Expert Reviews – Volcanoes NP

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Gorillas in the mist
Overall rating

Protecting the Rwandan portion of the majestic Virunga Mountains, Volcanoes National Park warrants a five-star rating simply for its incredible scenery and the opportunity to track mountain gorillas in the wild – arguably the single most rewarding wildlife experience in Africa. Other highlights include day trips to the bamboo zone to see a troop of habituated golden monkeys, a strikingly marked species now all but restricted to the Virungas, due to deforestation elsewhere within its restricted range. There’s also a relatively undemanding hike to Dian Fossey’s old research centre and grave, and more demanding day or overnight hikes to various volcanic summits (most notably Bisoke with its gorgeous crater lake). The park still host small numbers of elephant and buffalo, as indicated by fresh droppings on the forest trails, but these are seldom seen. And while it has enormous potential as a birding destination, this is largely unreleased in practical terms, and birders would be better off heading to Nyungwe to see forest species associated with Rwanda.

Mountain gorillas, trekking and birding
Overall rating

Volcanoes National Park is the Rwandan sector of the 8000km² Virunga massif. The greater conservation area encompasses six active and three extinct volcanoes, straddling the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mountain gorillas move freely between the countries, with the greatest number of habituated groups residing in Volcanoes National Park, making Rwanda arguably the best place in Africa to go gorilla trekking.

With the 2017 gorilla census revealing a total mountain gorilla population of just over 1000 of these engaging primates in all of Africa, gorilla trekking is truly one of the ultimate life experiences. Rwandan gorilla permits aren’t cheap at $1500 per trekker, and your permit allows just one priceless hour in the company of these great apes, watching the gorilla family interact, eat, play, tease, sulk, doze and groom each other. Sitting quietly among a family of these gentle giants is a bucket list experience for any serious wildlife enthusiast: it is an extraordinary hour that you will remember forever.

While the gorillas are the star attraction at Volcanoes, there are also golden monkeys, birding walks, forest and waterfall hikes, mountain climbing (including an overnight hike up the 3800m Karisimbi volcano) and – for the less active – luxury lodges with comfortable views of the gorgeous mountain rainforest scenery.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.4/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star 3
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