Zakale Expeditions

Volcanoes National Park

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Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, the Volcanoes National Park 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.
Parc National des Volcans is part of the Virunga Conservation Area covering more than 48 square miles, and is home of five Virunga volcanoes: Sabyinyo, Gahinga, Visoke, Muhabura and the Karisimbi, the highest volcano – all of which are extinct. The Virunga ecosystem is composed of four major vegetation zones: bamboo (base altitude), hagenia and hypericum forest (8,500-10,800 feet), sub-alpine (10,800-13,000 feet) and afro-alpine (above 13,000 feet).

Certainly the main highlight of this park is the mountain gorillas, which spend most of their time in the hagenia woodlands and bamboo forests. During the rainy season when new bamboo shoots are growing, the gorillas spend more time foraging in the bamboo forests at base altitude.  This park was the base for Dian Fossey up until her death in 1985 and she focused her work at the Karisoke Research Center for 18 years. There are four habituated gorilla families that can be visited here, most of them on the slopes of the Visoke volcano. The Susa group has 35 individuals, the Amahoro group has 11 individuals, the Sabyinyo group has been divided into two groups (“A” has 13 individuals and “B,” a break way group, has four individuals) and group 13 has seven individuals.

Gorillas here live on the slopes of ancient volcanoes in high elevation forests. Dense bamboo thickets give way to a combination of large meadows and dense herbaceous vegetation zone highlighted by moss-laden hagenia and hypericum trees. Your treks will take you through a fairyland forest, an experience that in of itself is thrilling. As you venture forth, you will spot evidence that the gorillas have been present. The treks can last from four to seven hours (or more) depending on when you spot the gorillas. There is an hour limit to the time you spend with these majestic creatures once you spot them. Tracking gorillas through misty, seemingly impenetrable forests can be an exhausting process as the paths are often slippery, entangled and wet. However, this effort is quickly forgotten the minute you encounter these beautiful creatures. They instantly capture your full attention with their acrobatic antics and cacophony of grunts, screeches and chest beating.

 

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