Rwanda National Parks

This small African country has four national parks, each with their own natural wonders to discover.

Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is in the Virunga Mountains on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and is by far Rwanda’s most visited national park. The park was first officially established in 1925 intended to protect the gorillas from poachers and it was the very first national park to be created in Africa. Today, it is home to other animals such as lions, elephants, hippos, and many more.  Volcanoes National Park covers an area of 62 square miles (160 square kilometers) and encompasses five of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains, including Karisimbi and Bisoke. The variety of habitats in the park enables a wide range of fauna to flourish. Some species unique to this park are the critically endangered mountain gorilla, golden monkey and African golden cat as well as other primates like the blue monkey and grey-cheeked mangabey. In addition, this park is home to over 200 species of exotic birds, including the sought after Rwenzori turaco and Rwenzori double-collared sunbird. 

Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park is a protected area in northeastern Rwanda, on the border with Tanzania. It covers 1,122 square kilometers (433 square miles) and offers a picturesque panorama of lakes, swamps and savannah, making it one of the best places in Rwanda to see a wide variety of wildlife. The park offers numerous activities for visitors, with game drives conducted by guides in 4WD safari vehicles being one of the most popular options. These drives take visitors on a guided tour through the terrain and up close to some impressive animals. Some of the most notable species found throughout Akagera include elephants, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes and lions, though there are also plenty of monkeys and antelope roaming free throughout the park’s woodlands. The park also contains many trees and shrubs, including the giant lobelia tree which can grow up to 30 meters high. Other plants include baobab trees and various types of acacia. Akagera is a great place to spot birds. With 100 species not found anywhere else in the world, they range in size from the massive Marabou Stork to the black-headed ganalex.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in southwestern Rwanda, covering an area of about 1,019 square kilometers. The park is situated within the Albertine Rift region and lies at an altitude of between 1,600 and 2,950 meters above sea level. It is known for its diverse flora and fauna, including the largest protected mountain rainforest in Africa. The park is famous for its diverse attractions, including 13 different primate species, over 300 bird species, and more than 1,000 plant species. It is also home to many hiking trails, waterfalls, and scenic viewpoints, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers. Some of the popular attractions within the park include the Kamiranzovu Marsh, the largest high-altitude swamp in East Africa, and the Canopy Walkway, a suspended bridge that offers breathtaking views of the forest canopy. In terms of wildlife, Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to a variety of primates, including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and baboons. The park is also home to forest elephants, several species of antelope, and over 300 bird species, including the rare and endangered Albertine Rift endemic birds. Nyungwe Forest National Park is a unique destination that offers visitors an opportunity to experience the beauty and diversity of Rwanda’s natural heritage.

Gishwati Mukura National Park

Gishwati Mukura National Park is a relatively small protected area located in the western part of Rwanda, covering an area of approximately 34.8 square kilometers. The park is situated between Lake Kivu and the Congo Nile Divide, at an altitude of between 1,450 and 2,647 meters above sea level. Despite its small size, Gishwati Mukura National Park is home to a variety of attractions, including waterfalls, lakes, and scenic viewpoints. Visitors can enjoy hiking and birdwatching along the park’s many trails, including the Congo Nile Divide Trail, which offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The park is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including chimpanzees, golden monkeys, and various species of antelope. Visitors may also spot small predators such as genets and civets, as well as many bird species such as the Rwenzori Turaco and the Grauer’s Swamp Warbler. Gishwati National Park is known for its efforts to restore the forest, which was heavily degraded due to human activities such as deforestation and agriculture. The park’s conservation initiatives include tree-planting programs, wildlife monitoring, and community outreach programs.

History of Rwanda National Parks

Rwanda is known for its breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and exceptional conservation efforts. The country is home to three national parks that attract tourists from all over the world. These national parks, which include Volcanoes National Park, Akagera National Park, and Nyungwe Forest National Park, offer visitors a chance to experience Rwanda’s natural beauty and to see some of the rarest animal and plant species on earth.

The history of Rwanda’s national parks is rich and fascinating. The conservation efforts began in the 1920s when the Belgian colonial administration established a reserve in the Virunga Mountains. The primary purpose of the reserve was to protect the mountain gorillas, which were facing extinction due to poaching and habitat loss. The conservation efforts continued, and in 1967, the Rwandan government established the Parc National des Volcans, also known as Volcanoes National Park.

Volcanoes National Park History

Volcanoes National Park is located in the northwest of Rwanda and covers an area of 160 square kilometers. It is famous for its mountain gorillas, which were made famous by the work of Dian Fossey, an American primatologist who studied the gorillas in the park from 1967 until her death in 1985. Today, the park is home to approximately 320 mountain gorillas, which make up over a third of the world’s population. Visitors can trek into the park to see these gentle giants up close and personal, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Rwanda.

Akagera National Park History

Akagera National Park, located in the east of Rwanda, was established in 1934. The park covers an area of 1,200 square kilometers and is home to a variety of wildlife, including elephants, lions, leopards, and buffalo. In the past, the park faced significant challenges due to poaching and habitat loss, but the Rwandan government, in partnership with conservation organizations, has made significant efforts to restore the park’s ecosystems and wildlife populations. Today, visitors can go on game drives and boat safaris to experience the park’s unique flora and fauna.

History of Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park, established in 2004, is located in the southwestern part of Rwanda and covers an area of 1,020 square kilometers. The park is home to over 1,000 species of plants, 300 species of birds, and 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees and the endangered golden monkey. Visitors can trek through the dense forest to see these animals and to experience the park’s stunning natural beauty.

The national parks of Rwanda are a testament to the country’s commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism. The parks provide a unique opportunity to see some of the rarest animal and plant species on earth while supporting local communities and contributing to the country’s economy. The history of these national parks is a fascinating one, and it is a story that continues to unfold as Rwanda’s conservation efforts evolve and expand.