Rwanda Volcanoes National Park-Gorilla, Tracking, Trekking, Hiking, Safaris, Accommodation

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Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, Accommodation, Lodges, Gorilla Families, Safaris, Groups, Trekking, Hiking, Tracking

Also called Parc des Volcans, Volcano Rwanda Volcanoes National Park is a big destination for adventure lovers.  Adventures in the park are mild.  Neither hard nor soft.  In Rwanda Volcanoes National Park, gorilla trekking is the main pull, other activities like  golden monkey trekking, bird watching are equally fascinating.  Scaling or Climbing Karisimbi, Climbing Bisoke , Climbing Muhabura are more challenging Combine Gorilla Trekking with Serengeti, Masai Mara and Kilimanjaro, Rwanda Volcano National Park

                     

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18 Jul 2013

                     
 
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Several  wildebeest migration safaris are organized in both  Maasai (Masai) Mara and Serengeti National Parks.  The duration of the safari depends on various factors but mostly on time and budget but also the flexibility of the guest.  The all drive 11 days Masai Mara Serengeti/ Ngorongoro/ Manyara Migration Safari commences from Nairobi and returns to the same via Maasai Mara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara, and Amboseli.  The 8 days fly drive Wildebeest Migration Safari Masai Mara National Park  (Mara Explorer 8 days) is a luxury option. Guests fly from Nairobi Wilson to Masai Mara and return to the same.  The 4 days 3 Nights Migration safari combines Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru National Park and Lake Naivasha.   The 6 days Best of Tanzania Safari focuses on wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park.   The best time to witness migration in Masai Mara National Park Kenya, is between July to September. Serengeti National Park is best visited between March and May.

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Meru National Park Holidays / Weekend Getaways/ Escapes-Meru National Park is paradise, an adventure destination for wildlife safaris and adventures,  sight seeing, camping and relaxation. The Elsa story is the bait that draws visitors to the park.  It is an adventure fantasy of how two conservationist raised up the lion cabs, weaned them to maturity, the struggle and the suspense that follow as they try to introduce it to the wild.

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Golden monkey hiking, gorilla treking and tracking safaris virunga volcanoes national park rwanda

The Viruga Golden Monkey

 
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VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK RWANDA

Volcanoes National Park is part of the bigger Virunga (Birunga) Conservation area which includes Mgahinga and Virunga National Parks in Uganda and DR Congo respectively. These three parks are the home of Mountain gorillas. The history of Volcanoes National Park (Parc des Volcans) dates back to 1925 when a small triangle between Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno was set aside to protect the Mountain Gorillas.  Boundaries were later extended into rwanda volcanoes national parkRwanda and DR. Congo (Zaire) to form the bigger Albert National Park.

 

Volcanoes was the first National Park in Africa.  The park is famous for Mountain Gorilla tracking and its golden Monkeys. A good gorilla trekking safari experience takes minimum four days with two gorilla treks. The safari can be combined with visits to the nearby Lakes Burera, Ruhondo, Kivu and the local villagers. The gorilla safari can also be combined with chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park.

 

Location: Volcanoes National Park is located Ruhengeri 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Kigali to the Northwest of Rwanda. The park occupy an are of about 130 Km2.

Special Features:        

The Virungas with five peaks-Karisimbi (4507M), Bisoke (3711M), Sabyinyo (3634M), Gahinga (3474M) and Muhabura (4127M).

  • The last families of mountain Gorillas on earth.

  • Other animals including– the rare golden monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), Cape buffalo, black fronted duiker; a profusion of bird life including the Ruwenzori turaco, and beautiful francolins.

  • In the vicinity the beautiful lakes Burera and Ruhundo.

  • The Virunga ecosystem is composed of 4 major vegetation zones: Bamboo (base altitude), Hagenia and Hypericum forest (2600-3300m), Sub-alpine (3300-4000m), and Afro-alpine (4000m+).

  • Between Bisoke and Sabyinyo volcanoes lies lakes Ngezi, Nyirambubu, Gasindikira and Muraro.  Crater lake is at the peak of Bisoke.  Visit to the lakes can be organized.

High altitude makes it generally cold, especially during the evenings. Gorilla viewing is possible all the year round.

 

Gorilla Tracking Rwanda Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla Tracking safaris in Volcanoes National Park takes place in altitudes of about 2000 Meters above sea level.   Volcanoes / Virunga Mountains  experiences a modified equatorial climate.  Volcanoes National Park (Par des Volcans) is both hilly and cold.  The grounds are usually wet and the paths are full of stinging-nettles.  Besides, the rains are random. Thus proper preparation is important in terms of dressing and equipments. Please bring the following items with you,

  • Long trousers/ pants- to avoid stinging nettles The trousers must be strong enough to withstand occasional pulls from thorns.

