Kigali, Volcanoes National Park, Nyungwe Forest National Park
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Gorillas and chimpanzees offer an irresistible invitation to explore their 700 members strong troops of colobus monkeys and rare mangabeys as Rwanda delights in bringing the unique. Handcrafted for senior travelers, this one-week safari itinerary will celebrate the country’s authenticity with a keen sense of exploration with an ease that opens up to exclusive wildlife encounters. Featuring excellent hotels and tailored activities, this will be an authentic safari adventure.
Kigali – Relaxing and Recuperating in the Capital
Rwanda has redefined itself in the last two decades as the country has distanced itself from both the damage of genocide and the preconceived image of East Africa. The first thing you will notice is the cleanliness, as there is not a scrap of garbage anywhere in Kigali. As you drive through the broad city boulevards, you will also notice the elegance of the architecture and something faintly Parisian about the townhouses that dot the city. You will be greeted at the airport and transferred to the Kigali Serena, the city’s premier five-star hotel. A one-hour spa treatment is included upon your arrival for a chance to fully relax after your flight to Rwanda. Move into the evening, and the hotel’s restaurant is one of the finest places to dine in the city, but your driver is available should you wish to venture to another restaurant in the city.
Kigali – Historical and Cultural Tour
To most outsiders, Rwanda’s history is dominated by the genocide of 1994. Taking visitors through the events that led to the genocide, the memorial provides insight into why the three-week massacre took place. The largest of all the country’s mass graves is found outside of the center, and your experience will be incredibly moving. Two further memorials will bring further insight into what happened, with bones collected in church knaves and blood smattered across destroyed church walls. The guides are people who lived through the genocide and will give you a moving and heart-wrenching idea of what took place on a mass scale.
While these memorials are not easy to view, these genocide memorials are an essential piece of Rwanda’s history. There is a sense of serenity and solitude to them, along with the knowledge that the events should not be forgotten. Visiting these memorials serves to increase your admiration for the Rwandan people and what they have created in their present and for their future. Rather than focusing on the past, Rwanda is a country that is defined by the future, is warm and welcoming, and the locals will greet you with huge smiles. Rwanda feels peaceful and inclusive, with everyone going out of their way to ensure that everybody feels at ease. The day will bring a valuable cultural experience, especially as you continue and spend the afternoon visiting markets and other Kigali sights. Throughout the afternoon, you will enjoy seeing the city’s vibrant meeting spaces, experiencing the colors and engaging with the captivating cultures of this tiny nation in the hills.
Volcanoes National Park – Legacy of Dian Fossey
Rwanda is widely recommended over Uganda for seniors’ gorilla trekking. The big advantage is the accessibility of Volcanoes National Park, just over a two-hour drive on good roads from Kigali. You will make this pleasant journey today as you wind through the Land of 1,000 Hills with stops at a variety of viewpoints on route. Slowly, you will weave beneath the rainforest canopy, and a hundred shades of green will envelop you on all sides. Mist moves liberally here, and over the next two days, there is a great chance of the iconic photo of clouds of haze swirling through the folds of the thickly forested valley.
Check into the best of Rwanda’s luxury lodges, where the verandah provides amazing views across the rainforest, and the lounge is complete with a log fire. This is the most comfortable base for a gorilla trek and will provide easy access to the trailhead. All meals and a selection of drinks are included in your lodge stay, along with the free loan of trekking gear. Your guide will know exactly what clothes and equipment should be taken into the forest, and the lodge’s supply ensures that nothing missing for your gorilla excursion tomorrow. You will be staying in a private bungalow with vintage colonial furniture, a lavish bathtub, and incredible views over the wilderness.
