Rwanda’s gorilla tours are probably the most famous tourist attraction when it comes to this country. We actually didn’t decide to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda - it was way over our budget (we included the table of the Volcanoes National Park prices at the bottom of this post for you to see).
Actually, when thinking of what to do besides gorilla trekking in Northern West Rwanda, we had trouble finding information. Also, because of that, we had a hard time planning our trip around the country. That’s why we decided to just go there, do some research and share with you what we found - we love travelling independently and we would love to encourage you to do the same.
It turned out that a gorilla safari is just one of many other things you can do in the area of Musanze (Ruhengeri) - there are plenty of activities to choose from for every budget and every need.
If you’re staying in Musanze (Ruhengeri), check out where we slept, where we ate and what we did outside the Volcanoes National Park in our
Visiting Musanze (Ruhengeri) - Where To Stay, Where To Eat, Things To Do & Our Experiences post
If you’re in the area just for a day or with sole purpose of visiting Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, scroll down to the information about Volcanoes National Park (complete with prices).
To better understand this post, you may also read:
What Is It Like To Travel In Rwanda Today
HOW TO VISIT VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Rwanda Development Board is a tourist organisation in Rwanda which controls all things travel in the country. Whilst their website may look nice, it may turn out to be tricky to find practical information on how to visit a given destination within the country. The prices of activities are hard to find, and if you want to check times, opening hours or book a tour, all you find is their email address. We tried to get some more information by emailing them and contacting them on social media but with no luck - we still haven’t heard from them.
No matter though, we stopped waiting for their answer - through trial and error we managed to find all we needed to make our trip around Rwanda awesome, and we hope we can help you too. There is no need to go through the tourist agencies and pay more, if you can do it yourself and plan your activities independently.
Booking your tickets and permits for
rwanda's gorillas trek or other activities in volcanoes national park
First things first - if you want to visit any places or do any activities controlled by RDB, and you want to buy your ticket independently, you have two options:
Buying your gorilla permit/Volcanoes National Park ticket at a local RDB office
In Musanze / Volcanoes National Park Area there are two RDB offices - one located right in the centre, almost opposite to the Bank of Kigali, and the other one on the entrance to the park - Volcanoes National Park Headquarters.
We visited both of them and you can book your tickets or permits at any of them, but if you do activities such as gorilla trekking or golden monkey tracking, as well as any of the hikes in Volcanoes National Park, you will have to start your tour from the headquarters located at the entrance of the park.
If you are going to any of the nearby caves operated by RDB, you will start your tour in the RDB office located in Ruhengeri (Musanze) centre.
Some say that to go gorilla trekking you have to book much, much earlier, but at the offices we were told that we can book one day in advance.
Buying your gorilla permit/Volcanoes National Park ticket online
Recently the link to book your gorilla permit appeared on RDB's website but before there was little information about booking it on RDB’s website. All the advice generally sends you straight to RDB’s email, however we found out that you can book tickets for any Volcanoes National Park activities or Nyungwe Park activities (we have so much to tell you about Nyungwe in our post!) online without any fuss and wasting time to go to RDB’s offices! We actually can’t believe that it’s so simple and that nobody told us about this until one local person mentioned it and a couple of backpackers we befriended booked their tickets this way.
All you need to do to book your gorilla permit or Volcanoes National Park activity online is to visit Rwanda Government’s Irembo website. Irembo is an e-Government services website where citizens, and turns out foreigner as well, can sort out their lives in an easy way. Once you find yourself at Irembo website, you’ll see the prices for the gorilla treks. Click ‘Buy Permit’ and on the next page you will be able to book not only gorilla treks, but also any other activities on offer in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park.
What to wear in Volcanoes National Park area
We haven’t trekked in Volcanoes National Park but we went chimp tracking a couple of hours South of Volcanoes, in Nyungwe Park. We also visited the nearby caves. So we think it doesn’t really matter which activity you will choose, it will be steamy, it may be warm and raining or hot and sunny. There might be big ants trying to get to your ankles. There probably will be mud and steep hills. You will get dirty.
Sounds like adventure, doesn’t it?
So, wear something from natural fabrics, like linen or thin cotton, ideally have 3 layers - a t-shirt, long sleeve fleece and a rain jacket, which you can pack away if you’re too hot. Have a hat, not only because of the sun, but because sometimes ants can fall on your head or a hat can save you from hitting your head against a low branch. Wear leggings or long trousers and put your socks over them to avoid ants getting into your shoes - their bites really hurt! And probably you already know that, but just to remind you, wear shoes that you know are comfy - don’t try to pull it off in your new trekkers or gumboots. High ankle shoes are best, but it’s not a big deal if you have normal walking shoes - we did some strenuous treks in our low ankle shoes and we were fine.
