Chimpanzees are found in the huge afro-montane forest of Nyungwe in Rwanda. This variety, Pan Troglodytes Schweinfurthi, the same in Uganda, is long-haired and lives in those forests where there is a rich, all year round food supply.
Mountains Gorillas in the Parc National des Volcans
The Virunga Conservation Area, around the upper slopes of the dramatic Virunga volcanoes, comprises three contiguous national parks – Mgahinga National Park in Uganda , Parc National des Volcans (PNV) in Rwanda , and Parc des Virungas, commonly called Djomba, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. About 350 mountain gorillas make their home in these afro-montane forests. In Parc National des Volcans on the Rwandan side, where Dian Fossey worked, there are five habituated gorilla families.
Tracking the Golden Monkey
These monkeys are one of the most endangered primates in Africa and it is now believed that the only viable population of these monkeys is in the Virunga Volcanoes. A smaller population may exist in the Nyungwe Forest in Southern Rwanda but this has yet to be verified. The golden monkey is a distinct species of guenon – Cercopithecus Kandti and is endemic to the Albertine Rift.
Two groups are being habituated for visitors in the Virungas. The Kabatwa group is found in the east of the park, on the flanks of the Sabinyo volcano and has about 40 in the group. The Musongo Group lives higher up on the flanks of the Karisimbi volcano at an altitude of about 2800-3000 metres and has about 100 individuals.
Volcanic lakes – Kivu, Bulera, Ruhondo
There are five volcanic lakes on the borders of Rwanda and Uganda with their own special attractions. Lake Kivu , on the Rwanda/Congo border, the largest, is like a giant inland sea with some interesting lakeside towns. Kibuye and Gisenyi are a relaxing retreat for swimming, canoeing and water-skiing. The twin lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo are attractive places to visit after gorilla tracking in PNV in Rwanda .
Akagera has beautiful undulating plains with dense, broad-leafed woodland, lighter acacia woodland and rolling grassland with an extensive series of lakes linked by papyrus swamps forming a sprawling wetland. The game in the park includes elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, lions and different antelope.
Butare is a pleasant university town which contains the exceptional National Museum which has a fine display of the history of the country and people. The Roman Catholic Cathedral, built in memory of Princess Astrid of Belgium, is the largest in the country. At Nyanza, nearby, there is the court of the former King.
Kigali has been the capital of Rwanda since 1965. An attractive city, it spreads over a number of hills. The main shopping and commercial area is around the Hotel Mille Collines, with the government district on the neighbouring Kaciyiru hill. The markets, the handicrafts, the Muslim quarter and a new genocide memorial being built in Gisozi are some of the main places of interest.
This massive montane forest, in southern Rwanda , the largest in Central Africa , has thirteen species of primate including chimpanzee, Rwenzori colobus and l’Hoest’s monkey. The colobus live in large groups, including a four hundred-strong semi-habituated group thought to be the largest troop of arboreal primates in Africa. Around 300 bird species, 24 of which are regional endemics and over 100 varieties of orchids and butterflies are other attractions.
The remains of Dian Fossey’s Karisoke Research Centre – “Old Karisoke”
Dian Fossey set up a research centre in the Virungas in the early sixties and began the well documented habituation of the gorillas there. She became well known internationally through the film “Gorillas in the Mist”. Although Fossey was killed in 1985, the Centre continued to operate in the forest with other researchers until 1992. During the ensuing civil war in Rwanda it was destroyed and although rebuilt in 1993, it was destroyed again. Since then it has not been rebuilt. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International now runs its research on the gorillas in the forest from the Karisoke Centre in Ruhengeri town.
Visits to old Karisoke are available as one of the activities in the Virungas. Old Karisoke is located in a beautiful meadow between the Karisimbi and Visoke volcanoes with the Mikeno volcano in the distance. Remains of the old buildings can be seen as well as graves of some of the research gorillas that have died over the last 30 years, including the famous Digit which was killed by poachers, as well as that of Fossey herself.
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. Prior booking is required and should be done when booking a safari.