Spend the afternoon getting a glimpse of gorilla conservation as you visit the Gorilla Research Centre where Dian Fossey is buried beside 23 of her favorite gorillas. There is a wonderful exhibition of Fossey’s work, including manuscripts and diaries from her early days spent researching the gorillas. Look out for Fossey’s hand-drawn images of gorillas’ noses from the 1960s, and enjoy a chance to engage with the conservation efforts of the past and present. The Centre will also give you a rare insight into how the modern gorilla conservation works and thrives in this remote rainforest. Your visit to the Centre will be complemented by a visit to one of the villages on the edge of the national park. By meeting the locals, you will see how small communities are the pioneers behind the preservation of the wild mountain gorilla population.
Volcanoes National Park – Gorilla Trekking
A pair of dark eyes is seen, both dark and evocative beneath the rainforest canopy. An infant is carried along, fingers gripping tightly to its mother’s belly. Nearby, two blackback males proudly rest on four sets of knuckles, their backs arched to present the power of their front shoulders. Take a few steps closer, and you will soon see the rest of the troop with over a dozen gorillas in front of you. At first, they will watch you, returning your gaze with fierce eyes. Time will seem to stand still at this moment of silent interaction as you and the gorillas communicate from a seven-meter distance. Eventually, the gorillas will accept your presence and continue with their day, foraging through the forest and slowly moving about the clearing.
But before this hour of intimacy, you must walk. Gorilla trekking is not always easy, either in Rwanda or Uganda. The rainforest is dense and tangled, with hardly any human-made trails. For most of the walk, you have to follow forest elephant or gorilla trails as the guides slice a path using a machete. It can be muddy, hot and humid, but trackers go ahead of you and radio in the troop’s location, allowing you to walk as directly as possible. In general, the actual trekking is shorter in Rwanda than in Uganda, and more importantly for senior travelers, the park staff go out of their way to assign troops based on the fitness of visitors. By understanding the troops’ positions, the guides at Volcanoes National Park ensure that everyone can make the journey through the rainforest.
Senior travelers usually trek to the troop that’s closest to the trailhead (you can request a longer trek if you’d like). It could be just 30 minutes of walking, although you should be prepared for the walk to take between one to two hours. Porters are available to carry your day bags and are widely recommended if you have bulky camera equipment. In addition, the porters can comfortably carry people, should the need arise. It is not a race, and you can walk slowly as you admire the beauty of this hidden rainforest and appreciate the charm of your surroundings. When you reach the gorillas, you will have a full hour to enjoy their presence.
For an hour, you can admire the behavior of the gorillas with every moment providing a thrilling insight into the life of a gorilla. Youngsters play, picking open fruit and throwing it through the air. The silverback dominates, his impressive bulk complemented by an unmistakable aura. Individuals find their own space to feed, either pulling down branches or gnawing on bark. Arms wave and emotion is shared, the gorillas revealing so much through an arc of the eyes of a peculiar grin. This is one of the world’s great wildlife adventures to have an hour with the critically-endangered, biggest primates in the world. Returning to the lodge, you will find it hard not to spend the rest of the day recounting every moment of the experience. The walk back to the trailhead is normally punctuated by a stop to eat a picnic lunch provided by the lodge, and after such intimate wildlife encounters, most visitors find they have an incredible amount of energy when walking out of the park.
Nyungwe Forest National Park – Charms and Local Culture
Colors ripple across Lake Kivu as the languid body of water separates Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Villages rise above it as circles of mud brick filled with people and smiles that always provide a warm welcome. The road ascends and descends, curling towards exceptional viewpoints above the lake. It will take four hours to drive to the southwest of Rwanda as the road hugs the shores of Lake Kivu and brings some mesmeric vistas and local encounters. You will have many opportunities to stop at villages and towns along the way, with your guide acting as an interpreter as you visit everything from fish markets to schools, waterside towns to villages high in the forest. Have lunch on route, and then arrive in Nyungwe Forest by mid-afternoon where there are a number of easy hiking trails to start your adventure with the primates of the Congo Basin.
