Volcanoes National Park

As a haven for mountain gorilla in the region, the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is also home to five volcanoes that form part of the nearby Virunga Mountains. This is famous as the location where zoologist Dian Fossey (of Gorillas in the Mist fame) based herself. It is the oldest park in Africa and covers a relatively small area, only around 160km².

The park is mostly covered by a range of different forest types, with bamboo covering a third of it. As it is set in the mountains, the forests change at different altitudes, but at the highest points, around 4500m, grasslands, marshes, swamps as well as some small lakes can be found.

Of course, the biggest attraction in the park are the incredible mountain gorillas that roam the bamboo forests. This population forms part of only 700 such primates found in Africa today. It is hoped that through extensive conservation efforts, these numbers are increasing. These peaceful animals, around three times the size of a human, can be encountered on a gorilla trekking expedition.

The park is also home to golden monkeys, spotted hyena, bushbuck, black fronted duiker and elephants, although these are very rare. Over 178 types of birds call the park home, with 13 species and 16 subspecies only found in the region around the Virunga Mountains.

The main reason to visit Volcanoes National Park is for gorilla trekking. Here, experienced guides will take you through the forest to the home of these incredible primates where you can spend an hour with them. Other attractions include visits to the golden monkey population, touring the lakes and caves in the area, hiking trails to the volcanoes in the park, a cultural encounter at the village of Iby’wacu and a pilgrimage to the tomb of Dian Fossey.

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