Rwanda will continue its efforts to protect the criticaly endangered mountain gorillas by expanding Volcanoes National Park by 3,000 hactares, a project worth $180m. Volcanoes National park located in Musanze northern province currently occupies an area of 160 sq km. Due to increase in moutain gorilla population to 480 in the Virunga Conservation Area according to 2011 cenus, the park is faced with a challenge of limited land to conserve gorillas.
The population of people living around the park increases. The need to get land for farming and settlement has been reducing gorilla habitat in Volcanoes national park by 54% since its establishment in 1925. That results into encroching on the park land leading to habitat loss and also increases the risk of human disease transmission, two major threats to the survival of mountain gorillas.
The exapnsion of the park land to increase gorilla habitat is therefore urgent and has been facilitated by African wildlife Foundation, the largest wildlife conservation organization donated 27.8 hactares of land to Rwanda Development Baord.
The strategy is intended to forbid all kinds of development such as farming and construction sorrounding the habitat for gorillas. people neighboring the park will be re-alocated and it is not in the bad interest but rather a balance between development and conservation.
Gorillas attract many tourists for gorilla tracking safaris and other activities like hiking tours, bird watching hiking, hike to Dian fossey grave site which have led to increase of visitor numbers to 1.2m representing 82% growth since 2007. with the increase of tourists, Gorilla tourism has developed to benefit the economy by bringing foreign exchange and also creates opportunities for employment and local community empowerement.
For example the entry fees paid by tourists to Volcanoes National park generated $16.4m USD in addition to 10% of the gorilla permit money invested back to the community through Revenue sharing programe. People neighboring volcanoes national park depend on natural resources and the Rwanda development board has been investing a lot of money into social projects. In 2017 alone, about $1.28 USD was distributed to communities around the park in form of building schools, health care clinics, construction of water tanks, roads which are geared to reduce poverty and overdependence on gorilla habitat.
Gorilla tourism revenues have also been used and faciliate tourism enterprises for local people who generate income thriugh community tourism projects like Iby’Iwacu cultural village, community walks, guiding services, selling crafts, fruits and vegetables in partnership with conservation NGO’s and lodges. Those who will be re-alocated are not going to be affected in one way or the other because better housing has already been planned for them.
the crucial issue is to protect gorillas for future generations. And Rwanda has taken strategic actions like the recent increase of gorilla trekking permit to $1500 USD. Gorillas are no longer over visited by tourists. In addition, the expanding the park will keep the gorilla habitats off human ecncrochment which paves way for long term conservation of gorillas.
What might have saved mountain gorillas from extinction?
During the early 1960’s when mountain gorillas were being extensively poached and their natural habitats being encroched upon, Dian Fossey, an American primatologist was one who pioneered the need to conserve and protect gorillas to the global scene from the time 1967 when she established a research center called Karisoke located in Volcanoes National Park. Dian based from karisoke center to conduct research on the life of gorillas in the wild and eventually trained a few gorilla groups to overcome human fear which enabled her to study the apes closely.
The 2-3 hours trail to Dian fossey grave site is a special hiking experience for tourists to learn about the life of Dian and various projects she left behind before her mysterious murder in 1985.
About Dian Fossey: An American primatologist and conservationist, Dian is well known for her work “Gorillas in the Mist” a book and movie that describes what she did to protect gorillas including introducing anti-poaching techniques like ranger patrols that dramtically reduced poaching and illegal encrochment. Dian also hired gorilla doctors to treat gorillas that would be found injured by snare traps as well as arrest poachers. Her campaigns yielded hatred from the local people who perceived that Dian was restricting them from using the forest to get bush meat, water, fire food and to grow crops or graze cattle. Nevertheless Dian was determined looking to the survival of gorillas in the future. She published her book “gorillas in the mist” and started the gorilla fund international, one of the organizations suporting gorilla tourism and conservation in Virunga Conservation Area. Unfortenately, Dian was murdered in 1985 and buried next to gorillas that were also killed by poachers.
How to hike to the Dian fossey Grave site
Dian’s tomb is located at high altitude between Mount Karismbi and Mount Bisoke about 2900 to 3000 meters above sea level hence it requires fitness. The hike to dian Fossey grave site is recommended to everyone who visits volcanoes national park to track gorillas and golden monkeys. The hike starts early morning from Kinigi tourist center where you register and purchase your permit. the trail takes visitors through dense forests where a variety of bird species can be spotted. You then reach Dian grave site, pay tribute and get a views of the virunga volcanoes as you descend back to kingi.
The trail takes about 1-3 hours and not tough to hike. however, during the rainy season, right clothing such as hiking boots, stick, rain jacket, long pants are necessary. you need to prevent yourself from stinging nettles. The hike to Dian Fossey will touch your soul and make you appreciate and celebrate her life as a conservationist every year on 26th December.
Rwanda has been named as the host of the 2018 African Continental Championship by the Confederation of African Cycling. The country has proved it can host world class events having hosted the 2010 competitions. The 2017 continental cycling championship was held in Morocco where Team Rwanda comprising of 11 riders won a gold and two silver medals.
Rwanda is most popular for high end wildlife adventures like mountain gorilla tracking but cycling has grown in recent years since the launch of Tour De Rwanda in 1988. Rwanda in 2017 was ranked 4th in the world of cycling sport by the continental circuits, a series of the road bicycling competitions across 5 continents.
Rwanda was trusted because of its capacity to make the 2018 race a success. The cycling federation of Rwanda confirms to live up to its promise because the country boasts some of the world class cycling routes in Kigali city that connect to Lake Kivu, Rubavu, Musanze, Nyanza.
The routes are also best for any adventure cyclists on a safari to Rwanda. For example, the Congo-Nile trail can take up to 5 days but if you just have a day take on the 91 km route from Gisenyi to Kibuye. You cycle through some of the beautiful scenery of a thousand hills, rural villages and tea plantations, enjoy the sweeping views of Albertine rift valley and Virunga volcanoes from the cliffs past the shores of Lake Kivu.
The race including other events will run for a week. people who come to attend will have an opportunity to do day trips visit some of the attractions in Kigali city or to national parks like Akagera, Volcanoes and Nyungwe forest.
The Rwandan Directorate of Immigration and Emmigration is securing Visas upon entry into Rwanda, starting January 2018.
The Government of Rwanda made communications to comfirm that all tourists from all countires of the world would be eligible to get Rwandan visa upon arrival at Kigali International airport and the land border entry points which include Cyanika at the border with Uganda and Gisenyi at the border with DR Congo.
Prior to this global visa, Rwanda put a similar visa free entry system for all african countries and few non african countries. This is no suprise of a country which ranks 7th position as the world’s most efficient government on the open visa index rankings.
The Visa on arrival is single entry at a fee of $30USD and valid for 30 days. This does not apply to transit visas however you can still apply online or at any Rwandan foreign embassy for the same or multiple entry visa. In addition, citizens from United states of America, United kingdom, Isreal, Sweden and New Zealand are not required to apply in advance.
Note: The new Visa on arrival addressed areas of Visa riciporocity and Visa for diplomats or government agents to take immediate effect by january 2018. For instance, Rwanda grants a previlage of 90 visa validity for COMESA and East African Community member states. The other specific countries including Benin, Haiti, Central African Republic, Ghana, Indonesia, Sao Tome an principe, Mauritius, Senegal, Chad, Sychelles, Guinea Bissau, philipines and Singapole.
Under the rule provided by Rwanda directorate general of Immigration and Emmigration, all tourists must meet the following requirements:
You must have an authentic passport and should be valid for at least 6 months.
Your visit to Rwanda is strictly for tourism purposes such as gorilla tracking, canopy walks or chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe forest, recreation in kigali or lake kivu, cycling in Gisenyi, or meetings and incetives.
You are also required to present clear address of the place, lodge or hotel you’ll be staying in during your visit to Rwanda.
You’ll als be asked to show proof of enough funds to sustain you the days you want to spend in Rwanda.
The procedure to get your visa is simple. At Kigali airport, you arrive at the visa payment desk to get your arrival card then pay and lastly present that reciept to the immigration office for visa approval. At the land border entry points of Gisenyi and Cyanika, tourists are required first to go to the immigration office to get payment details, then to the payment window and back to immigration to have your visa.
There are many advanatges for tourists to cross border without applying for visa in advance. Tourists coming from southwestern Uganda can use the border at Cyanika to connect by 1-2 hours drive to Volcanoes National park for golden monkey and gorilla tracking, volcano climbing as well as visit the near by Musanze caves and Iby’Iwacu cultural village.
