Straddling Uganda, the DRC and Rwanda are the Virunga Volcanoes Mountains, a dramatic, thickly forested range comprising six extinct and three active volcanoes. The Volcanoes National Park is the Rwandan portion of the Virungas Volcanoes range and besides the wealth of extraordinary rainforest life it safeguards, the park protects 300 mountain gorillas - around half the world's existing population - and is the scene for what is often described as Africa's easiest gorilla trekking.
Easily accessible from Rwanda's capital Kigali, located only 80kms away, the Volcanoes National Park offers several comfortable lodges set in the foothills of the range. Gorilla trekking permits must be arranged before arrival, and potential trekkers should be aware not only of the rigours of hiking through mountainous rainforest but the strict conservation rules governing this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Although gorilla safaris are the main reason people come to this 13 000 hectare park, an encounter with these highly endangered primates is not the only activity on offer. A Volcanoes National Park safari will take you into a forest packed with other creatures which include several types of monkey and some 180 bird species. Head out on guided nature walks or even a challenging hike to experience one of Central Africa's most bio-diverse destinations.
It was in the Volcanoes National Park that conservationist Dian Fossey spent 20 years of her life studying gorillas, and it is largely thanks to her work that poaching was curtailed in time to save these creatures. The park was made famous by the international blockbuster 'Gorillas in the Mist' (1988), filmed on location and chronicling her life's work.
At a Glance
Rwanda's flagship reserve is close to Kigali, delivering what is arguably Africa's most accessible gorilla trekking as well as virtually guaranteed encounters with gorilla families.