Remarkable Rwanda famous for the silverback mountain gorillas that have captured the world’s imagination since Dian Fossey came to study the mountain gorilla families in the 1970s. Most popular park of Rwanda is Volcanoes NP, where you can track the gorillas, the golden monkeys or do different hikes in this dramatic, volcanic landscape. You can go for safari in Akagera NP on the border with Tanzania.
But that’s not all this beautiful country has to offer. Rwanda is a largely undiscovered Eden, she promises unrivalled biodiversity, dramatic mountains and volcanoes, some of the oldest and most precious rainforests on earth, a glittering skein of lakes, rivers and waterfalls and three stunning national parks. As to wildlife, Rwanda boats of 13 species of primates (25% of Africa’s total), and a remarkable 670 species of birds, many of which are globally endangered.
At Primate Safari Experiences Limited, we can guide you through the best safari destinations in Rwanda on our Rwanda safaris. Our tours in Rwanda are packaged in a form of gorilla trekking safaris, mountain gorilla safari packages, tracking primates, and game safaris to Akagera National Park. We book gorilla trek safari permits for tourists wishing to take safaris in Rwanda.
Volcanoes National Park
Mountain Gorilla Trekking Experience
Mountain gorilla can only be found in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo. The act of tourists visiting mountain gorillas is what is called gorilla trekking. In Rwanda, gorilla trekking can only be done in Volcanoes National Park. The park is located at least 2 hours of driving from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, where the main international airport is also located.
Volcanoes National Park has 11 mountain gorilla groups for gorilla trekking and tourists can visit only one gorilla group each day.
Mountain gorillas are wild animals and, as such, sightings cannot be guaranteed. However, for the last 14 years, no one has trekked the gorillas and failed to see them in Rwanda. Certainly, you won’t be the one with bad luck! On the trek, once you find the gorillas, you will be allowed an hour with the gorillas and you can only go not more than 6 meters from them. As the gorilla tracking can sometimes take a full day, you will need to go with your packed lunch and lots of drinking water when trekking to the gorillas.
Gorilla trekking timings and conditions vary tremendously as the gorillas move continuously through the rain forest. It is good to be prepared and remember the weather can change with very little warning. The terrain is often steep and through areas where there are no marked paths.
TIPS FOR THE BEST GORILLA TREKKING EXPERIENCE IN RWANDA
Secure Gorilla Trekking permits early
Gorilla Trekking is the most popular foreign tourist activity for Rwanda. This means the competition is quite high for the few gorilla permits in Rwanda and it becomes hard to secure gorilla trekking permits a few days to your Rwanda gorilla tour (although it is often possible with luck more so in the green season months of October, November, April and May). It is best to have your gorilla trek permit fully confirmed at least 4 months in advance. Permit is for 1500 USD
Assess your fitness levels
There is a likelihood you could walk for 3-6 hours on a gorilla trek. Gorillas are located deep in Bwindi forest with thick undergrowth over several steep volcanic slopes. Gorilla groups keep roaming this forest looking for their favorite food. They are never stationed in the same place over days. Your gorilla trek will follow this same trend and it is quite unpredictable knowing how long or tough your gorilla trekking shall be. The longer trek is not necessarily a problem, just something to be prepared for. A bit of moderate physical fitness is needed for gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
Guides & Porters for the gorilla trek
You will be guided through the forest on your gorilla tracking guide whom you will meet at the departure point in the morning of your trek. Your guide can help you book a porter (or two!) so that you can track without having to carry the few essential items listed below in a day pack which you should bring with you. The porters are from the local community and very used to the local conditions and can assist in pushing, pulling and supporting you during your trek to the gorillas. They are usually an additional fee, over and above your safari cost, and you should budget on approximately USD15-20 per porter per day as a fee with additional tipping being optional.
As the porters do not have tracking permits they will be stopped a short distance from the point you will be viewing the mountain Gorillas. Please remember to take whatever you may need from your bag to view the gorillas and rather leave valuables at the lodge/camp.
You will be allowed up to one hour for viewing of the gorillas from when they are sighted by your group. This is to ensure that the wild animals are not overexposed to human presence. Whilst in their presence you will also be required to keep minimum distances from them – generally between 5-7 metres and your guides will ensure this is enforced.
What to pack on gorilla trekking in Rwanda
- Plenty of water – 1-2 litres per person
- High energy snacks in addition to your packed lunch provided by the lodge/camp
- Spare film and batteries for videos and cameras
- Gloves (gardening type are good)
- Waterproof bag to protect photographic equipment
- A hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and band-aids might be useful
- A lightweight waterproof jacket/poncho
- Walking sticks are made available at the start of the trek for some of the steeper and more slippery tracks and may prove to be very handy.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Age Limits
The age limit for gorilla trekking is 15 years and the authorities are very strict on this.
Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is located in the eastern part of Rwanda, along its border with Tanzania. The national park sits on 433 square miles of land and was founded in 1934. Most of the park features savannah, montane and swamp vegetation.
The national park derives its name from River Kagera which flows through the national park and on-wards into Uganda. Most Akagera national park is dominated by swamps, marshland, savannah grasslands, woodland, forests, lakes and rivers. The national park has a total of 10 lakes that are located in different areas within the park, with the most popular ones being; Lakes Ihema, Shakani, and Rwanyakazinga among others.
The southern gate of the national park is situated in Kayonza district while the northern gate, which is an exit only, is located in the district of Nyagatare. The park previously covered 2,500 square kilometers of land but most of it was destroyed following the return of refugees who had fled the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.
Although a lot was lost in Akagera national park, the park has managed to revive from its tragic past following the formation of Akagera Management Company which manages the national park. The company was formed after a joined agreement was made between Rwanda Development Board and African Parks, a non-government conservation agency that oversees the management of other national parks in Africa.
Visitors on a wildlife safari in Akagera national park can take part in a number of activities that are offered by the park, which include; a guided day or night game drive, a boat cruise on Lake Ihema, sport fishing on Lake Shakani, birding, behind the scenes Akagera tour, walk the line tour, camping, and a community visit to mention but a few.
There is so much for tourists to see during their visit to the national park and these include sighting stunning wildlife like; lions, elephants, hippos, baboons, buffalos, zebras, impala, hyenas, giraffes, antelopes, leopards, and Sitatunga among others. The national park also has more than 480 bird species, some of which include; the African Open-bill stock, the rare shoebill stork, papyrus Gonolek, Grey Crowned Crane and so many more.
In addition to this, visitors who wish to spend a night or more in Akagera National Park can stay in the following accommodation facilities located within the national park, and these include; Akagera Game Lodge, Magashi Safari Camp, Ruzizi Tented Camp, and Karenge Bush Camp to mention but a few. There are also designated camping sites that are located within the national park for visitors interested in camping, and these include; Shakani Akagera Campsite, Mutumba Campsite, and Muyumbu campsite.
Conclusion, Travellers on safaris in Rwanda can combine a wildlife safari in Akagera National park with a gorilla trekking safari in Volcanoes National park because it brings out the greatest adventure.