From Volcanoes national park, you can also access Lake Kivu, a fresh water best for weekend holiday relaxing on white sand beaches or doing water based activities like swimming, kayaking, sport fishing, boat riding, canoeing as well as cycling adventures betwen lakeside towns of Gisenyi, kibuye and cyangugu.
Top Cultural Adventures in Rwanda
Travelers flock to Rwanda each year to enjoy the country’s wildlife and of course the famed mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park. If you love wildlife and nature, don’t miss out Rwanda’s vast cultural options. There are enriching experiences to enjoy on your cultural tour filled with fun, food, culture and history.
Shop at the Craft Markets in Caplaki
Caplaki craft markets offer a unique shopping experience, where you watch talented Rwandan weavers, artists and craftsmen use their skills handed down through ages by their fore-fathers. Learn from them and discover their art works and handicrafts. You can spend 90 minutes time in Rwanda’s largest native craft market is found in Kigali province, Caplaki’s sprawling 38 plus stalls, neatly arranged huts beckons to both local Rwandans and tourists every day.
A visit the market is much more than buying any souvenir but rather a fantastic artistry and creativity of the local Rwandans.
You’ll find most iconic hand-made carved pieces of art from around the Great Lakes region including art work items from DRC, Uganda and Kenya, all at bargain prices. From traditional banana fiber products, fabric clothing such as African sun huts, heat resistant mats, accessory bags, baskets, and bangles, to pottery, carvings such as wooden bikes; woven bowls, to jewelry, but the most favorite is imigongo paintings. There are also books, wildlife and nature artistic scenes on display if you are traveling with children.
Live like a Rwandan at Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village
A tour to the hilly villages which are not part of the usual gorilla trek, offers an authentic experience of village life in a traditional refreshing hilly environment. Rwandans are known for their welcoming and hospitality. One way to take advantage of their friendliness character as well as learn a bit of Rwandan traditions is to stay at Iby’Iwacu cultural village, located outside volcanoes national park about 20 minutes drive from Musanze town, Northern Province. The accommodation comprises of 8 traditional huts, food is delicious and services are good for overnight stay.
Have a village walk through crop fields, learn about the original way of Rwandan lifestyle, visit the king’s house listen to old folktales and the dressing up like a king or queen is really amazing, the spiritual and traditional healer explains the medicinal herbs, cook up a local dish and dine with locals, visit BaTwa hunter gathers and see how they demonstrate their forest traditions and pottery making. The most exciting part of the experience is gathering around campfire as traditional dancers and musicians perform rare dancing styles using drums and traditional musical instruments. They also narrate their storytelling, riddles and myth.
Besides that, the village tour is dedicated to improving community conservation of gorillas and sharing of knowledge with locals and volunteers.
The local communities especially women and children around the gorillas in volcanoes national park have worked so smart to refrain from poaching and encroaching on habitats. Because people depend on agriculture and natural resources, tourism provides an alternative source of income through community based activities and tourism enterprises to minimize such threats to the survival of mountain gorillas.
Kigali City tour
This excursion is about exploring the past and present cultural and historical heritage of Kigali at the same time you’ll not miss to see the city’s top attractions and sightseeing opportunities.
Kigali is the largest and capital city of Rwanda established by a German explorer Kandt Richard in 1907 whose legacy was dedicated into a natural history museum. Much has changed of Kigali thanks to a strong political leadership, from being a small colonial town, through the destructive genocide and war to being a modern and cleanest city in Africa today.
Visit the museums and genocide memorials and treat yourself to a gruesome past of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi which left nearly a million people dead. Hotel Rwanda and Kigali genocide memorial in Gisozi are the most famous. The other memorials including Ntarama and Nyamata, rebero, Nyanza-kacukiro wall of memory as well as presidential palace museum are common stops for many tourists to pay respect to the victims.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you’ll eventually end up to Nyarutarama golf course and valley and lake for great outdoor activities such as bird watching, boat rides, cycling, playing golf, swimming, nature walks and hiking. Enjoy great views of Mount Kigali and other hills as you pass through te city center at Kiagali convention center, the Marriot boutiques are full of colorful things to buy.
You also find out more of Kigali’s best bar lounges with great music and entertainment best to be enjoyed at night when the lights shine over a thousand hills. The city also hosts several coffee shops for your afternoon cup of coffee, cafes and restaurants, milk bars to enjoy a delicious meal.
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.