Volcanoes National park lately known as Parc National des Volcans is situated in the northwestern provinces in Rwanda .the Park is close to the Virunga national park in Democratic republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla national park in Uganda.
The park is popular as a home for endangered mountain gorillas, the park is covers five of the 8 Virunga mountain ranges which includes mountain Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga and Mountain Sabyinyo which are all sheltered with tropical rain forest and bamboo trees.
The park was established around 1925, as a small area surrounded by Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno, with the intention of preserving the mountain gorillas that were being killed by the poachers by that time. It is one of the first established national parks in Africa,. Successively, in 1929, the boundaries of the park were stretched further into Rwanda and into the Belgian Congo, to create the Albert National Park, a vast area of 8090 km2, managed by the Belgian colonial authorities who were responsible of both colonies, around 1958, 700 hectares of the park were vacant for a human settlement.
In 1960, Congo acquired its independence and the park was divided into two, later in 1962 Rwanda also got her independence and the new government decided to preserve the park as conservation area for gorillas and as a tourist attraction in Rwanda. Despite of the fact that by that time Rwanda was facing a problem of dense population, about 1050 hectare of land was being preserved as a national park.
In 1967, the American zoologist Dian Fossey who had been doing research on mountain Gorillas in the forests of Congo fled from insecurity and established her research base at a place between Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes that was named Karisoke research center. She led the conservation campaign of the mountain gorillas and organized resources to fight against poaching in this area, a fight she put up until when she was killed in 1985. She was buried at the research center next to the grave of her favorite gorilla called Digit.
The Volcanoes National Park became a battleground during the 1994 Rwanda cival war, with the park headquarters being confronted in 1992. The research Centre was out of control, and all tourist activities (including visiting the gorillas) were clogged. They did not restart again until 1999 when the area was believed to be safe and under good management. There have been infrequent penetrations by Rwandan rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda in following years, but these are always stopped fast by the Rwandan army and it is believed that there will be no more threats in the park.
Gorilla tracking in the volcanoes national park.
The mountain gorillas are very gigantic but peaceful creature’s .Trekking mountain gorillas in this park is a memorable experience and is possible all the year round. The park has 10 habituated groups and the maximum number of the group to track one gorilla family is 8 members meaning are 80 visitors daily tracking the gorillas. One needs attacking gorilla permit which can be easily got through the tour and travel agencies. Before heading to the tracking point, you gather at the park headquarters for a consultation about the gorilla tracking, make sure you equipped with all your trekking gears and enough drinking water.
Below are the 10 habituated group of gorillas that are tracked at the volcanoes national park.
Titus group. This was named after its silver back Titus which had lost its family members and joined another group from where it left the group and formed its own.
Susa group. It is believed as the largest group consisting of 42 members that include sits two silver backs.
Karisimbi group. This is the group that break off from the main group suza.it comprises of 16 members together with its two silver backs.
Amahoro group. This is most peaceful group comprising of 18 individuals together with its silver back.
Umubano group. It is the groups that break off from the Ubumwe main group.it is made up of 13 members together with its 2 leading silver backs.
Hirwa group. This emerged from the Sabyinyo groups and few member from other different group joined it and its now having 16 members with the 2 silver backs.
Sabyinyo group.it is believed that this is the easiest group to trek and it is made up of 16 members together with its two silver backs.
Kwitonda group. This is one of the groups that migrated from the Democratic republic of Congo and settle in the gentle slopes of mount Muhabura .it consists of 23 members together with 2 silver backs.
Ugenda group. The group comprised of 11 members with 2 silver backs and the name Ugende is a Kinyarwanda word that means on move, it’s one of the hardest group to track.
Bwenge group. This was formed in 2007 by Bwenge who left his group the natal and formed his own that he named after his name.it is now comprising of 11 members with 1 silver back.
Gorilla Trekking Guidelines
Visitors are asked to sustain a distance of 7m (about 22 feet) from the gorillas. If you are sick please do not visit the gorillas. Should you need to cough, cover your mouth and turn away from the gorillas.
Visitors are allowed to strictly spend 1 hour with them.
8 members should visit one group of gorillas.
Maintain low voices while in the forest.
Avoid unnecessary movement. Always follow your guide.
In case the gorilla charges, don’t look straight at it, just stand still and look aside.
Do not litter the rubbish.
OTHER ACTIVITIES INCLUDE.
Golden monkey tracking.
This is more like gorilla trekking.be ready with all your tracking gears and move on for a briefing, after, you will lead into the forest in search of these primates.
Just like in other forest, there are a number of different bird species found in the park. Together with your guide, he will lead you into the forest ready with your binoculars to start birding.
There is karisimbi hiking that stands at an altitude of 450m above the sea level.it takes the fifth highest position in all mountains in Africa.
There is also mount Bisoke hike which takes approximately 6 hours to reach at the summit and descending back.
Visiting Musanze cave.
This is one of the new tourist attraction sites that has been established, it is natural underground space that is large enough for a human being to enter.it mostly visited after gorilla tracking or any other activity.
Dian fossey hike or visit.
You can either hike to dian fossey or visit the dian fossey tombs. This where dian fossey was lied next to his favorite gorilla after she was murdered. she was an American scientists who spear headed the campaign against gorilla poaching .you will learn more about the gorillas and how this woman lived with them.
Iby ‘Iwacu cultural village tour
Enjoy the Rwanda traditional experience as you take apart in the activities of the local people, share with them your life experience and you will get to know more about the Rwandans. There are a lot of activities carried out here, there its upon you to get involved in and have a remarkable Rwanda traditional and cultural experience
How to get there
Volcanoes National Park is located in a small village that was known as Musanze formerly in Ruhengeri district, the place is very accessible by public transport from Gisenyi or Kigali or from the airport. The drive to Volcanoes national park is takes approximately 2 hrs and hence one can do gorilla tracking in one day and transfer back to Kigali after the trek. You should be at the park headquarters of ORTPN in Kinigi, at the park entrance, by 7:00 am, therefore, if you expect to trek gorillas for one day, you have to be very early for your expedition so that you are on time. However, there isn’t any public transport from Musanze to the headquarters of the park at Kinigi.
Accommodations in the volcanoes national park.
The national park has got a wide range of accommodation ranging from luxury, mid-ranga and budget. The lodgings have got good services, well facility, safe and comfortable for one to have the best stay while there. You can make your bookings to any of the lodge/hotel of your choice, and this will depend on the financial stand of the person. Some of the hotels around and within the national park are;
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Gorilla Volcanoes Lodge
Bambou Gorilla Lodge
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
Le Palme Hotel
Muhabura Hotel and many more others.