Volcanoes National Park Mountain gorillas and other unique wildlife species

Volcanoes National Park, also known as Parc National des Volcans in french and Pariki y’Igihugu y’Ibirunga in native Kinyarwanda sits on the north-western province of Rwanda in a small town known as Musanze (formerly known as Ruhengeri). This park is apparently the oldest national park in the entire African continent and harbors the endangered Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda that are always available for tourists who would love to carry out gorilla tracking in Rwanda. Volcanoes National Park borders Virunga National Park in DRC and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in south-western Uganda. Besides its huge population of Mountain Gorillas, this park also harbors the endangered Golden Monkeys, a primate specie that apparently offers the best diverse tourism activity within the national park at the moment. Volcanoes National Park also shelters five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains which are: Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabyinyo) covering over 160 km2 of rain forest and bamboo. Several years ago, this same park acted as a base for American zoologist Dian Fossey – A lady who turned out to be so passionate about Gorilla conservation that her works still live on till today. The prime attraction of the park are the endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) with a lot other mammals that also inhabit its plains. Some of these mammals include: golden monkeys, buffaloes, black-fronted duiker, hyenas then bushbucks. A few reports also clam that a small number of elephants can be found at the park but on very rare occasions. The bird life spans at 178 species, with about 12 of the main species and 15 of the subspecies being endemic to the Virunga conservation area and the great Ruwenzori Mountains. Several activities are run by the Rwanda Development Board for tourists with the main one being gorilla trekking. Other activities however include Golden Monkey tracking, twin lakes visit, mountaineering, visiting Dian Fossey’s tomb, touring Iby’Iwacu cultural village plus a few community visits.

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, East Africa is an exciting travel destination quite different from the rest. Volcanoes National Park is the last edge of the West African rainforests and the barrier that stands in the way for expansion of the savannah grasslands into West Africa. Volcanoes National Park is a mountainous region with latitudinal virgin rainforests full to the brim with vibrant and unique wildlife species. It is a travel destination like no other on the African continent.

Volcanoes National Park is located in the larger exploding Virunga volcanic region that expands into DR Congo and Uganda. It is one of the three other only habitats for Mountain gorillas on the planet and the only possible destinations for Mountain gorilla trekking expeditions in Rwanda. The rainforests are at a higher altitude and temperatures are generally lowest in the African region. The tropical sun brings with it effects of heat, evaporation of vapor and rain forming. In Volcanoes National Park, it rains at any time regardless of the season. Factor in the volcanic soils that are fertile and very rich in plant mineral content. The end result is an evergreen rain forest, some parts have bamboo trees, small patches of shrubs and grassland areas, swamp and wetland vegetation in the valleys, and heath on the tips of the volcanos. These are the ideal conditions for the survival and the existance of the Mountain gorillas and other unique wildlife species.

Mammal species

Volcanoes National Park is a rich ecosystem, a habitat with vibrant and unique mammal species. Mountain gorillas and Golden monkeys are most recognized than other wildlife species because the Virunga volcanos region is their only habitat on earth. There is high mammal presence in the park, though harder to spot because of hilly and rugged terrain, in a thick and enclosed rainforest. The mammals in such habitat adapt to a solitary or pair lifestyle, shy away from intruders and are very aggressive if cornered in tight corners. Save for rare physical encounters, there are signs that indeed show Forest elephants, buffaloes, bushpigs, bushbucks, giant forest hogs, spotted hyenas, bushbucks, duikers, vervet and colobus monkeys and other primate species reside in the park. Volcanoes National Park is very popular as a Rwanda gorilla trek and Golden monkeytracking destination. There are other Rwanda travel destinations to easily spot and have maximum interaction with the rest of mammal species.

Bird species

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.

Gorilla trekking safaris

Volcanoes National Park is a very popular Rwanda safari destination because of Mountain gorilla trekking expeditions. Mountain gorilla trekking is probably the best wilderness adventure activity on the African continent that gets travelers more personal than ever to wildlife. Mountain gorilla trekking safaris into Rwanda are adventurous, exciting, fun and educative.

Bird watching

Volcanoes National Park is an Important Birding Areas (IBA) in Rwanda with some unique bird species that are a lot harder to spot elsewhere. It is a poular Rwanda birding safari destination with rare Albertine rift endemic species. Teams of birding enthusiasts set out early morning, wander into the rainforest in search of priority forests birds hidden in the canopy or forest floors. Quite often, they get an opportunity to spot their prefered bird species.

