June - September.
The park itself has some fantastic accommodation on offer to add to your Rwanda safari. Most are mid-high end including Virunga Lodge, Sabyinyo Lodge and the new Bisate Lodge, but there are also several mid-range options too, including Mountain Gorilla View Lodge. Most people will spend 2-3 nights in the area and include one or two Gorilla treks, along on with seeing the Golden Monkeys and various other activities on offer in the area, before moving on to another national park like Akagera or Nyungwe to continue your Rwanda safari, or head to simply relax around Lake Kivu.
Near the park, the bustling and vibrant markets of Musanze are a place to immerse yourself into everyday Rwandan culture or visit just inside the park Iby'Iwacu Cultural Village. Here you can expect to be greeted by thunderous drumming, joyful dancing, and the kind of hospitality that has permeated Rwandan society for centuries. You can also go deep into the earth with Musanze's caves - one of the area's newest attractions, offering easy hiking and brilliant views of cascading lights from the surface, a colony of bats and unique rock formations. Also visit Buhanga EcoPark - a small and serene forest packs in a great deal of biological and cultural significance.Various trails cross through towering trees home to a variety of bird and butterfly species, and the location is built on an ancient sacred site that was used for coronation rituals of Rwandan kings. Fascinating experiences all adding to your Rwanda safari.