Trekking to the Dian Fossey Tomb is one of the most sought after safari activities that is carried out while visiting volcanoes National Park for a gorilla safari. This trek involves a 30 minutes’ drive from the park headquarters to the trail head to access the Karisoke research camp where the visitors walk for 10 minutes to the park boundary. This walk from the park boundary to the research Centre where Dian’s grave is, take about an hour and half and afford views of the forest hogs, forest elephants, bird species and the primates.
This hike is an incredible adventure physically, emotionally and intellectually. It’s so inspiring to learn about someone who was so dedicated and left a legacy that exists even today. The hike also involves moving through the forests and hiking up the slopes and therefore requires relative degree of patience and fitness.
Just at this site, you will find the house from where Dian Fossey was mysteriously killed in 1985 but the more peaceful is the place where she was buried just next to her favorite gorilla friend, Digit and about 20 other mountain gorillas either killed by poachers or suffered death for other reasons. When planning to travel to Rwanda to hike Dian Fossey Tomb, it’s vital to either book through a travel agent in Rwanda or it’s necessary to give at least a 1 day notice prior to your actual hiking dat.
Dian Fossey was an American primatologists who took up a broad study and keen interest in studying and protecting mountain gorillas in Rwanda for a period of 18 years but was killed by gorilla poachers.as she was doing her research, she set up a Karisoke research camp between Mt. Visoke and Mt Karisimbi in the volcanoes National park. This is where the Karisoke name was derived basing on the two volcanoes.
This hike starts at the same time as the Rwanda gorilla trek hence the clients come at the park headquarters by 7 am to 7:30 briefing. There not so many people do the Karisoke hike hence it may be you or your group plus your guide or the ranger. This hike is muddy hence strong waterproof boots with good traction are needed using the trekking stick is a must, in addition it’s an active trek and tough as trekking the Susa gorillas group. The trek offers two ways to start the Diana Fossey site, one is the flatter hill to the mountain, and the other one is cross through the mountain, go straight up, which is very hard and strenuous. On reaching the site, you will see the house from where Dian Fossey was mysteriously killed in 1985 but the more peaceful is the place where she was buried just next to her favorite gorilla, Digit and about 20 other mountain gorillas either killed poachers or suffered death for other reasons.
The Dian Fossey tomb’s headstone reads:
No one loved gorillas more
Rest in peace, dear friend
in this sacred ground
for you are home
where you belong
Presently, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund monitors ten mountain gorilla groups in Rwanda and is managing a number of other projects to help conserve the gorillas and other wildlife in the region. The hike is a fantastic adventure physically, emotionally and intellectually. It’s so inspiring to learn about someone who was so dedicated and left a legacy that exists even today. In case you find yourself in Rwanda and you are up for a challenge, I also recommend this hike. The park fee to the Karisoke trek is $75 per person, which includes the fee for the guide. The trek also starts at 7:00am from the park headquarters in Kinigi.
Hiking Dian Fossey’s grave (tomb)
For those who love mountain gorillas, visiting the Dian Fossey tomb and gorilla cemetery located near her former Karisoke Research Camp/center between mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke is a must.
Gorilla trekking may be the main attraction while on a Rwanda safari and the Volcanoes National Park but visiting the grave of Dian Fossey is a unique experience that can be done a day before tracking gorillas (for those who have booked for gorilla trekking in Rwanda).
It is a great way to pay homage to one of the greatest mountain gorilla researchers. You will learn about her work with the mountain gorillas in the remote mountains or Rwanda and also contribute towards the very work that she started in 1967. The hike will give you time to reflect on many things and challenge you at a physical, emotional and intellectual level. You might even get inspired to fight for something you truly believe in like she did – hopefully relating to wildlife conservation. Besides learning about Dian Fossey’s work and research centre, the activity will give you an opportunity to witness the beauty of Rwanda’s volcanoes national park. While hiking to the tomb of Dian Fossey, you will/might also get a chance to spot rare plants, birds, golden monkeys, forest elephants, buffaloes, antelope and above all a gorilla family along the way.
