Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is located in the north western region of Rwanda under the coordinates of 19.4194° N, 155.2885° W bordering Virunga national park of democratic republic of Congo and Uganda mgahinga gorilla national park. Volcano national park falls is a section of the great Virunga conservation area covering 5 out of 8 Virunga volcanoes that is karisimbi, bisoke, gahinga, sabyinyo and muhabura. Its among the gorilla trekking national parks that include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Virunga national park was gazetted in 1925 as a small area covering karisimbi, bisoke and mikeno primarily to protect and conservation of mountain gorillas (conserve the critically endangered mountain gorillas) and other animals from the practices of poaching, under the control of Belgian colonialists who were in charge of Rwanda and democratic republic of Congo then Belgian Congo the park’s borders were extended into Rwanda and Belgian Congo to make Albert national park which covered 8090 km².
Later most of the park’s land was demarcated for different human activities like 100 hectares were declared for human settlement in 1958, 1050 hectares were cleared for pyrethrum growing between 1969 and 1973. In 1967 Virunga national park became headquarters for an American naturalist Dian Fossey who established karisoke research Centre which was her base for her research on gorillas.
Dian Fossey contributed so much towards the conservation mountain gorillas as she shined a light to the need to save mountain gorillas from extinct to the international world, her efforts were being appreciated and portrayed in the gorillas in the mist a film named after autobiography. Unfortunately in a 1985 she was murdered by unknown group of people in her home, she was buried in the woods of Virunga national park near the research center amongst mountain gorillas which had become her life.
During the Rwanda civil crisis karisoke research Centre as attached by the rebels as Virunga national park become a battle field in 1992 which paralyised all tourist operations in the park as the research center was abandoned and the park was closed not until 1999 when it was assumed safe. Rwandan army should be credit as it has endlessly fought the rebels from Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda and kept peace in the national park and region at large.
Also Parc National des Volcans in French, Volcanoes national park north of Rwanda has a strong ecological system with various flora and fauna species with many lakes and volcano mountains. Volcanoes national park is gifted with various vegetation which differs in difficult locations in the park according to the height above the sea level like
- montane forests on the lower altitude of 2400m-2500m
- bamboo forests at the height between 2600m-3600m
- neoboutinia forests at the height between 2500m-3200m
- hagenia-hypericum forest in south and a west part of the park
- Lobelia wollastonii, L. panurensis, and Senecio erici-rosenii covering the altitude between 3500m-4200m
- Grasslands like swamps, meadows at the altitude of 4300m-4200m
Volcanoes national park is also gifted with many animal species of which some are endangered species for example mountain gorillas ,golden monkeys, buffaloes, black fronted duiker, spotted hyenas, bushbucks, buffalos and elephants in a fewer number. The park also harbors approximately 178 bird species, with endemic only to the Virunga and Ruwenzori Mountains.
Volcanoes national park also known as Pariki y’Igihugu y’Ibirunga in native Kinyarwanda offers many exciting activities which you can only miss at your own risk for example
Mountain gorilla trekking: This is the major attraction of volcanoes national park which offers breathtaking experience in the wilderness as you get to be around the huge fur covered primates on earth. Volcanoes national park has 10 habituated groups which include
- Susa which is the largest group with 41 gorillas under the leadership of a male silver buck
- Amahoro a group of 17 members
- Sabyinyo group consists of 8 members under the leadership of Guhonda
- Hirwa a group of 13 members
- Umubano a group of 11 members who broke away from Amahoro group
- Karisimbi group which was formed when Susa group split into groups after a family conflict.it has 15 members under the leadership of
- Kwitonda a group of 18 members who migrated from Democratic Republic of Congo
- Agashya with 25 members found at the slopes of mountain sabyinyo and mount gahinga
- Uganda gorilla group which made up of 11 family members
- Bwenge gorilla family which was formed in 2007 and it featured in the gorillas in the mist movie
For at a tourist to embark on gorilla trekking in volcanoes national park you need a gorilla permits, a permit which offers you access to the park and they are purchased at the offices of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in Kigali. Gorilla permits costs us $1500 per person and grants you only one hour with the gorillas. When you are going for gorilla trekking u need particular items which are must haves for an amazing trip for example long sleeved shirts, jean trousers, hiking strong boots, a walking stick and a porter to cry your bag.
Gorilla trekking is also governed by many regulations for example Maintain a safe 7 m distance between you from the gorillas, only healthy individuals are supposed to go to trek gorillas to reduce chances of gorillas contracting diseases from human, deactivate flash in the cameras before taking photos of gorillas, being in presence gorillas is restricted to maximum one hour on each trip, a maximum 8 visitors per day per group on each trek, keep your voice to the minimum in the forests especially when close to the gorillas, avoid unnecessary movements when with the Mountain gorillas as you might scare them.
Golden monkey tracking: Not only does volcanoes national park offer mountain gorillas trekking it also has another primate tracking that is golden monkey tracking. Golden monkeys are rare animals, in volcanoes national park they are not habituated but you get a chance to see them in their nature habitat. To go for golden monkey tracking you need a permit which costs US $100 and are bought from Rwanda Development Board (RDB) for 30 minutes- 1 hour or more majorly depending on speed golden monkeys.
Hiking: Volcanoes national park being part of Virunga volcano region it has a beautiful scenery of steep mountains reaching the sky with mist and covered with rainforests offering a conducive environment for hiking. Hiking in volcanoes national park takes place at mountain karisimbi, mountain bisoke, twin lakes of burere -Ruhondo which goes to Russumo falls and many more.
Nature walks: Volcanoes national park offers exciting nature walk to nature lovers, cool breeze makes volcano the best spot for nature walks through the beauty of wilderness, walking through rain forests using different trails for example buhanga sacred forest trail which was a place for kings, exploring to musanze caves the ancient cave which is million years old.
Hiking to Dian Fossey grave: Hiking through the tombs of the deceased American naturalists is ahistorical trip which honors the amazing efforts of great Dian Fossey in her research. The hiking leads to karisoke research center in the steeps slopes of mountain bisoke.
Bird watching: Volcanoes National Park is prominent for bird watching with so many unique bird species which cannot be spotted in any area for example the rare Albertine rift endemic species. Volcanoes national park has over 300 bird species for example red-faced, long-crested eagle, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori double collared bird and many more.
Kwita Iziina ceremony: This is a naming ceremony for infant mountain gorillas which was introduced in 2005
Volcanoes national park in Rwanda is the best destination for many activities and the best time to visit the park is the long dry season of June to September which is ideal mountain gorillas trekking as trails are drier.