While Rwanda has seen tremendous tragedy, this small country is also a place of immense beauty and continued healing. An important part of its revival is its wildlife ecotourism, centered on the rare and remarkable mountain gorilla that lives in the dense forests of the volcanic Virungas range in the northwest. About a third of the world’s approximately 800 remaining mountains gorillas live in Rwanda. Your visit to their natural habitat may be the only hope for their future. A once-in-a-lifetime encounter with the rare mountain gorilla will surely change your life—and it may well save theirs.

In the heart of Central Africa, are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest—the Virungas.” On Rwanda’s western border with Congo, Volcanoes National Park encompasses the slopes of these ancient peaks where Fossey studied the famous “Gorillas in the Mist.” It is one of Africa’s oldest parks, established in 1925 expressly to protect the mountain gorilla. Trekking from cultivated foothills into vine-tangled depths in search of these magnificent creatures is not just a safari highlight, but a high point of a lifetime. To sit and match a gaze with the contemplative eyes of a huge silverback is one of the most poignant wildlife encounters on the planet. You are also sure to see chattering monkeys and melodic birds, and you may spy a giant forest hog or bushbuck.

Rwanda’s tapestry of habitats is home to a diversity of species including mountain gorilla, chimpanzee, golden monkey, hippo giraffe, zebra, leopard, crocodile and more than 600 species of birds. Ten percent of Rwanda is designated as Important Birding Areas. Plains and lakes dominate the eastern borders while Rwanda’s western mountains are draped in forest. This mosaic of montane ecosystems in Volcanoes National Park—bamboo and woodland forest, heath and swamp—is where the mountain gorilla lives, along with 12 other species of primates. Eight habituated gorilla groups are open to tourist visits, with a maximum of 8 visitors to each group for a one-hour period per day. Nearly 200 of Rwanda’s bird species are also found within the park including 29 endemics, as well as giant forest hog, warthog, bush pig, forest elephant, buffalo, bushbuck, waterbuck, black-fronted duiker, spotted hyena, civet, genet, mongoose and tree hyrax.