Rwanda is becoming famous for mountain gorilla safaris in the Volcanoes and later you can add on other great wildlife destinations such as the primate-packed Nyungwe Forest National Park offering fantastic chimpanzee and birding safaris that can be combined with gorilla trekking tours. In addition, Lake Kivu and Akagera National Park offer everything from beautiful views, excellent hiking and spectacular canopy tours to Big 5 game drives.
The opportunity to see gorillas in their natural habitat are unforgettable and life changing. Encounters with gorillas as they go about their daily lives are carefully managed, with expert trackers and guides leading small groups of tourists up bamboo-covered slopes to spend a precious and awe-inspiring hour just a few feet away from the gentle creatures.
There are twelve gorilla families living in the Volcanoes National Park, which are fully habituated, with a few others habituated solely for scientific research. The groups, or troops, consist of at least one silver back along with several females and youngsters.
Eight tracking permits are issued per troop per day at $1500 each, meaning the encounter is as intimate and as unobtrusive as possible. With only 96 permits available each day in Rwanda, it is highly recommended to book in advance, with us.
You gather at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters in Kinigi at 7am, and are allocated a family group on the day according to fitness levels, as well as being briefed on protocols and rules for gorilla treks in the wild. Allowed to spend only one hour with the gorillas then after receive a certificate for trekking gorillas as a thank you for your great support to the conservation of these apes.
10% of the revenue from the permits is channeled towards local communities, to build schools and health centres, as well as roads. There is a compensation fund for local farmers should any gorillas damage their crops, which helps to ensure peaceful co-existence.
After the gorilla tours encounter, go for one of the oldest rain forests in Africa, Nyungwe is rich in biodiversity and spectacularly beautiful. The mountainous region is teaming with wildlife, including a small population of chimpanzees as well as 12 other species of primate, including the L’Hoest’s monkey endemic to the Albertine Rift.
Chimpanzee trekking also starts in the morning and the activity is conducted in groups of a maximum of eight (8) people just as it is with gorilla trekking. These chimps at Nyungwe forest have been and are being habituated which means that they are used to human beings. The Nyungwe forest national park receives a very large number of tourists annually who come to meet face to face and spend time with the chimpanzees’ man’s closest living relative observing them as they play.
There are more 13 primate species that are found in Nyungwe forest, including very occasional sighting of the golden monkeys that have been reported Nyungwe forest is also popular for its large numbers of colobus monkeys, in addition to other species like the grey cheeked Mangabeys and Ruwenzori colobus Monkeys. The colobus monkeys can also be seen in large troops of up to 300 monkeys.
Join the first tree top forest canopy walk in the whole of East Africa and the third in all Africa. In case you are coming to Rwanda to trek the mountain gorillas, you can add on some days and include Nyungwe forest Safari on your itinerary and enjoy the canopy walk as part of your gorilla safari schedule. This canopy walk is 50 meters above the ground and this can also be dizzying heights for some people.
You will see the monkeys move around in the tree tops, the birds that are flying above you and below you and a beautiful view of the huge Nyungwe forest. Watch 300 bird species and 27 of them are endemics and are part of the species that are found in the forests of the Albertine rift.
After all these continue to Akagera national park for the big five game drive. Akagera National Park is Rwanda’s only Big Five destination, which means that it hosts populations of lion, leopard, elephant, black rhino and buffalo. The reintroduction of lions in 2015 and black rhino in 2017 makes it a big five safari destination.
Big Five aside, the park offers great general wildlife viewing, with the likes of Maasai giraffe, Burchell’s zebra, warthog, olive baboon, vervet monkey and 11 species of antelope are all regularly seen on game drives. Easily explored by boat, the lakes of Akagera also host plenty of hippos and crocs, and a wide variety of water birds including the iconic shoe bill.
The park also created a behind-the-scenes excursion that offers travelers more insights into conservation developments within the park, while the “walk the line” experience enables travelers to spend a morning walking a mile in the shoes of the fence attendants. This walk, starting at the park entrance, takes travelers almost four and a half miles into the hills, following the fence on the outside of the park.
For those travelers looking for a cultural experience, the park has developed a number of them in conjunction with the local communities. Travelers can visit a farm for milking and learn about the culture and traditions around cattle and milk in the eastern province. Or they can visit a banana-beer maker or a honey cooperative and see how these products are made locally. Revenue is shared with the community members visited.