Many wildlife enthusiasts out there are on the hunt for unforgettable mountain gorilla safari to Rwanda and Uganda. However to tick a gorilla safari off your bucket list has proven to be expensive for many. Aside from the high gorilla permit fees at $750 for Rwanda and $600 for Uganda per person, figuring out and managing the cost of transportation or car hire to get you to gorilla parks like Bwindi including accommodation and meals, all make a gorilla safari look unaffordable.
A gorilla safari however, can be an affordable experience; we will highlight 5 ways which are proven do it cheaply
Look for group to travel
The major advantage of joining a group of travelers while on a gorilla safari is saving the money. Because everyone is sharing the cost of transportation, fuel, driver or guiding services. The general costs become less than it would when traveling alone. In addition, transfer arrangements get easier since no one is left to organize on his or her own. You can get group travel deals in Uganda, there are many operators offering them but you have to book with a licensed one to avoid poor services.
Find a special offer
Travel packages and offers can be got through your operator, airlines, car rental companies and travel agent’s umbrella bodies such as Association of Uganda Tour Operators and Rwanda Tours and Travel Association. Contact them or visit their websites to discover what they have to offer.
Travel during off season
The off season is the time when rains are heavy in Uganda and Rwanda during the months of March, April to May and October to November. If you’re planning a gorilla safari to Uganda you’ll enjoy purchasing a discount gorilla permit at $450 per person. Although permits for Rwanda don’t change, you’ll have great bargaining power to get rooms at reduced rates. Due to less number of tourists, some of the luxury lodges cut down their prices and the cost of transportation will be much lower.
Do not worry much about the damp weather conditions, because it does rain all day. Even though dirty roads will get muddy and slippery as well as trekking trails in the jungles, the reality is gorillas feed closer to park boundaries and move less accounting for shorter treks. The vegetation is very green and lush for best scenery photography.
Book a gorilla safari early
The Rwandan development board and Uganda wildlife authority recommend booking a gorilla permit at least 3-5 months ahead of the day one intends to trek gorillas. The benefit is that you secure a permit before they are out of stock, select first and best choice of services at better prices such as lodgings as well as avoid any changes in price that might affect your budget at a later stage.
Look for licensed tour operators; these take time to arrange every particular of your gorilla safari such as visas, air tickets, yellow fever cards. With assurance you can book online, decide a gorilla destination, make payments and get instant confirmations.
Organize a self drive
Self driving while on gorilla safari is a great option to save. Putting the cost of a drive or guide will not only save portion of your money but you can also travel at your own pace.
While in Kampala or Kigali city hire or rent vehicles from reputable companies or operators. Because they provide assistance in case of breakage or tire puncture and also maintain their vehicles spare equipment. The vehicle hired will be charged on a daily basis. Prices differ depending on the type of vehicle, such as land lovers, Toyota Prado, super customs.
Eco tourism may be the only hope to save the critically endangered mountain gorillas and as well as improve their natural habitats. And indeed eco-tourism is growing popular with gorilla trekking safaris in Bwindi impenetrable forest and the Virunga volcanoes shared by Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo which are the only natural places to less than 900 mountain gorillas.
Gorilla national parks like Bwindi and Mgahinga, Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National park has visitor centers. These are great places to start your gorilla trek and learn useful information. Rangers, trackers and guides are always available and charged not only with law enforcement and protection of gorillas and national parks but also to provide interpretive services and respond to visitor questions. Therefore its illegal trekking without a guide, armed rangers provide 24-7 maximum security keeping gorillas and the forests safe from poaching and encroachment.
Ensuring that tourists do not disturb gorillas and their natural ecosystems has become a real challenge and at the same time an opportunity. So how do you balance proving close encounters with gorillas maintaining their natural behavior?
To address this, gorilla doctors, rangers carry out daily monitoring of the gorillas and their health. With a risk of human disease transmission, the doctors are there to intervene, cure and treat sick or injured gorillas.
With thousands each year, visit the parks for gorilla trekking; it has helped to generate funds. When responsibly managed revenues are used to fund conservation activities.
And because most eco tourists are willing to pay highly for gorilla permits which go for $750 in Rwanda, $600 in Uganda and $450 in Democratic Republic of Congo, it has placed high value to gorillas and their ecosystems. In addition, to the revenues shared and employment, it gives locals direct incentives to conserve the gorilla habitats around them. Over time, reduced encroachment and poaching has paved way for eco-tourism.
To be eco-friendly, gorilla trekking implies strict rules and guidelines which are meant to protect gorillas from human disturbance while giving visitors close and memorable encounters. Among them include maintaining a distance of 7 meters when observing or photographing gorillas.
Rangers, trackers and guides understand that, gorillas often get too close. They will advise you to stay in a tight group, avoid touching or looking directly into the eyes of the gorilla. In case you’re in their way, stand still, do not run, crouch down or make slow step backwards.
All that is put in practice during the one hour tourists spend with gorillas. Being submissive to gorillas is an indication that you’re not a threat. Hence gorillas will simply ignore and remain calm even though they are still wild animals.
