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Rwanda Safaris

Visit Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills with Tranquil Safaris. Many have come to know Rwanda for the Mighty Mountain gorillas which have made their home in Volcanoes National Park. However, the country is endowed with a lot more than just gorillas. Rwanda lies in East Africa and is gifted with beautiful scenery, a rich cultural heritage and various wildlife and primate species found in its protected National Parks.The capital of Rwanda is called Kigali and it also has much more to offer. The biggest advantage about the location of Rwanda’s Capital is that it’s where the country’s International Airport is found and most tourism destinations are not located far from it, hence making it easy for travellers.Leaving where you are for a safari to Rwanda, will be one of the most exciting and rewarding decisions to make, since you will have an opportunity to engage in activities on most people’s bucket lists. Let us guide you plan for your memorable safari.

Things to do while in Rwanda

Gorilla Trekking 

Firstly, go for Gorilla trekking in the rainforests of the Virungas in Volcanoes National Park, this activity is the highlight of your visit to Rwanda. Gorilla trekking starts in morning and how long it takes is determined by the location of these mighty giants, but the whole experience of spending time with them upon meeting them takes only one hour. 

The trekking permit costs $1500, however regardless of the cost, this is a very memorable experience which you must do while in Rwanda. The journey time from Kigali to the Park is 2 to 3 hours hence making it possible for one to leave Kigali and travel to trek gorillas and drive back to Kigali on the same day.

Explore Akagera National park 

For the Big game experience, you will see various wildlife species including large herds of elephants, buffaloes, even lions and leopards. Still in this very park, enjoy a boat cruise along the Akagera River and bird watching while on the cruise.

Kigali City 

Visit the Capital’s museums, various craft shops, food & fabric markets and mainly visit to the Genocide memorial centre. This tour will be a bit emotional yet very rewarding. So for the traveller interested in dark tourism, this is the place to visit.  It is at this place that over 250,000 Rwandans were buried during the 1994 horrific genocide. 

A tour to this centre enlightens you about what happened during the genocide and also serves as great tribute to those who were brutally murdered. The Genocide memorial opens every day from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

Track Chimpanzees 

Of course track these creatures and other kinds of primates in Nyungwe Forest. This is also a National Park, and apart from seeing the primates, you will enjoy a canopy walk on the suspended bridge above this forest. Nyungwe also has 13 trails for hiking which are all available for the adventurous traveller to trail through. 

Attend Events 

Attend events that take place annually such as the Gorilla Naming ceremony known as ‘Kwita Izina’ in Kinyarwanda. This event is usually held in September and it involves naming baby gorillas. The travellers interested in events, will surely love to be a part of the Kwita Izina ceremony. 

This event is meant to raise funds and conservation awareness for wildlife hence contributing much to the protection of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas. Activities to enjoy during this festival include; traditional dances, art, music, the naming ceremony and other performances from local artists. 

Cultural village visits 

Visit a number of cultural villages in Rwanda for a great experience of Rwanda’s cultural heritage, which is expressed through the dress code, foods, music, dance and many other ways. These villages include; the Iby’wacu cultural village, Kigali Cultural centre, Murugo Cultural centre and Nyungwe Cultural village.

Lake Kivu Experiences

Experience the beautiful scenery of Lake Kivu while enjoying the tranquility of this lake your eyes will be fed with spectacular sights of the forested mountains. You will use a kayak to explore this lake.

Hike the Virungas

Are you an adventurous traveller? Volcanoes National Park offers the opportunity to hike its volcanoes. There are 5 volcanoes in this Park and they include; Mount Gahinga, Sabyinyo, Muhabura, Karisimbi and Bisoke. The hikers that are ready to challenge themselves, can take up a hike to Mount Karismbi; it is strenuous but also very rewarding when you get to the summit. For those who would like a simple but interesting hike; you can follow the 3hour hike along Mount Bisoke all through to Lake Ngezi.

