volcanoes park information
Volcanoes National Park, approximately 160 square kilometers in size, is situated in the Northern part of Rwanda. This is the oldest National Park in Africa, established in 1925; initially a very small conservation area to protect the Mountain Gorillas from poachers. The park was enlarged a few years later, then split in two with the political boundaries between Rwanda and the Congo being established. Dian Fossey, the American Zoologist who conducted her research originally in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, shifted into Volcanoes National Park in 1967, because of security concerns. Fossey established the Karisoke Research Center, where she continued with her Mountain Gorilla Research and advocacy work to protect these primates from poachers. In 1985 she was murdered at the Center, where she was buried. The Center has expanded its work, now employing over 100 people; in addition to the research and advocacy work, the Center is a tourist attraction that can be easily reached by a two-hour trail from the park headquarters.
There is little doubt that the main attraction to Volcanoes National Park is tracking the endangered Mountain Gorillas, the foremost wildlife experience on the continent. The park does offer many other attractions for visitors; there are daily Golden Monkey Tracking tours, one-day and two-day volcano climbing to the summits of Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke, respectively. In September every year there is a baby gorilla naming ceremony; it is called Kwita Izina. There are lakes and caves to be explored, as well as a number of unusually interesting cultural encounters with local people. The Park is home to almost 200 bird species, 29 of them endemic to the Rwenzori Mountains and the Virungas.
Due to the large altitudinal range in the park, there is a large variety in the types of vegetation that exist; everything from grasslands to dense forests. These different flora support equally as diverse fauna. In the park one can see black-fronted duiker, buffalo, spotted hyena, bushbuck, and even a few elephants. Tourism is the main function of the park; the majority of the revenues generated by the park are put back into the park for maintenance and for the conservation of the wildlife that lives within its borders. Around 10% of the revenue goes to local projects in the area to help the indigenous people benefit from the large revenue stream generated by the park.
Your Jewel Safaris guide will pick up at Kigali International Airport, or your hotel at 4 in the morning; depending on what your travel arrival plans are. Your journey will begin immediately, heading off to Volcanoes National park, a two and a half hour drive. Your guide will give you a verbal briefing while you are traveling up the mountainous roads to the Park Headquarters. Upon arrival at the Park Headquarters, you will be served coffee or tea, while a local cultural group entertain you with a local dance and drumming routine. Shortly thereafter, the final paperwork will be finished, and you will be assigned to one of the 10 families of Mountain Gorillas. A short briefing and talk about park etiquette will be given by your Park Ranger about the do’s and don’ts while tracking, and then you will be ready to head off to the track in your search for the gorillas.
You will then drive to the starting point for your tracking. Because the Mountain Gorillas are forever moving about the forest, it could take anywhere from an hour to 8 hours to meet up with the particular Gorilla Family you have been assigned to. There are rangers in the forest following the trail left by the Gorillas in the early morning; these rangers are in constant contact with your Ranger Guide. When the Gorillas are spotted, your Ranger Guide will then be alerted and you will proceed to the exact location that they are at that moment. You will be provided with a packed lunch, as the uncertainty of how long you will be in the forest; this lunch you will have to eat either before or after meeting the Gorillas, as it is not permitted to eat in front of them.
When you finally meet up with the Gorilla Family, you will be allowed one hour of observing and photographing. After the hour is spent, you will then be guided back to your vehicle to re-connect with your Jewel Safaris guide, who will then commence to drive you back to Kigali for your onward flight at the airport, or to your hotel, depending on what your plans are. If time permits, there are a number of cultural opportunities to visit in Kigale, that your guide can inform you of. These include the Genocide Memorial Center or the Ibyiwacu Cultural Center (which is near the Park Headquarters), or one of the local markets outside or within Kigali City Center.