Too many visitors can damage the ecosystems or disorient natural behavior of gorillas. That’s why few people can visit gorillas. Only 8 people are allowed in Rwanda and Uganda and 4 in DR Congo. Tourists usually carry lunch boxes, drinking water and snacks into the forest. However, eating, drinking or smoking when with gorillas is prohibited.
Keeping the parks clean is mandatory as an attempt to limit littering; everything must be carried back to the gorilla centers for proper disposal.
In many countries tourism has led to devastation of natural environment, fortunately this is not the case with gorilla trekking. It is an extensive program to limit any impact on gorillas and their natural forests. In fact, gorilla numbers are currently on the rise which makes gorilla trekking one of the most eco-friendly wildlife viewing experiences.
Lake Kivu is like no other beach and leisure holiday destination in Rwanda. You’ll find some of the finest tropical beaches set in a scenic landscape. One of the freshwater lakes strategically located west of Rwanda in the Albertine rift valley and the Virunga volcanoes, it gives the lake a very special atmosphere, and friendly weather with fine white sand beaches, resort towns like Gisenyi, set against shade giving palm trees, like a series of hot springs spread around its coastline in Nyambyumba and Bugarama.
The 180 journey from Kigali city to Lake Kivu can be covered with a 3 hours drive on good tarmac roads. Very convenient Costa-buses, taxis operate hour to hour between Gisenyi and Kigali.
A trip to lake Kivu can combine safaris to Volcanoes national park for gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, volcano hiking as well as chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest national park.
Regarded as an inland sea in the landlocked Rwanda, Lake Kivu waters are crystal clear, calm without the danger of bilharzias infection or hippos and crocodile attacks which makes it ideal for swimming. A trip to Lake Kivu is a must, in fact its where most Rwandan expats go to have fun, relax, chill and spend the weekend holidays. Without the crowds, it comes to life at sunset in the resort town of Gisenyi becoming Rwanda’s liveliest spot. With plenty of luxury waterfront resort hotels, restaurants, night clubs for night life and more. What about dining on the fish straight from the lake? The water sports, swimming, kayaking, motor speed boating, sailing, wind surfing, and sport fishing. You can also take an excursion along the lake to explore the local culture including biking the Congo-Nile trail, hiking, nature walks, birding and wildlife viewing as well as coffee tours to Kinunu and Cyimbili stations.
Things to Do and See
Swimming is often thought to be one of the visitor’s favorite activities. For good reason in Lake Kivu, there are no crocodiles, hippos or risk of bilharzias infection making it one of the safest lakes in the world.
The water is warm all year round, the sands are sparkling white, and beaches are clean due to the ongoing Rwanda’s efforts to maintain cleanliness and green environment.
Aside from swimming, you can sunbath, watch kayakers, surfers and sailors. If you are looking for a beachfront stay, consider this place one of your happy places to be in Rwanda.
What makes Lake Kivu unique is the recent Rwandan local tourism boom. Beach shops, cafes, meat roasting kiosks, food restaurants, all for visitors, Kivu is a place to settle, relax after gorilla trekking or hiking .
Kayak tours on Lake Kivu are more private allowing exploration of wildlife along scenic shorelines since there are no many tourists. Stable sea kayaks are available for hire at Serena hotel in Gisenyi and also in Kibuye for both experienced and inexperienced kayakers.
It’s possible to select for day kayak trips or overnight tours as well as extended four day trips between the towns of Gisenyi and Kibuye. Watch fishing boats leave at sunset, visit some of the uninhabited islands are home to birds and rare plants. Often times, kayaks on Lake Kivu involve a combination of other activities, such as sailing, wind surfing, birding and cycling.
Boat tours including motor speed boats on Lake Kivu help visitors access and hike along the beautiful islands jungle trails such as Idwiji, Bugarama and Nkomo and Napoleon. Also you get easy transportation between Gisenyi, Kibuye as well as border crossing to Goma in eastern DR Congo. During the boat tour you can view wildlife, sunbath, swim, jet-ski and fish. Hire a local guide to help to explain wildlife whilst all necessary equipment and food are frequently provided on board.
Local fishermen understand fishing grounds, go out with them in their vessels participate or watch how they cast out their nets using petrol lights to attract fish. Anglers look out for the Isambaza and tilapia fish. They’re also offers for family and kids to catch fish of different sizes. From the fishing, trip, you can dine on your catch right from some of the restaurants.
Note, however, you can’t fish in Lake Kivu during September and October because this is the time, fish is allowed to multiply and mature.
Hiking and Biking Trips
There are half or full day bikes, hikes and nature walks as well as multi-day biking. During these guided tours, visit agricultural villages and Imbabazi orphanage center. Located in Gisenyi, the orphanage founded by Rosamond Carr helps out children through farming and education. There are gardens with views of Virunga volcanoes from where to have lunch and listen to the songs of the kids.
Whatever time you have, your trip of interest can be arranged when you contact us.
