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Mountain Gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Emmy Shingiro

Emmy Shingiro

Volcanoes National Park

About Volcanoes National Park

Home to more than half of the World’s Mountain Gorilla population, the Virunga Massif, within which lies Volcanoes National Park, offers you an extraordinary opportunity to track a gorilla family in its natural environment. Indeed, meeting face to face with these gentle giants is a truly moving experience. Watching a majestic silver back guarding his family and patiently watching after playful youngsters is sure to evoke a smile, and a surprising sense of connection to our wild cousins.    Volcanoes National Park is located in Rwanda's North West region.It embraces part of the volcanic mountain range that lies within the East African Rift Valley, and includes Mount Sabyinyo, Muhabura, Gahinga, Bisoke, and Karisimbi. With its peak regularly covered in snow, Mount Karisimbi is the highest at 4,507 meters and its base is riddled with hundreds of caves of volcanic origin. While the Volcanoes National Park is most known for its mountain gorillas, popularized by Dian Fossey’s research work and the movie Gorillas in the Mist, its rich and fascinating biodiversity is an attraction in and of itself.  Life manifests itself everywhere in this mountain ecosystem: uprooted tree trunks reveal the passage of forest elephants, buffalo hoof prints punctuate the path, while a troop of golden monkeys monitors the scene from above. As the altitude increases, the tropical rainforest,  bamboos and Hagenia plants give way to trees wreathed with lichen and giant groundsels, large succulents which appear taken straight out of a child’s imagination.  

Mountain Gorilla in Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla tracking

Visiting one of the twelve mountain gorilla families is among the Park's most popular activities. The trek begins at 7am at the Park’s entrance in Kinigi, and lasts between 30 minutes to four hours, depending on the gorillas’ location. Visitors must be a minimum of 15 years old to participate and take a mandatory Covid-19 PCR test, available at the cost of 50$USD at local health centers.

Golden Monkeys tracking

A rare and endangered species found exclusively in the Virunga Mountains, Golden Monkeys are another exciting reason to hike in Volcanoes National Park. Golden Monkeys owe their name to the orange-colored patches on their sides and back. They live in troops of eight to eighty individuals led by a dominant male. They feed mostly on fruit and bamboo found on the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Karisimbi. At night, they split into smaller groups to weave a bamboo nest where to sleep. Like most primates, Golden Monkeys are highly social and communicate with each other through calls and facial expressions.Daily excursions begin at the Park headquarters in Kinigi.

Golden Monkey in Volcanoes National Park
Hikers at the top of Mount Bisoke, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda


Volcanoes National Park provides hiking enthusiasts with several challenging, yet rewarding excursions. Among these, a trek to Mount Bisoke gives visitors a chance to enjoy the stunning view of its crater lake, as well as Diane Fossey’s Karisoke Research Center. In addition, day excursions to Mount Muhabura and Mount Gahinga, as well as a two-day excursion to Mount Karisimbi, allow nature lovers to delight in the rich biodiversity of the Park’s tropical montane forest, including more than 200 bird species.

Ibyiwacu-Gorilla Guardians

In this cultural center, former poachers promote conservation by sharing their knowledge of traditional archery, music, dancing, medicine and beer making.

Traditional Intore dancers performing at Gorilla Guardians cultural Village

Courtesy of Ibyiwacu

View of the entrance of Muzanze cave, Musanze, Rwanda

Rwanda Delopment Board

Musanze Cave

There are numerous caves stemming from volcanic activity in the Virunga Mountain Range. The Musanze Cave, which holds a historical and cultural significance, has been developed to provide visitors with easy access. The visit is two and a half hours long and requires hiring a guide.

Lakes Burera and Ruhondo

Often named the twin lakes, Lakes Burera and Ruhondo are separated only by a narrow strip of land. Interestingly, they are located at different levels, which makes for a surprising view. They offer a serene panorama with green shores and islands while providing a refreshing complement to your trek up the volcanoes. Boat, canoe and cycling tours are equally available at the twin lakes.

View of Lakes Burera and Ruhondo with Vocanoes National Park in the background, Rwanda
A flight of stairs carved in volcanic rock, Buhanga Eco-Park, Musanze, Rwanda

Rwanda Development Board

Buhanga Eco-Park

This Eco-Park was created to preserve Buhanga sacred forest, where a natural water spring and a cave mark the traditional site for the coronation of Rwandan Kings. The forest’s sacred status has protected it from logging, and its old growth still harbors endangered species, migratory birds and medicinal plants.

With about one thousand individuals living in the wild, every gorilla birth counts. Luckily, the success of the conservation strategy implemented in Volcanoes National Park is providing reason to celebrate. Every September, young gorillas born during the year are the subject of an official naming ceremony, or Kwita Izina.

Bamboo sculture celebrating the Gorilla naming ceremony in Kinigi, Rwanda
Natural dye preparation at Handspun Hope Women's Cooperative, Musanze, Rwanda

Umuzabibu Mwiza / Handspun Hope

From shearing to spinning, knitting and dyeing with local plants, enjoy hands on learning with Umuzabibu Mwiza, a group of more than 200 women who produce organic yarn from their own merino sheep and rabbits. Do not miss this chance to shop for a charming hand knitted hat, blanket or baby gorilla! The one hour visit of the workshop in Musanze can be complemented with a two hour visit of the sheep farm in Kinigi.

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