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Category Archives: Volcanoes National Park

Rwandas hiking destination experience

Rwanda’s hiking destination experience is one of the most captivating experiences that Rwanda has to offer since it is a country known for its stunning landscapes, rich biodiversity, and vibrant culture. With its diverse range of mountains and trails, Rwanda provides an unforgettable hiking experience for tourists from around the world. The hiking experience boasts breathtaking beauty, with lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic views that will leave you in awe. Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a beginner looking for an exciting outdoor adventure, Rwanda has something for everyone. From the majestic peaks of the Virunga Mountains to the tranquil trails of the Nyungwe Forest, each hiking destination offers a unique and immersive experience.

The Rwanda hiking destination experience includes the Virunga Mountains, which are part of the Albertine Rift Valley. These magnificent volcanoes are home to endangered mountain gorillas, making them an ideal destination for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. Hiking through the dense forests and steep slopes of the Virunga Mountains offers an unparalleled opportunity to encounter these gentle giants in their natural habitat. The experience of standing face-to-face with a mountain gorilla is both humbling and awe-inspiring, leaving a lasting impression on every visitor.

Rwanda’s hiking destination experience is encountered at Nyungwe Forest National Park. With its ancient rainforests, Nyungwe offers a unique hiking experience amidst a diverse ecosystem. The park is famous for its extensive network of hiking trails that lead visitors through enchanting bamboo forests, pristine waterfalls, and picturesque tea plantations. As visitors hike through the lush greenery, they will encounter a wide variety of wildlife, including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and numerous bird species. The tranquility and serenity of Nyungwe make it a perfect retreat for those seeking a peaceful and rejuvenating hiking adventure.

Mount Karisimbi offers one of the best Rwanda hiking destinations. Mount Karisimbi is the highest peak in Rwanda, and hiking Mount Karisimbi is a challenging but rewarding experience. The trek takes multiple days and involves camping overnight. Along the way, you’ll pass through different vegetation zones and encounter various wildlife species, including golden monkeys and duikers. The summit offers breathtaking panoramic views of Rwanda and the surrounding volcanoes.

Rwanda’s hiking destination experience also provides opportunities for cultural immersion and interaction with local communities. Along the hiking trails, you will come across traditional villages where you can learn about the local customs, traditions, and ways of life. Engaging with the friendly locals and experiencing their warm hospitality adds a unique dimension to the hiking experience.

Rwanda’s hiking destination experience ensures safety as a top priority. With experienced guides and rangers accompanying hikers to ensure a secure and enjoyable adventure. The government and local authorities have taken significant measures to protect the natural habitats and wildlife, creating a sustainable environment for both visitors and local communities.

In conclusion, the Rwanda hiking destination experience is a captivating and memorable adventure that combines natural beauty, wildlife encounters, cultural immersion, and outdoor exploration. Plan your visit to Rwanda’s hiking destinations and get ready to embark on a journey that will leave you with lifelong memories and a deep appreciation for the wonders of nature.


Visit Dian Fossey Tombs in Volcanoes NP Rwanda

The park later became the base for the American naturalist Dian Fossey to carry out her research into the gorillas. She arrived in 1967 and set up the Karisoke Research Centre between Karisimbi and Visoke. From then on, she spent most of her time in the park and is widely credited with saving the gorillas from extinction by bringing their plight to the attention of the international community. Her 1983 book, Gorillas in the Mist, combines her scientific study of the gorillas at Karisoke Research Center with her own personal story. She was murdered by unknown assailants at her home in 1985, a crime often attributed to the poachers she had spent her life fighting against.

Fossey’s life later was portrayed on the big screen in the film Gorillas in the Mist, named after her autobiography. She is buried in the park in a grave close to the research center, and amongst the gorillas which became her life. Called one of the foremost primatologists in the world, Fossey, along with Jane Goodall and Birutė Galdikas, were the so-called Trimates, a group of three prominent researchers on primates (Fossey on gorillas; Goodall on common chimpanzees; and Galdikas on orangutans). The three were sent by Leakey to study great apes in their natural environments.

