Intimate and evocative, the wildlife of Rwanda is incomparable. Gorilla troops are hidden in the equatorial rainforest, lions and elephants are seen crossing the savannah while chimpanzees and endangered mangabeys are nestled in the forests of the Congo Basin. This grand Rwandan safari will explore both the world-famous highlights and the unknown destinations, taking in four national parks for a truly authentic Rwandan experience.
Kigali – A Captivating Day in the Capital City
Kigali will provide a gentle introduction to Rwanda as the compact and charming capital city is easy on the eyes and far from the bustle of other big cities in East Africa. You will be greeted at Kigali International Airport and spend the day exploring this captivating little city, starting with some of its flamboyant markets. Locals will greet you as stalls spill into the alleyways, smiles, and colors create a welcoming atmosphere, and it all makes for a great introduction to the positivity and enthusiasm of the Rwandan people. From here, you will visit the National Genocide Memorial, a poignant and contemplative insight into where the country came from, just over 20 years ago, and will evoke a real admiration for the country and its people.
Volcanoes National Park – Explore Rwanda’s History and Move Into the Rainforest
On the route out of Kigali, there are two heart-wrenching yet incredibly important memorials. Both are churches left untouched since 1994, with bloodstains on the walls and human bones piled up beneath torn rags. Locals who lived through what happened will explain, and you will take a solemn look at what happened during the genocide. It will be a moving experience that will only intensify your respect for the friendly country that has since been created by its people. A two-hour drive through the hills to Volcanoes National Park will put you in time for a leisurely lunch at the lodge, and then you can spend the afternoon exploring local walking trails to get accustomed to the beautiful atmosphere of the equatorial forest. Monkeys chirp and green hues blur together as every step will reveal the ambiance of the wild.
Volcanoes National Park – Trek the With Gorillas
The canopy will close in, and the roots will get thicker as they hang across the trail. Javelins of light reflect off of the strange creepers, and the sound of hooting monkeys will echo through the trees. You will be deep in the rainforest, consumed by the sights and smells of the gorillas’ realm. Your trek to the troop is a huge part of the experience and an opportunity to travel deep into a lost, mystical world. Mist often swirls as you ascend and descend across these forested volcanic hills, each step taking you deeper into the unknown. And then suddenly, you will glimpse them, a shock of black suggesting that the gorillas are close. Keep walking as you follow the troop’s trail, sensing just how close you are to the world’s largest primate.
A gorilla will likely greet you, returning your gaze with a fierce stare. Two others will come to say hello, their contemplative looks immediately imbuing respect. Take a few more steps closer, coming to just seven meters from the gorillas. Now the whole troop is staring at you, their eyes inspecting, their faces glistening with curiosity. These first few moments are very special, a form of silent interaction playing out between you and the troop. Then the atmosphere settles and a calm comes over. Infants are playing, a giant silverback is pulling down branches, and two gorillas are in the trees above your head. You will feel almost too close, part of you wanting to back away rather than get closer. For an hour, you can watch the behavior and the expressions of the troop. There is so much to take in, and so much to photograph, which is why you will have such a great feeling as you walk back to the trailhead knowing that you will be repeating the experience tomorrow.
Volcanoes National Park – Get to Know a Second Gorilla Troop
This troop will be different as it is dominated by two silverbacks, the iconic giants with jets of shimmering white fur across their backs. The gorillas walk on four knuckles, the ground reverberating with every step. Your gaze is taken by another three gorillas who seem intent on mischief. After picking decomposing fruit off the floor, their scrunched-up faces reveal what they think of the smell. Then the gorillas squash the fruit and start throwing it, a food fight in the forest that comes with all manners of curious and charming looks. But their mother puts a stop to this game, a single ferocious glance getting everyone to cease their fun.
Every gorilla trek is different as there are no standard trails in the forest. Today you will follow the different trails made by the gorillas and forest elephants and spend a full hour with a different gorilla troop. There will be new behaviors to witness, a whole new family to encounter, and double the chance of seeing the most iconic of scenes as the silverbacks beat their chest. There are few more intimate wildlife experiences on the planet, no fences or barriers, just you and a troop of wild mountain gorillas. The trekking can be challenging although porters are available and are accustomed to carrying trekkers when required. Your lodge will provide a luxurious base where you can put your feet up with a roaring fire to accompany an evening of fine dining.
Kibuye – Explore Rwanda’s New National Park
Before the fallout of the 1994 genocide, there was an unbroken wildlife corridor along the west of Rwanda. The opening of Gishwati-Mukura National Park in 2016 is helping to return this part of the country to its most pristine state. Evocative and enchanting, these connected Congo Basin forests can provide a haven for over a quarter of Africa’s primate species. Over time, the abundance of life will increase, with animals migrating from Nyungwe to the south, Bwindi to the north, and forests further west in the Congo. For now, there’s a feeling of exclusivity and surprise as you are amongst the first to explore this relatively new national park. Spend the day here with one of the local guides to walk into a world that few foreigners have ever ventured into. Grey-cheeked mangabeys and L’Hoest’s monkeys are among the rare species you will find in the trees, and since there are not any lodges in the park yet, you will continue for one hour to Kibuye after your trek and spend the night on the shores of Lake Kivu.