Golden Monkey Tracking

Golden monkey is another primate species resident in the larger Virunga volcano region and Volcanoes National Park in particular for Rwanda. Study and research into the lifestyle of Golden Monkey are not as pronounced as Mountain gorillas, but in reality, the two wildlife species are equally threatened. Golden monkey tracking expeditions set out early morning at Kinigi tourism office and traverse the valleys and wetland vegetation in search of feeding areas; thick bamboo forest. Bamboo shoot is Golden monkeys’ chief diet and rarely go beyond bamboo zones. The Golden monkeys are beautiful, charming, very active and very entertaining to track.

Hiking: The entire Virunga volcano region is beautiful with steep mountains touching the skies. Lush, mist covered rainforests surround their berries. Travelers on safari into Rwanda gets enticed to drown in the greenery and discover what lies underneath.

Mt Karisimbi 4,507m is a dormant volcano along the borderline with DR Congo. It is the tallest of the Virunga volcanoes and eleveneeth highest ground on the Africa continent. Hiking to the white capped summit of Mt Karisimbi is a 2-day exciting activity that involves encounters with beautiful land features, unique alpine and forest bird species, primate species; some lucky hiking teams have met Mountain gorillas. The hiking gives travelers magnificent sceneries of landscapes below and beyond.

Mt Bisoke3,771m is an inactive volcano and a popular 1-day hiking expedition destination on tour into Rwanda. Mount Bisoke, like the rest of the volcanic mountains has covered in thick rainforest. It is habitat to unique wildlife species. The Karisoke Research Centre, where Mountain gorilla habituation started from is in Bisoke foothills and is home range for Mountain gorilla families.

Nature Walks

Nature walks: The cool breezes and the excitement of the tour into Rwanda raise the adventure adrenalin. Most travelers on safari into Rwanda are enticed to drown into the greenery of lush vegetation, wander into the wilderness and discover the beauty beyond many peoples reach.

Musanze Caves; a trail leads into the rainforests and the underground caves formed in ancient history by volcanic erruptions. The size, the beauty and the ambiance of 2-kilometre long Musanze caves mesmerize travelers on tour into Rwanda. A walk into Musanze caves that have stairs and walkway, is an exciting way travelers on tour of Rwanda maximise their adventure into the wilderness and appreciate the geographic forces of nature.

Dian Fossey trail; Mountain gorilla expeditions are possible primarily because teams of researchers carry out scientific work, identify their behaviours and characters, their home range and habituate the Mountain gorillas to get used to human presence. Dian Fossey, a conservation primatologist pioneered studies and research of the Mountain gorillas in Rwanda basing at Karisoke Research Centre in the foothills of Mt Bisoke. Travelers on tour into Rwanda walk the Dian Fossey trail to explore the wilderness, learn more about wildlife conservation and Mountain gorilla habitat. The trail system is in memory and appreciation of the conservation efforts of Dian Fossey and the Teams at Karisoke Research Center.

Gorilla guardians’ village /Iby’Iwacu cultural village tour

The Mountain gorillas have coexisted all the time with the indigenous Rwandan people in both positive and negative ways. On the edges of the Volcanos National Park, an indigenous community have mobilised into a Mountain Gorilla Guardians’ formerly Iby’wacu Cultural Village to highlight the benefits of wildlife conservation and gorilla protection. Travelers on tour into Rwanda visit the community to get into close touch with indigenous community and share life experiences. The exciting tour engages the travelers into songs, dances, storytelling, art, cultural rituals and ceremonies, passtime games, homestead structures and other mediums. The travelers learn a lot about the African culture and lifestyles. Note that fees paid for the visit empower the indigenous communities; reduce on tensions and wildlife conflicts and ultimately minise pressure on wildlife resources.

Baby gorilla naming/Kwita-Izina-The-Rwanda-Gorilla-Naming-Ceremony;

Mountain gorillas live in families and each individual has a databank with its bio records; names, age, gender, family, biological parents, health status, deformities, characters and the like. Each Mountain gorilla trekking team visits a particular family in the rainforest. Baby gorilla naming is a periodic cultural ceremony held to cerebrate birth of new members in Mountain gorilla families. Music, dance, songs, drama, story telling, eats and drinks accompany the ceremony. Select international celebrities with an attachment to wildlife conservation always participate in giving names the baby gorillas.

What to bring for a gorilla trekking safari

• Wear trousers and long sleeved shirts.
• Sun hut.
• Insect repellent.
• Sunscreen.
• Rain gear / pocho.
• Waterproof hiking boots.
• Walking stick / can be improvised on site.
• Garden gloves / optional.

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