Dian Fossey

Dian Fossey tomb is located in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda in the North West of Rwanda in the district of Burera, Musanze, Rubavu and Nyabihu. The park is one of the most visited parks in Rwanda and East Africa at large because of the variety of tourism activities and attractions that attract different tourists on their Rwanda tour. The different tourist attractions like the Albertine endemic bird species, for example, the handsome francolin, Ruwenzori turaco, Ruwenzori Batis, Shelley’s crimson, Dwarf honeyguide, Dusky crimson and many more that attract bird lovers to carryout birding.

Dian Fossey

Other activities like Golden monkey trekking with the presence of two habituated golden monkey groups and cultural encounters can also be carried out while tourists take a tour around the National Park. Gorilla trekking can also be carried out with the presence of the different gorilla families that are habituated for tourists to trek like the Susa gorilla family, Hirwa, karisimbi, sabyinyo, kwitonda, Amahoro, Ugenda and many more all of which attract tourists to come to the park.

Hiking can also be carried out in the park with the presence of five of the 8 Virunga mountains. All the five mountains namely mount Gahinga, mount karisimbi, mount sabyinyo, mount Bisoke and mount Muhabura have unique attractions that can be discovered while they are hiked for instance the different Rwanda mountain gorilla families can be found at different slopes of the mountains, for instance, the sabyinyo gorilla family is found along mountain sabyinyo, karisimbi group along mountain karisimbi and so on. Among the hikes at the national park, the Dian Fossey tomb hike is one of the rewarding, educational and most touching hike at the Park.



Dian Fossey was an American primatologist and a member of the ‘‘trimates’’ the group that was focused at studying the behaviour and conserving primates. The group comprised of three females Dian Fossey who specialised in the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Jane Goodall in the chimpanzees in Tanzania and Birute Galdikas that specialised in orangutans in Indonesia.

Dian Fossey’s love for animals started in her childhood after her mum divorced with her dad to marry her stepfather who was strict and isolated Dian Fossey and on doing this she turned to animals which she made best friends with and by the age of six years she started horseback riding.

In 1963, Dian Fossey borrowed $8000 and went on a 7 weeks trip to Africa where she met William Holland in Kenya who introduced her to John Alexander that was her guide who took her to different places in Africa that is in Tanzania to Ngorongoro Crater Lake, Olduvai Gorge, and Lake Manyara where she saw the lake covered by flamingos which were so fascinating and lastly Mountain Mikena in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

She later met Louis leaky and her wife and her visit to them changed her life in a way that Louis Leakey discussed to her about the importance of ape conservation in the region because the species were endangered. 

When she came to Uganda, Dian Fossey met Kenyan Wildlife photographers who were also passionate about wildlife and during their stay in the country, she was able to see the first mountain Gorillas and she fell in love with them unfortunately she had to go back to America in order to pay her loans however this didn’t stop her love for the primates because she even wrote a journal about her visit to Africa and her encounter with the gorillas. 

During Louis Leakey’s lecture tour around the world he met up with Dian Fossey and proposed that she should come to Africa and study the mountain gorillas where she gladly accepted and Louis was able to get the necessary funding for Dian to carry out her study of the mountain gorillas in the Virunga mountains and with the help of Alan root a Kenyan wildlife photographer helped her to  obtain the working permits and with the time she had spent with Joan Goodall she was able to find out how she carried out her research and hence this helped her to undertake her research in Congo. 

Diane fossey established her research station at Karaba in Congo where George Schaller had in the earlier years established a station to study the mountain gorillas however she had to discontinue her research due to her the political instability in the country and at some point, Congolese soldiers mistook her for a spy and had to kidnap her. However she managed to escape and went to Uganda where she was advised by the Uganda Officials to avoid going back to Congo she was heartbroken but for her love for Gorillas, Dian Fossey continued her research on the Rwanda side of the Virunga Mountains.

Dian Fossey’s research on the Rwanda mountain Gorillas

Dian Fossey established her research centre in between Mountains, Karisimbi and Bisoke and she named the Research station the Karisoke research Centre and started her work on the mountain gorillas in the area. However, it was hard for her to conduct the studies because the gorillas used to be poached which was not the case in Congo where George Schaller had habituated different groups for study so it was a challenge for her but she managed to habituate them at last.

Before the habituation, Dian Fossey realised that mimicking the gorillas and acting like them while in the wild would make them more comfortable and being able to open up for her to work. Dian Fossey had a lot of work on her hands and she took on the challenge she used to eat celery to ensure the gorillas that she was part of them and not against them which worked and eventually the gorillas started embracing her.

The initial purpose of Dian Fossey coming to Rwanda was to study the Mountain Gorillas but as time went different events led her to protect the gorillas from both environments and human hazards especially the human hazards where human illegal activities like poaching were being carried out which were a threat to the existence of the apes and because the gorillas were endangered species. Dian Fossey took it upon herself to ensure the animals are protected.

Dian Fossey made different discoveries about the Rwanda Mountain Gorillas some of them including that the animals were shy primates who were highly dignified and social they would get aggressive if they sensed trouble but other than that they are quiet creatures that have great family bonds if any of their family members is in trouble they fight hard in order to make sure they are bailed out, in short, she termed them as the ‘‘gentle giants’’.