During her time in Rwanda, she actively supported conservation efforts, strongly opposed poaching and tourism in wildlife habitats, and made more people acknowledge sapient gorillas. Fossey was brutally murdered in her cabin at a remote camp in Rwanda in December 1985. It has been theorized that her murder was linked to her conservation efforts. Unlike the gorillas from the Congo side of the Virungas, the Karisoke area gorillas had never been partially habituated by Schaller’s study; they knew humans only as poachers, and it took longer for Fossey to be able to study the Karisoke gorillas at a close distance.

Before her death, Dian Fossey extracted a journal in which she emphasized, “When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of future”. She started a Dian Fossey gorilla fund project, which has continued to help in the conservation of mountain gorillas and promoting gorilla tourism in volcanoes national park. History tells that the campaign by Dian Fossey against poaching generated hatred and negative attitudes by poachers who revised all means to assassinate her. Fossey strongly opposed wildlife tourism, as gorillas are very susceptible to human anthroponotic diseases like influenza for which they have no immunity. Fossey reported several cases in which gorillas died because of diseases spread by tourists.

On three occasions, Fossey wrote that she witnessed the aftermath of the capture of infant gorillas at the behest of the park conservators for zoos; since gorillas will fight to the death to protect their young, the kidnappings would often result in up to 10 adult gorillas’ deaths. Through the Digit Fund, Fossey financed patrols to destroy poachers’ traps in the Karisoke study area. In four months in 1979, the Fossey patrol consisting of four African staffers destroyed 987 poachers’ traps in the research area’s vicinity. The official Rwandan national park guards, consisting of 24 staffers, did not eradicate any poachers’ traps during the same period. In the eastern portion of the park not patrolled by Fossey, poachers virtually eradicated all the park’s elephants for ivory and killed more than a dozen gorillas. Fossey helped in the arrest of several poachers, some of whom served or are serving long prison sentences.

While gorillas from rival gang groups on the mountains that were not part of Fossey’s study had often been found poached five to ten at a time and had spurred Fossey to conduct her own anti-poaching patrols, Fossey’s study groups had not been direct victims of poaching until Fossey’s favorite gorilla Digit was killed in 1978. Later that year, the silverback of Digit’s Group 4, named for Fossey’s Uncle Bert, was shot in the heart while trying to save his son, Kweli, from being seized by poachers cooperating with the Rwandan park conservator. Kweli’s mother, Macho, was also killed in the raid, but Kweli was not captured due to Uncle Bert’s intervention; however, three-year-old Kweli died slowly and painfully of gangrene, from being brushed by a poacher’s bullet.

The Volcanoes National Park became a battlefield during the Rwandan Civil War, with the park headquarters being attacked in 1992. The research centre was abandoned, and all tourist activities (including visiting the gorillas) were stopped. They did not resume again until 1999 when the area was deemed to be safe and under control. There have been occasional infiltrations by Rwandan rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda in subsequent years, but these are always stopped quickly by the Rwandan army and there is thought to be no threat to tourism in the park.

Visitors can pay homage to the legendary scientist and gorilla advocate Dian Fossey with a hike to her tomb or a visit to the Dian Fosse Gorilla Fund that continues her legacy of research and advocacy to this day. Hiking to the graves is not as easy as you may think, but it’s quite short lasting for roughly 1-3 hours from the starting point. The hike is not as strenuous as hiking the Virunga volcanoes but it’s quite tiresome requiring one to be physically fit and committed. To ease the movements, travelers are also reminded to wear hiking boots to overcome the muddy and slippery grounds especially in the rainy season. Similarly, dress in long trousers, which you will tack into stockings to prevent bites from ground insects and being hurt by stinging nettles.


