One-Week Highlights of Rwanda Safari Tour 2019

A 8 day trip to Rwanda 
4.25 out of 5 stars
4 reviews

Black rhinos returning, lions thriving and chimpanzees just habituated are just a few of the highlights found in a new national park in Rwanda.  With a gorilla population that is stronger than it has been for centuries, 2019 is the year to visit Rwanda. Best of all, this is the time to explore while tourists remain relatively thin on the ground. Connecting Rwanda’s old favorites and new experiences too, this signature safari will also celebrate the remarkable story of a country that has exceeded all expectations in its regeneration. 

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Kigali, Kimironko Market, National Genocide Centre, Nyamata Church Genocide Memorial, Murambi Genocide Memorial Site, Akagera National Park, Volcanoes National Park, Gishwati-Mukura National Park, Gishwati Forest, Mukura Forest

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Kigali – A City and a Country Transformed: 24 Years On

Rwanda’s progress is remarkable. The country is clean and green, where plastic bags are illegal, and nothing ever looks out of place on the streets. The vibrancy you associate with East Africa – colorful dresses, beaming smiles, a gregarious atmosphere on the streets – is enhanced by a modern touch, especially in capital city Kigali. In your first two hours, you will be nearly unable to imagine that this is a country ravaged so recently. Make a stop at Kimironko Market to absorb the smiles and smells, along with the shouts of traders that flutter past laden stalls. Enjoy lunch at one of the up and coming restaurants in the city, where the food is building on the nourishment of tradition.

Through the afternoon, you will visit three genocide memorials, each with a different angle on the story to give you a complete perspective. The National Genocide Centre provides context, detailing the events leading up to the tragedy, pulling no punches in its vehement criticism of the UN and the broader international community. Beneath the ground are the bodies of more than 250,000, just one insight into the scale. At Nyamata Church and Murambi, you will witness what took place as clothes hang from rafters, blood stains cover walls, bones are stacked in piles while survivors narrate the tales, and it will be difficult not to be moved to tears, standing in these haunting places untouched since 1994. There is also the heartwarming element as when you look at the past, you can appreciate just how far Rwanda has moved forward. The evening is free as you settle in from any jet lag, and your hotel has an excellent restaurant at your disposal.

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

Day 2: Akagera National Park – Beauty of the Savannah: An Iconic East Africa Safari

Weaving east through The Land of a Thousand Hills you come upon the savannah. A single glance over Akagera, and it will look like the East Africa of your imagination with zebra skipping through the grass and an elephant in the distance. Start your exploration in the swamps that sustain life here, taking a boat past the hippos. The hippos will grunt and growl as you pass, a couple of males barging around as the females lie and watch. Hundreds of bird species, many of them endemic, flutter around the edges of the swamps for more delights to enjoy as herds of gazelle drink from the banks.

After a late lunch at the lodge, you can spend the afternoon on a game drive that is focused on the classic drama of the savannah. Lions were reintroduced to Akagera in 2015, and their population has doubled, thriving from the lack of predatory competition. Track them as they prowl while impala and zebra fearfully graze whenever they approach higher grass. A giraffe wanders past, a few more elephants, then a herd of buffalo bustles by. You will be close enough to hear them exhaling, and close enough to watch the dust fly as two males lock horns in battle. Continue the drive until dusk, and then relax at a camp perched above the savannah with endless views made even more special by being able to see some of the Big Five direct from your verandah.

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

Day 3: Akagera National Park – A Remarkable Homecoming: Meeting the Black Rhinos That Have Been Reintroduced to Rwanda

Akagera’s Big Five status has returned with the reintroduction of black rhinos. South Africa provided a haven for many eastern black rhinos throughout the 1980s and 1990s, keeping rhinos safe as poaching thrived during the conflict. In May 2017, some of these rhinos returned to Rwanda, a daring piece of conservationism that provides remarkable rewards to visitors. Two might scamper past and emanate an elegance that you would not expect when first encountering their sheer size. It could be a mother and her calf, moving at a trot as they disappear into the bushes. Keep searching, and you may find more of these bashful animals, especially in the morning hour as through the afternoon they prefer to hide away in the shade.

While your focus is on the rhinos, you will keep encountering the rest of the Akagera cast, but in the afternoon, there is a choice of two activities that can enhance your understanding of the park. Walking safaris can bring you onto the savannah with the ungulates, with a unique behind the scenes look at park headquarters will reveal the work that has been involved in returning this park to its former glory. Researchers and conservationists lead this tour, their knowledge of the landscape always an inspiration. As the afternoon sun starts to fade, you will be back in your safari vehicle, driving towards lions and leopards as they begin their evening journeys.

