Volcanoes National Park (PNV), two hours drive north of Kigali, is a high altitude park which protects the largest remaining population of mountain gorilla. No wildlife experience can surpass meeting a troop of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
The Park covers the Rwandan section of the magnificent Virunga Mountains, a range of six extinct and three active volcanoes that also straddles Uganda, and the Congo (DRC).
Bamboo forest, hagenia woodland,grassland, heath and swamp are contained within its boundaries, inhabited by rare golden monkey, buffalo. elephant, bushbuck and various small predators. There are rare plants and more than 200 bird species.
Watching the gorillas
Visitors meet at the park HQ in the early morning. Up to 36 people are split into groups to seek the five habituated gorilla families. Tracking is not that arduous - it can be quick, or it can take a few hours to find the group. The Susa group of 37 gorillas is usually the furthest away and we suggest you visit them if you make a second trek. You are allowed to spend just one hour actually with the gorillas.
Although permits are expensive at £494 a visit, the money raised protects the park and these endangered animals. This is the world’s most endangered ape – there are only 750 surviving, around half in PNV. The whole park is patrolled by the army to prevent poaching.
There are three lodges near the park. Mountain Gorillas Nest is a modern lodge at the tracking trail-head. There is cheaper accommodation close by at the basic Kinigi Guest House. Further away, Virunga Lodge has a stunning position atop a hillside with a splendid view over the twin volcanic lakes.
There are several other activities at PNV apart from gorilla tracking – visiting the golden monkeys, and the Dian Fossey memorial, climbing one of the volcanoes, visiting the crater lakes. We can arrange any of these if you spend another day at PNV.