When to visit Volcanoes National Park

You can visit Volcanoes National Park for gorilla trekking and other activities at any time of the year, though it would be good if you considered the seasons like from March to May, it’s a long rainy season and this means that this time of the year doesn’t favor those that are intending to visit places like volcanoes for gorillas and golden monkeys and other forest activities since the rain is very heavy and insistent , and gorilla trekking becomes so challenging as the tracking trails are not easy and you may not be able to see many wildlife species as you would do in the dry season. This means the floor would be very wet and sleepily. June to Mid-September and December to February

Best month and time to Visit Volcanoes National Park

This time of the year is usually dry and the best time to visit Rwanda. For those who want to trek and do canopy walks this is the best time because the trails are dry and passable. However, most of them are a tropical rain forest especially PNV and so you definitely have to carry a jacket and boots just in case, nature here is unpredictable. Being I the tropical zone, this means any time you could face a rain fall. Being a dry season is not a guarantee of no rain. Hiking is also easier during this season, since the trails may be a bit drier and not so boggy as in wet season whereby, they are so sleepily and boggy, hard to move over.

Recommended season of visiting Volcanoes National Park

However, the wet season too has some advantage as it gives you best chance of seeing specific mountain gorilla families of the Virunga’s might want to plan your primate trip in one of the wet seasons. During the rains, the climate at the higher elevations is cooler and the gorillas prefer to remain on the lower slopes; here, it is easier to track and spot them. In addition, food is more plentiful in this season and the gorillas don’t have to wander too far to find their favorites, which include tender bamboo shoots, stinging nettles, wild fruits, wild celery, and other vegetation. You might just be able to find your assigned and preferred gorilla family within an hour or two of departing for the hike; though, the trails can be challenging to traverse due to wetness. During the rains, the reserve is also green with fresh vegetation, making it all the more beautiful.

Birders and photographers best time of a Visit Volcanoes National Park

For the birders, still rainy season is the perfect one for you, as there is plenty of food, and for any clear day without rain, it will give you the great chance to spot a number of species. For the photographers, you know how nature and a cloudy day do it well for a clear coverage, as the plants will look all green in your shots. One advantage of visiting during the rainy seasons is that fewer people choose to come during these periods, making it a tourism low season, so some accommodations in Volcanoes Park offer rate discounts via your tour operator booking. In a nutshell, it’s enjoyable to vacation in this stunning locale at any time of the year, since each experience is magical and different to every tourist. All in all, not matter the weather; you will still have a great chance to see the gentle giants.


What to expect on Volcanoes NP Gorilla Safari

There is no doubt that Volcanoes National Park gorilla safari is a humbling experience, which happen once in lifetime. The credibility of a gorilla trek in Africa is proved by millions of travelers who flock gorilla destinations every day to have a face-to-face encounter with the gentle and incredible mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.  While planning to go for a gorilla safari in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, expect a variety of things along the way, during and after the incomparable thrilling adventure in the jungles. A gorilla safari in Africa can only be done in three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo meaning that a traveler who intends to see gorillas must travel to any one of the three countries. In the course of a safari, various happenstances take place, which you should be ready for. To ensure a smooth flow of your gorilla safari experience, we offer you a highlight of things you should expect from the start to the end of the trekking session.

Expectation on a Gorilla safari adventure in Volcanoes

On the day of trekking, you will have an early morning breakfast and transfer from the hotel/lodge to the headquarters of the respective national park for a simple briefing at as early as 7:00am. You will be introduced to the dos and don’ts to ensure safety while with the endangered species. Still there, you will be joined in groups of eight people and then allocated a particular gorilla family. All responsible government bodies in gorilla destinations legally allow 8 people as a maximum number of travelers to interact with each gorilla family. These bodies are the Uganda wildlife (UWA), Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Institute of Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC respectively.

What can I carry along on a Gorilla safari?

You must carry a valid gorilla permit along with other travel documents such as passports for clarification.  The permit comes along with the receipt bearing the names of the trekker and the sector of the national park Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija or Buhoma for the case of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park.  Without a permit, no one is allowed to trek gorillas and is valid for an hour.  Rwanda Eco Company & Safari guide will be having all you document and the permits and will help to carry out all the necessary process for the gorilla trekking, you only have to sign where necessary.