Kibuye – Enjoy the Quiet Charms and the Islands of Lake Kivu
Lake Kivu will provide a serene interlude from your time spent walking in the rainforest. Volcanic mountains provide the backdrop, and on a clear day, you can gaze across the water to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Spend a relaxed morning at the lodge to wander along the lakeshore, and set off towards the lost islands on the lake. You will be paddled towards Napoleon Island, where a colony of fruit bats provides a new wildlife experience, and then stop at One Bar Island, aptly named because it is completely deserted apart from one bar. This will be a very relaxed day, dominated by the charms of the water, and will give you time to reenergize before enjoying the walking trails of the nearby Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Nyungwe Forest National Park – Visit the Monkeys
You can hear them coming as branches crack, trees rustle, and strange chirps ring out towards the lodge. First, it is just a few with their tails curling down from the canopy, but then you see dozens as the colobus monkeys are feeding and foraging as they make the daily journey through the forest. Suddenly, the monkeys number in the hundreds and the astonishing troop of primates will take 30 minutes to swing past your lodge. The 700-strong troops of colobus monkeys are just one highlight in Nyungwe Forest, a dense forest landscape in the far southwest of Rwanda. You will arrive around mid-morning and have a choice between a number of guided walking trails, each able to bring intimacy with up to a dozen different species, and over a thousand inspiring individuals.
Nyungwe Forest National Park – Trek for Chimpanzees
Chimpanzees are Nyungwe’s most famous highlight as they occupy the higher reaches of the canopy, playful and poignant as they swing deeper into the wilderness. As with the gorillas, a trek will enable you to spend an hour with the troop. Often they are seen from a greater distance, as it is rare for Nyungwe’s chimpanzees to come down to ground level. But even when they are really high up, there is a wonderful sense of familiarity. Fingers curl, eyes seem to speak, foreheads frown with confusion and every second brings a new emotion, wonderfully told through their reflective grins. Every moment creates a certain kinship, especially when you are with a large family troop.
Nyungwe Forest National Park – Track for Primates
Grey-cheeked mangabeys will impishly return your gaze as golden monkeys seem to glow in the gloomy light beneath the canopy. Distant hoots alert you to another species that is found in abundance, the L’Hoest’s monkey. Birdlife is also remarkable and ranges from great blue turacos to giant hornbills and red-breasted sparrowhawks. As many as 27 endemic species can be spotted, each as unique as the next. Walk across East Africa’s highest canopy trail, or climb the Bigugu Trail to a mountain that rises 2,950 meters above Rwanda. Or stick to the trails closer to the lodge, easier options that still create wonderful experiences with a whole host of birds and primates. The day’s plan is completely flexible, and your guide will outline the potential options for a day spent walking in the rainforest.
Akagera National Park – Take a Fabulous Aerial Safari
Rwanda is remarkable from above as the volcanic peaks stand majestic above an endless expanse of rolling green hills. Your light aircraft flight to Akagera will provide outstanding visuals as the country’s dense hills will be perfectly illuminated beneath the wingtips. Only in far eastern Rwanda does the landscape change, the soft yellow colors of the East African savanna taking over. This is Akagera National Park, more closely resembling the Masai Mara than anywhere else in Rwanda. Touch down and spend your afternoon on a unique behind the scenes experience with the park’s rangers. The rangers will know where the lions hang out, which rocks are favored by rare antelope, and exactly where the hippos will emerge from the water. They also provide an excellent insight into the world of wildlife conservation, told through their intimate knowledge of habitats and threats. Not only does this provide a great introduction to East African big-game safari, but it helps you to see more than just the famous safari photos.
Akagera National Park – Journey on a Game Drive
Follow the paw prints and find a lion pride drinking at the waterhole. Track the swinging trunk and get a feel for the movement of nomadic elephants. Stop beside a herd of zebra, and then turn around to see a snarling hyena’s face. Spend the whole day game driving across Akagera National Park and immerse yourself in the savanna. Masai giraffe lope past, waterbuck, and reedbuck provide contrasting memories and watch as large herds of impala and topi skip by. Buffalo may block the trail while the dramatic horns of sable antelope will capture your attention. You will drive around plains and along the lakeshore on a full-day excursion to take in the diversity of this pristine little park. After dinner back at your lodge, there will be the opportunity for a short nighttime drive and a rare look at the nocturnal world of the savanna.
Akagera National Park – See Rwanda’s Big Game
Spend the first hour of your day walking to explore the savanna around your lodge and take in the ungulates from a new perspective. Burchell’s zebra are not scared by your presence, and you will stand just meters from their stripes. Eland and oribi are fully appreciated when you are on the ground level, and the nearby buffalo and roan antelope will make for spine-tingling encounters. Throughout the rest of the day, you can mix game drives with a boat safari along the shores of Lake Ihema for an excellent way to get close to hippos and discover the park’s diverse birdlife. Throughout your three days at Akagera, there will be options to fully tailor the itinerary to allow for more focus on nighttime drives or boat safaris dependent on your preferences. On all three days, your safari experience will continue at the lodge with all manner of animals wandering past throughout the day and night.
Kigali – Departure
Wake up to nature’s soundtrack and spend your morning observing the animals from your verandah with so much to see without ever leaving the grounds of your lodge. Your private transfer will take you on your two-hour drive back to Kigali for your departure out of Kigali International.
- Spend an hour with the world’s largest primates on an enchanting gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park
- Explore East Africa’s newest national park and find rare monkey species in the Gishwati-Mukura forests
- Game drive across the thrilling big-game savannah, coming face to face with elephants, lions, and hippos
- Go chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest for an hour with some of Rwanda’s rare and endangered primates
- Discover the East African savannah from multiple perspectives with both walking and boat safaris in Akagera National Park
- Find out how every troop is different with a second gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park with an opportunity to come within seven meters of these precious giants
- Relax on the shores of Lake Kivu and spend a day paddling out to its bird and bat-filled islands
- Take walks through the fabulous equatorial rainforest for journeys that bring intimate encounters with different monkeys, mangabeys, and an incredible assortment of exotic birdlife
- Uncover the real story behind Rwanda’s history with a day in the capital city of Kigali and contemplative visits to some of the country’s memorials
$8,315 per person (excluding international flights)
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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