Volcanoes National Park – or Parc National des Volcans as it's called in French – is, for many, the main reason to visit Rwanda. The volcanoes in question are those belonging to the Virunga Mountain range, shared with the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. And, five of the eight volcanoes in the range are located in this national park. The highest of them being the 4,507-metre-tall Mount Karisimbi.
These rainforest-covered mountains are one of the few remaining habitats of the mountain gorilla. There are believed to be no more than 700 in the world, around a third of them living in Rwanda. The volcanic mountain region is known as the place where American primatologist Dian Fossey undertook her pioneering studies of mountain gorilla behaviour. The fact that there are any gorillas left at all is largely down to her dedication to curtail poaching, prior to her still-unsolved murder. Her life was recounted in the Hollywood classic – Gorillas in the Mist, filmed in the park.
Gorilla trekking enables travellers to get up close to the mountain gorillas, which move in defined troops led by a silverback male weighing over 200 kilos. Harems of females, other males and infant gorillas make up the family groups. Seeing them among the trees, foraging for insects, chewing on leaves or playing around is an exhilarating travel moment. There are ten habituated gorilla troops in the park, among them the 30-strong Susa group originally studied by Fossey and named after the Susa River.