Rwanda is a lush country of endless mountains and stunning scenery, and nowhere are the mountains more majestic than the peaks of the Virunga volcanoes in the far Northwestern Rwanda.
In Parc National Des Volcans, the volcanoes form a natural frontier with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda, and hidden among the bamboo and dense jungle of their forbidding slopes are some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas.
There’s more to Rwanda than magical mountain gorillas, however. The shores of Lake Kivu conceal some of the best inland beaches on the continent. Deep in the southwest, Parc National Nyungwe Forest is the most extensive montane rainforest in the region, and home to many primates.
NATIONAL PARKS OF RWANDA
The national parks of Rwanda are protected ecosystems and wildlife reserves located within the borders of Rwanda in east central Africa. In 2012, these protected natural zones include the Volcanoes National Park, Akagera National Park and Nyungwe Forest. Maintenance of the national park system, as well as tourism infrastructure and promotion of the parks, is managed by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) with assistance from government ministries.
Each park protects a distinct ecosystem and variety of species. Bordering Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, into which the Virungas volcanic mountain chain extends, Volcanoes National Park is the most heavily patrolled park in the world and the oldest in Africa. In combination with adjoining parks in the neighboring countries, it serves as the world’s only habitat of the mountain gorillas, whose numbers have been increasing here over the past decade. Visitor numbers to the gorillas are strictly limited and passes must be purchased, often well in advance, from RDB. Golden monkeys also inhabit a separate portion of the park.
To the southeast along the Burundian border, Nyungwe National Park hosts a large number of chimpanzees and a variety of other primate species in a highland rainforest environment.
The eastern border of Rwanda, along Lake Victoria and Tanzania, is the location of Akagera National Park and protects a variety of African fauna in a savannah ecosystem, including giraffes, elephant, buffalo, baboons, gazelles and zebra. Lions originally inhabited the park but were exterminated by poisoning during and after the genocide. The park is currently being fenced in to allow the reintroduction of lions to be imported from South Africa in 2014.
Volcanoes National Park (French: Parc National des Volcans) lies in northwestern Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The national park is known as a haven for the mountain gorilla. It is home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo), which are covered in rainforest and bamboo. The park was the base for the zoologist Dian Fossey.
The Akagera National Park (French: Parc National de l’Akagera) covers 1,200 km² in eastern Rwanda, against the Tanzanian border. It was founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation in three ecoregions: savannah, mountain and swamp. The park is named for the Kagera River which flows along its eastern boundary feeding into several lakes the largest of which is Lake Ihema. The complex system of lakes and linking papyrus swamps makes up over 1/3 of the park and is the largest protected wetland in central Africa.
Nyungwe rainforest is placed in the southwestern Rwanda, at the border with Burundi, south, and Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Nyungwe rainforest is probably the best preserved rainforest in the mountains throughout Central Africa. It is located in the watershed between the basin of the river Congo to the west and the basin of the river Nile to the east. From the east side of the Nyungwe forest comes also one of the branches of the Nile sources. Nyungwe Forest National Park was established in 2004 and covers an area of approximately 970 km² of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps, and bogs. The nearest town is Cyangugu, 54 km to the west. Mount Bigugu is located within the park borders.