Rwanda has long been seen as the premiere destination for gorilla tracking, but today more than ever there are dozens of reasons to extend your stay, starting with the 13 species of primates and East Africa’s only canopy walk, all to be found in the dense rain forests of Nyungwe Forest National Park. Still, it’s hardly a surprise that Rwanda developed its reputation for Gorillas—experts estimate that there are only 780 mountain gorillas still in existence in Rwanda and one third of these majestic creatures can be found in Volcanoes National Park alone. With the recent reintroduction of lions to Akagera National Park in the East, Rwanda has truly come into its own as a full-fledged safari destination, and it’s not even a one day drive between each of these world-class attractions.
Outside of the national parks, visitors can check out (or even participate in) a traditional dance, tour one of Rwanda’s dozens of world-class tea and coffee plantations, and take a dip in Lake Kivu, all in the same day. After all that, soak up the real Rwanda with a hike through lakeside villages on the Congo Nile trail, pull out the binoculars to take a gander at the hundreds of species on Rwanda’s ornithological checklist, or just get out on the water and hook a few fish for your evening brochettes. After all that, save some time for Kigali’s vibrant dining scene, dozens of historic museums, memorials, and churches, and forward-looking population just waiting to welcome you to their home.
Gorilla tracking in Rwanda is often described as “life changing” and with good reason. With only an estimated 100,000 Gorillas left in the world, to see these gentle creatures in their natural habitat is a truly unique moment.
Gorillas make their homes in and amongst the bamboo-covered slopes of the Virunga Mountains in the Volcanoes National Park in Northern Rwanda. Trek to see them and you’ll be introduced by your expert trackers and guides to one of the fully-habituated families of mountain gorillas and you can stay with them for an awe-inspiring hour, often crouching just a few feet away, whilst the gorillas go about their daily lives.
Beyond the gorillas that made Rwanda famous, wildlife junkies will be thrilled to know that they can track three more species of primate on their Rwandan holiday: Chimpanzees, Guereza colobus, and the endangered Golden monkey. Chimpanzee groups live high in the canopy of Nyungwe National Park, and catching your first glimpse of one crashing through the forest after hiking into their territory is nothing short of astonishing. The Guereza colobus live in Nyungwe as well, and these resplendent, long-haired creatures are every wildlife photographer’s dream. Finally, like their neighbors the gorillas, the Golden monkey can be found in very few places outside of Volcanoes National Park, and their rich colors, energetic demeanor, and sizable troupes of up to 30 individuals are truly a sight to behold. The gorillas may be what brought you to Rwanda, but it would be an absolute shame to leave without seeing any of the wonderful creatures they share a home with.
When it comes to birding, Rwanda is amongst Africa’s most exciting destinations – within this relatively small and compact country, there over 1450 bird species of which 27 are Albertine Rift endemics.
Highlights include the Red-Faced Barbet, Shoe-bill Stork, Bennett’s Woodpecker, Papyrus Gonolek and the Miombo Wren-Warblers.
Rwanda has seven Important Birding Areas (IBAs) including the three National Parks—Volcanoes, Akagera and Nyungwe. The other IBAs are at: Rugezi Swamp, Akanyaru, Nyabarongo and Cyamudongo.
Get lost along the lake in Rwanda’s wildest corner.
The Congo Nile Trail is a trail along Lake Kivu that extends from Rubavu, continues through Rutsiro via the Karongi, Nyamasheke districts and ends at Rusizi District.
227 km (141 miles) of beautiful landscapes, including rolling hills and clear water. The entire trek can be completed in a 10- day hike. However, the trip can be done in sections if travelers do not have the time to complete the entire trail. Trails give stunning views of the Lake Kivu coastline and offer adventurous travelers an exciting way to discover Rwanda.
Akagera is located approximately 110 km from Kigali. The majority of the way is paved, and the last 28 km are on a dirt road, therefore it is recommended to have a 4×4. For self-drive safaris, there is no need to book. Cars are available for hire, there is one 7-seater game viewing vehicle which can be hired out for either a half or full day, all which includes the vehicle, driver and guide.