PARC NATIONAL DES VOLCANS

“In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat,” wrote the eminent primatologist Dian Fossey, “are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest – the Virungas”. Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda , the Parc des Volcans protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range – home of the rare mountain gorilla – and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath. The park covers the Rwandan side of Virunga Conservation area.

Species: In the forested hills of the park the rare golden monkey and a populations of buffaloes and elephants can be found. The park is most known for hosting a population of mountains gorillas, Gorilla Gorilla Beringei specie. About 200 bird species have been recorded in the park, with 13 species endemic to the Albertine Rift, including the Rwenzori turaco.

Activities: Trekking can be arranged to hike two of the Virunga volcanoes, accessible from the Rwandan side, through the cultivated foothills: Karisimbi (4.507m) and Bisoke (3.711m). The climb to the peak of Karisimbi requires two days, with clients sleeping in a tent on the mountain. It does not require technical skills, but clients have to be fit and healthy as the walk is quite arduous and conditions can be wet, cold and muddy. Bisoke is a day’s walk and although less steep than Karisimbi still requires trekkers to be fit. The paths go through afromontane forest, bamboo, and woodland. Higher up there is Afro-alpine moorland, grassland and marsh, giant lobelia and senecio. Another important activity is tracking the habituated rare Golden Monkey of the Kabatwa group and Musongo Group. Visits to “Old Karisoke” Dian Fossey Research Centre are available. The walk takes about 6-8 hours in all and is a fascinating way to explore the park and get a glimpse of the remains of this historic place. Dian Fossey graveyard is located on Bisoke volcano, where she spent most of her time when researching on gorillas.

Four habituated families of mountains gorillas make the gorilla tracking the most exciting activity in the Parc des Volcans.