What wildlife can I see in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda?

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda was the first national park to be established in Africa in 1925, with the intention to protect its famous mountain gorillas from poachers.

Volcanoes National Park. © Bex Glover

There’s only one reason that visitors make the trek up into the misty, thickly forested uplands of Africa’s smallest and oldest national park – and that’s to spend 60 minutes in the company of mountain gorillas. Volcanoes National Park is also known to the world as the research base of American zoologist Dian Fossey, who studied the primates here until her death in 1985.

Advertisement
1

Mountain gorilla Gorilla beringei beringei 

Mountain gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. © Art Wolfe/Mint Images/Getty
Mountain gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. © Art Wolfe/Mint Images/Getty

These Endangered primates are confined to small areas of Rwanda, Uganda and DRC, with numbers totalling 1,004. There are 12 habituated troops in Volcanoes. You can approach your designated group to within 7m.

2

Golden monkey Cercopithecus mitis kandti

Golden monkey eating bamboo leafs in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. © Narvikk/Getty
Golden monkey eating bamboo leafs in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. © Narvikk/Getty

A subspecies of Sykes’ monkey, the golden monkey is now confined to the Virunga mountains, inhabiting bamboo forests below 3,000m. These lively  creatures are usually seen scampering from branch to branch; two troops are habituated.

3

Other highlights

African forest elephant in Lekoli River, Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Republic of the Congo. © Education Images/UIG/Getty Images
African forest elephant in Lekoli River, Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Republic of the Congo. © Education Images/UIG/Getty Images

Volcanoes is bird-rich, with endemics such as the Rwenzori double-collared sunbird Cinnyris stuhlmanni. Other mammals include the forest elephant, black fronted duiker and bushbuck.

Advertisement

You can also hike to Dian Fossey’s grave at Karisoke, her former scientific base.

Key facts

  • Area: 160 sqkm
  • Volcanoes: 5
  • Cost of gorilla permit: $1,500

When to go

The drier months (mid-December to February; June to September) are the most popular times for gorilla trekking as there is good hiking terrain in the forest.

Go there with

  • Expert Africa
  • NatureTrek
  • africatravel
  • Wildlife Worldwide

Mt. Bisoke in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. © Michael Cook/Altai World Photography/Getty