Volcanoes National Park


Volcanoes National Area in Rwanda is most renowned for mountain gorilla trekking, but the park also offers a variety of other exciting activities. This park is part of the Virunga volcanoes, which are shared by Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This park has an evergreen bamboo forest as well as grassland, wetland, and heath habitats.

Mountain gorillas are the main attraction at Volcanoes National Park, and gorilla trekking is available all year. Because of the high altitude, it is often chilly, especially in the early mornings and nights; bring a light sweater for these times. The park is just two hours from Kigali in Rwanda’s northwestern region.

Gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park

In Volcanoes National Park, there are multiple gorilla families, some of which are habituated for gorilla tourism and others for study, while others are not. Before starting on this gratifying bucket list event, you must obtain a gorilla permit from your tour operator with certain dates. Depending on the conditions, each gorilla troop is given a name and is led by a silverback. When a young silverback challenges the dominant silverback, he must’steal’ several females from an existing group to start his own brood.

The Amahoro gorilla troop is led by the calm Ubumwe and means “quiet.” The group primarily lives upland, which necessitates a tough trek to ultimately enter its area, but the journey is always worthwhile.

Hirwa gorilla group evolved from existing gorilla families such as Group 13, Susa, and Sabyinyo. After leaving Susa with two females, Munyinya the silverback met others along the road and finally established a group.

Guhonda, named after one of the volcanoes, leads the Sabyinyo gorilla group. This family has fewer members than most, yet it is a remarkable one. This group is the closest to the park headquarters, so if you’re tired of tracking great distances, this is the one to request.

The Kwitonda gorilla troop is led by silverback Kwitonda, whose name translates as “modest one.” This gorilla troop traveled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and ‘permanently’ established in Rwanda. It is a somewhat tough hike due to its location on the top slopes of Mt Muhabura.

During habituation, Group 13 / Agashya gorilla group had just 13 individuals, hence its name. It currently has about 25 members and is commanded by silverback Agashya, which explains the name change.

Silverback Charles leads the Umubano gorilla group, which split off from the Amahoro gorilla group with several females to establish Umubano. The name Umubano means “living together.”

Silverback Charles leads the Umubano gorilla group, which split off from the Amahoro gorilla group with several females to establish Umubano. The name Umubano means “living together.”

The Ugenda gorilla group was named due its distinctive tendency of moving from location to location throughout the Karisimbi region; be prepared to ascend this volcano as you follow this gorilla group.

Dian Fossey researched the Susa (A) gorilla group, which has 41 gorillas and is the park’s largest gorilla group. The group is well-known for possessing the unusual twins Byishimo and Impano. This family lives in the high mountains, making trekking tough, but it rewards you with its enormity when you see it.

Karisimbi / Susa – B gorilla group has two silverbacks and separated from the original Susa (A) group. This group, which lives on the top slopes of Mt Karisimbi, is one of the most difficult to reach. It is ideally suited for experienced hikers who appreciate the trekking experience as much as seeing gorillas.

The Titus gorilla group was named after the silverback Titus, who was born during Dian Fossey’s studies in Karisoke.

Silverback Bwenge founded the Bwenge gorilla group after breaking away with females from other groups. Bwenge translates as ‘Wisdom.’ The group mostly inhabits the slopes between the mountains of Karisimbi and Bisoke.

Wildlife in Volcanoes national park


Mountain gorillas are the most well-known residents of Volcanoes National Park. Because to Dian Fossey’s work and the film “Gorilla in the Mist,” they were able to effectively place Volcanoes National Park on the global map. The park is also home to the gorgeous, uncommon, and endangered golden monkeys that can only be found in the virunga region. Forest elephants, buffaloes, bush pigs, gigantic forest hogs, duikers, spotted hyenas, bush-bucks, and many primates are also present in the forest.


Volcanoes National Park is home to approximately 200 bird species, including some Albertine rift endemics for bird watchers to enjoy. After mountain gorilla tracking and golden monkey hiking, birding is the finest thing to do in this park. Grauer’s rush warbler, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori double-collared Sunbird, beautiful francolin, peculiar weaver, dusky crimson-wing, collared Apalis, red-faced woodland warbler, and Archer’s ground robin are among the species to watch for.

Gorilla safaris and activities in Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla trekking

The most popular activity in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is gorilla tracking. The tracking occurs once daily, with 8 personnel visiting each gorilla group. Visitors are scheduled to come at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) headquarters at 7 a.m., where they will be informed on what to anticipate and then distributed among the several gorilla groups.

