The park was first gazetted in 1925, as a small area bounded by Karisimbi, Visoke and Mikeno, intended to protect the gorillas from poachers. It was the very first National Park to be created in Africa. Subsequently, in 1929, the borders of the park were extended further into Rwanda and into the Belgian Congo, to form the Albert National Park, a huge area of 8090 km², run by the Belgian colonial authorities who were in charge of both colonies. In 1958, 700 hectares of the park were cleared for a human settlement.
After the Congo gained independence in 1960, the park was split into two, and upon Rwandan independence in 1962 the new government agreed to maintain the park as a conservation and tourist area, despite the fact that the new republic was already suffering from overpopulation problems. The park was halved in area in 1969. Between 1969 and 1973, 1050 hectares of the park were cleared to grow pyrethrum.
The park later became the base for the American naturalist Dian Fossey to carry out her research into the gorillas. She arrived in 1967 and set up the Karisoke Research Centre between Karisimbi and Visoke.
From then on she spent most of her time in the park, and is widely credited with saving the gorillas from extinction by bringing their plight to the attention of the international community. She was murdered by unknown assailants at her home in 1985, a crime often attributed to the poachers she had spent her life fighting against. Fossey’s life later was portrayed on the big screen in the film Gorillas in the Mist, named after her autobiography. She is buried in the park in a grave close to the research center, and amongst the gorillas which became her life.
The Volcanoes National Park became a battlefield during the Rwandan Civil War, with the park headquarters being attacked in 1992. The research centre was abandoned, and all tourist activities (including visiting the gorillas) were stopped. They did not resume again until 1999 when the area was deemed to be safe and under control. There have been occasional infiltrations by Rwandan rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda in subsequent years, but these are always stopped quickly by the Rwandan army and there is thought to be no threat to tourism in the park.
Vegetation varies considerably due to the large altitudinal range within the park. There is some lower montane forest (now mainly lost to agriculture). Between 2400 and 2500 m, there is Neoboutonia forest. From 2500 to 3200 m Arundinaria alpina (bamboo) forest occurs, covering about 30% of the park area. From 2600 to 3600 m, mainly on the more humid slopes in the south and west, is Hagenia-Hypericum forest, which covers about 30% of the park. This is one of the largest forests of Hagenia abyssinica. The vegetation from 3500 to 4200 m is characterised by Lobelia wollastonii, L. lanurensis, and Senecio erici-rosenii and covers about 25% of the park. From 4300 to 4500 m grassland occurs. Secondary thicket, meadows, marshes, swamps and small lakes also occur, but their total area is relatively small.
The park is best known for the Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei). Other mammals include: golden monkey (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), black-fronted duiker (Cephalophus niger), buffalo (Syncerus caffer), Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus). There are also reported to be some elephants in the park, though these are now very rare. There are 178 recorded bird species, with at least 13 species and 16 subspecies endemic to the Virunga and Ruwenzori Mountains.
Sabinyo Silverback Lodge
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is located close to the headquarters of the Parc National des Volcans from where clients trek on foot to see the magnificent Mountain Gorilla – perhaps one of the most dramatic, thrilling and poignant wildlife experiences possible.
The lodge, situated in the foothills of the mighty Virungas, the chain of 15,000 ft volcanoes stretching through Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, affords wonderful views of the volcanoes and the surrounding countryside. Guest cottages and the main lodge building have been beautifully constructed and appointed and the lodge is the perfect base from which to explore this unique and fascinating corner of Africa. The lodge is built and operated by Governors’ Camp.
The magnificent Virunga Lodge is perched high on a ridge and has stunning views of the Virunga Volcanoes and the twin lakes Bulera and Ruhonda. The premier luxury destination for Rwanda wildlife safaris and tracking the endangered mountain gorillas.
The Virunga safari lodge in Rwanda been described as having ‘the best view in the world’ and as ‘one of the finest lodges in Africa’. The organic, ‘bush-chic’ design reflects the local building style and offers eco-luxury comforts to all guests. Each banda has its own terrace with breath-taking views of the Virunga volcanoes or twin lakes, while sensitive installations such as low-flush toilets and solar power ensure you enjoy luxurious comforts while maintaining a crucial sensitivity to the environment.
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is located in Kinigi in northern Rwanda and on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park, home to the endangered Mountain Gorillas.
The lodge is located on the foothills of the Mount Karisimbi, one of the volcanic mountains that make up the Virunga Massif. The lodge is about 10 minutes’ drive to the main entrance of the Volcanoes National Park where gorilla trekking starts.
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is an ecolodge with 30 spacious chalets. To ensure the least disruption of the surrounding environment, the ecolodge was constructed with locally available material.
Every chalet comes with a sitting area with a fireplace and has a tea/coffee making machine.
The ecolodge supports the surrounding rural community by purchasing farm-fresh produce that is served in the lodge’s restaurant.
Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge
Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge is situated at the base of the Volcanoes National Park, home to endangered mountain gorillas. It is also located 2 hours’ drive form Kigali International Airport.
The lodge has been built using environmentally friendly local materials such as Bamboos made fitted by a local community workmanship. We value the environment so much that we have been careful in the design and construction of Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge to ensure that the environment is not harmed. Apart from this, we are closely working with the local communities to ensure that these communities also get to benefit from our activities like local dancers made by local primary and secondary students around the lodge.
Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge has been described possessing ’the world’s best Volcanoes Mountains, each cottage having electricity 24h/7, its own terrace and a self-contained bathroom offers eco-luxury comfort to all guests.
Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge will introduce you to the thrilling pleasures of some of the world’s most magnificent wildlife spectacles, pampered in luxury, but in synchronization with the simply rhythms of nature and life.
La Palm Hotel
La Palme Hotel is a three stars Hotel, located in Musanze City; offering Luxurious accommodation to business and Leisure tourists to Musanze. An exceptional dining experience awaits you at La Palme Hotel. Our unique and renowned restaurant will delight your senses with French and Oriental kitchens. African meals can be obtained on prior request. The full breakfast is included in our room service rate. Our adjacent Mini Bar makes you enjoy a range of drinks carefully selected for your unique taste and satisfaction.
When visiting the Land of a Thousand Hills, a wonderful stay is advised at the Muhabura Hotel in the Northern Province, set in the calm of the Musanze town surroundings. It has 30 rooms and apartments at very reasonable rates, and offers a cozy environment to relax in after gorilla trekking or a day visit to the Northern area of Rwanda. In room 12 Dian Fossey spent many nights when she came down from her gorilla camp. She took her bath and afterwards a decent meal in the restaurant. We even know her favourite menu. She liked the calm of the hotel with the garden in from of her room.Its kept it as she just left.
We placed in front of Room 12 a showcase with all information on the life of the famous Dian Fossey.