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Rwanda. Volcanoes (Virunga) National Park, Kinigi Guesthouse. Saturday 1 August. Week 14, day 111.


Paradis Malahide and the village of Rubona – Rubavu (Gisenyi) – Mukamira – Musanze (Ruhengeri) – Kinigi.

Total distance and time taken.

90km, 1hr 50 min.

Route breakdown and details.

It is tar all the way, the roads are good and the traffic is light, a lovely drive. Initially you are on the road to Kigali. After some 35km, at Musanze, turn left to the Cyanika Border Post and the Virungas, right will take you to Kigali. After a further 9km turn off this road following sign saying Volcanoes NP and 3km later you will arrive at Kinigi. Musanze to Kinigi is a reasonable tar road all the way, despite T4A referring to gravel.


I knew very little about this park so I thought I would throw in some details. It is sometimes referred to by the French name of Parc des Volcans. It was created by the Belgian government in 1925, making it the first African National Park to be designated as such and was originally known as the Albert NP. It lies in the Albertine branch of the Rift Valley. It contains the Virunga Mountains, a chain of 6 extinct and 3 active volcanoes.

Right in front of Kinigi is the peak known as Sabyinyo, with its jagged outline. When viewed from Kinigi there are 5 distinct and separate extinct volcanoes visible. Facing the peaks, from left to right are Karasimbi (the tallest and most westerly, on the DRC border), Bisoke, Sabyinyo, Gahinga (not as high but perfect volcano shape) and finally the most easterly, Mahabura on the Ugandan border. It is worth noting that 2 of these active volcanos in the DRC erupted as recently as 2010 and Nyiragongo glows at night from its active lava lake.During the time of our visit unfortunately, typical dry season mists covered these peaks most of the time.

The park is divided into 3 sections according to the country the section is situated in, Rwanda’ s Volcanoes NP, Uganda’s Mgahinga NP and the DRC’s Virunga NP. The Rwanda section is 160km2 in size but the total conservation area is 433km2. This area is primarily aimed at conservation of the threatened mountain gorilla and despite some early setbacks, the numbers are increasing and now there are probably more than 500 individuals. Rwanda has 17 groups of gorillas of which 10 are human habituated. The only other area with mountain gorillas is Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The lowland gorilla exists in far greater numbers in West Africa but is said to be less handsome than its luxuriantly furred highland cousin. The gorillas are Rwanda’s most important tourist attraction and tourism makes up its second or third most important source of income. I will post more detailed information about the formalities of gorilla tracking once I can offer first-hand experience.