The Dian Fossey grave site (tomb) trail hike / trek in Volcanoes Park Rwanda


One of the must do activities in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is the Dian Fossey grave site (tomb) hike/trek. The hike aims to give tourists a learning experience about the works of the famous American primatologist and conservationist, Dian Fossey, who dedicated her life to research about the mountain gorillas. She set up a research camp in the valley between Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke hence the name ‘Karisoke’. Her works to protect the mountains gorillas and their habitat would lead her into conflict with negative forces including poachers and she was eventually killed. She was buried among the gorillas near her Karisoke Research Center. The survival of the mountain gorillas is largely credited to her work and your trek to see the gorillas will be even more meaningful and exciting after the revealing visit to the Dian Fossey grave site (tomb) and her research center. She demystified the negative perception of mountain gorillas as being savage beasts living in the jungles of Africa as she discovered gentle and intelligent creatures. This would later inspire the habituation of mountain gorilla groups for tourists to visit and see up close these amazing apes which were at the verge of extinction. The money collected from the gorilla trekking trips and hiking tours in the park is used for conservation activities in the park.

The hike also provides a wonderful opportunity to explore the park. The trails goes through one of the most beautiful areas of the park with rare plant life, stunning views of the Virungas, and sightings of numerous wildlife; the chance of seeing the gorillas is high in addition to the golden monkeys and the sought after Albertine rift endemic birds.

The hike

The hike is done in the morning. You report to the park office in Kinigi at 7am to the meet the ranger guides for briefing and at about 8am drive for about 30 minutes to the base of the Mount Bisoke where the trekking starts just outside the park at the car parking. A walking stick will be provided at the starting point, free of charge, and porters will found here that you can hire to carry your bags and provide some support along the hike.

trekking in volcanoes national park

For the first ten or so minutes you are walking outside the park and you get to enjoy the stunning views of the Virunga volcanoes. Soon you get over the stone wall which marks the demarcation of the park and also plays the vital role of keeping the forest elephants and buffaloes from crossing over into the community. You will now be climbing along Mt. Bisoke and going through an area that is common with gorillas but you can only see them for a minute and no taking photos as you are not tracking gorillas. Other potential animal sightings include golden monkeys, duikers and buffaloes.

At 2967m the Dain Fossey tomb trail will break off from the Mount Bisoke hiking trail. You will hike towards Mount Karisimbi, going through a beautiful stretch of Hygenia Hypericum forested zone, at an altitude range of 2900 – 3000m.

dian fossey tomb trail

Enjoy the incredible mountain scenery of the Virungas from Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo. En-route you will observe birds and for the birdwatchers this is a wonderful opportunity to catch some Albertine Rift Endemics. There are lots of rare plants. At the camp site all that you can find is the graveyard where many of Dian Fossey’s Gorillas were buried, and her grave is also nearby.

trekking the trail to dian fossey tomb and karisoke research center

The entire Dian Fossey tomb trek takes between 1 – 3 hours depending on your level of fitness. Proper hiking shoes are necessary as the paths is normally very muddy and slippery since it rains most of the times. Also much need is trousers and long-sleeved shirt to protect from stinging nettles and thorny plants.

Difficulty of the hike

The difficulty of the hike can be placed at moderate level and doable by anyone with basic fitness. It is however challenging in wet conditions due to mud. The average altitude of the trail is 2900m to 3000m above sea level.

Rwanda tours with the Dian Fossey trek

4 days Volcanoes national park tour without the gorilla trek

5 Days Rwanda gorillas tour

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