What exactly is at the grave and Research Center? How does one get there, how long is the hike, how much does the trek cost, how do I arrange the trek? What do you see besides her grave and what sounds to be a small museum? What is the center like?
One popular hike while near the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is the one to Dian Fossey’s Tomb and the adjacent gorilla cemetery in the former Karisoke Research Camp. The Karisoke scientific base was established by Dian Fossey in the saddle area between two volcanoes; Mt Visoke and Mt Karisimbi (from which the name Karisoke is derived). The camp site stands at an altitude of around 3000m (over 9000 ft) and was abandoned during the unrest of the 1990’s.
The trek involves a 30-minute drive from the park headquarters to the trailhead then a 10-minute stroll to the park boundary. From here, the ascent through the forest takes anything from 90 minutes to three hours, depending on your fitness and how often you stop to enjoy the scenery while the descent takes 1-2 hours. Fossey’s old living quarters – which she nicknamed the mausoleum – are now in ruins, and several other landmarks in the camp are signposted. The hike offers a good opportunity to see birds and other creatures typical of the Virungas en route.
At the site you will find the house from where Dian Fossey was mysteriously murdered in 1985 but the more peaceful is the place where she was buried just next to her favourite gorilla, Digit and about 20 other mountain gorillas either killed by poachers or suffered death for other reasons.
The 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
In her journal, Dian Fossey’s final words were, “When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.”
Today, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund monitors ten gorilla groups (out of 15 total) in Rwanda and have so many other projects to help conserve the gorillas and other animals in the region.
This hike is an incredible experience physically, emotionally and intellectually. It is so inspiring to learn about someone who was so dedicated and left a legacy that exists even today. If you find yourself in Rwanda and you’re up for a challenge, I highly recommend the hike.
The Park fee for this Karisoke Trek is currently USD$ 75 per person, which includes the fee for the guide. The trek starts at 07:00am from the Park Headquarters in Kinigi, from where visitors will have to drive / be driven to the start point for the trek. Permits can be purchased on the day of the trek at the Park headquarters and porters can be hired from here.
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