Luxurious Eco-lodges experience 

Spend a night or more in Rwanda’s most Luxurious Eco-lodges. Most of the country’s forest accommodation is made for luxury and tranquil experiences. It is from these lodges that travellers receive comfort and great views while in the thick forests and the volcanoes. Some of these lodges include; Virunga lodge, Gorilla Nest, Kwitonda lodges and Bisate lodge. They have trendy and stylish settings hence offering the finest bush glamour for the guests.

Taste the cuisines

Experience Rwanda’s finger licking cuisines; from the local food served in the high-end hotels to the food sold along the streets. 

Travel to Rwanda’s country side 

It is in the country side that you will go for an amazing guided visit through the massive tea plantations in Gisakura or Gosovu. While there you will watch how tea is harvested, processed, brewed and served. Ensure to taste some of the country’s best tea, don’t taste the tea alone taste the Rwandan coffee as well.  

Fly high 

Finally, fly high over Rwanda’s landscape for the best view of Rwanda. While driving on the roads you may not fully grasp the country’s beauty that’s why flying in a helicopter will give you chance to see more eye-catching views. You can contact Akagera Aviation for this scenic aerial tour or contact your chosen local operator who will organize this tour for you.

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda 

This is a very unique and exciting activity that offers you chance to see mountain gorillas enjoy their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is done in the country’s very popular Park known as Volcanoes National Park and is the highlight of most Rwanda Safaris. The country has 10 habituated families of gorillas made available to be trekked by tourists. Gorilla trekking requires you to be physically fit since it involves a lot of movements up and down the Virungas, it begins in the morning hours and it start of with briefing by the ranger guides to the trekkers at the head office of the park. 

When the briefing is done there is allocation for which gorilla family to trek, after you enter the forest to look for the gorillas. Upon meeting them, only an hour is given to the trekkers to enjoy watching the gorillas. Silverbacks, blackbacks, juveniles and the youngest gorillas can be seen in this park. For one to be able to trek gorillas, they need a gorilla trekking permit, it costs $1500 and is offered by the Rwanda Development Board.

While going for gorilla trekking, you need to carry some essential things such as insect repellents, rain gears, hiking boots, camera, drinking water, long trousers and long sleeved shirts or sweaters. Also ensure you are not sick with flu or cough, because you might not be allowed to go for trekking since the gorillas can easily contract these diseases and it’s not safe for them. 

Canopy Walking in Rwanda 

The canopy walk is a very thrilling and amazing activity done in Nyungwe forest National Park. Usually tourists that have come for chimpanzee tracking in the Park can’t miss out on this activity because it adds greatly on the experience and enables them to see more things including a number of birds like the blue turacos, flycatchers, Francolins and many more, a number of monkeys can be spotted such as the L’Hoest’s monkeys, Red tailed monkeys, Olive baboon, Vervet monkeys, mangabeys, bush babies as well as spectacular views of the park and Lake Kivu.

The walkway was built in 2010 and the walk takes 2 hours and is done on a suspended bridge standing at 70m high and 160m long. It is a guided walk and how long it takes is based on the tourist’s desire, to either spend 2 hours or less. 

Time schedules for the walk include are 8:00am, 10:00am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm and the guided walk begins from the headquarters of the park at the Reception centre after briefing is done. For a remarkable walk ensure that you carry some drinking water, rain coat, snacks, a camera and also wear hiking boots for comfort.

People from 6 years can go for this walk, however the children should be escorted by the adults. The walk is done throughout the year as long as one desires to add it on their itinerary however dry months are favorable because the walk way is dry in that time, the dry month include June, July, August and  September, then December, January and February. 

Chimpanzee tracking in Rwanda

Chimpanzee tracking is experienced in Nyungwe Forest, this is a montane rainforest park located in the South of Rwanda hosting around 13 species of primates and in these are around 500 chimpanzees. Chimpanzees are amazing animals and are said to be the closest to man since they have around 98% of human DNA.

Many know Rwanda for the exciting Gorilla tracking, however also a primate safari in this beautiful country isn’t complete when you don’t track the chimpanzees. Before chimpanzee tracking begins, you are briefed and after guided into the lush forest to look for the chimpanzees. Only an hour is given to trackers to enjoy a good time with the chimps. During the trek, expect to see several other primates such as the silver monkey, grey-cheeked mangabeys, olive baboons, vervet monkeys, golden monkey, L’Hoest’s monkey as well as a number of bird, plant and butterfly species. 

