Is your dream seeing mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, or you’re more focused on enjoying your natural surroundings, communing with nature, and sleeping under the stars? Do you love the idea of wanting to know the Batwa/pygmy culture? A walking safari with Gorilla Safaris Tours is the most magical way to get to Rwanda’s “Land of a Thousand Hills” visiting Akagera National Park for wildlife and boat cruise safari, Chimpanzees and other primates in Nyungwe Forest National Park and mountain gorillas and the Batwa people in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
For visitors interested in seeing Mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, gorilla safaris tours offers one of the best locations for gorilla trekking tours. In Volcanoes National Park, there are about 12 habituated gorilla families living on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes that you can trek to see. Gorilla trekking takes places in the morning after your breakfast and departs from the park headquarters. Prior to departure you are given a briefing by park staff, assigned a gorilla family to visit and rangers to guide you. The gorilla treks take place on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes and visitors should be in good physical condition as some of the treks can be physically demanding.
Searching for mountain gorillas normally start in the cultivated land on the base of the volcanoes and then you are guided up into the dense rain forest. The treks normally last between 2 to 8 hours depending on the location of the gorilla family and a maximum of 8 eight visitors are allowed per gorilla family. Once you find the gorillas, you are allowed to stay for one hour to observe them. The minimum age for mountain gorilla trekking is 15 years. Gorilla permits currently cost $1500 USD per person per trek.
For those interested visiting Dian Fossey’s original scientific base Karisoke, a trek is available from the Volcanoes National Park headquarters. Fossey traveled to Rwanda in 1967, where she established the Karisoke Research Centre between the slopes of Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke. Fossey developed methods to habituate mountain gorillas to humans and was able to stay in the middle of a group without disturbing the animals. All the remains today is the graveyard where several of Dian Fossey’s favourite gorillas were buried. Dian Fossey is also buried near the graves of her beloved gorillas.
The trek to Karisoke research camp takes around 3-4 hours and takes you through the beautiful trails of Volcanoes National Park. The park fee for Karisoke trek is currently $75 per person which includes the fee for the guide. The trek starts from the par headquarters in Kinigi from where visitors will have to drive to the starting point for the trek and porters can be hired from here.
Rwanda is also home to numerous rare primates most of which can be found in the south-west Nyungwe Forest National Park. The forest is best known for its large troops of chimpanzee but it also home to other 12 primate species including L’Hoest’s monkeys, Vervet monkeys, black and white Colobus monkeys, grey-checked mangabey, and a range of others, along with around 300 bird species. Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest start from three reception centres, which is Uwinka, Kitabi and Gisakura where visitors meet the park rangers for a short briefing about the chimps. Pre – trackers are ahead of you to find the habituated chimps in the forest.
The chimps move daily and make their nests in a new area just like mountain gorillas do. The tracker start at the location where the day before and find today’s spot where the chimpanzees have moved to. While you are in search of the chimps, you will most likely other primates that are residents the forest such as black and white Colobus monkeys, grey checked mangabey, L’Hoest monkeys among others. Before you come across the chimp, you will hear the hoot, screams and cackles. You get to spend 1 hour with chimps as you take amazing photos and video. The one hour you spend with creatures lives you with a-once-in-a-life time experience. Take a canopy walk across a metal suspension bridge floating some 50 metres above the forest for the ultimate gorilla tour in Rwanda. Spend a few nights at the beautiful 12 room Top View Hotel overlooking Nyungwe and Lake Kivu. You will love the view from you private hillside veranda.
Not leaving out Rwanda’s wildlife national park, Akagera, it is located in the north east of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. The park is named after Akagera River that flows along its eastern boundary and feeds into a labyrinth of lakes of which the largest is Lake Ihema. The park has exceptional levels of biodiversity and forms the largest protected wetland in central Africa. Akagera National Park is home to many large plains game species as well as species restricted to the papyrus swamps such as the Sitatunga and the sought after shoe bill stork. The park offers game drives early in the morning as well as in the afternoon. The drives will offer you a chance to elephants, buffalo, Topi, zebra, water buck, roan antelope and eland.
Other antelope are duiker, Oribi, reed buck, klipspringer, bush buck and impala. Of the primates, olive baboons, Vervet and the secretive blue monkey are seen during the day with bush babies often seen on night drives. Akagera National Park also offers night game drives with a spot light to view wildlife of the night that are found in this park. The night game drive offers an opportunity to view predators on the prowl as they look for dinner. Of the larger predators, you may spot leopard, hyena, side-striped jackal and lion.
The park also offers a variation on the usual safari experience, a boat trip on Lake Ihema will not disappoint. Drift along the forest-fringed lake edge, past huddles of hippo, basking crocodiles and water birds. The boat trips offer you a closer view of the water loving animals. You may also spot the elephants and buffaloes that come to drink water.