For interested visitors on safari to Rwanda, gorilla families are divided into two; research and tourism purposes and the ones that only accessible by scientists and researchers, they include the Pablo’s Shida’s and Beetsme gorilla family. Rwanda has more than 15 gorilla families but only 10 (ten) have been set for tourism where only 8 (eight) visitors are assigned to track one family each day. The group includes Susa gorilla group, Amahoro gorilla group, Umubano gorilla group, Karisimbi group, Sabyinyo gorilla group, Kwitonda gorilla group, Hirwa gorilla group, 13 group, Bwenge gorilla group.

When to book the gorilla permits?

Due to high demand for gorilla permits, travelers are always reminded to book for the permits at least 6 months before the actual date so as to avoid disappointments at the last hour. This will also help you to get the permits on the exact dates that do much your travel dates. For more information, get in touch with Rwanda Eco Company & Safaris, they have all the answers to your query and are more than ready to assist you.


How to get to Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park (French: Parc National des Volcanos Kinyarwanda: Pariki y’Igihugu y’Ibirunga) lies in northwestern Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in north, Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. The national park is known as a haven for the rare and endangered mountain gorilla and golden monkeys, which has attracted a number of visitors to this great park.

How to get to Volcanoes National Park

By Road

To get to Volcanoes National Park is quite easy as you have choice of options. You can decide to take a private means from the city center of Kigali or airport probably by a tour operator or take a public means to Musanze. Musanze is the most convenient gateway point to volcanoes. However, public means do not proceed to the park areas where the trekking starts. You will have to hire another private means will connect you between Musanze and the park at Kinigi, and also to and from the trekking starting point of the gorilla trekking date. In case you used a tour operator, you need not to worry, since they know all the routes and procedures necessary for one to get to the park at Kinigi. All activities start at 0700 hrs. in the morning.

For a tour operator, they are aware of this. So, in case you’re trekking the same day, it’s better to take a night public means that will get you to Musanze early so as to make a quick connection to the park or travel a day before the trek to Musanze and connect the next day. There is no public means from Musanze to the park headquarters; you will have to take a 4 x 4 jeep. The public means, stop at bus stations, so to get to your hotel, or park headquarters on trekking date, for your trek, you will need to hire a private means to connect you. However, we do not recommend you use the public means, if you wish too, it’s on your own risk. Also note that the terrain is very rough full of volcanic rocks, which needs a 4 x 4 safari vehicle / jeep. From Musanze to Kinigi, which is the park headquarters’, it’s just a 15 minutes’ drive. Many lodges are located near the park headquarters, with some which are 10 – 30 minutes’ drive away.

To Get to Gorilla Trekking point.

To get to gorilla trekking point, it’s a drive away from the park headquarters’ in Kinigi. There are a number of gorilla families, some are near, and others are far, like an hour drive away. This needs a good means of transport as the road are rocky due to volcanic rocks and explosions.

How far is the park from Kigali?

Volcanoes National Park is about 105 kilometers (65 miles) away from the Country’s city and Airport (Kigali), which is roughly a 2 and half hours’ drive from Kigali. We highly recommend booking through a tour operator, probably, who will easily make all the possible arrangement for you with no hustle for your gorilla trekking experience at Volcanoes National Park. In case you’re interested in car hire, we do own number of flight vehicles ranging from small jeeps to extended land cruiser, which are very comfortable for your transportation.

By Flight

You can make arrangement for a chopper to Musanze from Kigali, which will give you a great aerial view of land of 1000 hills as you explore the country on a flight to Musanze. You can take schedule flight or charter a private flight to Musanze, in case you’re using a tour operator, no need to worry, as they handle everything on your behalf. The flight is just 25 minutes away from Kigali; however, you still need road means to connect to your hotel where you will have an overnight, and also means to transport you to park headquarters for briefing and then to gorilla trekking point.