Only people above the age of 15 are allowed to track and one is required to have a tracking permit which costs $90 in order to enjoy this experience. Trackers are advised to carry insect repellents, drinking water, cameras and also wear long sleeved shirts, trousers and hiking shoes for a great tracking experience.

Big Game Viewing in Rwanda 

A safari with gorillas and chimpanzees needs also a look into the Big 5 or the Big game like many call them. Big game viewing takes place in Akagera National Park; located in the East of Rwanda and said to be the only savannah park in the country. It protects a vast savannah landscape and very big numbers of wildlife as well as bird species. In order to see animals, tourists need to go for game drives either in the morning or afternoon, some enjoy the night game drives since there is chance of spotting the nocturnal animals such as the leopards.

Amongst the Big 5 the commonest animals are the buffaloes and elephants, the lions were re-introduce in the park again in 2015, and black rhinos in 2017, leopards are usually seen at night. The park is well known for harboring large schools of hippos and large numbers of crocodiles which are seen along the shores of Lake Ihema.

Other wildlife species seen include; the Maasai giraffes, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, Impalas, waterbucks, elands, sitatungas, duikers, oribis, reedbucks, hyenas, topis, Burchell’s zebras, bushbucks and warthogs. And also different bird species including the water birds, raptors, wood land and savannah species.

Birding Safaris in Rwanda

Rwanda has an interesting and massive list of over 750 bird species hence a rewarding destination for bird lovers. The places where birds live are extraordinarily diverse and include; the swamps and grassland plains along the eastern border and the mountainous forests in the west of Rwanda. Even in the central region are various wetlands, lakes and rivers which attract various species.

Birding can be done throughout the whole year but the months of December, January and February host many winter migrants. The country has good birding infrastructure like the accommodation and birding trails, it also has professional well trained birding guides who are able to take you for remarkable birding tours.

The commonly seen species include; Black and white makins, Flycatchers, Kingfishers, Papyrus Genolek, Warblers, Red faces Barbet, Ruaha Chat, the cranes, Lesser Jacana, Sunbirds, vultures, shoebills and many more.

Birding sites include, Kigali city, Volcanoes National Park with over 200 species, Akagera National Park with over 310 species, Nyungwe Forest National Park with over 300 species, the wetlands and swamps, the Albertine region, Lakes like Lake Kivu and Lake Ihema, and Gishwati-Mukura National Park with around 390 species.

Golden Monkey Tracking in Rwanda  

Golden monkeys are very adorable, unique and endangered species of primates. In Rwanda, they are found in the Virungas in Volcanoes National Park. It is very easy to spot them out among other monkeys due to their beautiful golden patches all over their body. Mount Sabinyo slopes have the highest golden monkey concentration and many are usually spotted by trackers swinging on the bamboo forests.

Two groups of these monkeys are habituated and one of the group hosts between 80 to 100 members, the permit to track golden monkey’s costs $100. Tracking starts in the morning and it is only one session, involves entering into the forests guided by park ranger guides to look out for these creatures. In case you have a lot of luggage, you can get help from a potter at a cost, who can carry things for you as you enjoy the beauty of these monkeys. 

Golden monkeys can also be seen in Gishwati Mukura and Nyungwe Forest National Parks, however they aren’t habituated yet hence there is no tracking allowed yet but can be easily seen during the canopy walk, chimp tracking and nature walks.

Pack sturdy hiking boots, long sleeved shirts, trousers, rain gears, cameras, drinking water, snacks, insect repellents, hand sanitizers, binoculars, sunglasses and a cap to protect yourself from direct sunshine in case you are travelling in the dry season.

Culture in Rwanda   

Rwanda isn’t that culturally diverse like Uganda but with what it has, when experienced, it is very fascinating. Its culture starts with the warm and welcoming people. The country has three distinct ethnic groups and these are; the Hutus, originally crop growers, Ttusi who used to be cattle keepers, and the Twa were known as hunters and gatherers, the Twa are the smallest group. However, over the years a lot has changed about these tribes hence a lot of diversification has happened to their livelihood. 

