Dian Fossey was an American primatologist who conducted ground breaking research about mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park since the 1960’s up to her death in 1985. Dian established a mountain gorilla research centre in 1967 between Mt. karisimbi at (4507 m) and Mt. Bisoke at 3,700 meters above sea level. She named the research centre Karisoke which is symbolic to the two great volcanic mountains.

In 1966 Dian Fossey ventured into the DR Congo virunga forest to continue studying mountain gorillas which were being poached and killed due to the undergoing civil strife at the time. Such political turmoil forced her to relocate to Rwanda where she finally established a small camp that would be the present scientific research centre Karisoke.
Dian Fossey Hike
With her new location being mountainous, it was difficult to move in the forest due to cold conditions that she had not been exposed too. Such unfavorable conditions forced her fellow researchers to return to their home countries which left her as a stand a lone woman trying to forge relationship with local communities in return to help her get close to wild gorillas which she later habituated naming one of her favorite gorilla Digit.

Dian Fossey uplifted the need to conserve gorillas which were being poached day and night that if nothing was done, mountain gorillas would become extinct. Her book gorillas in the mist compelled international conservation bodies such as the World Wildlife Fund, world conservation society and African Wildlife Foundation. These officially established mountain gorilla project that aimed at allowing few tourists to visit gorillas by paying money that would help to fund conservation activities and help local communities improve their wellbeing.
Prior to the official mountain gorilla project, Dian Fossey had waged war against poachers. Not only gorillas died due to poachers but illegal trade and infectious human diseases were also responsible for declining gorilla population. Dian worked with local people in destroying snare traps and limiting encroachment. Through rivals with poachers her gorilla Digit was also killed in 1978.

With the death of her gorilla friend Digit, Fossey also increased her anti-poaching campaigns and created the Digit fund which fetched support from the Rwandan tourism officials enforcing laws and punishing poachers. This created hatred between Dian and local poachers who were often being arrested and imprisoned. Later poachers retaliated back and murdered Fossey in 1985 and buried right at Karisoke research camp that is popular today as the Dian Fossey grave site.

With the official mountain gorilla project allowing tourists to visit gorillas, gorillas were exposed to intense human contact which resulted into spread of human infectious diseases like influenza, diarrhea killing some of the gorillas. Due to weak regulations and rules governing human contact, tourist visits could alter the natural behavior of gorillas something that Dian Fossey was not happy with.

As a result of gorillas dying from increased tourist contact, gorilla tracking was introduced with strict rules and regulations set under the brand ecotourism. Ecotourism is that tourism where tourists travel to undisturbed natural environment to appreciate nature while taking care of the wellbeing of the local communities.

Gorilla tracking is today’s most sought after wildlife encounter a reason why we should pay tribute to Dian Fossey for having pioneered gorilla conservation. The subsequent gorilla tourism projects partly built on Fossey’s efforts for instance the planting of pyrethrum farms to demarcate Volcanoes National park boundaries.

Tourists who come for gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park also hike to Fossey grave site and the Karisoke research centre. The park is about 2 hours drive from Kigali city to kinigi the park headquarters where all tourists gather early morning for gorilla tracking.

Actual Hik

The trek to Dh3ian Fossey grave site starts at kinigi, tourists then drive for 30 minutes to the main trailhead along the park boundary. The Rwandan Development Board guide leads tourists into the forest and it can take about 2-3 hours to reach the site depending on the fitness of the group. Views are breathtaking and wildlife encounters include buffalos, giant forest hogs, bushbucks, duikers, golden monkeys and several species of birds such as white tailed blue flycatcher.

Hiking the Dian Fossey Tomb site takes tourists through rolling green hills, plantations along the park boundary. You will encounter mammals such as buffalos, worth hogs, forest elephants and many species of birds. Standing at 3000 meters above sea level, the views of the virunga volcanoes are good for nature photographers. Visitors usually learn about the legacy of Dian Fossey that still exists today as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
Right at the site, visitors will see an old house where Dian was killed in 1985 and the tomb where she was buried. To commemorate her work to save gorillas, a cemetery was built where most of the gorillas that would be killed by poaches were buried next to her tomb.

The hike is quite challenging, tourists are recommended to wear solid hiking shoes, long sleeved pants and shirts, warm sweaters, rain jackets and cameras for photography. Descending from the grave site takes about 1-2 hours.
Permits to hike to the Dian Fossey grave site cost $75 per person and do not need advance booking; you will just pay for it right at kinigi Volcanoes National park headquarters.

There are other tourist activities in Volcanoes national park. For the park is small but with a diversity of wildlife as well as cultural significance. Besides mountain gorillas, there is also the critically endangered golden monkeys stay in bamboo forested slopes. Permits to track golden monkeys cost $ 100 per person.

Near volcanoes national park is the Iby’Iwacu cultural village displaying Rwandan culture with a local touch of African traditional setting of the grass thatched huts. Tourists can participate in different cultural activities such as banana beer brewing; meeting the Batwa pygmies and their unique traditions is fascinating with traditional dance performances.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International funds the conservation and monitoring of habituated 10 gorilla families that fascinates tourists. With other several conservation organizations, mountain gorillas in Rwanda have increased to 250 individuals due to strict conservation in collaboration with Bwindi impenetrable forest national park Uganda where 400 gorillas (half of the entire mountain gorilla population) live and the virunga national park in DR Congo. Today there are 880 mountain gorillas left.

Rwanda nick named the land of a thousand hills due its undulating rolling hills is an amazing safari destination with rich ecosystems that provide home to wildlife including the rare mountain gorillas. Rwanda has emerged from scratches of the 1994 genocide to become a politically safe and economically vibrant country in East Africa.
Rwanda is famous for mountain gorillas which live in tropical forested volcanoes of the virunga massifs in Volcanoes national park in the north of the country. Mountain gorillas attract many tourists who come for gorilla tacking and later visit the Dian Fossey grave site to pay tribute to the pioneer of mountain gorilla conservation.

Hiking the Dian Fossey Tomb site takes tourists through rolling green hills, plantations along the park boundary. You will encounter mammals such as buffalos, worth hogs, forest elephants and many species of birds. Standing at 3000 meters above sea level, the views of the virunga volcanoes are good for nature photographers. Visitors usually learn about the legacy of Dian Fossey that still exists today as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
Right at the site, visitors will see an old house where Dian was killed in 1985 and the tomb where she was buried. To commemorate her work to save gorillas, a cemetery was built where most of the gorillas that would be killed by poaches were buried next to her tomb.

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