– From Volcanic Peaks to the Depths of a Mountain Gorilla’s Gaze –

Within Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans, a set of 5 dramatic volcanic peaks rise above a jade sea of rolling slopes, deep blue crater lakes and foothills of terraced crops. These mountains mark the western arm of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. In places, they straddle the neighbouring borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This protected area is remarkable for a rare and Critically Endangered treasure: the mist-fed heights are home to over half of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas.

Visitors have the option of a wonderful cross-section of activities within the Park surrounds. These are all worthy preludes to the lifetime highlight of precious time with the mountain gorillas.

Visit the Iby’lwacu Cultural Village

This interactive experience will give you a window onto the world of the early Rwandan Kingdom. The rich tradition of music and dance, integral to all Rwandan celebrations and ceremonies, provides a dynamic background to captivating re-enactments of revered ceremonies and rituals.

Traveller’s Note: A visit to the Kigali Memorial Centre / Gisozi Genocide Memorial Centre, situated in the Rwandan capital city of Kigali, is a deeply moving experience. The wide range of multi-media exhibits provides thought-provoking insights not only into this devastating chapter in Rwanda’s history, but also that of Genocide as a global issue.

Hike and Acclimatize

A range of hikes will take you into diverse habitats of great beauty. These explore the valleys, lakes, waterfalls, forests, slopes and peaks of the area, while also providing an excellent opportunity to acclimatize to the high altitude.

Trek to the Golden Monkeys

This is the one and only place where you will have the chance to observe a habituated group of these handsome, engaging but endangered animals. Studies have shown that they spend all of their time in the bamboo forest zone and that their preference is for the middle reaches of the trees. You are therefore guaranteed the reward of easy and often eye-level viewing.

Walk to the Dian Fossey Gravesite

This is where it all began, where her life ended and where her living legacy was born. Here is the place where Dian Fossey set up 2 small tents and began a research project that would transform perceptions of a deeply maligned and misunderstood species. Here are the ruins of her Karisoke Research Centre, destroyed in the civil war, but now re-established in Musanze.

Trek to the Mountain Gorillas

There will be no hour like this ever again: your time, as a small party of 8, with a mountain gorilla group. Millions of years ago, our shared evolutionary paths diverged. And yet, there is still an indefinable connection. Listen carefully for the low “naoom, naoom, naoom” rumble, identified by Dian Fossey as a group vocalization of deep contentment. Observe the cohesive dynamics of the group under the ever-vigilant protection of their magnificent silverback leader.

Quick Facts

Population: 11.78 million

Area: 26,338 km²

Preferred Properties: 1

The future of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas and golden monkeys is uncertain to say the least.

Their survival is totally dependent on the measures in place to protect both them and their highly restricted habitat. In line with this, the range of powerful community, conservation, education, sponsorship and research projects being run by the Karisoke Research Centre are a beacon of hope for their future.

Lodges like the Sabyinyo Silverback and Virunga, offer guests an idyllic blend of accredited accommodation and amenities within breathtaking surrounds.

Enjoy an al fresco breakfast set against the ever-changing backdrop of the Virunga peaks; watch as the setting sun casts golden fingers across a vista of lake and mountain; look up to the white-capped heights of Mt Kirisimbi.

Their proximate locations to the Park allow for easy access to the Musanze activity centre.

The roots of the renowned Intore Dance Troupe are deep, centuries deep.

In the time of the Rwandan Monarchy, they were the celebrated ‘Chosen Ones’. In addition to military training, this united mix of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa warriors were tutored in the skill of scintillating high jumps. In the Intore dance, the flowing grace of the female dancers counters the explosive physicality of the warriors’ dance; traditional songs and the complex pulse of the ingoma (drum) orchestra complete this rich art form.

Traveller’s Note: Daily performances of the Intore dance can be seen at the Virunga Lodge.

Dian Fossey, primatologist and passionate conservationist, dedicated 18 years of her life to the study of Rwanda’s mountain gorilla groups.

In over 3000 hours of direct observation, she witnessed less than 5 minutes of “aggressive” behaviour, and even then, this was either bluff, or the protective response to a perceived threat. The grave of her beloved ‘Digit’, killed protecting his natal group from poachers, lies close by. It is believed that her untimely death was also at the hands of poachers.