Volcanoes National Park is the home of gorilla trekking. It was here that the late Dian Fossey studied mountain gorillas and where the movie Gorillas in the Mist was filmed.
The rainforest and bamboo-covered slopes of Volcanoes National Park are home to almost half of the approximately 700 mountain gorillas remaining in the world and to other species such as the rare golden monkey, black-fronted duiker and forest elephants.
Volcanoes National Park protects the Rwandan section of the Virunga Mountains, which forms part of a transfrontier conservation area that includes protected areas in Uganda and the DRC. It is a range of mostly dormant volcanoes and includes Rwanda’s highest point – the 4,507 metre-high Mt Karisimbi – and two active volcanoes called Mt Nyiragongo and Mt Nyamuragia. Five of the eight volcanoes found in the Virunga mountain range are located here – hence the name given to this breathtaking national park.
From a travel diary written during an extended safari in Rwanda:
“Before we even had time to leave our bags, a young gorilla came rushing out of the foliage into the clearing, so close to me that he literally brushed against my pants as he scampered past. He was extremely curious and kept on moving in and out of the clearing. He seemed unsure as to what to do, until another juvenile arrived with a baby in tow. The two boisterous juveniles played roughly with the little baby, until he was finally rescued by his mother, who had been quietly watching the spectacle from behind some bushes a little further away.
Within 10 minutes, a dominant male – referred to as a silverback – arrived. At this point, the atmosphere changed. There was no question as to who was boss in this family. We were told to remain calm as the silverback took his time to scrutinise each one of us. The tracker used all sorts of sounds to signal that we were not a threat. Our intrusion was apparently accepted by the family, and so we were allowed a humbling look into their enigmatic world.
It was without a doubt, one of the most magical moments of my life. Coming face to face with a gorilla family of 18 individuals in their unique habitat is something I wish every animal lover could experience once in their lifetime. This is a mystical and spectacularly beautiful area, where the gorillas actually do live in the mist.“