WHAT TO DO BESIDES GORILLA TREKKING
IN VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
If you want to enter Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, you will need to buy a ticket/permit to one of its activities (you can do it online on Irembo website).
Volcanoes National Park is known mainly for the gorilla treks during which you can track one of the 8 Rwandan gorilla families (Karasimbi, Susa, Umubano, Amahoro, Sabyinyo, Agashya, Hirwa and Kwitonda). However, with its very high price of 1,500 USD per person, many people choose to track gorillas in Uganda (approx. 400-600 USD per person) or Congo (approx. 200-400 USD), or choose to do other activities in the park, that are approx. 10 times cheaper than gorilla treks.
Volcanoes National Park Hikes & Treks
Volcanoes National Park has so many more wonderful things to offer besides gorillas. There are a variety of treks and walks to choose from. You can visit Dian Fossey’s Tomb, get up to Mount Bisoke and its crater lake or visit Buhanga Eco-Park where you can camp and observe birds. If you really want to see monkeys but can't afford gorillas, try tracking golden monkeys (check the price list below).
Caving in Volcanoes National Park
Another option for a unique experience is spelunking! Little did we know that Rwanda has over 50 caves and some of them are open for tourists. There are some caves that are operated by RDB and many more that aren’t. We were very interested in visiting the caves and made our way to the RDB office in Musanze (Ruhengeri) to book the tickets (you can’t book tickets to the caves online).
Unfortunately, after finding out that the entry costs 50 USD per person and a visit to the cave lasts 1 hour, we decided to first try the caves not operated by RDB to see whether we even liked it. The cost of the caves not operated by RDB was 5000 RWF per person (approx. 6 USD). We informed an RDB official that we may book their tour to the RDB caves the next day, but first we will visit the cheaper caves, not operated by RDB. To our surprise, the official threatened us that caves not operated by RDB are illegal… even though they’re featured on an official RDB map.
In the end, we did visit the 'illegal’ caves, ensuring earlier that they are indeed ‘legal’ - we absolutely loved them!
A day later we had a chance to chat with a local person who said that the RDB operated caves are ‘prepared’ for visitors complete with concrete floors and that we didn’t miss anything by not going to them.
We’ll never know but we really loved the caves we did visit and you can read more about them and how to visit them in our Rwanda's Caves post.
VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
PRICES & HOURS
The activities in Volcanoes National Park start early in the morning, about 7-7:30am at the latest. Everyone has to be back by 7pm, unless you’re camping somewhere in the park.
At the RDB offices, we managed to get information on the prices of activities. You will find them below in the table (yes, the disparity in prices based on where you come from hurts us too…).
Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park Activities Price List
|Tours||Length||Foregin Visitor||Foreign Resident||Citizen||EAC National||EAC Foreign Resident||Rwandese Student||EAC Student||Foreign Student in Rwanda|
|Mountain Gorrilas||1 day||1500 USD||1500 USD||1500 USD||1500 USD||1500 USD||1500 USD||1500 USD||1500 USD|
|Golden Monkeys||1 day||100 USD||65 USD||4000 RWF||65 USD||80 USD||2000 RWF||45 USD||45 USD|
|Dian Fossey Tomb||1 day||75 USD||60 USD||4000 RWF||55 USD||65 USD||2000 RWF||45 USD||45 USD|
|Mount Bisoke||1 day||75 USD||60 USD||4000 RWF||55 USD||65 USD||2000 RWF||45 USD||45 USD|
|Nature Walk||1 day||55 USD||40 USD||3500 RWF||35 USD||45 USD||2000 RWF||35 USD||35 USD|
|Mount Muhabura||1 day||100 USD||75 USD||5000 RWF||35 USD||45 USD||2000 RWF||35 USD||35 USD|
|Mount Gahinga||1 day||75 USD||60 USD||4000 RWF||55 USD||65 USD||2000 RWF||45 USD||45 USD|
|Buhanga Eco Park||1 day walk or 1 day camping||40 USD or 60 USD||30 USD or 50 USD||3000 RWF or 5000 RWF||25 or 40 USD||35 or 55 USD||2000 or 3000 RWF||25 or 35 USD||25 or 35 USD|
|Muhabura-Gahinga Trail||2 days camping||200 USD||160 USD||20000 RWF||130 USD||165 USD||10000 RWF||100 USD||100 USD|
*EAC - East African Citizen
OTHER ACTIVITIES IN THE AREA
Read more about it in our Musanze post.
Imbabazi - Former Orphanage and Museum & Mugongo Cave
Rwanda's Twin Lakes - Ruhondo & Burera
Read more about it in our Twin Lakes post.
Umuzabibu Mwiza - Handspun Hope
Read more about it in our Musanze post.
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