Volcanoes National Park is a stop centre for all Rwanda Gorilla Tours sheltering the highest number of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Conservation area. The strategic location of the Volcanoes National Park roughly 3 hours’ drive from Kigali international airport make it the most accessible gorilla national park in the world. Besides gorillas, Volcanoes National park is a home for golden monkeys, a variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects among other creatures which together make a complete Rwanda safari package.
Spanning on a 160 sqkm area in the northern part of Rwanda, Volcanoes national park is part of the great Virunga volcano conservation region spanning to cover Virunga National Park Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uanda. It was initially a small area around Karisimbi, Mikeno and Visoke volcanoes which was gazette to protect the Mountain gorillas which were facing the threat of extinction as a result of poaching.
In 1929, Volcanoes national park was extended into Rwanda and the then Belgian Congo and was named Albert national park managed and run by the Belgian Colonial Authorities. During the early 1960s, the park was divided as Rwanda and Congo gained their independence and by the end of that decade, the park was almost half of its original size.
In 1967, the American primatologist Dian Fossey who had been doing research on mountain Gorillas in the forests of Congo fled from insecurity and established her research base at a place between Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes that was yet to be known as Karisoke research center. She spearheaded the conservation campaign of the mountain gorillas and mobilized resources to fight against poaching in this area, a fight she put up until her murder in 1985. She was buried at the research center next to the grave of her favorite gorilla called Digit.
The park continued to suffer at the mercies of poachers though conservation efforts were also underway. In the early 1990s, the park became a battlefield for Rwanda’s civil war which paralyzed tourism activities until 1999. In 2005, in a bid to boost conservation and gorillas tours in Volcanoes national park, Rwanda introduced the annual baby naming ceremony for baby gorillas known as ‘Kwita Iziina’ which has seen great results in as far as gorilla population in volcanoes is concerned.
In addition to mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), Volcanoes national park is home to golden monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta), buffaloes (Syncerus caffer), elephants, black-fronted duiker (Cephalophus niger), and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus). The park also harbors 178 bird species including at least 29 endemics to Rwenzori mountains and the Virungas.