Nyungwe Forest National Park – Chimpanzee Trekking for Senior Travelers
Rwanda’s other iconic primate encounter comes with the chimpanzees that occupy the lost reaches of the Congo Basin, jumping through the trees of an equatorial rainforest that delights in its mystique. Nyungwe Forest is not as dense or as hilly as Volcanoes National Park, so even though the walk is longer, the experience is a bit easier than with the gorillas. And like the gorillas, the trekking is a huge part of the experience. It is very rare to have access to such untamed rainforest where nothing has been interrupted by man, and you must follow the pathways left behind by those on four legs. The trackers radio in the troop’s position, and you will wander deeper into the mystique while passing all manner of monkeys and mangabeys on route.
You will usually hear them before you see them, either the distant rustling of their feeding or the high-pitched shouts that they emit when excited. Keep walking, follow the noise, and then look up towards the top of the trees. The chimpanzees of Nyungwe usually occupy the forest’s higher branches and move effortlessly. From down below, you can watch them communicate and see all of the similarities that make your heart dance. Hands and feet display wonderful dexterity, eyes and mouth say so much without making a noise, and the interaction between individuals will long stay in your memory. Like the gorilla trek, you will spend an hour with the troop to watch the different behaviors unfold, and then it is an enchanting walk back through the forest to the luxury of Nyungwe Forest Lodge.
Nyungwe Forest National Park – Exploring the Monkeys and Mangabeys
L’Hoest’s monkeys jump past, impish faces shining with emotion. Colobus monkeys sit peacefully in the canopy, sometimes just a small handful of them, sometimes in troops that number in the hundreds of individuals. Strange sounds echo, their origins unknown until the guide jumps in and informs you exactly what you are listening to and how far away they are. Grey-cheeked mangabeys are found along the trail, such peculiar expressions on their puffed-out cheeks. Over a quarter of Africa’s primates can be found here, some occupying the top of the canopy, others wandering along the trail beside you.
This is pure Congo Basin rainforest, something that is inaccessible anywhere further west, such as in the Congo itself. It is remarkably accessible in Nyungwe Forest, and there will be a wide range of hiking routes you can choose for your primate trek. A attractive option for senior travelers are the two shorter loops found close to the lodge, and the highest canopy trail in East Africa with a break for lunch at Nyungwe Forest Lodge. This is the premier accommodation in the park, and a fabulous haven of tranquility that blends into the trees. Evenings on the verandah can be wonderful, with monkeys jumping past, oblivious to your presence.
Nyungwe Forest National Park – Hidden History and Departure
Return to Kigali today, your first with a stop in the small southern city of Butare, the cultural heartbeat of the nation. The palaces date to a time long before colonialism, and the Ethnographic Museum is amongst the finest museums in Africa with more opportunities to meet the locals. Arriving in Kigali, you will enjoy day-room use at the Kigali Serena before being transferred to the airport for your international departure.
- Come face to face with a wild mountain gorilla troop and spend an hour with the world’s largest primates
- Journey into the mystical world of Nyungwe Forest and rare monkeys and mangabeys will provide a day of enchantment
- Spend a day chimpanzee trekking for a unique opportunity to meet one of the Congo Basin’s wild troops
- Explore Rwanda’s complicated history with a private guide as you visit the poignant memorial sites and discover the country’s color and enthusiasm
- Go behind the scenes of gorilla research with a guided visit to the Gorilla Research Centre, along with the chance to meet some of the local communities who coexist with the gorillas
- Enjoy Rwanda’s finest accommodation, with handpicked five-star hotels and lodges throughout your itinerary
- Discover the rural charms of Rwanda on your drive from Volcanoes National Park to Nyungwe Forest as you wind along the shores of Lake Kivu and visit traditional villages
- Marvel at some of Africa’s rarest sights, including 700-strong troops of colobus monkeys and rumbustious forest elephants
- Trek for gorillas and chimpanzees with your guide on a journey that is tailored towards senior travelers to minimize the length of the trek and provide additional assistance when desired
$5,115 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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