Less than a two-hour drive from the rolling hills of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, is Volcanoes National Park. Also known as Parc National des Volcans, it spans 77-miles in the Virunga Mountains.

The park is home to five of the Virunga Mountain range's eight volcanoes.

Bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, Volcanoes National Park is made up of lush rainforests, volcanoes … and gorillas.

It was the first park created in Africa and has overcome struggles to become the tourist attraction it is today. In 1992, it became a battlefield for the Civil War, halting it’s tours because of the dangerous times. It did not open to tourists again until 1999, when it was once again safe for visitors to explore the mountainous region.

Today, visitors come from around the world to catch their own glimpse of a family of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. With eight family groups in the park, each day guides take visitors on treks up to high altitudes so they can enjoy an hour watching the families interact with each other. Treks to and from these animals can last anywhere from one to four hours, depending on the family’s location.

There are many rules to remember when trekking for gorillas, such as staying more than 7 meters from them at all times.

 

The treks begin with a climb through farmland.

 

En route to the next leg of the journey, children emerge from their huts and working to watch the tourists.

One little boy stands back from the others, watching trekkers from a distance.

The farmland, dotted with huts, provides an up-close look at life in the country.

After the farmland, trekkers enter the thick bamboo forest, where day turns to night and shoots tower high into the air.

The bamboo forest makes up 30 percent of the park's area.

And then … after a strenuous trek … come the gorillas.

The park was home to renowned gorilla research Dian Fossey. She dedicated her life to these creatures and is buried nearby the park's research center.

A gorilla poses for the camera.

There is only one silverback in a gorilla family, and he's the one in charge.

A mom and baby survey their habitat.

Planning a trip?

Only 64 visitors are given permits (which cost around $500 each for non-nationals) each day to trek for gorillas. To request a permit, people must go through the Rwanda Tourism Board and make reservations. For more information, e-mail reservations@rwandatourism.com.

For those trekking, it is important to pack right. Sturdy shoes and long pants (to protect against ant bites and nettles) are a must. Comfortable clothing (that can get dirty) and layers are ideal, as the climate will change from the base to where the gorillas are located.

Ruhengeri is located near the park and offers a variety of lodging options for different budgets.

Want a first-hand experience? Click here to read about my trekking adventure.

 

How do you get from place to place? There are plenty of options to get around,  like deciding on a cheap car hire on holiday.

 

43 comments

    1. Thank you!! Christy, I never thought I would have ended up in Rwanda. It was a very impromptu decision. I couldn’t believe it was happening until I touched down in Kigali!

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  1. A gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park is now on my bucket list. Your images make me want to sign up tonight.

    I did not know about its being Africa’s first national park but of course was aware of the civil wars. So good that the area is re-opened for tourism again.

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    1. Ya know … I never really thought about being afraid. There was only one moment where I got a little nervous, and that was when the silverback started to move towards us. I think I felt pretty safe because our guides and trackers had weapons should anything bad happen.

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    1. It is expensive. I was very fortunate to have been a guest of the tourism board, otherwise I don’t think I would have been able to do this. The area definitely is very lush! And, thank you 🙂 I enjoyed taking the photos.

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    1. It was a wonderful trip. The trek was really hard, but being able to watch the gorillas was worth every moment. And yes, some experiences are definitely priceless.

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    1. It really was amazing, Andi. Hard, but the rewards were worth it. It is one of those things I would recommend, despite the price tag. I would have gasped when I saw the gorillas, too, but we had to be pretty silent. 🙂

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    1. The hike was the most challenging hike in my life. Clinging to vines. Climbing up muddy embankments. Steep slopes at high altitudes (and I loathe steep). But, to see those gorillas … man. I hope you get to Africa soon! The places I have visited on the continent leave my hungry for more.

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  2. The photos are incredible. Since a couple of my friends have visited Uganda and Rwanda I have really been dying to get to Sub-Saharan Africa (or Africa in general, really). I want to see some gorillas!

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    1. Thank YOU for commenting and enjoying the post! Rwanda was nothing like I expected and absolutely amazing (not that I didn’t expect it to be amazing). It definitely is a country I would put on a list to visit.

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