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

Day 4: Volcanoes National Park – Sublime Flight Between the Game and the Gorillas

A chartered flight can connect distant wildernesses and offers a different view of the country. The region is so remote that the first non-Africans to ever set foot in Rwanda came years after the country had been designated a German territory, just one part of a baffling history that created foundations for what happened in 1994. Hills twist and turn, spines of green are punctuated by small villages and rolling escarpments. Most of the roads are asphalt – just part of the transformation – but you still see snippets of the orange earth that provides such a perfect color contrast. The small plane offers a window onto the landscape and only takes an hour instead of more than five hours by road.

Touch down and spend your afternoon exploring the ongoing legacy of Dian Fossey. Gorilla populations are thriving in Rwanda, and they have some very unique means of preserving the land. At the research center, you can visit Fossey’s grave, which is alongside some of her favorite gorillas. There is also an exhibit of her belongings, including the handwritten notes she made in the 60s and 70s. Then a conservationist leads further discovery, bringing you to meet a village that is also thriving as a result of managing land use between gorillas and people. Spend the night at a lodge overlooking the forest, one of the finest luxury establishments in East Africa.

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

Day 5: Volcanoes National Park – The Eternal Wonder of Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla trekking is the longstanding highlight of Rwanda as it is only possible here and in neighboring Uganda. The experience will always feel exclusive as with only around a thousand mountain gorillas left, you will find yourself so close to an entire troop. In a group of no more than eight, you will trek into a dark and mysterious forest as your guides slash a path with a machete. Following radio signals from trackers, you will hone in on the troop and likely find them eating and foraging. A silverback lies back, pulling down branches with nonchalant ease. He may hold your eye contact for a second, one that feels like a lifetime, and then return to his chomping. And as you’re admiring his jet of silver back hair, an infant practically falls out of the tree above.

Settling into the experience, you can begin to analyze the behavior. Every gorilla troop is different, and each showcases contrasting emotions and interactions, just like any primate family. Perhaps you will see two grouchy females crawling away, maybe two blackbacks larking around in the branches. It could be a gorilla throwing down fruit, a few of them gnawing on bark, or a strange conversation playing out through expressions. You will spend an hour with the gorillas, and on almost all treks, this is when the troop has stopped in one place and is mostly feeding.

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

Day 6: Gishwati-Mukura National Park – Golden Monkeys and Other Primates in Rwanda’s Newest National Park

Leaving Volcanoes National Park, you will stay in the volcanic forest and follow a channel of protected wilderness that is preserving the habitat of many endangered primates. The Gishwati and Mukura forests were combined to create a national park in 2015, and accommodation in the park was only opened in 2017 with a sublime eco-lodge that is regularly visited by the monkeys of the forest. Check in to your new suite, and then set off on a guided trek in search of the contrasting primates with a picnic lunch in hand as you discover a landscape that has received very few international visitors.

Black and white colobus monkeys rest high in the trees, shy creatures that enchant with long curling tales and peculiar faces. L’Hoest’s monkeys are equally resplendent in black and white with a bright white ruff that frames a small black face. Move next to find more territorial blue monkeys as they aggressively protect their patch of the forest. Perhaps more iconic here are the golden monkeys, which have multiplied in recent years and their blue faces are the highlight of any primate trek. Back at the lodge, you will still see some of these monkeys as troops pass by as they go about their day.

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

Day 7: Gishwati-Mukura National Park – Africa’s Newest and Most Exclusive Chimpanzee Trekking

Not that long ago, there were only around 20 chimpanzees left in the Gishwati forest. That number has soared recently as the result of an excellent conservation program. Trekking to them is exclusive to guests staying at the eco-lodge and not possible for anyone on a day trip to the park. As with the gorillas, you will follow a tracker’s radio signal and get to spend an hour with the troop. The troop has only recently been habituated and will show a heightened curiosity to your presence. Eyes stare at you from the branches, along with mouths that seem to communicate feeling. It will be as if you can sense what they are thinking, and more specifically, what they are thinking about you.

There are so many similarities between you and the chimpanzees that you will likely begin to look for the contrasts. Perhaps the feet that have evolved for a life higher in the trees, or maybe the mouth, able to reveal so much without the aid of speech. Like your time spent with the gorillas, there is an incredible intimacy to everything with so much happening just a few meters away. Sometimes you will not know where to look, and occasionally your guide has to step in to ensure an inquisitive chimpanzee does not come and approach you. Back at the lodge, you will spend your final evening in Rwanda, dining on the verandah as endangered primate occupy the canopy.

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

Day 8: Gishwati-Mukura National Park to Kigali – Departure

From Gishwati-Mukura, you will be driven back to Kigali and to Rwanda’s modern international airport, where you can board your departing flight home.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast 


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.