Volcanoes National Park
by Gaël R. Vande weghe
03 january 2023
The Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda covers an area of approximately 125 square kilometers, and is situated at altitudes ranging from 2,600 meters to the summit of Karisimbi at 4,507 meters. The park is home to a variety of mountain forests and afroalpine habitats that are found on the five volcanoes shared with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
The park is particularly renowned for being one of the two primary home ranges of the critically endangered mountain gorilla, Gorilla berengei, with the other home range being in Bwindi Forest in Uganda. It is estimated that the total population of mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park is just over 1,050 individuals.
The forests within the park are home to several species that have very restricted distributions on the African continent, including the Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Grauer’s (Abyssinian) Owl, and the Golden Monkey, which is endemic to the volcanoes and the surrounding forests.
The Volcanoes National Park is surrounded by more than a dozen tourist properties and is the premier tourist destination in Rwanda, thanks to its breathtaking and spectacular landscapes and the mountain Gorillas.
A freshly hatched Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)
on the grasslands of the park.
A flower of Hypericum revolutum, one of the
dominant tree species of the volcanoes forest.
A female Mountain Gorilla’s gaze.
The deep eroded trenches of Sabyinyo and
their multitude of small waterfalls.
Kandt’s Waxbill | Estrilda kanti
Common in high altitude grasslands and thickets.
The foot of Karisimbi, is called Kimbagira, and culminates
at around 4,000 m and is difficult to access.
Hagenia forest at the foot of Bisoke Volcano
A detail of large Lobelia leaves.
A large Hagenia on the way up to Bisoke Volcano.
The ancient Hagenia forest from the Karisoke area.
Around Karisoke, Hagenia trees have grown massive and are thought to be
between 200 and 500 years old. Most of them are heavily
covered with mosses.
The crown of a young Hagenia.
Small hyperhumid clearings in the Karisoke.
Giant heath on the ridges of Sabyinyo Volcano.
Inside giant Heath forest on the ridges.
Hypericum forests start right after passing the altitudinal ranges of Hagenia forests.
There are different Bamboo formations in the volcanoes.
They vary in heights and architecture,
the tallest I have seen are on then south of Karisimbi.
A Golden Monkey Cercopithecus kandti on the wall making the park limits.
The misty end of days on Sabyinyo.
The mist in the volcanoes is like the main living being,
coming down on the hills and valley almost daily.
The highest altitudes, above roughly 3,500 are home of
the giant Senecio and make up the true afroalpine forest belt.
The orchid, Polystachya delepierrei, usually more orange,
is an endemic species to Rwanda.
Scarlet-tufted Sunbirds Nectarinia johnstoni,
quite common on Lobelia at the highest altitudes
of the Volcanoes.
A baby gorilla being a baby gorilla.
Gihishamotsi, silverback of the Sabyinyo family, peacefully eating
with a nasty scar on his lower lip, from a previous fight
with another silverback.
The summit of Rwanda, Mt. Karisimbi,
with its antenna, at 4,507m drapped in clouds.