Set high on the jungle-covered slopes of the volcanic Virunga Mountains, Parc National des Volcans provides a dramatic natural setting for what is perhaps the most poignant and thrilling wildlife experience in Africa. Set in the northwest of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is home to nearly half of the world’s remaining 880 mountain gorillas and is one of the most scenic regions the country.

In the park’s lush rainforests, travelers in groups of 8 (plus guide) hike deep into the hills in search of habituated groups of mountain gorillas. On the morning of the trek, hikers are assigned a gorilla family based on how far the gorillas are from the park headquarters and therefore the group’s fitness level. Each group of travelers then treks between one and five hours into the forest to reach their gorilla group. Once you find the gorillas, you are able to spend an hour watching these incredible primates go about their daily lives.

In addition to gorillas, Volcanoes National Park is also home to a number of other animals and primates including the forest elephant, golden monkeys and giant forest hogs. One of the volcanoes in the park, Bisoke, is a good day hike for active travelers, but you need to be comfortable at higher altitudes and lower temperatures. The beautiful crater lake at the top is well worth the hike for its views and for being the site of Dian Fossey’s grave.

Bordering the DRC’s Virunga National Park and Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, it is a 2 to 2.5 hour drive on good roads from Kigali. Clients typically spend 2-3 nights in the area depending on whether or not they do one or two hikes with the gorillas (we recommend two).

Travelers visiting the gorillas stay at accommodation outside the park itself. The three most luxurious options are Bisate Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge and Virunga Lodge, while Gorilla Mountain View Lodge is a more basic but comfortable option.

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Elizabeth Gordon