Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes national park
Volcanoes National Park lies in north-western Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is home to 5 of the 8 volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains. The mountainous park is adorned with a variety of forest types, occurring at different altitudes, providing a number of different habitats.
Gorilla safaris are conducted in Volcanoes National Park, after having re-established this unique tourist experience in 1999. There are 300 of these gentle giants residing in the park and 4 habituated families that tolerate the presence of humans in their midst. The gorillas have the freedom to roam far and wide within the park, so the effort involved in tracking them can sometimes involve a substantial amount of hiking and trekking. This, however, is all part of the experience and is an incredible and unique forest and bamboo environment that is an extremely special place to be in.
What to see and do
Volcanoes National Park is most famous for its mountain gorillas, which are comfortably viewed on organised gorilla safaris. Tracking the gorillas and spending an hour with the habituated families is a unique and fascinating experience. There is also the existence of other intriguing mammals, including the golden monkey, black-fronted duiker, buffalo, spotted hyena and bushbuck. There are also reported to be some elephants in the park, though these are now very rarely seen. Out of the 178 recorded bird species, at least 13 species and 16 subspecies are endemic to the Virunga and Ruwenzori Mountains.
A variety of activities allow visitors to absorb the surroundings and view the stunning terrain that makes the Volcanoes National Park so unique. Climbing Karisimbi volcano is a two day trek with overnight camping at an altitude of 3 800m. Alternatively guests can do a one-day climb of Bisoke volcano, tour of the lakes and caves, or take part in the baby gorilla naming ceremony.
Seasons & Climate
The country of Rwanda is at a high elevation level, the lowest lying areas estimated at about 900m above sea level. The mountainous topography, particularly in the gorilla trekking areas, means that the altitude can reach up to 3000m.
The elevation, combined with Rwanda’s proximity to the equator allows the country to experience quite a tropical climate with temperatures remaining fairly constant throughout the year. Average temperatures are at mid to low 20s (degrees Celsius).
Rainfall defines the seasons in Rwanda. There is a ‘long rainy season’ that lasts from March until May, during which time the rain is heavy and persistent. June to September brings the ‘long dry season’, which maintains some cloud cover and might bring rare, light showers. The short rains follow in October and November before a short dry spell returns from December to February.
The best time for a gorilla trekking safari is in the dry seasons when the hiking conditions are ideal.