Hiking to grave of Dian Fossey isn’t very difficult except for the mud and incline at the starting point that may pose a challenge for the inexperienced hiker – one needs to be at an acceptable fitness level to enjoy the hike. A trek to the Dian Fossey is less packed with visitors compared to the more popular gorilla trekking. However you might want to book in advance especially during the peak months between June and September. Hiking takes about two hours at most for one in good shape. The hike is usually arranged in the morning hours. Visitors report to the Kinigi park office in the morning for briefing by one of the rangers. The park offices are usually crowded with tourists because it is also where briefing for other activities like gorilla trekking, Bisoke hiking, Karisimbi hiking and golden monkey trekking are carried out. After the briefing, visitors are taken for a 30 minute drive to the foot of the Mount Bisoke (the starting point). While at the starting point, you will meet armed rangers and porters available for hire. The armed rangers help protect you from wild animals and poachers while the porters help carry extra luggage and when navigating difficult terrain. Hiring a porter costs $10. Before embarking on the hike, the chief park guide will assign you a walking stick that will make navigating through some of the difficult sections easier.
The hike starts outside the volcanoes national park. After moving for a short while, you will reach the park demarcation and stone walls that keep of buffaloes and elephants from crossing to human gardens. You will follow the same trail used by visitors hiking mount Bisoke. If you are lucky, this trail offers you an opportunity to meet one of the gorilla families. Should you meet one of the gorilla groups, you will be given a very short time to see them from far away – No taking photos allowed. There will be frequent stops to marvel at the beautiful scenes and take photos of important markings. After about 2900 meters of using the Bisoke trail, you will leave for the trail to the Dian Fossey grave. The area around the graveyard and former Karisoke research site offers stunning views of the Virunga ranges and the DR Congo. The Karisoke research camp itself remains neglected and abandoned since the early 1990’s. Dian Fossey’s tomb is next to that of her favorite gorilla Digit the silverback and over 19 others. You should also visit the remnants of the house where Dian Fossey was murdered. Take as many photos of the site as possible while asking questions about the work of Dian Fossey from the guides. Lunch is usually prepared near the site as you rest and prepare to descend back to the starting point. Descending back to the head trail takes between 1 to 2 hours. You will find your driver or company guide waiting for you at the starting point to drive you back to your hotel. This is the time you will be separating with your porters and park staff – Tip them for their great work of helping you around.
What you need for the Dian Fossey grave (tomb) hike
Dian Fossey Hike permits: The first thing you need to do while planning a hike to the grave of Dian Fossey and the Karisoke research centre is to acquire a permit. Hikers are required to show their permits during the briefing just before setting off to the head trail. A permit costs $75 and can be secured from either the volcanoes national park office or the Rwanda tourism offices in Kigali. A portion of the money collected for the permit is channeled to gorilla conservation projects.
The choice of which place to stay before and after your hike depends entirely on your choice and budget. There is no shortage of accommodation around the volcanoes national park in Rwanda. We have compiled information about accommodation in Rwanda that you might want to check out here.
You will need to hire a driver and car to take you to the park offices for registration and to the starting point of the trail. Most visitors tend to use the service of a good tour company like Mission Africa Safaris to help put together the entire tour. Mission Africa Safaris helps clients acquire the hiking permits; organize transport and accommodation among many other services.
You should always move with your identification documents – especially the passport and VISA. You are required to show your identification documents at the park offices before you can proceed to the starting point of the hike.
Hiking Shoes or waterproof boots
The hike takes over 1 hour and the trail can be full of mud and slippery especially during the rainy season. Good hiking shoes help you navigate through difficult terrain. Ensure that the shoes have good grip.
Clothing: Good trousers, long socks, hand gloves and a long-sleeved shirt will help protect against from sharp branches and stinging insects.
Packed snack and drinking water
You might get hungry and thirsty along the way before the lunch prepared at the Dian Fossey Site.