volcanoes national park

Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park: Background Info

Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range – home of the endangered mountain gorilla and a rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath. Spanning on a 160 sqkm area in the northern part of Rwanda, Volcanoes national park is part of the great Virunga volcano conservation region spanning to cover Virunga National Park Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. It was initially a small area around Karisimbi, Mikeno and Visoke volcanoes which was gazetted to protect the Mountain gorillas which were facing the threat of extinction as a result of poaching.

The strategic location of the Volcanoes National Park roughly 2 hours drive from Kigali international airport make it the most accessible gorilla national park in the world. Besides gorillas, Volcanoes National park is a home for golden monkeys, a variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects among other creatures which together make a complete Rwanda safari package.

Volcanoes National Park: Destination Preview

volcanoes national park


Twelve gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park are habituated for tourism (other troops are habituated solely for research purposes). These are the Susa, Igisha, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Agashya, Kwitonda, Umubano, Hirwa, Bwenge, Ugyenda and Muhoza families. Only six tracking permits are issued per group per day, so time spent with the gorillas is incredibly intimate. Furthermore, 10% of the permit prices are fed back into surrounding communities to develop infrastructure and improve livelihoods. This culture of sustainable tourism is rapidly becoming a proud (and successful) tradition of Rwandan conservation.

For the true gorilla devotee, it is well worth visiting Kwita Izina – an annual naming ceremony for newborn gorillas modelled off a Rwandan tradition of naming children. Conservation champions are honoured with the opportunity to bestow a name upon one of the tiny bundles of primate joy, every one of which is of vital importance to the future survival of the species. Since 2005, 328 gorillas have been named in this way, and the ceremony includes live music, dancing and, of course, essential conservation talks. A well-timed visit allows additional opportunities to speak to gorilla conservationists and park staff. The ceremony usually takes place in September to coincide with World Gorilla Day.


With about 200 species recorded (including 17 Albertine Rift endemics), Volcanoes National Park offers great bird watching. However, most of the park’s special birds can also be seen in Nyungwe National Park, which is set up better for birding. Local specialties are the vulnerable Grauer’s swamp warbler and the scarlet-tufted sunbird, which can be found on the summit of Mt Bisoke.

The birdlife in Volcanoes NP is good year-round, but the volcanoes are especially wet and often shrouded in mist. This means that birding in this area is easiest during the Dry season, from June to August, and to a lesser extent in September, January and February when it rains slightly less. This is also the best time for gorilla trekking.

Volcanoes National Park is on the edge where the West African rainforests meet the East African savannas. It is a region where the Virunga volcano region meets the great East African rift. Lake Kivu is just a few kilometres close. These factors are a magnet that attracts birds into an area and play an important role in the bird presence in the Volcanoes National Park. Volcanoes National Park is an Important Birding Area for Rwanda birding safaris with more than 200 recorded bird species sightings. This is a Rwanda birding safaris destination and the ideal place to spot a number of Albertine rift endemic bird species. Rwenzori batis, Handsome francolin, Grauer’s rush warbler, Rwenzori turaco, Archer’s ground robin, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, Collared Apalis, Red-faced woodland warbler.

Volcanoes National Park: Location

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volcanoes national park

Volcanoes National Park

Protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range – home of the endangered mountain gorilla and a rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.

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