Gorilla tracking in Rwanda is done in the north western part of the country in Volcanoes National Park. This park is a habitat to hundreds of numerous endangered mountain gorillas and it is at the northern border of Rwanda of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Volcanoes National Park was the first national park on the entire continent of Africa. It was first gazetted as a protected area in the 1920s. It is bordered by the three magnificent Volcanoes namely; Mikeno, Karisimbi and Bisoke. The reason for conserving the forest back then was to protect our precious animals from the heartless poachers.
Volcanoes National Park is made up of over 125 square kilometers of bamboo rain forest where we have 10 habituated mountain gorilla families which are open for tracking by both foreigners and nationals and two more groups for research. Apart from the unique mountain gorillas, the Park is blessed with other primates such as the golden monkeys, colobus monkeys and a wide array of rain forest ecosystems which are habitat to swamps, bamboo forests and lots of other flora and fauna.
Volcanoes National park is located in Musanze known by its former name Ruhengeri in the Northern Province and accessible by public transportation.
Traveling to the park is less expensive and it makes it visitor’s most favorite gorilla trekking destinations due to the short travel time with an opportunity to trek gorillas early morning and fly away to your other destinations in the evening.
Driving from Kigali city or Kigali airport takes 2 hours and 20 minutes covering about 80 km to kinigi, the main gorilla trekking center in volcanoes national park.
Kinigi visitor center is about 12 km from Musanze town. It’s advisable to hire a private vehicle or use tour operators for visitors who make overnight in the town to get to kinigi very early for briefing by the guides about gorilla trekking which commences at 07:30 am.
Things to Do
There are numerous tourism activities in Volcanoes National Park. There are adventurous activities to engage in while on a trip in the Virunga Volcanoes. From forest walks where you may be lucky to spot just a few bird species to volcanoes hiking, there are lots of things to do.
Other adventures not to miss are
- Canoe rides on the twin lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo
- the remarkable cave excursions in Musanze,
- Sport fishing,
- Dian Fossey Hiking
- Golden monkey tracking
Why Visit the Gorillas in Rwanda?
When you go gorilla tracking in Rwanda, you support the conservation of the mountain gorillas. A gorilla permit costs US$1500 per person and passes can be booked at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
A percentage of the funds from the activities done within the national park is given back to the local communities to engage them as partners and discourage them from poaching and deforestation. This has really worked and helped to conserve the forest and with the gorillas untouched. Furthermore, some of the people come to the park to specifically to participate in the conservation projects though some just visit as an extra activity after gorilla tracking. These projects were established with an idea of involving the local population around the Volcanoes National Park in the tourism industry. They have handmade art and craft works which they sell at very good prices to visitors in the local markets such as drums, spears, baskets, clothes, they also have very interesting cultural dances and songs, plays among others in their communities such as Iby’iwacu cultural village, local schools like Mwiko Primary School are also visited by the tourism.
Planning a Tour
If you are not using any tour operator, you can plan to travel independently to the Volcanoes National Park. You may take a bus or use rent your private vehicle from Kigali and head north to Musanze town which is found at the base of the remarkable Virunga volcanoes.
In case you need a car to hire you can check out the listing of car rental agencies that operate in Rwanda.
Things to Do in Volcanoes National Park
There also have other tour activities like wildlife viewing, city tours, mountaineering among others;
Gorilla tracking is the most popular adventure activity done in Volcanoes National Park. Everyday, tourists assemble at the Kinigi headquarters and go on guided hikes through the bamboo forest in search of the endangered mountain gorillas. If you are planning to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda or Democratic Republic of Congo, please do not hesitate to get to us to help you out for a tour you will leave to tell.
Visit the Caves
Recently, the Caves in Musanze were officially opened for tourism by the Rwanda Development Board, the official country’s tourism board.
The Virunga Volcanoes are made up of numerous volcanoes though most of them are dormant ones apart from the Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira volcanoes which are located on other Virunga side of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sabyinyo volcano is the oldest among the chain Virunga mountains, it is 3634m high, while the Karisimbi volcano is the highest of all and is 4507m, high while Mgahinga, Mikeno, Muhabura and Bisoke volcanoes are what is known as the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC.
In conclusion, if you are looking for where to stay during your gorilla tour, you may contact us to book them for you. We have Kinigi guesthouse and Muhabura hotel for low budget clients. These are very clean and decent accommodations while for deluxe class; we have La Palme Hotel, Hotel Gorillas and Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge. Mountain Gorilla View lodge, Jack Hanna Cottages are luxury level though we have Virunga Lodge and Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge for very Luxury travelers.