Kigali, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Virunga Mountains (Volcanoes National Park)
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Exquisite and evocative, East Africa's mountain gorilla troops always dance to their own beat. Each is different, and showcase contrasts in size, social structure, behavior, and emotion. On this luxury gorilla trekking safari, you will visit three distinctive troops in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park. With luxurious accommodation perched high above the canopy, this is an immersive 7-night itinerary full of gorilla subtleties and complexities.
Volcanoes National Park – The Terraced Beauty of Rural Rwanda
Terraced hills roll across Rwanda and fill the landscape with a complex array of greens. Women in colorful wraps add further hues as their vibrancy further lightens up the panorama. Roads undulate through the terraces to paint a portrait of rural East Africa in its quintessence. You will be greeted at Kigali International Airport, and it's a picturesque two to three-hour transfer to Volcanoes National Park and your luxurious lodge. Perched above the canopy to gaze down on the ripples of mist, the lodge exudes a pleasant air of serenity and is a place that is quick to help you reenergize after the flight to East Africa.
Volcanoes National Park – Rwanda Gorilla Trekking
Step slowly through the undergrowth as your guide will slice at the bamboo to clear a path deeper into the forest. Little more than a gorilla trail, the path is only open from the waist down as you traverse the greenery. A call comes over the guide's radio to indicate that you are getting close. Your excitement builds as up ahead you will spot a flurry of black as the troop emerges and then disappears back into the forest. You can almost smell them, but now they are gone. The gorillas are on the move, crawling on knuckles onto higher mountain slopes. Nothing is predictable with gorilla trekking, so for an hour you must follow, and watch the path for fresh prints as the troop continues its wild journey.
Suddenly, they will stop, and the final few steps come with a wave of relief and exhilaration. A blackback will greet you and wave its arms as if drunk on bamboo shoots. To the left are another eight gorillas, including a silverback with a stoic stare. Another ten feed from the trees to your right, including two females who panders over a near 400-pound silverback. This troop could split soon, and you can sense the divide as two males look to wrestle control. It suddenly appears that you have walked straight into the lush of no man's land between the divided sides. For an hour you will watch and marvel at the dynamics of their unusual social structure. On this gorilla trekking experience, the most evocative memories will come from the two competing silverbacks and their inspiringly open shows of strength. Just as you are leaving, one will rise onto his hind legs and let it rip with a drum beat as he pounds his chest to create an echo that follows you out of the forest.
There are currently ten habituated gorilla troops in Volcanoes National Park and there's a good opportunity to choose which you would like to visit. In comparison to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, these troops are more settled in their home area of the forest, which makes it easier to estimate the length of the trek for particular groups. Those on the lower mountain slopes are a much shorter hike, although many visitors prefer the four-hour rainforest trek to the upper slopes of Mount Karisimbi and the gorillas that fewer visitors. There is a maximum of eight trekkers per troop, so your experience will be intimate. After returning to the trailhead, you will be transferred back to the lodge for a tranquil place to snooze away the afternoon.
Volcanoes National Park – Tracking Golden Monkeys
Other unusual primates occupy the mountainous slopes of Rwanda as they swing around with their blue-tinged faces and shimmering orange fur. As light slices through the canopy, it provides the monkeys with a vibrancy that reflects their name as they jump down and impress with their curling tails. These endangered monkeys are easily spotted in Volcanoes National Park, and the walk won't be as arduous as yesterday's gorilla trek. Return to the lodge for a sumptuous lunch before you spend the afternoon at a rural Rwandan community to share stories with a local guide. Sample local food, visit a school, meet the elders, and enjoy a non-intrusive meeting with a very remote community.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – Lake Kivu and the Mountainous Delight
Western Rwanda and Uganda is where two distinctive parts of the continent meet. Spilling out in one direction is East Africa while rising with impenetrable mystique in the other are the forests of Central Africa and the Congo Basin. Lake Kivu is a divide and a calm place to stop on your journey from Rwanda to Uganda. Cross a remote border and it feels like you are driving along the split as the 360-degree panorama an epitome of so many African preconceptions: baskets of fruit carried on women's heads, livestock blocking the road, the earth scorched a rustic yet resplendent red. It will take around three hours to reach Bwindi Impenetrable National Park although there are many potential places you could stop on the route. Settle into your luxurious accommodation. Remote and wonderfully positioned on the upper slopes, the lodge will give you a pristine view of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – Exclusive Uganda Gorilla Trekking
Only one gorilla troop has been habituated in the southwestern part of Bwindi. It's a real trek into the unknown to take you deep into a landscape that receives a maximum of eight visitors per day. Walking poles will help you to ascend the steep and muddy slopes while thick swathes of vegetation have to be hacked away before you can progress. Reaching the Nkuringo troop is one of the most challenging treks in Bwindi or Volcanoes National Park. But what a reward! Numbering 19, this remarkable troop contains four silverbacks and five infants, including a pair of young twins that are quickly spotted when you arrive. These are very unusual and perhaps the only gorilla twins found in the wild.
