New and Exclusive Gorilla & Chimpanzee Experiences in East Africa

A 9 day trip to Rwanda 
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Exclusive and enchanting, this is a safari of East Africa’s new primate experiences. Intimate encounters with legendary primates have evolved as you may now become part of the habituation process as you engage with the incredible wildlife.  Spend hours with researchers alongside a troop of semi-habituated gorillas, as well as a day with chimpanzees as part of your safari adventure. Explore a new national park, encounter more than a dozen species, visit a previously unknown chimpanzee troop and take part in an iconic gorilla trekking for an exclusive experience you will never forget. 

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Kigali, National Genocide Centre, Nyamata Church Genocide Memorial, Gishwati Forest, Gishwati-Mukura National Park, Volcanoes National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Kibale Forest National Park, Entebbe

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Kigali – Culture and History in the Rwandan Capital

Rwanda’s capital is full of surprise and charm, always lingering long in the memory. Markets are laden with an atmosphere as fresh as the fruit that fills the stalls while the cleanliness is remarkable, far exceeding almost any city in the world. Locals are keen to share stories, and an old French influence is seen in the cafes. You are greeted at the airport and have a private guide for the day who can customize a tour to your interests. The National Genocide Centre provides essential viewing for an understanding of the context in the lead up to the events of 1994. More personal and moving is the Nyamata Church Memorial, a building left untouched, stacked full of bones and bloodied rags. There is also the modern face of Kigali to explore, like cocktails around a pool and a couple of outstanding restaurants for the evening.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation, tour, dinner

Day 2: Gishwati-Mukuru National Park – Monkeys of East Africa’s Newest National Park

The journey west provides a window onto rural Rwanda as you weave up and down the hills of this small, picturesque nation. You will pass villages of circular huts, pastoral fields that cling to steep slopes, and then disappear beneath the canopy of East Africa’s newest national park. The gazetting of Gishwati-Mukura National Park ensures an unbroken channel of wilderness that stretches the length of western Rwanda, connecting Volcanoes and Nyungwe Forest National Parks. Your private guide will lead you on the forest trails, tailoring the adventure to your energy levels.

Look high into the canopy to find black and white colobus monkeys, their long tails stretching down beneath inquisitive faces. Admire the brilliant white ruff that marks out the L’Hoest’s monkey. Search for blue monkeys, whip-like tails making them sublime climbers easy to recognize as they cross the high clearings. They are not actually blue, but golden monkeys have blue faces, another of the iconic primates you can spot in this park of biodiversity. The park was gazetted in 2015, and your lodge opened in 2017, the only accommodation in this mostly unexplored landscape.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Gishwati-Mukuru National Park to Volcanoes National Park – New and Exclusive Chimpanzee Trekking

The rhythm of life is irrepressible all across Africa. Families change and battles take place, old males are pushed out, and young infants may not survive. In the Gishwati Forest, you will encounter the rhythm’s most enthusiastic cadence with troops of chimpanzees that are flourishing after being on the brink of decimation. You can feel the energy and sense the enthusiasm. In many ways, the troop is a symbol of wider Rwanda, thriving after tragedy. 

Only those guests staying at the lodge are permitted to go chimpanzee trekking in this national park. Passing the monkeys, you can journey into the forest depths, where the chimps are known to occupy the canopy and the clearings. This troop is growing, providing an exceptional opportunity to witness infant chimpanzees. Playful and poignant, they gaze back at you, faces full of animation and adventure. You can spend an hour with the troop, although this is very loosely observed as the exclusivity of this chimpanzee trek is already minimizing the impact on the troop. Dependent on the troop’s location, you may eat a picnic on the trail or back at the lodge. After the trek, you will be transferred north to Volcanoes National Park to prepare for the next day’s gorilla trekking.

What’s Included: accommodation, trekking, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Volcanoes National Park – Rwanda Gorilla Trekking

A silverback stands, towering above the troop with shimmering black fur juxtaposed with the green of the forest. A juvenile looks at you through deep-set black eyes, a look of concentration on his face. As a dozen gorillas come into view, you can take a few more steps forward. Gorilla trekking is Rwanda’s most iconic experience, with ten different troops habituated to human presence in Volcanoes National Park. With gorilla trekking, you are virtually guaranteed to enjoy an intimacy with the world’s largest primates thanks to trackers working alongside your guides.