For the physically fit, biking trips along Lake Kivu and the Congo-Nile trail is an epic adventure. Beginning from Gisenyi on rocky cliffs, you pedal through mountainous roads, pushing across the Congo-Nile divide ridges to Kamembe. You pass through villages, coffee plantations including food and beverage shops along and finally drift back to the lake for relaxation. Several hills can be hiked such as Mt. Karongi and Bisesero hill as well as visit hot springs.
Rwanda grows some of the best coffee beans in the world. Sadly, however, over the years much of it was being exported. To maximize the value, lovers of coffee and adventure will enjoy half of fun to fulfill your Rwandan coffee experience.
Visitors with interest in learning how coffee is harvested and processed should arrange a half or full day tour to Nyamirundi island, Cyimbili and Kinunu where some of the coffee washing stations can be found. This is another memorable experience, to have a taste of Rwandan Arabia coffee based beverages or buy and take one home. It’s also a way of helping farmers earn income.
In Kigali city are several coffee shops, such as Bourbon café, at Union trade center as well as Camila tea house in Kiyovu and Magda coffee in kacyiru.
For travelers who want to visit DRC, to hike world’s ,most active volcano Mt. Nyiragongo or track lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega national park, visit Goma city, or Virunga national park, it’s easy to cross the border at Gisenyi to Goma city in eastern DRC.
You can drive for 3 hours from Kigali to Gisenyi border, just make sure you have all the documents including DRC visa, valid passport, yellow fever card and rain gears. After you get entry permit and proceed to Goma city while on your safari.
Trekking the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is unforgettable and on top of all wildlife experiences awaiting visitors to Rwanda.
Wildlife enthusiasts however, will be amazed at the variety of 151 species to be found in Rwanda and the country’s superb modern infrastructure makes it easy for visitors to hire a car on a safari access and explore its rich wildlife national parks.
In fact, visitors with so much interest will be helped deciding which part of Rwanda to go to first. We recommend a few places where particular wildlife species can be spotted inspiring you to visit the land of a thousand hills.
Volcanoes National Park characterizes the beautiful landscape of 3 its dormant volcanoes which form Rwanda’s section of Virunga mountain ranges.
Volcanoes National Park enjoys a tourist friendly tropical climate due to its tropical forests, large bamboo belts and afro-alpine vegetation. This wide variety of wildlife habitats are home to 39 mammals and 178 species of birds providing opportunities for wildlife viewing including adventures like golden monkey tacking and bird watching.
The joy of visiting volcanoes national park however, is to go for gorilla trekking in the morning, spend one hour with gorillas on a guided trek followed by an afternoon Rwandan traditional cultural experience at Iby’Iwacu cultural village.
Visitors can also look forward to book hiking excursions and trails offer truly breathtaking glance of swamp craters, Virunga massifs and Albertine rift valley. There are three volcanoes, Mt. Bisoke, Mt. Sabinyo and Mt. Karisimbi, the highest peak at 4,507 meters above sea level.
No other place in Rwanda offers such a bounty of big mammal viewing opportunity as Akagera National park. You never take more than 2 hours drive from kigali city to Kiyonza, the only entrance gate to the park.
In the past black rhinos and lions were abundant in the park but later poached to extinction. Akagera’s big five status is being restored by joint partnership of African parks and Rwandan development board.
Even though rhinos are under way to be brought back, more than 20 lions now roam the park’s pristine habitats as well as resident mammals such as elephants, buffalo, zebras, giraffes, 15 species of antelopes, spotted hyena, leopard making wildlife viewing a favorite activity for visitors like it used to be in the past. There are 500 species of birds including the most sought after shoebill stork, papyrus goneclock and the african fish eagle.
Akagera has diverse habitats that make it special place to visit. On the eastern side is the meandering Akagera River from which the park was named. Down the center are several swamp fringed lakes with Lake Ihema being the largest protected wetland amidst rolling savannah plains make Akagera one of the most picturesque parks to go for wildlife and nature photo safari.
visitors can do a lot of activities such as game drives for wildlife viewing, boat trips and sport fishing, nature walks as well as bird watching.
The untouched beautiful tropical rainforests- a real gem of nature in Rwanda.
In many African countries overexploitation of natural resources has led to devastation of natural forest habitats. Fortunately, many of Rwanda’s ancient equatorial rain forests have been preserved and today around 20 % of the country’s forests are protected.
Nyungwe forest national park in south east is one of the ancient afro-montane rainforests that visitors can explore at several locations while on a safari. One of these is the Uwinka tourist center, which is 3 hours drive from Kigali city and 1 hour drive from Lake Kivu.
Uwinka has a network of nature walks and hiking trails from which tourists can explore the forest to discover its diverse wildlife. There’s a population of about 500 chimpanzees. Strong and fit visitors willing to brave the jungle will undertake chimpanzee tracking and be rewarded to see how man’s closet cousins feed and groom each other.
Native to the park are the 13 species of primates. Swinging through the tree tops, are the black and white colobus monkeys in a troop of 400 which are rare to see in any other part of east Africa. On a nature walk, look out for other primates such as the L’Hoest monkey, owl-faced monkey; grey cheeked mangabay, red tailed monkey, blue monkey, and nocturnal species like bush baby as well as several species of squirrels.
What could be more delightful than an aerial view of the Nyungwe forest while you’re on a canopy walk? A better way is to book a canopy walk tour.
Walking between 60 to 90 meters above the forest ground on suspended bridges is fantastic way to spot primates sunning themselves in canopies as well as view butterflies and birds collecting nectar from flowers giant orchids. There are also chances to spot reptiles like lizards and many insects as well as bats in tree trunks.
A delight definitely not be missed is bird watching. At least 280 species of birds are recorded. From the common species like bee-eaters, tinker birds, kingfishers to the Albertine rift endemics like Archer’s robin chat, strange weaver and warblers, Nyungwe is an Important Birding Area
There are trails to the interior of the forest where intriguing views of waterfalls such as Kamiranzovu are refreshing.
Whichever way visitors choose, Nyungwe forest offers endless opportunities for viewing wildlife as well as cultural encounters. Few luxury lodges are available in the park. However, on the edge of the park are several camping sites and cultural villages such as Banda and Katabi provide overnight home stay accommodation as well as local foods, hand-crafts; Rwandan dance, music and drams compliment nature while channeling money into the rural communities living around the park.
Recently Rwanda turned Giswati-Mukura forest reserve into a national park. Giswati, covering an area of 3,427 hectares including 992 hectares of buffer zone forest reserve is located in northwest of Rwanda near Lake Kivu and Volcanoes National Park.
Rwanda now has a total of 4 national parks which has created more opportunities for wildlife viewing as well as local tourism development. With investment in tourist accommodation as well organizing safaris and tours, the forest is home to primates such as black and white colobus monkey, L’Hoest monkey, baboons, blue monkey and scattered population of eastern chimpanzee. Others mammals that have been spotted include red river hog, tree hyrax, duiker, bushbucks.
I guess a safari in Rwanda will never be complete without gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. Trek gorillas as well as make your own gorillas in the mist with a hike up to Dian Fossey’s grave site and learn about her gorilla conservation efforts at Karisoke research center.
Conveniently located in Musanze district Northern Province, just 2 hours drive from Kigali city, Volcanoes National Park has 10 groups of mountain gorillas that have been habituated for visitors.
Safe and eco-friendly gorilla treks
With safety in mind, gorilla treks are conducted by expert Rwandan Development Board guides. Each group of habituated gorillas is restricted to a maximum of 8 visitors for one hour per day.
Treks start early morning at Kinigi gorilla center and visitors should arrive on time for briefing about gorilla trekking guidelines.
Guides assist visitors to hire porters and ensure proper trekking gears including rain coats, hiking boots, cameras, packed lunch and enough drinking water.
Armed rangers provide security and guides will explain exactly what to do when with gorillas in the forest. It may take 1 to 5 hours to locate gorillas.
Once they are found, take your time to photograph and enjoy observing how gorillas play and groom as guides will help to point out individuals and plants they feed on.
Best time to trek gorillas
Gorilla trekking is done all year round. Many visitors prefer dry season during the months of December to February and June to September since there’s less rain and trails are easy to traverse. Being a peak season however, gorilla permits should be booked at least 3-4 months in advance through a tour operator or Rwandan development board.
During wet season in April, May and November treks may be difficult to hike due to wet and slippery trails. But treks tend to be shorter since gorillas tend to feed closer to the park or move less because vegetation is flourishing.
Golden monkeys are not common and their largest population is found in Virunga Conservation Area. For example, Volcanoes National park is a great spot to go golden monkey tracking.
Golden monkeys are delight to behold as it swings swiftly through trees with its long tail. Their fur varies from golden to orange on the upper back and flanks with black linings.
Golden monkeys have been habituated and are frequently encountered in bamboo slopes of Volcanoes National Park. It’s a half day activity even though golden monkeys rarely descend to lower slopes.
Visitors can purchase a permit in advance with a tour operator or obtain one upon arrival at kinigi, the main tourist center.
Relax on Lake Kivu
Lake Kivu is the perfect place for a lakeside weekend gateway. The weather is favorable; waters are crocodile and bilharzias free. You can swim and relax on tropical beaches after gorilla trekking safari.
Visit Lake Kivu and enjoy leisure activities including boat rides, kayaking, swimming, sport and traditional fishing, canoeing and birding amidst beautiful rift valley scenery and water views. Also mingle with locals including cultural encounters at Imbabazi orphanage, hike Mount Rubavu and visit the hot springs.
Rubavu or Gisenyi is the largest town on the northern shores of Lake Kivu. It’s a perfect weekend gateway from Kigali city; take a 3 hour drive using a taxi or bus shuttle. From Rubavu visitors can access other towns like Karongi, Rusizi and Idwiji Island by boats or ferry.
Lake Kivu has full service lakeside resorts offering luxury accommodation suitable for family as well as budget lodges. Customize and decide to stay in old colonial mansions or hotels with international standards. Lake Kivu Serena hotel has outdoor swimming pool and spa. The luxurious Moriah hill resort has 18 rooms; Paradise Malahide has 10 rooms, 6 bungalows and 4 private apartments. Options are endless but be sure to get fine dining, bars and cocktails.
Being closer to Goma city in Eastern DRC, Rubavu has opportunities for cross border tourism on a safari to eastern DRC as well as transportation to Nyungwe Forest National Park, coffee and tea tours to Kinunu, Gisovu and Gisakura.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is an ancient rainforest with a concentration of 500 chimpanzees, and few of them inhabit Cyamudongo forest where tracking starts at Uwinka visitor center. You’ll get there with a 4-5 hour drive from Kigali city and wet season April to May and November is best time to see chimps even though it’s done all year round.
Seeing chimpanzee is cheaper at $100 per person than gorilla trekking at $600. Few permits are available for chimpanzee tracking, so it’s recommended to book in advance.
The incredible part of watching chimpanzee is that these apes share 98% of their DNA with humans. They display human like behaviors such as selective feeding, shyness and often get curious upon seeing visitors.
Seeing chimpanzees is more relaxed and time is not limited unlike one hour gorilla trekking. The chimpanzees however, tend to stay high in trees and keep moving and may disappear in canopies.
Chimpanzees are the main tourist attractions. However; Nyungwe forest is rich in biodiversity of flora and fauna. There are 13 species of primates and you can also track the largest troop of 400 black and white Colobus monkeys. While walking through the forest, you get to spot other species like L’Hoest monkey, grey cheeked mangabay blue monkey as well as butterflies, plants and birds.
Some of the breathtaking volcanoes on earth can be found in Rwanda. There are three peaks which include Mt. Karisimbi, Mt. Bisoke and Mt. Muhabura. It takes permits purchased in advance with a tour operator or through Rwandan development board to climb the volcanoes.
All volcanoes are non-technical; you need a tent, cold weather gears and food. Guides usually determine weather and help visitors to hire porters.
Mt. Karisimbi at 4,507 meters above sea level takes two days with overnight camping to achieve the summit and descend. This is the highest peak in Rwanda and 5th in Africa. The summit is always covered in clouds, referring to it as white shell mountain. Climbers spend 30 minutes on top getting breathtaking views of Virunga massifs.
Mt. Muhabura at 4,127 meters is the 2nd highest in Rwanda. Its marks the eastern edge of Virunga volcanoes and can be hiked from Rwanda and Uganda. To conquer its summit all the way to the Crater Lake takes between 4-6 hours and this depends on the fitness and pace of the climbers. Spend an hour looking over the valley enjoying views of Blue roofed Nyagahinga market, the twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo. Your guide shall distinguish for you the furthest Lake of Bunyonyi and kisoro town in the Kigezi highlands of southwestern Uganda.
A Mt. Bisoke 3,700 meter above sea level is considered the easiest taking 2-3 hours.
Before reaching the top, at 2,970 meters, there is the grave site of the famous gorilla conservationist Dian Fossey along with two gorilla graves. The beautiful summit crater Lake Ngezi is a spot for birds and reptile species.
Explore Rwanda on a biking safari with guided day trips as well as multi-day biking tours. Biking along the Congo-Nile trail along Lake Kivu is an opportunity to experience breathtaking views of a thousand hills and Rwandan local culture as you ride through villages and markets.
Visitors with interest can make a choice with a tour operator to select an adventure that suits their time and budget.
The Congo-Nile trail features other trails that offer a longer adventure from one day to 13 days. The popular ones include coffee tours to Rubavu town or tea plantations in Gisovu and Gisakura. Along these trails, you’ll find overnight camps for accommodation as well as food markets.
Africa tours adventure offers one tour to the northernmost province of Rwanda-Volcanoes national park.
Tell me about volcanoes national park-Rwanda…….
One of the oldest parks in Africa, established in 1925, Volcanoes National park lies in Musanze district, Northern Province along the border with virunga mountains national park in eastern DR Congo and Mgahinga gorilla park, southwestern Uganda. The three parks adjoined by a chain of 8 volcanoes including the active Mt. Nyiragongo and Mt. Nyamuragira together form the Virunga Conservation Area (434 sq km). Experts estimate about 880 mountain gorillas live on earth of which Rwanda protects a third of the critically endangered mountain gorilla population.
Mountain gorillas are the major tourist draws to Rwanda, in addition to peace, security and the opportunity to enjoy a greener environment of Kigali city and its world class conference facilities. Gorilla tourism is one of the country’s biggest foreign exchange earners, contributing local economic development.
Rich in culture and home to some of Africa’s most beautiful volcanic mountain scenery, there’s a local saying “Ibirunga” referring to volcanoes national park, as the home of volcanoes. But near the park boundary at the cultural center, Iby’Iwacu cultural village has a strong and colorful identify of Rwandan culture, with the BaTwa ancient forest folks and traditions including playing Inanga, umuduli, Drum and “Intore” warrior Kinyarwanda dancing.
A home stay or visit to Iby’Iwacu cultural village not only introduces you to life of Rwandan people especially meeting friendly women, children, farmers and local poacher’s story but also helping mountain gorillas to thrive with a local but sustainable and agricultural harvests.
The Rwanda local cuisines specialties such as Rwandan beef stew, goat brochettes, fish, banana and Isombe, a blend of greens and vegetables. Excellent local beers brewed from banana usually served during a campfire and cultural performances add many other charms more than a single visit to the area for mountain gorilla trekking safari.
Volcanoes national park lies approximately 2 hours drive from Kigali city / airport. A home to Dian Fossey grave site and Karisoke research center, visitors pay respect to Dian’s conservation foundation, famed as “gorillas in the mist”. For once mountain gorillas were poached to less than 500 individuals in the 1980’s and the 1994 genocide turning parts of the gorilla habitat into charcoal and crop fields. Not all was lost, the park now protects 200 mountain gorillas over 160 sq km of pristine bamboo and afro-montane covered volcanoes rising to 4,500 meters above sea level. The park’s spectacular scenery includes Mt. Muhabura (4,127 meters), Mt. Bisoke (3,711 meters) and Mt. Karisimbi 4507 meters. The latter is Rwanda’s highest point and Africa’s 5th tallest volcano, present best volcano hiking in the world.
Our Mountain Gorilla Trekking Specialist Recommends
A Rwanda gorilla safari explores the beautiful scenery of the virunga massifs whilst searching for some of the 10 habituated mountain gorilla families; on a guided trek with Rwandan development board guides you encounter afro-montane flowers, Albertine rift endemic birds, butterflies, golden monkeys and large mammals such as forest elephants, giant forest hogs, duikers, bush bucks. You also enjoy hike to Dian Fossey grave site featuring a rich history of conserving mountain gorillas and above all the Rwandan culture and lifestyles.
Rwanda, an east African country lying close to the equator, it is a pleasant equatorial climate and home to diverse flora and fauna. As one of the fastest growing and densely populated nations in the world, human activities such as agriculture, mining, poaching, road and dam construction, affect its biodiversity.
A country of limited land and natural resources with 4 national parks, few forest reserves and lakes, is experiencing rampant modernization of Kigali city, other towns as well as development of slum areas. This not only puts strain on the natural resources but also the economy.
As such, ecotourism is being practiced in Rwanda, having incorporated environmental protection laws in its constitution; the Rwandan development board is committed to clean air and green environment. This is largely attributed to the government’s green growth and climate resilience National strategy adopted in 2011.
Kigali city was ranked by global green growth as Africa’s second cleanest city. Visitors enjoy a greener visit during Kigali city tours taking in some of its genocide memorials, craft markets in Nyamirambo, Rwanda museums, art libraries, hotel Rwanda and several entertainment and leisure places like Mamba club.
Eco tourism according to the international eco-tourism society means responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the wellbeing of the local people and involves education and interpretation for both tourists and hosts.
So why is ecotourism important for Rwanda?
As tourists planning to visit the country on a safari, want nothing more than mountain gorilla trekking in volcanoes national park Rwanda, exploring breathtaking Nyungwe forests teeming with chimpanzees, primates, birds, waterfalls and natural life, viewing wildlife in Akagera national park or relaxing at Lake Kivu beaches.
These places are found in remote parts of Rwanda where locals thrive in their communities depend on sustainable agriculture as their source of income and development. Because of this, locals promote ecotourism as well as Rwandan culture at Iby’Iwacu cultural village near volcanoes national park in the north and Banda and Katabi cultural villages in Nyungwe forest. The locals engage in community tourism service provision giving visitors on a Rwandan safari a unique experience including cultural encounters, home stay accommodation and local food.
As a result of locals benefiting from conservation, wildlife and ecosystems in Rwanda have recovered as well as poaching and human wildlife conflicts; encroachment and habitat loss have reduced paving way for eco tourism development.
Being an eco traveler in Rwanda, means you respect local environmental laws, does not contribute to littering and pollution. This awareness has been pushed through anti-littering policies and the banning of polythene bags in Rwanda while helping tourists and locals alike to protect and conserve the environment.
To further promote ecotourism, local programs such as Umuganda, are being held in partnership with international programs following the United Nations declaration of 2017 as a year of sustainable development. Every ending Friday of the month, all Rwandans take it to upon themselves to clean streets, plant trees as local authorities award the best clean villages and towns which has cultivated a culture of conserving environment.
So if you’re planning a trip to Rwanda, why not become an eco tourist, if more visitors to Rwanda adopt to its green growth development, Rwanda is likely to have less environmental stress and health hazards.
While Rwanda benefits from being the fastest growing economy of the world, receiving 1.22 million visitors annually accounts for serious challenges to eco-tourism and sustainability of its limited wildlife resources.
Rwanda has 3 national parks, few forest reserves and rich cultural traditions including the growing number of visitors associating Rwanda as a place of horrific human tragedy, the genocide of 1994. In Rwanda, many visitors pay their respect to victims during Kigali city tours at famous Gisozi, Mirambi, Ntaram genocide memorials and commentaries.
Luckily enough, reducing your foot print in Rwanda is hardly avoided by travelers, with countless adventure opportunities and to benefit from a greener visit to Kigali city. Regarded as the most organized and clean city to live in, it has been transformed through modern infrastructure, public transportation, Kigali convention center and the safety and security.
From cultural village home stays at Iby’Iwacu cultural village in Musanze, interacting with local farmers, women, children, former poachers and Batwa forest dwellers, with their average harvest, they have helped in the conservation of endangered mountain gorillas as well as other wildlife and recovery of Rwandan ecosystems.
Rwanda’s Green spaces
Possibly there could be no perfect way to appreciate Rwanda than its well managed natural ecosystems. With 3 national parks and several forest reserves, fresh water lakes and 3 of the virunga volcanic mountains, which dot its north western part, Rwanda was nicknamed the land of a thousand hills; views are incredible, there are many adventures than you would think.
Rwanda’s first protected swath of jungle, volcanoes national park gazetted in 1925 is the most popular for mountain gorilla trekking. The 160 sq km park is a vast expanse of bamboo and rare montane forests and home to the remaining population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas including golden monkeys, both red listed by IUCN.
An inspiration behind the cult of conservation film, “Gorillas in the Mist”, about, 200 mountain gorillas live in volcanoes national park, which is part of the virunga conservation area including Virunga national park in eastern DR Congo.
Once poached to extinction, Dian Fossey’s legacy at Karisoke research center in Rwanda remains committed to monitoring of gorilla population across virunga and Bwindi impenetrable, the only places on earth providing habitat to the last remaining 880 mountain gorillas. Dian Fossey’s grave site is protected in volcanoes national park, Rwanda and visitors hike to pay tribute, eventually create their own gorillas in the mist.
Volcanoes national park is made up of three dormant volcanoes ranging between 2500 to 4500 meters above sea level; they include Mt. Karisimbi, Mt. Bisoke and Mt. Sabinyo. There are several hiking trails, starting from Kinigi, the main eco tourism center, hikers can choose from easy to more strenuous multi-day hikes. Led by a Rwandan development board park ranger, you traverse large bamboo and afro-montane vegetations, the views are impressive stretching eyes over the virunga massifs and crater lakes in western rift valley.
And with 178 species of birds, volcanoes national park is a twitcher’s paradise to spot over 10 Albertine rift endemic birds such as Rwenzori Turaco, regal sun bird and strange weaver.
Nyungwe Forest National Park in south eastern Rwanda is another top pick. Nungywe forests are one of the oldest evergreen low-land and mountainous rainforests in Africa. It provides a home to a host of wildlife such as leopards, serval cats, warthogs including 13 primates and 400 species of forest birds.
There are 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees. Most of these primates are elusive and nocturnal but, you can get up close with chimpanzee, the main tourist attractions in the park.
Uwinka visitor center, set on the eastern mountain slopes of the park, hiking trails lead visitors to habituated communities of chimpanzee as well as spotting other primates, notably 400 troop of black and white Colobus monkeys, hard to spot in any other part of east Africa.
However, Nyungwe is not all about the primates, there’s plenty to see and do, and the park’s heavy rainfall creates spectacular waterfalls, and getting into the interior of the forest is easier with around 13 hiking trails. Visitors can choose from short easy to difficult multi-day hikes, along with camping, exotic birding. While nothing beats, the thrill of Nyungwe forest canopy walk, with a range of suspended bridges about 60 to 90 meters above forest ground offers ethical and close encounters of primates, birds, flowers and breathtaking views of the whole forest.
Akagera national park once occupied by farmers, cattle herders and poachers leading to extinction of lions and black rhinos during the 1970’s, this park’s big five status was lost.
However, the park’s pristine wetlands, rivers, lakes and savannah wilderness were restored and protected by the African parks which has restored lions as well as plans to bring back black rhinos are underway. The park is now a shelter for big 4 mammals such as lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards, several antelopes, giraffes as well as 500 birds including the rare shoebill stork and papyrus gonelock.
When visiting gorillas in Rwanda, or any other place in Rwanda, be sure to resist the temptation of disturbing wildlife, which can make them aggressive, especially habituated gorilla families. Visitors must also not dispose off their waste including lunch boxes, biscuits covers or water bottles which are carried during gorilla trekking or hiking. For more information on gorilla safaris in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo visit www.ugandagorillassafari.com
Wildlife viewing and interactions in Rwanda
Not for many years, trekking mountain gorillas in Rwanda is synonymous with the visitor experience. However, there’s now increasing evidence to prove that the activity is harmful for the survival of gorillas if not well maintained. With conservationists concerned about frequent visits, and the impact it creates on gorilla behavior and ecosystem. Rwandan development board offers eco friendly treks; spending time with gorillas is highly restricted. With gorilla trekking rules, every visitor must go through briefing by guides, whom you usually trek with to see gorillas.
Agriculture has been the major part of the Rwandan people way if life for centuries. And thanks to the growing number of agro-tourism projects in Musanze and Nyungwe national park. Visitors who want to taste of Rwandan traditional cultural experience; need to try everything from dancing with cultural performers to preparing local cuisine while helping the farmers, former poachers, and Batwa and women groups. Iby’Iwacu cultural village is the cultural hub of Rwanda; it’s a home to the local owned pioneering mountain gorilla conservation project set up by Edwin Sabuhoro. His aim was to encourage people around volcanoes national park to switch from unsustainable agriculture to gainful farming and providing community and cultural tourism services, besides gorillas. People have increased their income generating opportunities from fruit and vegetables, craft making, banana beer brewing, folklore, and visitors wanting to help can stay at Iby’Iwacu cultural village.
In Nyungwe forest national park, the Banda and Kitabi cultural village centers, a two day home stay not only puts you into rural life styles but also insight into the coffee farmers, and their story of coffee from the field to the cup.
Eco friendly accommodation
Opting for a home stay over a bigger hotel or lodge even when visiting Rwanda for a short period, will give you an opportunity to experience a more traditional way of life in Rwanda. As the main goal, home stays puts the control of community tourism business into the hands of the local people, with the dollars and Rwanda francs if community tours are organized through the right tour operator. The Rwandan Development Board has helped set up several community tourism projects, including home stays, lodges and camps around volcanoes and Nyungwe forest national parks. Offering home stays in the foothills of virunga volcanoes in the north to a fishing village on Lake Kivu in the west.
Sabinyo Community Livelihood Association (SACOLA) is an outstanding socio-economic and conservation project which own Sabinyo community lodge. It has helped to fund successful local gorilla conservation campaigns, by the money generated from the lodge.
To be eco friendly, community stay in Rwanda does not in any way sacrifice for luxury, there are an impressive sustainable tourism programs at Iby’Iwacu in Musanze including clean water, health care centers, tree planting and conservation education.
Rwanda also known as the land of a thousand hills has a population of about 11 million, where 90% of the people are farmers but has made significant progress to stabilize its economy than it was before the 1994 genocide and civil war.
Rwanda is a politically safe country and is now a popular destination for mountain gorilla trekking safaris. No doubt gorilla tourism has emerged as top foreign exchange earner contributing to its fast growing economy in the world.
Kigali city is ranked as Africa’s green and cleanest city in Africa after Windhoek, Namibia and has hosted a number of business events due to its excellent MICE facilities such as Kigali Convention Center (KCC).
Among the first African countries to integrate wildlife and environmental protection laws into its constitution, Rwanda has 3 national parks and few forest reserves set aside to protect wildlife that become its greatest tourism asset.
Rwanda is on the forefront of wildlife conservation in Africa particularly mountain gorillas which live in volcanoes National Park in Musanze district. The government through the Rwandan Development has made it possible for people living around gorillas and other protected areas to manage their natural resources through community tourism and conservancies.
Rwanda’s wildlife population has decreased over the years, due to human wildlife conflicts and during the 1994 genocide that took lives of more than 800,000 people. For instance a lot of refugee’s occupied national parks poaching animals and destroying ecosystems while gorillas were raiding people’s crops as well illegal grazing in protected areas.
Fortunately, Rwanda Development Board’s determination to community tourism and wildlife conservation through local people’s organizations is helping to battle human-wildlife conflicts and poverty. well established Eco-tourism rules and the strict monitoring of gorillas and their habitat reflect the commendable work of rangers, gorilla doctors, and local communities, working together with international conservationists.
This has been achieved through initiatives such as the gorilla naming ceremony “kwita Izina”, has not only increased monitoring the births of new gorillas in Rwanda but also educating people how to live in harmony with gorillas and wildlife.
Revenue sharing and investing part of gorilla permit revues into health, education and eco tourism has led to collective and successful wildlife habitat protection and recovery in Rwanda. Due to community non-profit organizations such as Iby’Iwacu cultural village, Sabinyo community lodge and genocide victims especially women groups involvement in tourism business and conservation, Rwanda’s ecosystem and wildlife has recovered.
This is attested to the increasing number of mountain gorillas in volcanoes national park leading to gorilla trekking safaris as well as chimpanzees in Nyungwe national park and wildlife in Akagera national park.
Rwandan government, together with other conservation agents such as African wildlife foundation, native wildlife has been restored such as lions and Black Rhinos in Akagera national park making, Rwanda a big five safari destination.
Rwanda has named 22 baby gorillas at the 12th edition of Kwita Izina. The event that rocked Musanze witnessed the naming of 22 babies that were born in the Volcanoes National Park between September 2015 to August 2016.