Volcanoes National Park lies in north-western Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The national park is known as a haven for the rare and endangered mountain gorilla and golden monkeys. It is home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains, and spans 160 km² covered in rain forest and bamboo. The park was the base for the primatologist Dian Fossey.
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is second to none in attracting tourists into the country. The mountain gorillas are critically endangered, with fewer than 900 left in the wild worldwide. Time is running out to see these gentle giants in their natural habitat, which is why this experience is at the top of most visitors’ lists. Volcanoes National Park has 11 habituated gorilla families. In visiting the park, you may come to meet any of them – Susa, Amahoro, Sabyinyo, Ugenda, Hirwa, Umubano, Karisimbi, to name a few.
Each gorilla group can be seen by a maximum of eight people per day. To visit, you must book a gorilla permit in advance, which is priced at $1500 USD each. A maximum of 88 gorilla permits are on offer each day and are given on a first come, first serve basis.
Golden Monkey Tracking
Rare golden monkeys have been sighted in the magnificent Virunga Mountains. Tracking the beautiful golden monkeys is another popular tourist activity in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. A glimpse of these creatures is considered to be a wonderful lifetime experience. Most visitors book a 3-day gorilla safari package, to experience the golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park. Like gorilla tracking, this activity starts in the morning with an assembly at Kinigi Park Headquarters.
However, golden monkey tracking is less strenuous than to gorilla trekking experience, so you’ll be finished by around midday.
Adventurous Hike to Dian Fossey Tombs
A visit to Volcanoes National Park Rwanda can be mixed up with a hike to the tomb of the late Dian Fossey. Dian Fossey was an American primatologist who spent close to two decades in the park, studying the mountain gorillas. A biopic of her life was made into a movie in the late eighties, titled Gorillas in the Mist. She was murdered by poachers in 1985. Her grave is nestled between the beautiful volcanic peaks of Bisoke and Karisimbi, near Karisoke Research Center.
The hike through the forest to the tomb takes about six hours (there and back). Along the way, you may be lucky enough to see elephants, buffalo, primates like golden monkeys and sometimes even the mountain gorillas that Dian dedicated her life to.
Mountain Hiking Adventures
Adventurous travelers can combine gorilla trekking tours with mountain hiking. Mount Bisoke stands at 3,700 meters above sea level, with a deep crater lake on the top. Hiking Mount Bisoke does not require prior hiking experience; you only need to be physically fit, due to the high elevation and length of the climb. The whole trek takes five to seven hours depending on your speed and the frequency of stops.
Mountain Karisimbi is the second highest volcanic peak in the Virunga ranges and takes two days and one night to experience. While at the top of the volcano, you will enjoy fantastic views of the other five volcanoes and the beautiful Twin Lakes. Near the summit is the Crater Lake, which features drier vegetation than other parts of the park, with giant heather growing all over the slopes of the volcano.
Guided Walks and Mountain Bikes Excursions
There are many guided and unguided walks around Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. One of the most popular walks will lead you to the Musanze market, where visitors can interact with the local people. The park features a nature walk to the beautiful Twin Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo. You can stroll around the lakes, snapping photos and videos of the scenery as you go. If you don’t fancy journey on foot, you’ll have the option to go via canoe.
The Nyange Community walk is designed to show all aspects of village life in Rwanda. A guided walk through Nyange community will allow you to see how locals work and earn a living. You’ll tour the homes of ironsmiths, mat weavers, local banana-beer brewers, and carpenters. You’ll also witness and if you choose, partake in the preparation of traditional Rwandan food – not to mention sample the meal at the end!
Another option is a guided visit to Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village, on the edge of Volcanoes National Park. There are many cultural performances held here, where you can take part. The Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village convinced ex-poachers to turn their back on gorilla poaching. They now make their living performing for tourists. A tour to Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village allows you to see the traditional house of a local king as well as the herbal mixtures preparation by an authentic medicine man. You can take part in arrow and bow shooting, or enjoy Kinyarwanda cultural music, dances, and drumming performed by local people. You’ll have the option to explore local areas on mountain bikes through different routes with a guide.
Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes. It lies on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and is in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. Lake Kivu empties into the Ruzizi River, which flows southwards into Lake Tanganyika.
The restful shores of Lake Kivu provide a great place for swimming, sunbathing and water sports activities. The most developed of the three resort towns, Gisenyi, is under an hour by car from the Volcanoes National Park and has colonial architecture, attractive palm-lined sandy beach and crystal waters. Drawn in by the sweet waters of the lake, the birdlife of Lake Kivu is also prolific with kingfishers, pelicans and cranes all gracing its shores.
Heading south of Gisenyi, you will reach Kibuye, whose hills are filled with pine trees and eucalyptus, which would not be out of place in the Alps. Access to Kibuye is easy from Kigali, which makes it a popular spot for both Rwandans, who enjoy coming to the lake as a weekend retreat from the city, as well as international visitors who soak up the laid-back lakeside atmosphere.
Cyangugu is situated closer to Nyungwe Forest and is the least developed of the three towns for tourism, characterized by small inlets that weave in and out of the encompassing valleys. Away from these three more established towns and transiting between them you will witness the rural splendour of the ancient lake lifestyle, with many traditional dugout canoes that gently ply the lake’s waters, colourful costumes and local residents playing iningire guitars and troubadours.
The Kigali Genocide Memorial is located in Gisozi, ten minutes’ drive from the centre of town. The easiest way to reach the memorial is by car or taxi. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. It honours the memory of the more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994 through education and peace-building. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is a guided experience. Visitors can choose to be guided by one of the staff or purchase the KGM digital guide which provides an audio-visual tour.
The Nyungwe rain forest is located in south-western Rwanda, at the border with Burundi, to the south, and Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. The Nyungwe rain forest is probably the best-preserved montane rain forest in Central Africa. It is located in the watershed between the basin of the river Congo to the west and the basin of the river Nile to the east. From the east side of the Nyungwe forest comes also one of the branches of the Nile sources.
Nyungwe is surely one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine mountain rain forests. It’s believed to be one of Africa’s oldest forests, staying green even through the Ice Age, which explains its diversity.
Home to habituated chimpanzees and 12 other primates’ species (including a 400-strong troop of habituated Ruwenzori Black & White Colobus), it’s also a birder’s paradise with over 300 species, including 16 endemics, and is home to 75 different species of mammal.
This majestic rain forest is filled with nature and wildlife experiences for you to emerge yourself in. Hiking or even biking the beautiful terrain, tracking the famous chimpanzees, experiencing the canopy walk, witnessing beautiful birds, relaxing by waterfalls are just a glimpse of activities that Nyungwe offers.
Sounds and views collaborate to create a one-of-a-kind wildlife experience. Exploring through the forest, travelers will witness the lush green mountains and cooling mist in a landscape that won’t be soon forgotten. Cultural activities are also available around the forest.
Akagera National Park covers 1,200 square kilometres in eastern Rwanda, along the Tanzanian border. It was founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation in three Eco regions: Savannah, mountain and swamp. The park is named for the Kagera River which flows along its eastern boundary feeding into several lakes the largest of which is Lake Ihema. The complex system of lakes and linking papyrus swamps makes up over a third of the park, and is the largest protected wetland in Eastern-Central Africa.
Akagera National Park is a little piece of heaven found in North Eastern Rwanda, at the country’s border with Tanzania. It is dominated by swamps and small lakes with flow in the wake of River Kagera. All the water sources work together to create a piece of spectacular scenery. It is quite a remarkable eco – system. The Park was obviously named after River Kagera.
Wildlife Game Drives in Akagera
The game drives here are like opening a present and each game drive holds a full new surprise as nature reveals its treasures in form of wonders that are so scenic, the wildlife like buffaloes, antelopes including; the elands, topis, Maasai giraffes, monkeys, Savannah birds, civets, leopards, the hyenas, as well as the serval cats. The game drives also mean that you will be accompanied by the guide who is so knowledgeable about the flora and the fauna that is found in the park.
As you are carrying out the game drives, one should remain in the vehicle unless the park guides see that it’s safe for you to get out taking a look. For the longer game drives, you are advised to take a snack or lunch and a lot of drinking water.
About the Nocturnal, the night game drives are so thrilling since you adventure out with a spot light to view the wildlife creatures of the night that are found in Akagera National Park. This night game drive through the park is different from that of during the day since at night, there is a big opportunity to view the predators on the prowl as they look for dinner.
You will also see a few leopards, lions, civets, serval cats, the hyenas, birds as well as the bush babies with their large eyes. This nocturnal drive is also about 2 hours and will surely give you a different perspective altogether.
Birding in Akagera National Park
This park is one of the places that are not to be missed by any birder taking a birding safari in Rwanda along with the great Nyungwe forest national park. It harbours 520 species of birds which are found in this national park.
The birders who visit Akagera National Park are always impressed by what they find mostly the many bird species that range from water to forest and also Savannah as well as the migratory bird species and many of these are endemic to the park and are so rare like the papyrus Gonolex which is found in the papyrus swamps.
There are also the localized red-faced barbets, and the swamp fly catcher as well as the elusive shoe bill stork all found in Akagera National Park.
Fishing in Lake Shakani
would be one of the extra ordinary activities to be carried out along the shores of Lake Shakani, you will hear the snorts of the hippos as well as the dry of the water birds plus the sounds of the fish in the water. Fishing in Akagera will give you an added chance of being in an African wild with the wildlife in the distance plus the hippos and the water birds.
You might also visit Akagera national park as a fishing tournament is going on that might put you in a company of fellow anglers. The good news about fishing in this national park is that you get to keep what you fish and in case you feel like cooking it, you might start a fire and get it ready to be roasted in time for lunch.
Boat safaris on Lake Ihema
Boat safaris are normally the main highlight of any visit with in east Africa and it’s with the boat safari that you will be able to adventure Lake Ihema in Akagera National Park. Lake Ihema has got one of the largest concentrations of hippos in East Africa and it’s also a sight to behold and there are also many crocodiles that you will find along the shores of the lake.
There are also many water birds that can be seen on a boating safari on Lake Ihema and you might also spot a shoe bill stork. The other many animals like the elephants can find their way to the water to bathe and you will get the opportunity of getting closer to them than you would be in the vehicle on any game drive.
Surrounded by cultivated hills, that are so much a part of Rwanda scenery, the scenery of Akagera national Park is quite simply beautiful. The landscape is low, composed of wide plains dominated by grass, cactus-like Euphorbia candelabra shrub and both thick and thin forests although it does carry on with the general rugged terrain that is so characteristic of Rwanda.