Once you’ve been assigned to a gorilla group and the briefing is through, you’ll follow your ranger guide and begin your trip in search of these gentle giants. Depending on the location of the group you are following, your walk might take anything from a few minutes to 6 hours. Once you see the group, you will only be permitted to stay in their company for one hour. Remember the information presented in the briefing and try to follow it for your own and the gorillas’ safety; if in question, contact your ranger guide.

What to keep in mind before trekking Rwanda gorillas

  • Visitors are requested to keep a 7-meter (22-foot) distance from the gorillas.
  • Please do not visit the gorillas if you have a cold, flu, or another infectious ailment. Cover your mouth and move away from the gorillas if you need to cough.
  • The viewing period is restricted to one hour.
  • Maximum of 8 visits per group per day.
  • Keep your voice quiet when among the gorillas.
  • Try not to make any sudden movements that can startle the gorillas.
  • If a gorilla charges or vocalizes at you, remain calm, turn away from the gorilla, and follow your guide’s instructions.
  • It is completely forbidden to spit in the park.
  • Do not leave litter.
  • In the presence of gorillas, do not eat, drink, or smoke.


Volcanoes National Park is one of Rwanda’s three Important Birding Areas (IBA), home to endangered Albertine Rift endemics. Begin your birding day with binoculars and a camera in hand, ready to catch some of the amazing birds of the Virungas. The Albertine rift endemics will be your major target for the day, so take in the surroundings as you bird.

Golden monkey trekking

Golden monkey trekking, like gorilla trekking, takes place once a day in the early morning at Volcanoes National Park. You are asked to be at the pack headquarters as early as 7 a.m. for a briefing on how to behave and interact with these creatures in the wild. You will then be separated into two groups if you are a large party, and your hike will be conducted by experienced and cheerful ranger guides. Before your briefing, enjoy traditional dances performed by a local group and a nice cup of coffee.

The Volcanoes National Park presently has two habituated troops that may be visited. Both have a total of 80 people that are interested in tourism. Golden monkeys dwell mostly in bamboo vegetation due to their fondness for bamboo shoots, and unlike mountain gorillas, they are active, making hiking highly engaging and exciting. You’ll be tracking them as they jump from one region to the next in search of food.

Mountain hiking

Hiking Mt Bisoke

Mount Bisoke boasts a spectacular crater lake at the summit, making trekking this volcano a worthwhile trip. The climb takes roughly 6 hours, including the 2 hours spent descending. However, some skilled hikers require as little as three hours and an hour to descend. Hikers, like other activities, assemble at the RDB headquarters at 7 a.m. to listen to a briefing before beginning the trek with the designated ranger guide. Your ranger guide is informed and eager to share his or her mountain experiences with you. You may hire porters to help you with your luggage for a little cost, and it is strongly recommended that you do so.

Hike Mt Karisimbi

Mt Karisimbi, at 4507m above sea level, is the tallest of the Virunga volcanoes and the fifth highest in Africa. It is located on the western rift valley between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Because of the white-capped peak caused by hail and sleet accumulation, it gets its name from ‘amasimbi,’ which means “white shell” in Kinyarwanda. The Karisimbi walk is challenging yet rewarding, lasting two days and beginning at Bisoke. There is a potential of seeing birds, primates, including gorillas on rare occasions, and breathtaking landscape.

Musanze Caves

The Musanze caves were developed as a result of a volcanic explosion that created an underground cavern large enough for humans to inhabit. They are two kilometers long, with pathways and steps leading to the caverns’ dark depths. This exercise may be completed following your morning gorilla tracking.

Cultural tours

Iby’Iwacu/ Gorilla Guardians Village

This is a project for locals who were formerly involved in gorilla poaching but are now committed to conservation. Edwin Sabuhoro founded the settlement while working as a warden in Volcanoes National Park, with the goal of converting the park’s notorious poachers into environmentalists. Your visit to this village will help to further conservation efforts and offer a source of income for many community members.

Participate in the activities to get a feel for the village; be proclaimed king or queen for the day, learn about traditional customs, and enjoy music and dancing.

Getting there

The Volcanoes National Park is about a two-hour drive from Kigali. It is a 30-minute drive from the Ugandan border at Cyanika near Kisoro. You may also hire Akagera Aviation to fly you around by helicopter.