Volcanoes National Park, which runs along the border with the DRC and Uganda, is home to the Rwandan section of the Virungas. Comprising five volcanoes, the Virungas are utterly spellbinding and few would argue that this is not one of the most exciting national parks in Africa. We probably needn’t remind you, but of all the extraordinary sights and attractions around the Virungas, the one that really draws people here are the famous mountain gorillas. While most tourists to the park are understandably driven by the desire to have a face-to-face encounter with real gorillas in the mist, there is good reason to stay in the area once you’ve finished tracking: the gorillas share the park with rare golden monkeys, a troop of which has also been habituated to human contact. The Virungas, which tower over Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC, also present a variety of rewarding climbing and trekking options. To get the most from the Virungas give yourself as much time as you possibly can as this is absolutely a park that rewards those who linger.
- All accommodation on Half Board (HB), Full Board (FB) or Bed and Breakfast (B&B) basis as quoted in the text
- Safari vehicle and fuel – English speaking tourist guide
- Entrance fees to the national parks
- Gorilla Permit for one person
- Free mineral water in the vehicle during the tour
- Visa fees
- Drinks / alcoholic drinks
- Additional meals
- Activities not part of the described programme
- International travel insurance
Day 1: Welcome to the land of a thousand hills.
On your arrival at Kigali International Airport you will be met by your Paradise Safaris’ guide who will pick you and transfer you to your hotel, approximately two hours’ drive from the capital of Kigali. The journey is on good roads and you will quickly see why Rwanda is known as the Land of 1000 Hills. Winding roads leave up steep hills through Kigali. Look down below you and you will see agricultural Rwanda, a land of densely cultivated paddy fields and animals grazing.
You will drive through Ruhengeri, with its stunning backdrop of five volcanic mountains – the Virungas – arriving for dinner and overnight at your lodge. This place is best known as being the home of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas.
If you arrive early, additional options include a visit to Musanze Caves, a village walk or even a visit to the grave of famous primatologist Dian Fossey of “Gorillas in the Mist” fame who studied the gorillas of this area.
Day 2: Gorrilla Trekking at Volcanoes National Park
You will be up early on the morning of your Gorilla Tracking for a good breakfast in preparation for the day’s physical activity. You will report for registration at the ranger station by 8 AM. After a briefing by the rangers, your gorilla trek will start. The trek usually takes between three and six hours so a reasonable degree of fitness is required, as well as a strong pair of walking boots or shoes. The rangers will guide you through the fields, up the gentle slopes of the volcanoes and into the bamboo forest. The mountain gorillas are under 24 hour monitoring for their own safety, so you’re almost guaranteed to see them. The rangers monitor each gorilla family by keeping in close radio contact.
Gorillas and humans share almost identical genetic material and their health must not be compromised by coming into contact with human diseases (via our food, for example). To reduce transmission of disease from humans to gorillas, you will also be advised to keep a distance of 7 metres from the gorillas.
Once you have located your gorilla family, you will be asked to leave all your belongings to one side, and approach the gentle giants, just with your camera. The guides will interpret the animals’ behaviour for you. Females and their young, young males and even a dominant Silverback may be seen: feeding, playing, interacting with each other, or just sleeping! You will never forget your encounter with the gorillas. They will be quite curious to see you! You are allowed exactly one hour with the gorillas before returning to base.
Tracking the mountain gorillas is a physically demanding experience. The rangers will allocate your gorilla family according to your level of fitness. They will also bear in mind the time of your return flight home, to make sure that you can track the gorillas and get back to base in good time for your drive back to Kigali International airport.