One-Week Highlights of Rwanda Safari Tour 2020

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Total Trip:

8 Days
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Countries Visited:

Rwanda
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Places Visited:

Kigali, Kimironko Market, National Genocide Centre, Nyamata Church Genocide Memorial, Murambi Genocide Memorial Site, Akagera National Park, Volcanoes National

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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
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, 2020 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

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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:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Lunch, Dinner

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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:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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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:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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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:

included

Accommodation

included

Flight

included

Tour

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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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:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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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:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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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:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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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:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Discover some of Africa’s most remarkable characters as you follow the heartwarming story of ten black rhinos that were reintroduced to Rwanda in 2017
  • Explore Rwanda’s newest national park as a trek in Gishwati-Mukura brings an intimacy with golden monkeys and other amazing primates
  • Celebrate the longstanding highlight of Rwanda with a gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park
  • Enjoy Africa’s most exclusive chimpanzee trekking experience as you visit a newly habituated troop in the Gishwati Forest made even more special as the troop has seen very few sets of human eyes
  • Take in the remarkable regeneration of Akagera National Park as it is becoming one of East Africa’s next little gems
  • Feel intense admiration for the Rwandan people as 24 years on from the devastating genocide, you will share stories with survivors and be caught up in their hope and optimism
  • Be impressed from the land and the air as The Land of a Thousand Hills will be seen on a guided drive to local villages and a sublime flight east to west across the country
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Detailed Description

Rwanda just keeps on improving, and the country’s progress is a heartwarming illustration for the world as the redevelopment and regeneration has come so quickly after the horrific events of 1994. Every year adds a new dimension to the visitor experience and complements the eternal appeal of the gorillas. There is a new national park, Gishwati-Mukura that creates an unbroken protected forest along the west of the country which has become a haven for many endangered species, such as golden monkeys. A newly habituated chimpanzee troop means there are now two places in the country to see these wonderful primates, and you will be some of the first to lay eyes on these chimps as the trekking is made exclusive to a newly opened eco-lodge here.

Your journey will not be just about the forests as Akagera National Park is an emblem of Rwanda’s transition, returned to its vibrant and pristine state in less than 25 years. The reintroduced lions are thriving, and 2017 saw ten black rhinos returning to Rwanda and the Akagera savannah.  This regeneration of both people and wildlife is making Rwanda the complete package as it mixes the raw intimacy of the gorillas with big-game adventures on foot, land, and water. While tourism is growing in the country, it remains at low levels, far behind its regional neighbors. Word is yet to get out that there is more than a gorilla trek to do in Rwanda, which makes the experience even better. There is nowhere else in Africa where such incredible wildlife and cultural encounters offer such inherent exclusivity.

This signature safari will showcase Rwanda’s highlights as you visit four unique destinations over the course of the week. Start in the capital city as genocide survivors talk you through the memorials for a chance to grasp the obliteration the country had to recover from, and the stories are heartwarming as well as heartbreaking. Spend the next couple of days in Akagera National Park with a vivid landscape of savannah and swamp. Parts of the experience are iconically East African as game drives find lions hunting zebra, and the endangered black rhinos are found in the wild. Others are uniquely Rwandan as you boat over the swamps for a look behind the scenes at the park headquarters.

From the air, you can enjoy beautiful views over Rwanda as a flight to Volcanoes National Park brings you from the east to the northwest. In the park itself, you will have an afternoon to explore the next generation of Dian Fossey’s legacy as you meet locals and come to understand the methods that have enabled the world’s largest primate to thrive. Gorilla trekking is next before you follow the unbroken forest to the new Gishwati-Mukura National Park. Golden monkeys are among the highlights of a day of exploring a forest that has seen just a handful of foreign visitors and then from the park’s only lodge – a stunning luxury eco-lodge – you will track Africa’s newly habituated chimpanzees, animals that greet you with an intent curiosity.  Rwanda is a region unlike other; learn more by seeing how our partner Rwanda safari trip operators can personalize the experience for you.

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Starting Price

$4795 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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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.

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