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Volcanoes National Park is one of the finest destinations of Rwanda, it is home to the critically endangered species of the mountain gorillas and the Golden monkeys. the composition and nature of the conservation area is an extreme dream for every traveller who dreams to be in Africa. The rich ecosystem is tucked between boarders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, some of the park features like the Virunga volcanic mountains. The park is situated in the northern province of Rwanda covering approximately 160 square kilometers. It is a beautiful composed bamboo forest with grasslands, swamps, moorland in some areas.

Volcanoes National Park

The park boats 5 Volcanic Mountains, these are a part of the 8 series of the great Virunga volcanic region, Mount Karismibi (45097m), Muhabura (4127m), Gahinga (3474m), Bisoke (3711m), sabinyo (3634m). Mount Karisimbi is the highest of mountains in the national park, and some are shared with the neighboring state. They are covered in forest and bamboo. The creeping and tree climbing plants are a highlight of the park. These are homes to wildlife for example the golden monkey enjoys living within the bamboo forested area feeding on the young bamboo shoots, fruits and small plants.

The vegetation of the park varies according to altitude, on different zones there poses rare plant species. It has 4 types of vegetation the Hagenia, alpines, sub alpine vegetation and the bamboo forest vegetation. The lower slopes of the mountain contain an idle kind of vegetation which continues to the tea and banana plantations of the local farm lands. Volcanoes was established in the 1967 as a national park. It gained fame due to the great works of the American primatologist Dian Fossey and the Mountain gorillas (these are a subspecies of the Mountain gorilla beringei beringei). Despite being famous for this particular species, the beautiful park is home to other species although they are rarely seen for example mountain duikers, golden monkeys, giant forest hogs. It is the place to find birds including the Albertine endemics like the Rwenzori turaco.

Mountain gorillas are the primary attraction of the national park. They live within the forest and are herbivorous. They are social primates living in groups of up to 20 members led by a male silverback. Baby gorillas live in the care of their mothers until the age of 2 years. Gorillas have territories, nest on ground and keep moving from one place to another in search of food. Most times they prepare their food before eating it like pealing the roots and tree backs. Trekking mountain gorillas happens all year round. There are several gorilla families in Volcanoes national Park. The park hosts 30% of the world’s remaining species of the mountain gorilla. Some of these have been habituated for tourism and there are 11 habituated families available for the trekking activity. These include the Hirwa gorilla group, Amahoro, Sabinyo gorilla group, Kwitonda, group 13, Umubano gorilla group, Ugenda gorilla group, Susa gorilla family, Karisimbi- known to stay around the slopes of mountain Karisimbi, Titus gorilla group, Bwenge gorilla family.

Dian Fossey worked on the project of mountain gorillas. She was a primatologist from the United States who resided at the Karisoke Research Facility. Despite the fact that her brilliant accomplishments are still remembered, it is alleged that she was murdered in cold blood. The Dain Fossey tombs walk draws plenty of tourists to the protected area. Mountain gorillas and other park animals may occasionally be visible depending on the ecology. You shouldn’t overlook the flower-filled walkways. Her 18-year study of mountain gorillas is depicted in the movie Gorillas in the Mist in large part.

The main activity here is gorilla trekking, which starts with a briefing from the park rangers in the morning. You will be divided into groups of eight per gorilla family, and an experienced guide will lead you through the forest. Do not be afraid if you see them armed; they are there to protect you. Also, keep an eye out for other animals in the forest besides the gorillas. The trekking may take two or more hours, depending on how far the gorilla families have moved. As long as you follow the laws and procedures, you can spend an hour with the mountain gorillas. One of these is maintaining the 7-meter rule. Guests with a  flu or cold are not allowed into the forest, children below the age of 15 years are not allowed to track gorillas.

The park hosts beautiful golden monkeys. Tracking golden monkeys is not as tiring as the mountain gorilla activity but worth doing. They are a critically endangered species of the Virunga volcanic region and enjoy living within the bamboo forest region. They have an outstanding golden brown colour with dash of black. What differentiates these primates from others is that they have their noses facing up wards and long tails for holding up in the trees. It takes 2-3 hours doing the activity. Both the golden monkeys and mountain gorillas require to have permits. These can be acquired through the Rwanda development Board or through a tour operator in Rwanda. They are limited in number and if you must get them it is advisable to book these in time.

The next big thing to spot while visiting the conservation area is birds in Volcanoes National Park, which is home to over 200 species of birds, some of which are endemic to the area. Some examples of birds to spot include the African long eared owl, brown necked parrot, dusky crimson wing, dusky turtle dove, Rwenzori Apalis, and Rwenzori Turaco. Although it is fun to go birding in the national park year-round, the rainy season is the greatest since it is the ideal time to go. The dry season is also much better. The forest’s pathways are more enticing.

Cultural tours in the national park feature a unique exchange with the neighbourhood. The Iby’iwacu community, also known as the Gorilla Guardians Village is a recreation of how the Rwandan people once lived in their ancestral dwellings. It is quite stunning how they perform and dance to their folk music and drums. The Batwa, Tutsi, and Hutu may all come together in this area. All seasons are good for visiting Volcanoes National Park, although December through February and June through September are the greatest times.

The conservation area is around a two-hour drive from the Kigali International Airport, however charter helicopter rides may be arranged for a 25-minute flying time. The park offers lodging options ranging from the greatest luxury to the most affordable. A few examples of these facilities include Bisate Lodge, Singita Kwitonda, and Kiningi Lodge.

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