VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK – RWANDA
Spanning on a 160sqkm area in the northern part of Rwanda, Volcanoes national park is the oldest national park in Africa. It was initially a small area around Karisimbi, Mikeno and Visoke volcanoes which was gazetted to protect the Mountain gorillas which were facing the threat of extinction as a result of poaching.
In 1929, the park was extended into Rwanda and the then Belgian Congo and was named Albert national park managed and run by the Belgian Colonial Authorities. During early 1960s, the park was divided as Rwanda and Congo gained their independence and by the end of that decade, the park was almost half of its original size.
In 1967, the American zoologist Dian Fossey who had been doing research on mountain Gorillas in the forests of Congo fled from insecurity and established her research base at a place between Visoke and Karisimbi volcanoes that was yet to be known as Karisoke research center. She spearheaded the conservation campaign of the mountain gorillas and mobilized resources to fight against poaching in this area, a fight she put up until her murder in 1985. She was buried at the research center next to the grave of her favorite gorilla called Digit.
The park continued to suffer at the mercies of poachers though conservation efforts were also under way. In early 1990s, the park became a battle field for the Rwanda’s civil war which paralyzed tourism activities until 1999. In 2005, in a bid to boost conservation and gorilla tours in Volcanoes national park , Rwanda introduced the annual baby naming ceremony for baby gorillas known as ‘Kwita Iziina’ which has seen great results in as far as gorilla population in volcanoes is concerned.
Volcanoes national park is home to Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei); golden monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta), buffaloes (Syncerus caffer), elephants , black-fronted duiker (Cephalophus niger), and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus). The park also harbors 178 bird species including at least 29 endemics to Rwenzori mountains and the Virungas.[mtmore] [mtitle]How to get there[/mtitle]
Volcanoes National Park is located in a small village called Musanze previously well-known as Ruhengeri, which is very accessible by public transport from Gisenyi or Kigali or from the airport.
The drive to Volcanoes national park is 2 hrs and hence one can do gorilla tracking on the same day and drive back to Kigali after the trek. You will be required to arrive at the headquarters of ORTPN in Kinigi, at the park entrance, by 7:00 am, therefore, if you hope to trek gorillas for one day, you have to wake up very early for your journey so that you are on time.
However, there isn’t any public transport from Musanze to the headquarters of the park at Kinigi.[mtmore] [mtitle]what to expect [/mtitle]
Here are a few highlights!
GOLDEN MONKEY TREKKING
Golden monkeys trekking takes place in Volcanoes national park and at the same time 7:00 just like gorillas. These rare species are also listed as endangered – and Volcanoes national park currently has twohabituated golden monkeys’ troops that are available for visiting by tourists in the park, both of which make about 80 members.
Golden monkeys in Rwanda live in the bamboo vegetation towards the base of the volcanoes and habituation has helped them to overcome their initial shyness to accept their daily visit by researchers and tourists.
Trekking golden monkeys and gorillas is a similar experience – in a small group of no more than eight people, and you can spend one hour with the monkeys once you find them.
They are very active creatures, and jump from tree to tree which is really interesting and a little difficult to photograph!
The golden monkey trek is worth going for while in Volcanoes National Park and if you’re interested in wildlife, this is a rare and delightful experience not to be missed!
VISIT THE FAMOUS DIAN FOSSEY TOMBS
The Dian Fossey memorial place is situated 30 minutes drive from the Volcanoes park headquarters and to the trailhead to the Karisoke Research Camp. You will start the trek through the forest taking between an hour and a half and three hours, depending on your fitness.
TWIN LAKES – BULERA & RUHONDO
The twin lakes of Bulera and Ruhonda were named so because they are situated in the same areas and their physical connection. They are located with in Musanze district a walk away from the Volcanoes national park. The lakes offer tourists a beautiful view of landscape, wetland habitat, and water birds.
HIKE MOUNT KARISIMBI
Rising at an elevation of about 4507m above sea level is MT. Karisimbi, a stratovolcano which is the highest of the eight major volcanoes of the Virunga field and the 5th highest in Africa. It strides along the border between Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda on the western branch of the Eat African Rift valley. Karisimbi lavas have been dated from 0.24 Ma to 0.010 Ma indicating that the volcano is very young.
The name Karisimbi is derived from the word ‘amasimbi’ in Kinyarwanda which means “white shell”, referring to the white-capped summit which is often seen on top of this volcano. It is flanked by Mikeno to the north, Bisoke to the east and Nyiragongo to the west, on the other side of the Rift Valley. The mountain is situated in Volcanoes national park, popularly known for the mountain gorillas.
Climbing Mt Karisimbi is a strenuous yet very rewarding 2 days hike. The climb starts early in the morning taking 6 hours and involves navigating through the Bisoke side before reaching the first stopping place at an altitude of 3,700 metres for overnight camping before finishing off the journey the next day.
A hike to Karisimbi’s summit is not an ordinary one, but also affords sights of several bird varieties, primates like monkeys and Gorillas since the volcano lies in the primates’ park of Parc National des Volcans (Volcanoes national park). It is also known for its exotic plants in its four belts of vegetation, from the dense forest at its base to the barren volcanic core at the summit.
The hike up the summit is characterized of muddy trails especially during rainy season, though due to the altitude, it can rain at any time of the day.
You need relatively good health and stamina to hike through the slippery slopes to reach the summit which is white capped as a result of hail and sleet which accumulate in the higher elevations from its frequent storms. This implies that one may have to incur an extra cost of hiring a porter (approximately $20 per day) to help in carrying your luggage and hiking equipment. Karisimbi is also close to the Karisoke research center where the grave of the re-known mountain gorilla conservationist and American zoologist; Dian Fossey lies. This means that one has a chance to visit the grave as well as trek the golden monkeys in addition to the Mountain gorillas.
IBY’IWACU CULTURAL VILLAGE TOUR
Iby’Iwacu village is located around Parc National des Volcans in Nyabigoma, Kinigi, Musanze district, Northern Province- have a visit to Iby’Iwacu to share with local people home and heritage treasures including lifestyles, activities, artifacts and ways of living of local people. Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village is committed at showcasing the ways of living, traditional lifestyles and dances to tourists.
Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village gives you a rare chance to meet local people, in their environment, with a taste of our culture and traditions. Be genuinely welcomed by the community as a special visitor while they proudly present to you aspects of their traditions and beliefs. The only way to get to know people, is getting close and interacting with local people, and taking part in their daily activities and most of all with them.[/mtabs]