Just as before, you can get to within seven meters of the gorillas, although the younger gorillas are often curious enough to come closer towards you. Spend an hour with the troop and the social interactions will be fascinating. You may see a female leaving a scent and seeking attention from two silverbacks, or maybe two infants as they wander off before they rush back upon hearing a series of belching sounds from within the troop, or possibly three juveniles as they explore the branches that crisscross above your head. Soon the 19 gorillas surround you, and their soft belching sounds indicate that you're more than welcome. Returning to the lodge usually requires some steep descents to the trailhead and another thrilling journey through the untamed tropical forest.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – Gorilla Trekking From Rushaga Trailhead
Rushaga is the newest major gorilla trekking trailhead. Recent habituation efforts mean that five gorilla troops can now be tracked from here, and the abundance of troops in this section of the park is mostly unexplained by scientists. Some were once part of one larger troop and had split, although they have retained an unusual proximity. Other researchers argue that the collection of tightly packed hills makes it easier for troops to find their privacy. For visitors, this trailhead provides a choice of troops with groups allocated based on the length of the hike. After yesterday's excursion, you may wish for a shorter hike today. By now you will know how it works as you head out around 9 am with your good pair of hiking boots, carry a walking pole, and follow the guide as he follows the instructions of the trackers. These trackers set off a dawn to expertly locate the troop and relay how to get there.
The one-hour time limit is generously implemented by the guide. Most visitors will not want to leave, but you could spend eight hours or ten days with the gorillas and still not want to leave. One hour gives you time for photos as well as lots of time to soak up the dynamics and interactions of the troop. These forests are a long way from home and mountain gorillas cannot be encountered anywhere else in the world. Often the hour passes by too quickly which is why it is recommended to go gorilla trekking a second time. As you visit a third gorilla troop, you can really pick apart their contrasts and diverse behavior and admire how every troop runs to its own rhythm, just as every family group of humans does too. The Rushaga trailhead is just over an hour's drive from Nkuringo, and you will return to the upper slopes and your lodge after the trek.
Kigali – Exploring History and Culture in the Rwandan Capital
Rwanda is not a country that looks backward. Rather, it's a nation working to create a unified future as it remembers its past while floating on a carpet of optimism and enthusiasm. The capital city of Kigali is a wonderful example of the mood as its wide boulevards are unlike those that you would expect to find in East Africa. Plastic bags are banned, and the city is spotlessly clean. Cafes and hotels stand on the hills that rise above the city and the roads are new as they connect a landscape that delights in its rurality.
Every angle suggests a country that has made peace with the past. In creating peace, it is ensured that its history will never be forgotten. Today you will journey back to Rwanda as you cross the border from Uganda and travel to the capital city. Stop at two significant memorials on your route, both small churches stacked high with the bones of the unknown. Complement these memorials with the National Genocide Memorial Centre, which offers a detailed and damning verdict on why this happened. It is a moving experience and brings many visitors to tears but it is not a pessimistic view as there is optimism in the air and an exploration of the past provides a greater respect for Rwanda's shared future.
Kigali – Departure
Kigali International Airport is a short drive from your hotel and today is at your leisure until your departure time. Relax at the pool, gaze across the city's hills, and recall your gorilla trekking moments before your airport transfer.
- Visit three contrasting gorilla troops from three trekking trailheads in Uganda and Rwanda to intimately admire the differences in behavior and social structure
- Explore Rwanda's Virunga Mountains and visit one of its ten habituated gorilla troops and choose between the troops that inhabit the upper slopes or those closer to the trailhead
- Savor the exclusivity of gorilla trekking from the Nkuringo trailhead in Uganda's Bwindi National Park, where only eight daily visitors can set off into the forest
- Compare behaviors as you visit a second gorilla troop in Uganda, this time in the Rushaga area of the park
- Surround yourself with endangered golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park
- Spend time in a local Rwandan community and explore the scenic delights of the region, including Lake Kivu and the terraced hills of remote Uganda
- Stay in the region's most luxurious lodges
$9,195 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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