She also made discoveries about the relationship between human and gorillas and she realised that the animals were not good for tourism-related activities that is because they were very immune to diseases that are spread by people for example influenza which had killed many gorillas after their encounters with the humans and this discovery has helped in conservation of the apes in a way that during gorilla trekking while on a Rwanda Tour. Tourists are told to be 7 metres away from the gorillas, feeding the gorillas is highly prohibited because of fear of causing diseases to the apes which can cause problems like contraction of diseases from humans to apes.

Poaching and Rwanda mountain gorillas

When Dian Fossey was studying the Rwanda mountain gorillas, different gorillas where being killed on a daily for their hands, legs and different parts of the bodies which were used for delicacies, decoration purposes and many more she was studying the gorilla family known as group 4 but although her gorilla family she was not affected by poaching, she just could not stand seeing the gorillas being killed and nothing was done against it.

She took it onto herself and established her anti-poaching patrol team and the team was highly a success but when her favourite Gorilla Digit was killed she went extra miles of carrying out patrols and she got involved in the process she destroyed the poachers traps, killed their dogs went to their villages and destroyed their homes by burning them.  During her time poaching decreased in the area however she made many enemies among the park officials who were getting bribes from the poachers, the local poachers who saw her as a threat in their operations.

When Digit Dian Fossey’s favourite gorilla died, Dian Fossey established the digit Gorilla fund which was established to raise funds in order to conserve the mountain gorillas the funds to carry out patrols to ensure that they avoid the poaching of more gorillas. The fund was changed to Dian Fossey gorilla fund after her death in 1985 she was murdered by an unknown person.

The hike to Dian Fossey’s tomb will enable tourists to find out about what she did to save the mountain gorillas and ensure that the mountain Gorillas are conserved all this will be explained while tourists are on their Dian Fossey tomb hike while on their Rwanda tour.


Diane Fossey Tomb Hike to take one has to possess a hiking permit that can be got from the park entrance at Kinigi where the receptionist can issue for you the permit at the same day of the hike or a tourists on their Rwanda tour can go through the tour operator to book for a hiking permit and it goes for only US$75.

After the tourists acquire their permits they are assembled and briefed about the safety precautions to be followed during a hike for instance during the hike tourists can encounter the Rwanda mountain gorillas which can be scary for tourists that have never encountered them but here tourists are advised not to run and also look them in the eyes because to the gorillas it can be seen as a challenge which can lead them to feel like you’re ready to fight, briefing before the activity is important.

Tomb of Dian Fossey
Tomb of Dian Fossey

After tourists are briefed, they are then escorted by a ranger who possesses a gun who is responsible for the safety of the tourists in case of any breakout. The guide takes it upon himself to tell the tourists about history about Dian Fossey as explained above and the different attractions in the area, the hike can take 1-3 hours and during the hike to Karisoke gorilla cemetery tourists can see different plant species, bird species like example the handsome francolin, Ruwenzori turaco, Ruwenzori Batis, Shelley’s crimson, Dwarf honeyguide, Dusky crimson and also other primates like the vervet monkeys, golden monkeys and also the mountain gorillas.

On reaching the gorilla cemetery, Dian Fossey tomb stone can be seen and next to her is the tomb stone of her favourite gorilla Digit who was killed by poachers and at the cemetery, the guide tells the tourists about her research centre Karisoke which is now one of the biggest gorilla research centres in the world.  It has contributed to the community and the tourism in the area because through the Dian Fossey Gorilla fund, the conservation of the gorillas is ensured with the numerous patrols to protect the gorillas which have led to the tourism in the area.

The research centre has also enabled the equipping tourism students and conversationalists with skills and knowledge on how to carry out conservation of the gorillas that is they have trained patrol guides, rangers and many more all of whom are responsible for the conservation of the mountain gorillas.  And once the hike is down tourists hike back down to the headquarters

Equipment to carry while on the Dian Fossey tomb hike

  • A camera to capture moments while on the hike
  • A water bottle because it can be tiresome while hiking
  • Hiking boots because the road leading to the grave can be slippery
  • Long sleeved shirts and trousers to avoid being scratched by nettles
  • Insect repellents because the tourists can encounter stinging insects like mosquitoes with the repellents tourists are protected from insect bites

Accommodation When on the Hike

Tourists interested in carrying out Dian Fossey Tomb Hike are advised to stay near the Volcanoes National Park for easy access and to avoid tourists getting tired before reaching the park to carry out their hike to Dian Fossey’s tomb.

All the accommodation facilities listed below offer amazing dining services with both local and international cuisines, excellent customer care, 24-hour room service, clean rooms, bathrooms and bed linen and so on. Different tourist classes can choose from the following as listed below

  • Da Vinci lodge
  • Le Bambou gorilla lodge
  • La Palme hotel
  • Gorilla volcanoes hotel
  • Virunga lodge
  • One and only gorilla nest
  • Sabyinyo silverback lodge

Tourists on a Rwanda tour carrying out the Dian Fossey tomb hike will have a chance to see different attractions like the monkey and bird species, Rwanda mountain gorillas and many more which together added onto seeing the gravestone it will offer an amazing experience.

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