The Volcanoes National Park (Virunga Mountains) is the home of the mountain gorilla.
Latest Volcanoes National Park safari reviewsGorilla Mountain View Lodge review
Volcanoes National ParkThe great volcanic massif of the Virunga Mountains straddles the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC, covering a huge area of over 8,000km², and encompassing six active and three extinct volcanoes. Much of this is protected by national parks, including the Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) on the Rwanda side, which was made famous by Dian Fossey's work, and the film Gorillas in the Mist. More than half of the world's last mountain gorillas live here – about 350 of them – and at present it's probably the best place in Africa for a mountain gorilla safari.
Even without the mountain gorillas, this park would be fascinating. Its altitude ranges from about 2,500m to the peak of Karisimbi, at 4,500m, resulting in extensive bamboo forests, and some of the last remaining afro-montane forest habitat on the planet.
Quite apart from the mountain gorillas, it harbours a spectacular array of rare and endangered animals and plants. There is a variety of other primates, including the endemic golden monkeys, plus forest elephants, buffalo, giant forest hogs (Africa's largest swine), bushpigs, bushbucks, black-fronted duikers, spotted hyenas, and around 200 species of birds. On the higher slopes you'll find an almost otherworldly habitat of thick moors with endemic giant lobelia and groundsel.
Where to stay in Volcanoes National ParkThere are several options for accommodation near the park, and quite a range of choices – from simple and basic, to more upmarket:
Gorilla Mountain View LodgeNew in December 2008, Gorilla Mountain View Lodge is a good, mid-range option with 30 individual cottages, a restaurant and a bar, all with views over the surrounding hills and volcanoes. It's affordable and within 15 minutes' drive of the park headquarters. (Read more about Gorilla Mountain View Lodge…)
Kinigi GuesthouseThe village-run Kinigi Guesthouse is a very simple and basic place to stay, close to the meeting point of many gorilla treks. It has a lounge area, a bar and 20 guest rooms. (Read more about Kinigi Guesthouse...)
Sabyinyo Silverback LodgeThe newest lodge in the area, and by far the most comfortable and luxurious, Sabyinyo Silverback offers spectacular views from its elevated position. Its six cottages and two suites are set in well-maintained gardens, all with private verandas, en-suite bathrooms and sitting rooms featuring fireplaces. (Read more about Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge…)
Virunga LodgeIn 2004, the up-market Virunga Lodge opened in a stunning location, high on a ridge between Burera and Ruhondo lakes. It has eight spacious chalets, each with a large private veranda. It is eco-friendly, with hot bucket-showers and composting toilets, and furnished in a rustic fashion - it's not plush and luxurious but is a very good lodge. (Read more about Virunga Lodge ...)
Gorilla tracking safaris in Volcanoes National ParkThe gorillas in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park are fascinating, and a gorilla tracking safari with experienced guides can be amazing. Encounters can never be guaranteed, but any time spent with them will never be forgotten! Click here to read more about gorilla tracks in Volcanoes National Park.
Other Trips in Volcanoes National ParkBefore visiting the gorillas, a guided hike up into the mountains for a day is good for acclimatisation... It also allows you to spend more time looking at the other wildlife in forest, and getting a better understanding of the overall ecosystem. A more gentle option is a guided trip to a troupe of habituated golden monkeys, which tend to inhabit the bamboo forests, on the lower slopes. You won't normally get as near to the monkeys as you would to the gorillas, but the environment is interesting and with patience you'll still get quite close.
It is also possible to do a day hike up Volcan Bisoke, which has a beautiful crater lake at the top, and also hike to the grave of Dian Fossey.