Volcanoes National Park 365
Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park lies adjacent to the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mgahinga National Park in neighbouring Uganda. The park derives its name from the chain of steep volcanoes that stretches across into the DRC, five of which lie within the Volcanoes National Park, and are covered in dense rainforest and bamboo.
This forms the habitat for the approximately 300 mountain gorillas that call Volcanoes National Park home – roughly half of the world’s population of this protected and critically endangered species.
In recent years, Rwanda has centred a lot of its tourism efforts on gorilla trekking, and Volcanoes National Park is the ideal place to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. It was here that renowned conservationist and primate expert Dian Fossey spent over 20 years studying the gorillas and campaigning for their protection, which resulted in much more stringent conservation efforts to ensure their survival. Her life was later documented in the film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’, which was filmed in Volcanoes and helped raise awareness and recognition of the park and the plight of the gorillas.
It is important to note that due to the protected status of the population, trekking expeditions are limited in numbers and capped at one hour of interaction with the gorillas. It’s also an activity that requires a certain amount of physical exertion, as you’ll be making your way through some difficult terrain – soggy, muddy, and at times, steep. Exertion aside, it is also fairly costly – to keep volumes of visitors down and make conservation efforts viable. There is also a stringent set of behavioral rules in place and visitors must maintain a respectful distance from the gorillas and stay, as far as possible, undetected (see our section in the ‘Experience’ menu on Gorilla Trekking for more information).
While gorilla safaris are by far the park’s most popular attraction, it is not the only activity on offer here and visitors can also explore the forested slopes on hikes and nature walks, while the more adventurous can go mountain climbing.