Follow the Route on the map on How to get to Volcanoes National Park


Gorilla Trekking Experience – What is It Like

The Gorilla trekking experience can only be felt by those who have really done this amazing adventure. Most coming to Rwanda to Volcanoes National Park, are clueless about Gorilla Trekking experience. We can say this. It is unlike any other Safari Experience in Africa, this one is unique and full of adventure, as you will physically be involved in the trekking process. You put your adrenaline on to test, as you go about hiking in search of the gorilla in their habitat. For most, it is a once in a lifetime experience that mere words cannot describe. It is a personal encounter with the Gentle Giants of the Forest, as you later come face to face with them, seat around them and observe them go about their daily lifestyle. They are a close cousin to Human Beings being 98% plus similar to us in genetic make-up.

Your given an hour of encounter, as you watch the silver backs, juveniles play around as they swing from tree branch to next one, mothers’ groom their babies. The experience is just magical, as you may even shade tears as often seem with some tourists’ when they encounter these beautiful creatures.

The Gorilla Trekking experience cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world but only in the wild of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. The Mountain Gorillas do not survive in captivity, only in the wild. One reason that this sought after an encounter is on the bucket lists of thousands around the world.

Gorilla Treks are anywhere from three to six hours in duration. For one-hour, you are in the presence of a Gorilla Family. For some, that is not enough, and they choose to trek the gorillas twice or opt for the more extended ~Gorilla Habituation Experience which is in Bwindi in Uganda.

By the end of the trek, you will really feel you have done, something worth your effort to travel all that way round in search for your lost relatives. Thousands, go on gorilla trekking every year, but everyone always describe the experience as very unique, and a must do activity. The trek is worth the effort.


Gorilla Groups at Volcanoes National Park

Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park today has a number of 10 fully habituated gorilla groups for visitors to encounter and one set aside for research purpose for the study of the gorillas by the researchers. The group is known as Kwita Izina from which baby gorilla naming ceremony are selected. This means, a number of 80 gorilla permits are available each day for tourists going watch gorilla groups on a single day since only 8 individuals are only allowed per day to visit a single group of the gorillas. The gorillas live in what is called a family, and as this family grows up to big numbers, they form a group. Each member from a group is related, and a group is led by one single dominant silver back, once the silver back dies, the group splint and joins another group as females, needs a mature dominant silver back for reproduction of strong genes and protection of their babies and territories.

However, a group can have more than one silverback. Surprisingly, each of the gorilla groups has distinct and unique characteristic quite different from another. However, the tracking experience from each group is the same; some time may vary depending on your encounter, weather and other factors. But all in all, the experience of trekking the gorilla, is once a lifetime experience at you hikes deep, in the jungle covered by mist.

Below are the gorilla groups available.

Titus Family

The Titus group is the original family named after the silver back Titus which was born during the days of Dian Fossey’ research at Karisoke which was the gorilla group Dian Fossey was studying. Titus your gorilla lost his family to poachers including his father, uncle and brother and his mother and sister, joined other families leaving Titus to be raised by an unrelated male gorilla. According to Dian Fossey Titus the infant seemed “underdeveloped and spindly” and had difficulty breathing, but Titus overcame these difficulties.

Susa Gorilla Groups (Susa A)

This is the most popular family with previously 42 members before the split. Well known for being the group studied by Diana Fossey during her time in Rwanda from 1967 to 1985. In 2008 the group of 42 individuals split into 2 as it had become so large, and food was becoming competitive. The breakaway group was later known as Susa B or Karisimbi group. Susa A group is well known for its playful twins of Byishimo & Impano and was named after the Susa River that drains through their home range. The group is composed of 33 members including 2 silverbacks and inhabits the forests on the lower slopes of Mt. Karisimbi.

