Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is an extraordinary park in Rwanda, full of impressive tropical rainforest and volcanic scenery, trekking, and is perhaps the best place in the world to see the rare mountain gorillas.
In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat," wrote the eminent primatologist Dian Fossey, "are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest - the Virungas". Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, the Parc des Volcans protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range - home of the rare mountain gorilla - and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.
Flora and fauna
Prices to obtain permit for Volcanoes National Park to view Mountain Gorillas (April 2010):
Both trekking options start at the park headquarters at 7:00 am. You will need to register yourself (or your driver / guide may complete this on your behalf). There is tea and coffee served in the main shelter and some days there is a dance presentation given my the local cultural center (this typically starts around 6:45 am). The park guides will place individuals into trekking groups based on ability and your preference for which group to visit. This process takes 30-40 minutes during which you can walk around the grounds or relax in the main shelter. After the assignments are made your driver / guide will direct you to a location on the lawn where your trekking group will assemble. Once all members are assembled the park guide will go over some basic information and have you fill out a form with your name, nationality, etc. The form has a location for passport number and ticket number but these are not required (the form is for metric gathering only). The park guide will give you an introduction to the group you will be visiting along with showing you a diagram of the family tree. Once this initial introduction is complete (10-15 minutes) you will find your driver and proceed to the starting point.
Your driver will take you to the starting point of the trek (there are twelve entry points into the park(?)) which can be a trip of 20-45 minutes sometimes on very poor roads. Once you have reached the entry point parking lot your trekking group will reassemble with your park guide, and secondary guide. Additional instructions will be given and you will be offered a walking stick for the trek. In addition this is when you can hire a porter. The porters are all wearing the same blue coveralls and there is a defined order on which porter is next in line to be selected. Ask your driver or the park guide if you want to hire a porter and they will signal one to give you a hand. It is recommended you use a porter if you have any bags or other equipment you would like to be transported as the hike can be long, steep or though difficult terrain. You will pay the porter at the end of the trek.
Your starting position will be outside the park and depending on the starting position you may have to hike up to an hour to actually get to the park boundary which is marked with a stone wall. The area before the park is typically made up of farmers fields.
Once you reach the park boundary additional instructions will be given about how to behave around the primates, restrictions on eating, drinking, smoking and bathroom facilities.
The trek inside the park boundary varies depending on the location of your group and may include step climbs, movement through a bamboo forest or hacking through thick brush.
You will know you have reached the staging area when additional trackers join your group. At this point you will need to leave all bags and walking sticks with the porters and take everything you will need for the next hour. A final hike (around 200 meters) and you should be in the presence of the primates. After the one hour visit you return to the staging area and prepare to hike out to the starting point.
Upon your return to the starting point you can give and tips to the porters or guides.
Finally, you can return to the park headquarters where you will be given a certificate indicating that you have completed a visit with your specific group.