Volcanoes national park also lies in the north western Rwanda and also borders Virunga National park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National park in Uganda. This park is also known as the haven for the mountain gorillas, its home to over five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga mountain and these include; Muhabura, Bisoke, Karisimbi, Gahinga, and Sabyinyo and covers 160 sq km in rain forest as well as bamboo. This national park was also a base for the primatologist Dian Fossey.
This national park was gazetted in 1925 as a small area surrounded by Karisimbi , Visoke and Mikeno and it was intended to protect the gorillas from the poachers. This was the first national park to be created in Africa and in 1929, the borders of this park were extended into Rwanda and into the Belgian Congo in order to form the Albert National park. This large area was run by the Belgian colonial authorities who were in charge of both colonies.
This national park later became the base for the American naturalist Dian Fossey to carry out her research into the gorillas. She arrive here in 1967 and set up the Kariskoke research centre between Karisimbi and visoke. Since that day, she spent most of her time in the park caring for the gorillas. She was later killed by un known people at her home in 1985 and it’s a crime that is attributed to the poachers and was also portrayed on the big screen in the film Gorillas in the Mist. She was also buried in the park in a grave close to the research centre, and amongst the gorillas which became her life.
The vegetation here varies due to the large altitudinal range with in the park. There is some lower montane forest. Between 2400 and 2500m, you find the Neoboutonia forest. From 2500 to 3000m, there is the bamboo forest, there is also the Hypericum forest which is mostly humid, as well as the grassland, swamps, thickets, marshes, meadows and the small lakes.
There are many activities that can be carried out from the park and some of these include; gorilla visits and these run throughout the year. There are ten habituated gorilla groups that are open to the tourists and this allows 80 permits per day. The guests report at the park headquarters by 7:00 for a pre tracking briefing. The tourists also spend 1 hour with the gorillas once they find them. There are also the golden monkey visits, hiking of the Karisimbi volcano and this is a two day trek with overnight camping at an altitude of 3,800m, hiking the Bisoke volcano which takes one day, tour of the caves and the lakes, visiting of the Dian Fossy tomb, as well as the Iby’Iwacu cultural village tour.
The revenue from Tourism also goes to maintaining of the park and conserving of the wildlife. The remaining money goes to the government and 10% to the local pprojects with in the area to help the local people benefit from the heavy revenue stream that is generated from the park.