  • Long sleeved shirts/ t-shirts. To avoid stinging nettles

  • Gloves- These are required to avoid injury to your hands. Remember the grounds are wet and slippery.

  • Hiking boots- Please bring average waterproof sturdy walking boots reaching ankle level not mountain climbing boots. Something light and hardy will do.

  • Warm cardigan- Volcanoes can get extremely cold. A warm cardigan is required to keep off cold.

  • Long sleeved Rain Coat or anorak -it can rain anytime in Volcanoes National Park even on hot days. The downpours are heavy and extremely cold.

  • Water proof container for your cameras. Yes I know there are waterproof cameras but even them to be sure just put them in a waterproof container. When you are slipping and falling in muddy grounds you do not want your precious photos damaged or do you?

  • If you desire headgear (hats), a baseball cap is recommended as gorillas are familiar to them.

  • Enough water- minimum of 2 litres of drinking water to avoid dehydration. Carry four just in case the hike proofs longer than expected. Sometimes it can be 8 hours.

  • Film Camera- A film camera for domestic use is recommended.

  • A camera

  • If you are interested in birds, you can bring Field guide to birds of East Africa by Fanshawe and a pair of binoculars.

Rwanda Gorilla  Families Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Gorillas are social animals staying in groups or families of 6 to 40 or more individuals. A family comprises of the Alpha male (called the silver back), subordinate males (Black backs), females, juveniles and young ones.  Each family has its own territory and a home range, where they forage for food.  Territories are aggressively or physically defended against male intruders. Territorial fights are fatal and may lead to the death of the territorial or alpha male.  Besides humans and diseases , a mature mountain gorilla has very few enemies.

 

Gorilla groups in Rwanda also called families are divided into two.  The study groups/ families which are accessible to scientists and the tourist groups/families which are open for tourist tracking.  The Study groups have the largest number of individuals.   Study groups include Beetsme, Pablo’s, Shida’s and Bwenge.  Besides these, there are seven(7) tourist groups-Susa, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Kwitonda, Group 13(Agashya), Umubano and Hirwa.  Sometimes, these are joined by a migrant  group from Uganda.  Most of the potential gorilla trackers have diverse questions ranging from the best time to track, the existing gorilla families, accommodation facilities, when to buy permits, tracking rules and regulations and what to bring.  We will answer most of these questions and many more on request.

Seven gorilla families open for tourists .  Only 8 tourists allowed per group per day.

  • Susa Group/ Family—the largest group with 41 gorillas. The group is very impressive with three silver-backs and several-black backs, females and several youngsters.  Part of the fame of this group are playful 5 year old twins named Byishimo and Impano.  The group roams the slopes of Karisimbi Volcano(4507M).  Though the group is a bit difficult to track sometimes it is very near.  Always find out their location from guides a day earlier.
  • Sabyinyo Group/ Family—One o the easily accessible groups.  The group has 8 members led by the biggest silverback known in the entire jungle called Guhonda.
  • Amahoro Group/ Family—Amahoro meaning peaceful has 17 members led by the peaceful Ubumwe. Amahoro is a more strenuous group to access compared to Group 13 or Sabyinyo.
  • Group 13/ Family(Also Called Agashya)—when first habituated this group had only 13 members hence its name. Now the group has approximately 25 members.
  • Kwitonda Group/ Family—this migrant group from DR Congo has  18-members led by Kwitonda which means “humble one” .  It has two silverbacks and one blackback.  Though the group tends to wander far, it is now permanently in the Rwanda Section of Virungas.  Together with Susa this is one of the difficult groups to track.
  • Umubano Group/ Family—a family of 11, Umubano were originally Amahoro members but broke off after the dominant silverback was challenged by Charles, now the leader of Umubano. When a young silverback challenges the dominant silverback he must steal some females from the existing group in order to form his own family; thus Umubano was formed.
  • Hirwa Group/ Family—Hirwa is the most diverse group comprising  from differently families mainly group 13 and Sabyinyo.

Gorilla Tracking Rules/ Gorilla Tracking Regulations / Dos/ Donts

Gorilla tracking is a million dollar practice with immense economic benefits to the local community, without which the mountain gorilla conservation would be a liability.  This daily adventure has made the mountain gorilla one of the most expensive animals though not in league of the teddy bears.

Gorilla tracking in volcanoes national park is a clean practice (eco friendly) which ensures minimal impact to the local community, the environment and the gorillas. Rules and regulations have been put in place for the safety of the trackers, the gorillas and to check adverse environmental impacts. Besides these rules and regulations guarantees the continued existence of the gorilla as species, that is to avoid the extinction of the gorillas.

Encounter with the Gorillas has been described as thrilling, evocative and even emotional.   The gigantic silver-backs are gentle and will rarely attach unless provoked.  Young gorillas are a bit adventurous even playful and will come to touching distance of individual trackers.  They are particularly attracted to bright colours like yellow.  In that case avoid them. The following are the rules and regulations of tracking gorillas.

