Rwanda is one of the only three countries that host the mountain gorillas. These great apes are jealously protected in the Volcanoes National Park in Northern Rwanda.
Like other primate parks, the Volcanoes National Park was closed to tourists in March after the outbreak of the Corona Virus Pandemic.
After a careful study of how Covid-19 can impact the primates, Rwanda reopened its national parks to tourists in mid June. A good number of tourists have resumed planning and visiting the Volcanoes National Park in Northern Rwanda.
As Rwanda welcomes the tourists to come and enjoy nature again, lots of things have changed and several new precautions have come in place. We share with you some of these precautions and the information that you need to know;
About the Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanoes National Park also known as the Parc des Volcans was set up way back in 1925 as the very first national park in Africa, surrounded by 3 volcanoes known as the Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno, conserved to protect Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda.
Boundaries to protect the mountain gorillas were later extended into Rwanda and DR. Congo.
Volcanoes National Park is most famous for its Mountain gorilla tracking adventures which can be combined with golden Monkeys which are located within the same park and Dian Fossey gravesite hike.
Know Your Status
The Volcanoes National Park is part of a larger conservation region called the Virunga Massif which comprises of Mgahinga National Park in Uganda as well as the Virunga National Parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
These three national parks are home to the rare species of Mountain gorillas. These great apes are susceptible to getting infected with human diseases such as flu and cough. Therefore it is important to know of your status before visiting the Volcanoes National Park.
Visitors to Volcanoes National Park must carry a negative Covid-19 test before they will be allowed to go gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park.
Plan Your Duration of Visit Well
A good gorilla trekking safari experience in Rwanda can take a minimum of 1 day to four days gorilla safari with two gorilla treks. A Rwanda tour can be combined with visits to the nearby Lakes Burera, Ruhondo, Kivu and the local villagers.
It is important to know that you need an extra day before you start your trip. With the new changes and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), every visitor to Rwanda is required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test from a certified laboratory.
This test must have been taken within 72 hours prior to arrival in Rwanda.
Though there is no mandatory quarantine, every visitor who arrives in Rwanda is supposed to do a second test upon arrival and the results will be delivered to a hotel where the visitor will self quarantine for the first 24 hours. Therefore visitors will need an extra day to beat their itineraries.
Keep Checking for Open Lodges
At this time, there are less rooms for your overnight stay. Be in the know that not all lodges are open for visitor stays! It is important to check for open lodges that have reopened and make your booking in time.
Keep in mind that most lodges require online bookings atleast two days before your arrival!
Know the Gorilla Visiting Etiquette
In Rwanda, gorilla tracking takes place at an altitude of about 2000 Meters above sea level. The park experiences a modified equatorial climate. Volcanoes National Park can be both hilly and cold.
The grounds are usually wet and the paths are full of stinging plants-nettles.
Besides, the rains are random and can come at any time of the year. Thus proper preparation is important in terms of dressing and equipment. Please bring the following items with you;
Long trousers/pants- to avoid stinging nettles.
The trousers must be strong enough to withstand occasional pulls from thorns.
Long sleeved shirts/ t-shirts
These are highly recommended avoid stinging nettles
These are required to avoid injury to your hands. Remember the grounds are wet and slippery.
Please bring average sturdy walking boots since the tracks where you are to go hiking can be rough and slippery. Some guides recommend jungle shoes reaching ankle level not mountain climbing boots. Something light and hardy will do.
The Virunga Volcanoes can get extremely cold. A warm cardigan is required to keep off cold even during day times.
Long sleeved Rain Coat or anorak
It can rain anytime in Volcanoes National Park even on hot days. The downpours are heavy and thus a rain coat can save the day.
Water proof container
For your cameras and gadgets that can be damaged by rain!
If you desire headgear (hats), a baseball cap is recommended, as gorillas are familiar to them.
Minimum of 2 litres of drinking water to avoid dehydration. Remember the hike can take from just 2 hours to 8 full hours of hiking through the forest to meet the gentle cousins.
A film camera for domestic use is recommended.
Masks Are Required
It is a great idea to bring your mask! A two layered cloth mask is needed. Visitors going for gorilla tracking can carry N95 Mask that you can put on during the gorilla trek.
The N95 mask has been in use on gorilla treks in the Virunga National Park of DR Congo but it may become a requirement for gorilla treks in Rwanda and Uganda as well.
Together with other known standard operating procedures such as hand washing, sanitizing your hands, social distancing and more, you can be among the brave travelers who have already hit the road and travel safely during the worrying Covid-19 times.
Let us travel safely and enjoy the life-affirming experiences of nature while thinking about protecting our amazing wildlife for not only our generation but also the future generation.