Rwanda’s most famous national park where Dian Fossey had her research base for many years. Home to the world famed mountain gorillas.
The Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is the most famous area in Rwanda, world re known for being the home of approximately half of the worlds remaining mountain gorillas. Tracking the mountain gorilla is, according to us, one of the absolute highlights of a journey anywhere in Africa! The thrill and excitement when meeting these gentle giants cannot be explained - it simply has to be experienced.
Volcanoes National Park is part of the Virunga Mountains, which is a range of six extinct and three active volcanoes situated in Rwanda, Uganda and The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The park is approximately 13,000 hectares and was formed 1929 during the Belgian colonial times, it was then named Albert National Park and extended into DRC.
Upon independence Rwanda confirmed that the area would remain a national park in spite of the pressing question of need for increased agricultural land.
The volcanoes in the park range in altitude from 2,400 to 4,507 meters above sea level, the highest one being Karisimbi (4,507). The vegetation consists of bamboo forest, hagenia woodland, Afro-Alpine moorland, grassland and marshy areas.
The park is probably best known for being the place where Dian Fossey, the American primatologist worked for almost 20 years. It is largely because of her tireless work that the gorillas were saved from extinction while there still were enough to be saved. She was murdered at her Karisoke Research Center in 1985, although the murder is still un resolved it was probably the work of poachers whom she was constantly crossing swords with during her efforts to save the gorillas from extinction.
In the early 1990;s the gorilla tourism was probably Rwanda’s main foreign exchange earner. This came to an abrupt end in 1994 during the genocide. Gorilla trekking was finally resumed on a permanent basis in 1999.
Volcanoes National Park is today not only a place for trekking the gorillas. Visitors can come and stay for several days doing various treks and walks such as visiting the ruins of the Karisoke Research station where Dian Fossey is buried as well as visiting a troupe of the recently habituated Golden Monkey – another of Rwanda’s world unique attractions. Walks range in difficulty from ascending the Karisimbi volcano to various walks and hikes in the forest and nearby lakes.
Animals found in the area include silver monkey, blue monkey, elephant, buffalo, forest hog, bush pig, bushbuck, spotted hyena, and black-fronted duiker. Approximately 180 bird species was recorded in 1980, some should with a bit of luck be spotted during various walks and treks.