Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcano)
Volcanoes National Park, the oldest National Park in Africa, was originally established in 1925 as a conservation area for Mountain Gorillas. It was originally very small, but soon after its establishment was expanded to its current size of approximately 160 km2 and divided over the border between Rwanda and the Congo. Today, the park is a famous starting point for Rwanda Safaris, the most well-known being Rwanda gorilla trekking.
Much of the world’s current knowledge about gorilla families comes from the park’s Karisoke Research Center, established by Dian Fossey, after security concerns drove her team out of the Congo in 1967. Fossey, an American Zoologist, dedicated her life to researching the Mountain Gorillas in the park and protecting them from poachers. Tragically, she was murdered in the park and buried there in 1985. The Center has expanded to employ more than 100 people and continues its research and advocacy work today. If you are interested in learning more about the Center and visiting with the researchers there, it can be reached in two hours on foot from the Tourist Information Center.
Today, the park is mainly known for tourism. Most of the revenue generated by the park is used for maintenance and wildlife conversation, and around ten percent is used to support local projects in the communities near the park.
Volcanoes National Park is best known for its Mountain Gorilla tracking tours, but its towering mountains and lush, diverse wildlife offer many additional activities for visitors.
The large altitudinal range in the park offers the visitor the chance to view a marvelous variety of vegetation, from wide grasslands to dense forests. This large variety in plant life supports a similar variety in wildlife. One can observe black-fronted duiker, buffalo, spotted hyena, bushbuck, and even elephants in the park. In addition to the Mountain Gorilla treks, there are daily Golden Monkey and chimp tracking tours on offer. One can also observe the baby gorilla naming ceremony, Kwita Izina, each year in September. Tourists can also seek out the almost 200 bird species residing in the park, 29 of which are endemic to the Rwenzori Mountains and the Virungas. For those seeking a high-altitude challenge, there are one- and two-day summit hikes to Mount Karisimbi, an inactive volcano, and Mount Bisoke, an active volcano. Nature lovers can also explore the many lakes and caves in the region.