Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is situated in the northwestern Rwanda bordering Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. In French the park is known as; Parc National des Volcans. Located in the far northwest of Rwanda the park is well known as a haven for the mountain gorilla and home to 5 of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains (Karisimbi, Gahinga Muhabura, Bisoke, and Sabyinyo) which are covered in rainforest and bamboo.
A visit to the park with an exciting trek through the cultivated foothills of the Virungas provides spectacular views in all directions.
The Volcanoes National Park was first gazetted in 1925, it was a small area bounded by Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno Volcanoes, which was aimed to protect the gorillas from poachers. The park was the first National Park to be created in Africa. Later the boarders were extended to further into Rwanda and into the Belgian Congo to form Albert National Park which was managed by the Belgian colonial authorities. Around 1958 about 700 hectares of the park were cleared for a human settlement. After Congo gained independence in 1960, the park was divided into two and when Rwanda got their independence in 1962, the government that took over agreed to maintain the park as a conservation and tourist area, although a good portion was later sub-divided for other purposes.
Flora and fauna
It has a rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embraces the evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp as well as heath. The Vegetation of the park varies greatly due to the large altitudinal range within the park. You will find lower montane forest which has been lost to agriculture. As from 2400 and 2500 m above sea level, there is Neoboutonia forest. Arundinaria alpina forest occurs can be found from 2500 to 3200 m. The higher you go you will find Hagenia-Hypericum forest, grassland, as well as secondary thicket, meadows, swamps, marshes and small lakes.
The park is well known for the Mountain Gorilla but other animals can also be spotted such as golden monkey, black-fronted duiker, buffalo, Spotted Hyna and bushbuck. More than 178 bird species have been recorded here in which 13 species and 16 subspecies are endemic to the Virunga and Ruwenzori Mountains.
Tourist Activities include;
- Golden monkey visits
- Gorilla visits
- Climbing of Karisimbi volcano
- Visiting the tomb of Dian Fossey
- Climbing of Bisoke volcano
- Tour of the lakes and caves
- Gorillas Trekking
- Bird watching