Karisimbi Gorilla Groups (Susa B)

This is sometimes referred to as Susa B and is the group which split from the original Susa in 2008. It is made up of 16 members including 2 silver backs. The group is the hardest to track as it inhabits the upper slopes of Mt. Karisimbi at an altitude of 4507m. The group has established their home high in the upper slopes and is suitable for trackers interested in serious hiking. Tracking this group is sometimes difficult as they go further high though RDB rangers will first locate the group a day before.

Amahoro Gorilla Groups

Amahoro is a Kinyarwanda word to mean serenity, as the name goes, the family is known for its peacefulness and congeniality which on the other hand has caused its silver back Ubumwe to lose some members into another group called Umubano. Amahoro means ‘peace’ and the group has lived to the expectations of her name and is regarded as the most peaceful group. It is composed of 18 members including 2 silver backs and is a bit strenuous to track as one has to endure a hike up Mt. Bisoke slopes where the group established their home.

Umubano Gorilla Groups

This family broke away from Ubumwe silverback as a result of constant battles between Charles and Ubumwe the two head silver backs: Charles consistently challenging the supremacy of the leader Ubumwe. Charles eventually succeeded in breaking away with some members hence forming Umubano group. The group is composed of 13 members including 2 silver backs and its name means ‘living together’.

Sabyinyo group

The nearest gorilla family and easiest to track inhabiting the gentle slopes between Mt. Sabyinyo and Mt. Gahinga. The group is popular for its giant silver back known as Guhonda which has kept its main challenger, Ryango out of the family to remain as a lonely silver back. The group is composed of 13 members including one silver back after another was exiled from the group. The commander of the group; Guhonda is the largest silver back in the park weighing about 220kg. The group was named after the Sabinyo volcano that means the ‘old man’s teeth’.

Agashya group – Group 13

This group is named after the initial family individual who were 13 at the time of habituation. The group was initially led by a silverback called Nyakarima but was later overthrown by Agashya meaning the ‘News’ which is now the leader, and the family was named after him. Today the family has grown to 27 members including one silver back (Agashya). The group occupies the same territory with Sabyinyo group but sometimes Agashya takes the family deeper into the mountain when it senses danger.

Kwitonda group

This is a migrant group from Democratic Republic of Congo which was named after its dominant silver back called Kwitonda which means the ‘Humble one’. Because of its migration background, the group wonders in the lower slopes of Mt. Muhabura and like Karisimbi group, it is onerous to track as it sometimes moves to the upper slopes. The group is composed of 23 members including 4 silver backs.

Hirwa group

This family was formed in 2006 by some members of Sabyinyo group and others from 13 group (Agashya). More gorillas joined in and now the group is composed of 16 members including one silver back. The group derived its name from its formation process that was out of luck. Hirwa means ‘the Lucky one’ and as luck has it, the group got twins in 2011. Hirwa group inhabits the foothills of Mt. Sabyinyo to the side of Mt Gahinga.

Ugenda group

This is a Kinyarwanda word ‘Ugenda’ to mean ‘on the move’ or ‘mobile’. The group was named after its unique behavior of roaming from place to place. It consists of 11 members including 2 silver backs and wonders around Karisimbi area hence very difficult to track since it has no particular home.

Bwenge group

This group was formed as early as 2007 by Bwenge, and named after him the group’s dominant silverback, after he had left his Natal group and was joined by females from other groups. The group occupies slopes of Karisoke volcano between Karisimbi and Bisoke mountains and had witnessed dark times when its 6 infants died. The group has however recovered and now has 11 members including one silver back. Bwenge is a Kinyarwanda word which means ‘Wisdom’ and it’s no wonder that this was the group that featured the Movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist’.

In a nutshell, with the description given, you should have a good picture of the characteristics and nature of each of the gorilla groups and are in position to choose which gorilla family to track on your Rwanda tour while in Volcanoes national park. However, booking a gorilla group is on first come first serve basis, as the demand for the permits is quite high, early booking with your tour operator may guarantee you to book the group of your choice depending on the availability as said before, each group is entitled to only 8 members per group. Contact us, for any inquiries or safari package.