It is always amazing crowning your safari in Rwanda with a cultural tour, this involves interacting with the locals, learning more about their culture, visiting communities and schools where you can taste their food or participate in their story telling, music and traditional dance sessions. You also have an opportunity to participate in traditional ways of cooking, craft making, and also visit a number of farms, local beer breweries and many other cultural sites.

The most visited cultural sites include, the Genocide Memorial sites and they include the Kigali genocide, Gisenyi, Nyarubuye, Bisesero, Ntarama, Nyamata, Murambi memorial sites. Most if these sites were established to remember many people that lost their lives during the brutal genocide in 1994. The Iby’wacu cultural village is also most visited since it is found near volcanoes, it offers the best insights in Rwandan culture. Other sites include; the King’s palace, Ethnographic museum among others.

Food prepared in Rwanda is unique and delicious, the commonly made foods include beans, peas, millet, corn, sweet potatoes, cassava and fruits which include mangos, avocados, pineapples, bananas, papaya and many others. There are also various hotels and restaurants which make various kinds of meals including the continent meals.

Rwanda offers freedom for worship with Christianity covering the biggest part of the population. 43.7% of the population are Catholics, 37.7% are Protestants, 11.8% being Seventh Day Adventists, 2.0% being Muslim and the remaining percentage includes the ones who claim that they don’t belong to any religion.

Hiking Safaris in Rwanda

It is the land of thousand hills hence we expect a number of hills and mountains and the adventurous tourists have the best experience as they follow the available trails in the process of hiking. There are trails for beginners and those for experienced hikers. 

Some of the hiking experiences that we organize for you when interested are the Mount Karisimbi, Dian Fossey hike, Mount Bisoke, Nyungwe forest among others.  Hiking safaris introduce you to spectacular views as you stand at some of Rwanda’s highest points. 

When to Visit Rwanda

Tourists visit Rwanda throughout the year because there is no weather condition which can hinder tourists from visiting. However, many consider the dry seasons to be the best time for visiting Rwanda. They are two seasons; from June to September and from December to February. 

Activities like Gorilla and chimpanzee trekking are usually done in the dry season however you can’t be limited by that, even if you travel in the rainy season, you can still have a great experience, just that the drier months are less muddy and make it easy to maneuver through the jungle in search for the gentle giants. 

Tourists interested in photography usually prefer the rainy season which happens around November and also from March to May, because the forests are lush and there is less light contrast which allows them to focus well on their subjects as they use their camera. The birders also can visit during this time especially if the bird species they want to see are common in this season, in the rainy season many plants and flowers are blossoming hence attracting more birds.

There are activities in Rwanda that are done on particular dates and months and in case a tourists would like to take part, it means they have to plan their travel to Rwanda in that same month. Rwanda observes the 7th day of April as a public holidays since it is said to be the memorial day of the Tutsi Genocide, so tourists can be a part of this event by travelling around that time of the year.

Other events include; the Kigali International Peace Marathon (takes place in May) and in September every year, the country has a festival called Kwita Izina (it’s a gorilla naming event carried out in Musanze).

Where to stay in Rwanda

There are a number of accommodation options in Rwanda, and of course it is the choice of the tourist and their budget to choose where to stay during a safari in Rwanda. The hotels and lodging prices are from budget to luxury, some are even exclusively luxurious.

All the top destinations in Rwanda have well-built, very nice, authentic, and classy lodges which offer amazing panoramic views and food to the guests. Some include; Nyungwe Top View and Nyungwe House in Nyungwe Forest,  Serena hotel, the Retreat and Marriot Hotel in Kigali,  Bisate Lodge, Singita and Virunga lodge and Sabinyo Lodge in Volcanoes NP, Ruzizi Teneted Camp, Magashi Akagera and Akagera Game Lodge in Akagera NP, Cleo Lake Kivu and Cormoran lodge around Lake Kivu.