Volcanoes National Park is located in north western Rwanda bordering Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.
The park is found on the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes which are eight active volcanoes of Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Gahinga, Muhabura and Bisoke. The highest peak in the Virunga mountains is nearly 4500m above sea level. Volcanoes National park was gazetted in 1925 covering a nearly 130sq km. this Park is one of the oldest protected areas and national parks in Africa.
The park is actually the home of the Mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Dian Fossey is one of the famous naturalists to visit the park who studied the behavior of primates in Central Africa. Her works are famous in the movie production Gorillas in the Most which is a biography of the Primatologist. Her grave is also found in this Rwanda national park near the research centre.
The mountains are covered in thick forest canopy of bamboo and mopane forest cover. The vegetation in the park is high altitude vegetation growing at 2400-4570m above sea level. Hagenia covers more than 30% of the park’s vegetation especially in the south and western parts of the park. Other parts of the park are under meadows, thicket, swamps, marshes and small lakes.
The mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei) are the most famous species of mammals in the park attracting more than 2,000 visitors every year for Gorilla trekking in Rwanda. This is the core of Rwanda safaris. Other mammals in the park include buffalo, golden monkey, spotted hyena, black fronted duiker, elephants and bush buck among other small mammals.
More than 200 birds are recorded in the park of which 16 are endemic to the virunga volcanoes and the rift valley region. Some of the birds in the park include Kivu thrush,
Other attractions in the park include the grave of Diane Fossey, mountain climbing to Bishoke and Karisimbi peaks, golden monkey trekking, besides the gorilla tracking adventures. Gorilla trekking is run by the Rwanda Tourist Board during the period of November although gorilla tracking permits are a must for all Rwanda tourists
The bustling market town of Ruhengeri has a memorable setting at the base of the Virungas. On the outskirts of town, the natural bridge at Musanze – a solidified lava flow – is a fascinating relic of the volcanic activity that shaped this scenic area. Also within easy day tripping distance of Ruhengeri are the seldom visited but lovely Lakes Burera, Ruhondo and Karago.
Kinigi Guest House on the foot of Mount Sabyinyo with luxury accommodation in cottages for two, four or eight people is now open for bookings. It also offers a good restaurant and bar. Hotel Muhabura in Musanze also offers cheap accommodation in reasonably priced single and double rooms. The hotel also has a sound restaurant and bar and phone facilities.
Ruhengeri offers a good selection of reasonably-priced small hotels and guest houses, including the newly renovated hotel Gorilla’s Nest. Visitors could also base themselves in Gisenyi or Kigali and – with an early start – head to the Parc des Volcans and Ruhengeri as a day trip.