Following muddy trails, you will ascend into the gorillas’ realm to savor an hour with one of the wild troops from a distance of seven meters. You get close. Close enough to return a stare, close enough to watch individual hairs ripple, close enough to feel any tensions amongst members of the troop. Walking back to the lodge, you will still be trying to comprehend the intensity of the experience with such giant critically-endangered animals seen from such close proximity. As you relax at the lodge, the mist starts to swirl around the forest, completing the feeling of inimitability in this remote corner of East Africa.

What’s Included: accommodation, trekking, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Volcanoes National Park to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – Weaving Through the Rural Landscapes of Remote East Africa

The one thousand or so wild mountain gorillas occupy a small piece of Africa, the forests of Bwindi, Volcanoes National Park, and the DRC are clustered together. Their realm is now broken, and the gorillas cannot travel from one landscape to another as they must have done for many centuries. However, the whole area remains wonderfully rural and picturesque, the greenery enveloping on all side during today’s journey for a relaxed half-day drive across to Uganda. A driver will take you to the border and assist with immigration, and you will then meet your Ugandan guide on the opposite side to complete your journey through a delightful landscape. Relax at a new lodge on the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, resting your legs before the gorilla habituation experience the next morning.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – New and Astonishing Gorilla Habituation Experience

Set off on the trail in Bwindi and the initial experience is similar to the one you had in Volcanoes National Park. Guides slice open the trail with their machetes, and you will get a sense of an expedition into the unknown. But the gorillas you are meeting today are not habituated to human presence. They are still being habituated, part of a three to five-year process that gets them fully accustomed to visitors. You are with the researchers, analyzing and admiring the behavior as it takes place. Surprise is inherent as the gorillas’ reaction to you cannot be predicted. Sometimes they may hide as the giant primates are naturally bashful creatures, and certainly animals that desire peace and quiet. They may also assert dominance for a show of power that keeps you at a safe distance.

On this new and exclusive gorilla habituation experience, you are unlikely to get as close as on a gorilla trek. As the troop is only semi-habituated, you must stay further back and watch patiently. However, the group size is only four trekkers, and you will spend up to four hours with the troop. This prolonged length of time allows a more complete appreciation of gorilla behavior, enabling you to watch scenes play out during the day. Not many people have ever seen the troop before, and their photos are not already over the internet. Sitting silently in the forest, you will enjoy this uninterrupted access to a troop and their intimacies, something that has only been possible since the middle of 2017. While you get four hours with the gorillas, it is well worth gorilla trekking beforehand so that you can get the iconic photos and thrilling moments before this slower and more immersive experience.

What’s Included: accommodation, trekking, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: Kibale Forest National Park – More Monkeys and Mangabeys Beneath the Volcanic Peaks

A short flight offers a view onto the volcanic forests of Central Africa, with whitened peaks standing above slopes of dark green. You will soar across an open savannah and the burning orange color of the Ugandan earth, with the forests stretched out to your west. Touch down in Kibale Forest where you will have a private guide for the day. Dozens of trails crisscross through the park, offering everything from one-hour introductory walks to six-hour adventures up to crater lakes and very rural villages. Whichever you take, there are primates to find, as well as over ten different monkeys and mangabeys.

What’s Included: accommodation, flight, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Kibale Forest National Park – Joining the Researchers Habituating a Chimpanzee Troop

Completing your suite of exclusive primate experiences is a unique chance to join chimpanzee researchers in Kibale Forest National Park. The researchers are also habituating troops, a slow process that allows them to understand the intricacies and intimacies of behavior. You can join them for a day, following a tracker’s radio calls to find the troop, usually found deep within the depths of the forest. As with the gorillas, there is always a great element of surprise. The chimps could be skittish, mischievous, inquisitive or interested. They may be high in the trees, not coming down from their dens. But as you get to spend most of day with the troop there’s a very good probability that you’ll see the chimpanzees around the lower echelons of the forest and in a forest clearing.

Marvel at the faces, so redolent with emotion. Admire the fingers and toes, so nimble and dexterous. Having more time with the chimps enables you to focus on different members of the troop, identifying marks and actions that distinguish them from others. This is a crucial part of the habituation process, allowing researchers to keep track of the chimpanzee populations. While there are opportunities for photos, this experience is different as you must be patient and keep your distance, which is much easier if you have had a previous experience with these animals.

What’s Included: accommodation, trekking, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: Kibale Forest National Park to Entebbe – Departure

After a relaxed morning at the lodge, you will fly from an airstrip near Kibale, touching down in Entebbe an hour later. Here you will board your homebound flight with incredible memories to take along with you.

What’s Included: flight, transfer, breakfast 

Price

Price 

Your custom trip package will include accommodations, transportation within the country, guided tours and activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24X7 support during your trip. 

Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates!