Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla habitat restoration in Rwanda


Vince Shacks


Protecting Endangered mountain gorillas

Bisate’s and Sabyinyo’s reforestation and community involvement are pioneering tourism impact projects in the area surrounding Volcanoes National Park. Through partnerships and collaboration, we are helping protect vital mountain gorilla habitat, while building more sustainable communities.



Helping protect mountain gorilla habitat while supporting more self-sustaining communities.

The problem

Expanding agricultural land led to deforestation, threatening wildlife habitats.

The cause

Lack of economic opportunities reduced food security for subsistence farmers.

The solution

Partnerships & profit-sharing creates jobs, improves infrastructure & rehabilitates habitats.

Our approach to solving it

Volcanoes National Park is home to one of only two remaining populations of the Endangered mountain gorilla. The 160-square kilometre transboundary park, isolated and small, can't adequately sustain gorilla habitat and other wildlife. Meanwhile, limited economic opportunities have prompted local communities to expand agricultural land, aiming to improve household food security. Such activities, along with other behaviour, have significantly escalated deforestation over the last three decades.


The combined efforts of the Rwandan government, NGOs and local stakeholders have resulted in the successful protection and conserving of Volcanoes National Park. This has increased the number of mountain gorillas to over 1,000 at the last census (2018). Due to this exciting trend, the mountain gorilla was moved from Critically Endangered – one step away from Extinct – to Endangered. However, further protection and growth in numbers is still vital, creating the need to expand the habitat of this unique species. Consequently, the Rwandan government has initiated an ambitious plan to expand Volcanoes National Park by roughly 23% in the coming years.


Google Earth image of Wilderness Bisate in 2008



Wilderness’ commitment to the area’s reforestation, and working together with the communities surrounding the national park via a sustainable model, plays an important role in the park expansion.


Google Earth image of Wilderness Bisate in 2023 clearly indicating the extent of the reforestation project's habitat restoration


The Bisate and Sabyinyo reforestation programme is an exemplary and pioneering programme. It has propagated close to 100,000 indigenous trees that have been planted and are now independent of our care in the area, expanding habitats and attracting wild species into these new areas. Our two indigenous tree nurseries are models for others now following this trend.


  • Using high-end tourism as a lever, Wilderness Bisate and Wilderness Sabyinyo have created jobs for local people living around the park, providing a more sustainable livelihood and reducing dependence on subsistence farming. Through education and training opportunities, the employees have a chance to increase their knowledge and be promoted within the hospitality sector.
  • SACOLA, the Sabyinyo Community Livelihood Association which owns Wilderness Sabyinyo, earns revenue through rental income and profit-share. SACOLA uses these funds to drive socio-economic development in the Kinigi and Inyange sectors adjacent to Volcanoes National Park.
  • Wilderness Bisate has partnered with Co-operative Tuzamurane Kaguhu, comprising 241 households in the area. The partnership provides employment at Bisate, additional labour for projects, support for the reforestation efforts, and deliveries of local supplies.
  • Two community committees have been established in the Bisate and Sabyinyo areas, through which community representatives implement and manage empowerment projects in the villages. This has resulted in the creation of large-scale tree nurseries, the payment of medical insurance premiums, a water harvesting project that now provides water to over 5,000 people, sports grounds being built at the schools, and many other projects.
  • Through Wilderness’ educational programme, Children in the Wilderness (CITW, a primary driver of the EDUCATE pillar of the company’s Impact strategy), primary and secondary school students in the area receive weekly extra-curricular environmental education. Wilderness and CITW also facilitate bursaries for deserving children’s secondary schooling.
  • Micro-finance and micro-enterprise projects have also been initiated and funded to support dairy, pigs, poultry, bee-keeping, carpentry, and fruit-growing businesses.


High-end tourism is a lever for creating sustainable economic opportunities that empower local communities and support the partnerships required to protect Endangered gorilla populations.


Volcanoes National Park:
Beautiful, diverse and iconic wildlife

Explore Volcanoes National Park

Our results and progress

The project is delivering remarkable results, resulting in improved infrastructure to support communities and create a better quality of life for the people who live there. Progress has been made in terms of education, power supply, housing, water supply and health care, as well as business support and reforestation efforts. Here’s a snapshot of what’s been achieved through these crucial partnerships.

8 schools

And 64 classrooms built


People have access to water provisions

50 ha

Land purchased and restored to indigenous forest


Indigenous trees planted and independent of our care

2 villages

And over 70 homes have been built


Returning to the restored land

Help us make a difference

Support our project

Our projects focus on specific activities that we believe will help us make a real, lasting impact. It’s all about low-impact tourism with high-impact outcomes. Help us reach our goals by donating via Empowers Africa – a US based, cost-effective solution to fundraising.