To the north of Rwanda lies the Volcanoes national park, which protects the Rwandan portion of the virunga mountains, a trans frontier conservation area that includes protected areas in Uganda and the DRC and forms a complex of mostly dormant volcanoes, it includes Rwanda’s highest point, mount karisimbi (4,507 m), and the two active volcanoes, mount Nyiragongo and mount Nyamuragira.
Spanning Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda are the Virunga Volcanoes, a dramatic, thickly forested range comprising six extinct and three active volcanoes. It should be noted that over 300 mountain gorillas are protected here – this is around half the world’s existing population – and is the scene for what is often described as Africa’s easiest gorilla trekking.
The Volcanoes National Park is easily reached from Kigali, it is only 3 hours drive and the journey is very interesting as it moves through the rolling hills of Rwanda.
Why Visit the Volcanoes National Park
“In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat,” wrote the eminent primatologist Dian Fossey, “are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest – the Virungas”. Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, the Parc des Volcans protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range – home of the rare mountain gorilla – and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.
An exhilarating trek through the cultivated foothills of the Virungas offers stirring views in all directions. Then, abruptly, the trail enters the national park, immersing trekkers in the mysterious intimacy of the rain forest, alive with the calls of colourful birds and chattering of the rare golden monkey, and littered with fresh spoor of the mountains’ elusive populations of buffalo and elephant.
Through gaps in the forest canopy, the magnificent peaks are glimpsed, easily accessible and among the highest in Africa, beckoning an ascent, consisting of 125 km2 of mountain forest and home to the six Virunga Volcanoes and the world famous mountain gorillas.
Protected within the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, the lushly forested slopes of the mountains form an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is arguably the most poignant and memorable wildlife experience in the world: gorilla trekking.