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 Virunga 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. 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 is selected. This means a number of 80 gorilla permits are available each day for tourists going watch gorillas on a single day. 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 in 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.
Volcanoes National Park FAQs
How many gorillas are in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda?
In terms of population, there are more lowland gorilla than mountain gorillas (found at Volcanoes National Park). The numbers are over 100,000, and about 800 respectively. Volcanoes National Park is home to about 340 of those 800 mountain gorillas found in the wild of which around 175 are accessible to tourists on a gorilla trekking expedition.
Are there any active volcanoes in Rwanda?
Karisimbi is the highest of the Virunga volcanoes in Rwanda and Central Africa in the border region of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the 11th highest mountain in Africa and currently in a dormant stage. So are all the other surrounding volcanoes in Rwanda.
What is the weather like at Volcanoes National Park?
It rains a lot throughout the year, but there is a short, drier season from June to August. We recommend that you pack warm, waterproof clothing and good walking shoes for hiking.
June & July – Although it can rain at any time, these are the driest months of the year. With drier trails on offer, it’s an excellent time for hiking. Daytime temperatures average 16°C/61°F, while the mercury hovers around 6°C/43°F at night.
August – Time to pull out your rain jacket. The rains pick up noticeably in August. However, temperatures stay the same.
Rain, rain, rain…there’s plenty of it around during the wet season from September to May. Don’t forget to pack waterproof clothing, sturdy shoes for hiking and warm clothing for the cold, damp conditions, if you do decide to go at this time.
September – If the rains don’t arrive in August, they will definitely come in September. Temperatures are around 16°C/61°F during the day, depending on altitude. Nights are cold with an average of 6°C/43°F.
October & November – It rains a lot, with October a peak month for rainfall. Temperatures remain the same.
December, January & February – It rains a bit less than in October and November, but the rain can come at any time. Wet-weather gear is still a must.
March & April – These are the wettest months and it can rain for days. Hiking can be difficult as the trails get very slippery. Temperatures don’t really change.
May – Sometime in May, the rain diminishes and there are more sunny days. Daytime temperatures are a bit lower.
What activities are there to do in Volcanoes National Park?
Volcanoes National Park is a top safari destination with a growing number of travelers coming into Rwanda for gorilla safaris and other Rwanda wildlife tours. Some of the most interesting activities include:
Gorilla Trekking - This is a priority for most travelers to the national park and is home to 10 habituated gorilla families available for trekking.
Golden Monkey Trekking - This is also a favourite among visitors to the park. This should not be missed.
Volcano hiking - Besides wildlife, Volcanoes national park is a home for three extinct volcanoes. Travelers to this park therefore have an added advantage of hiking to the top of a Volcano like Mt. Karisimbi.
Caving - Do not miss out visiting the Musanze caves on your Rwanda safari to Volcanoes national park.
Where can I stay at Volcanoes National Park?
There isn't any accommodation situated in the park itself, but there are quite a number of choices to stay just outside the park. It would really be determined by the level of luxury and budget you have and what you are looking for during your stay. Some of our favourites are Bisate Lodge, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, One&Only Gorilla's Nest and Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge.
How long should I stay at Volcanoes National Park?
Just remember you don't actually ever stay in the park itself. All accommodation options are situated at varying distances just outside the park.
We recommend at least 2 to 3 nights in the area and to include at least a Gorilla and Golden Monkey trek, before heading on to Akagera, Nyungwe or Lake Kivu.
Located in Volcanoes National Park, Bisate Lodge is run by highly reputed Wilderness Safaris, who operate many high-end camps and lodges across Africa. Nestled in the natural amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone in Rwanda, the world Bisate means "pieces" in Kinyarwanda and depicts how the cone was once whole but worn away by natural erosion
Bisate's vision of reforestation and rehabilitation means each guest contributes to biodiverse conservation and the boosting of local communities. This, in turn, makes a positive impact on the endangered species whose home is in Volcanoes National Park: the iconic mountain gorilla ... Read more
Singita Kwitonda Lodge & Kataza House opened their doors on 1 August 2019 and the property is set within a landscape of wetlands and lush meadows and built to embody the spirit of Rwanda. The lodge is named after Kwitonda, a legendary silverback gorilla who was known for his humility and gentleness. Singita Kwitonda Lodge is located on a piece of land spanning 178 acres right on the edge of Volcanoes National Park within easy reach of gorilla trekking but at the same time improving the buffer area between agricultural land and an estimated 320 mountain gorillas who inhabit the area.
With magnificent views of Sabyinya, Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes, Singita Kwitonda Lodge is sensitively constructed and offers 8 suites and 1 four bedroom villa called Kataza House. The suites and villa are creatively designed with locally sourced and produced materials and the local community were directly involved with the building on site. Sustainability was at the core of the construction of Singita Kwitonda Lodge ... Read more
The greatly anticipated One&Only Gorilla's Nest in Rwanda has opened it's doors to travellers. This jungle sanctuary is the second One&Only resort in Rwanda. Nestled in the foothills of the Virunga Volcanic Mountain Range and wrapped in a fragrant Eucalyptus forest, One&Only Gorilla's Nest is ear-marked for that once-in-a-lifetime encounter with the mountain gorillas.
Gorilla's Nest is a stone-throw from Volcanoes National Park, where you get the opportunity to see these primates in their natural habitat while gorilla trekking.
One&Only Gorilla's Nest offers exceptional dining, beverages and many other exciting experiences, so prepare to be immersed in the magic of Virunga and Rwanda ... Read more
Set in the foothills of the Virungas in Rwanda with wonderful views of the volcanoes and surrounding countryside, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is located close to the park headquarters for trekking the critically endangered Mountain Gorilla. Owned by the Community Trust and part of the Governor Camps family with sister camps in the Maasai Mara, the lodge uses rentals and community fees from the lodge to drive socio-economic and conservation initiatives in local communities ... Read more
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is a mid-range option located in the foothills of Mount Karisimbi in Kinigi, northern Rwanda , on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park. The lodge is close to park headquarters where trekking of the critically endangered mountain gorilla starts ... Read more
Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel in Musanze (Ruhengeri) located on the road going to Kinigi is the perfect starting point to go for different activities that the Volcanoes National Park is offering but also gives you lot of opportunities to rest and to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the lodge ... Read more
Virunga Lodge enjoys one of the most spectacular locations of any lodge in Africa. The lodge is perched high on a ridge in Volcanoes National Park with stunning views of the Virunga Volcanoes and Musanze Valley to the west and Lake Bulera and Ruhondo to the east. The lodge is just an hour's drive away from Park Headquarters making gorilla trekking easily accessible ... Read more
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