1.  Gorilla tracking in Rwanda – Submissiveness

When you encounter gorillas, you are required to portray total submissiveness.   Do not look at them straight in the eyes and avoid standing over them.    If the male gorilla charge at you, crouch down.  Gorillas have freedom of way. Do not drum your chest.  Do not shout, talk in whispers.  The guides will advice on how to behave on encounter.  Always follow the instructions from the guides.

2. Rwanda Gorilla Tracking/ Gorilla  Photography/Photographic Safaris.

Flash photography is prohibited.  Tourists are allowed normal photography and filming for domestic use.   Special Photographic and filming safaris may be organized for particular groups. These will include those who want to film specifically for commercial use and documentaries.  These will require accreditation cards unlike normal tourists.

3.  Health of the Gorillas

There are currently approximately 700 mountain gorillas in the wild.  Thus these animals are classified as endangered species.  Gorilla tracking if unchecked can endanger the life of gorillas.  Gorilla tracking in Rwanda is restricted to 8 persons per day per group.   That makes a total of 56 permits per day.

  • Avoid tracking gorillas if you suffer from contagious disease.  In case you develop a severe case of flu, your money will be fully refunded if you make this known in advance. However if you attempt to track and fail for whatever reason, or if the guides discover that you cannot    track due to disease, you are disqualified for any refunds and may even be fined.

  • Do not sneeze towards them

  • Do not spit in the forest or defecate carelessly.  If you need to the guides will help you with a machete to dig a hole to bury your waste.

4.  Environmental consciousness

Gorilla tracking is a clean activity.  Leave  only your footprints in the national park.

  • Do not litter and if you spot any litter, collect it and take it down with you.

  • Do not collect any souvenirs from the park.

5.  Eating while tracking gorillas

You can carry your picnic but do not eat in the vicinity of the gorillas. You eating might encourage the gorillas to come and share your delicacy with you.

6. Chest beating

Please do not imitate the male gorilla chest beating. The  silver back will take that as a challenge and charge after you which can result in severe injuries.  Please note that you are not liable for any compensation for any animal related injuries in the parks.   Though charging has not been reported for a long time, please avoid any provocation as you will come out second best.

7. Age Limit: Only people of 15 years and above are allowed track gorillas. However young children can engage in other activities in volcanoes like tracking golden monkeys.

 

When to buy permits,

Permits should be bought in advance even 9 months before the dates of tracking.  When to buy permits depends on when you want to track.  If you wish to track during summer-June, Jul, August and September book even 7 months before the tracking date.  It is not advisable to walk into ORTPN office in summer to buy permits as most of the dates are fully booked.

 

Apart from Gorilla tracking other activities in the vicinity of Ruhengeri and Volcanoes include:

  • Visit to the grave of Dian Forsey and her gorilla Digit.

  • Climbing Karisimbi 2 days.

  • Climbing Bisoke 1 day.

  • Tour of the lakes Burera and Ruhondo.

  • Cave exploration – visit Musanze cave and the natural bridge.

  • Tracking the Golden Monkey.  

Away from Ruhengeri and volcanoes one can organize the following excursions if you finish trekking in time and return comfortably for overnight. 

  • ½ day excursions to lake Karago. 

  • ½ Excursion to lake Kivu.

Accommodation in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda:

Luxury Accommodation (USD 500-800 for double FB) properties include Sabyinyo Community Lodge, Jack Hanna's House, Volcanoes Lodge. Sabyinyo community lodge is also called Silverback Lodge.  Volcanoes Lodge enjoys a beutiful location between lakes Burela and Ruhondo.  Accommodation lodges, hotels, volcanoes national park rwandaMid Range Accommodation properties (USD 350 for double full board) include-Gorilla Nest Lodge, Gorila Mountain Gorilla Lodge and La Bambou Lodge.

Budget Accommodation- Kinigi Guest House, Muhabura Hotel, and Hotels in Gisenyi.

NB:

The golden monkey tracking is undertaken in the morning from ORTPN Kinigi/ Ruhengeri office.  Two families of the golden monkeys are open for tracking ; Kabatwa at the base of Sabyinyo and Musanga at the base of Karisimbi.

 

Those wishing to track specific gorilla families are advised to book in advance.

Tracking begins at 07 :00 Hrs at ORTPN Kinigi office.

 

Park Entrance Fee and Other Charges
  • Park entrance fee USD 25.00

  • Tracking gorillas USD 350.00

  • Tracking golden monkeys USD 75.00

  • Climbing Bisoke USD 75.00

  • Climbing Karisimbi USD 175.00

 
   

 

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Rwanda Volcanoes National Park -Volcanoes National Park  Rwanda is a premier destination for Gorilla tracking, hiking and trekking, safaris.  The park also called parc des volcans has 8 gorilla Groups or families open for tracking