This Rwanda safari itinerary offers travelers the most exciting 7 day adventure in Rwanda inclusive of the most thrilling activities like gorilla tracking, volcano climbing and a tour to Lake Kivu.
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN KIGALI & VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda tour guide will pick up at the Kigali International Airport and brief you on your upcoming safari. Your journey will begin immediately you are in the vehicle in the parking lot; heading off to Volcanoes National park, a two and a half hour drive. Time permitting, your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide will give you a tour of Kigali city; this will include the Genocide Memorial Center, the most famous attraction in the Capital City, as well as a local market and local handicraft workshop.
You will then drive the two and a half hours it takes to Volcanoes National Park and check in at your accommodation. Dinner will be served at your lodge.
DAY 2: GORILLA TRACKING & DIAN FOSSEY KARISOKE RESEARCH CENTER
After a very early breakfast, your GORILLA SAFARIS RWANDA guide will take you to the Park headquarters where you will be receiving your orientation for the Gorilla Tracking. Upon arrival at the Park Headquarters, you will be served coffee and tea while you have the opportunity to watch a group of local entertainers, dancing and drumming. Immediately afterwards, you will be assigned to one of the groups, headed by one of the Park Rangers. The Ranger will then give you a briefing of the Gorilla Tracking and the Park etiquette. You will then proceed to the track where you will begin your search for the Mountain Gorillas.
The mountain gorilla tracking can take quite a few hours, as the Gorillas move about the park and, as a result, it may take some time to locate the specific group you are tracking; this can take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours. When you do meet up with the Gorilla Family, you are permitted to spend up to one hour watching and photographing them. Because of the uncertainty as to how long it takes, your accommodation will prepare a packed lunch for you to eat in the forest; you are not permitted to eat when with the Gorillas, so you should take your lunch either before or after you meet the Gorillas. We have a section on our website dedicated to the Gorillas, their habitat, what you can expect when tracking them, and data on the different families that are living in the Park. We suggest you consult this section prior to going on your adventure.
When you are finished the Gorilla Tracking adventure, you will return to your vehicle and re-unite with your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide, who will then take you back to the Park Headquarters where you will begin your walk on the trail to the Karisoke Research Center, located between Mount Visoke (a.k.a. Mount Bisoke) and Mount Karisimbi. This is the place that Dian Fossey, the famous American Zoologist, conducted her research on the Mountain Gorillas. Fossey was murdered and buried at the Center. Visitors are welcome to come to the center to learn about the Gorillas and the history of the center itself. The roundtrip from the Park Headquarters to the Karisoke Research Center takes 3 hours. Besides viewing the grave of Dian Fossey, the Center is a haven for information on Gorillas and other Primates living in the Rwandan forests. There are tours to be taken at the center and many very informative people to enhance your Primate knowledge.
Before night fall, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you to your accommodation, where you will have dinner. The lodges in the park usually arrange some form of local entertainment for their guests; usually in the form of dancing and drumming.
DAY 3: MOUNT KARISIMBI CLIMBING
After an early breakfast, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you to the track where you can begin your 2-day climb of Mount Karisimbi; which is the 5th highest snow-capped peak in Africa, the highest of the peaks in the Virunga Range. Mount Karisimbi sits on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Camping gear is required for this journey. Everything you will need for the 2 days will have to be brought with you, including food; porters are available to carry your gear.
Lunch and Dinner will be prepared by the guide that is leading the way up the mountain. The hike is not an ordinary one, in that there are many wondrous things to see; several bird species as well as primates are a usual sight when climbing. There are 4 belts of vegetation from the dense forest at the base of the mountain to the barren volcanic core at the summit. During the rainy season one should expect muddy trails; although even in the dry periods, there is rain at these high altitudes. There are many photo opportunities along the way and as climbs go in Africa, this is one of the most interesting in terms of the different terrain and the fauna that exists in every stage of the climb.
DAY 4: MOUNT KARISIMBI CLIMBING & LAKE KIVU
After an early morning breakfast, you will continue your ascent up to the summit, which is 4,507 meters above sea level. The vistas at the top are quite extraordinary. The descent takes approximately 6 hours. When you get to the starting point, at the base, you will rejoin your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide who will then take you to a Rwandese restaurant for lunch, this will be en-route to Lake Kivu, a 3 hour drive.
After lunch, you will continue your drive to Lake Kivu and your accommodation.
DAY 5: LAKE KIVU ISLANDS & CONGO-NILE TRAIL.
After breakfast, you will be taken to the landing site where the boat cruises depart from. You will board the boat and travel to a number of the islands on the Lake; you will meet many of the local people, getting the opportunity to visit their village, see how their lifestyle is, their tools and how they earn their living from the lake. Please refer to the write up on the side giving detailed information of the activities that are possible on Lake Kivu.
The Congo-Nile Trail is a foot and bicycle path along the Rwandan shoreline of Lake Kivu. It is a most spectacular way to spend a few hours roaming from one village to another to witness the lifestyle of the people and to see how local people fish and earn their living from the lake.
Dinner will be served at the lodge.
DAY 7: RETURN TO KIGALI
After breakfast, you will pack up your things and start the journey to Kigali to catch your departure flight from the International Airport. If time permits, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will give you a guided tour of Kigali City, including the Genocide Memorial Site, commemorating the 1994 unrest in Rwanda.
Your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you to a local Rwandese Restaurant in Kigali for you to try some traditional foods. When it’s time, your guide will escort you to the airport.
VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Volcanoes National Park is the oldest African protected area; it was gazetted a national park in 1925 while still part of great Virunga conservation zone. The purpose of making this a protected area was to save the Mountain Gorillas, which were intensively hunted and on the brink of extinction by poachers. The gorillas were hunted for their bush meat, body parts for medicinal purposes and for zoos. The Gorillas, prior to being confined to the forest, encroached on human crops which angered the local people.
Today Volcanoes National Park in north western Rwanda is part of the greater Virunga region exceeding 8000km2 wide, harboring eight volcanic mountains and three protected areas that extend ebeyond the Rwanda borders into Uganda (Mgahinga National Park) and th Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park). Massive tectonic forces combined with volcanic activity raised the Virunga region 1200m- 4500m above sea level later on giving rise to high altitudinal vegetation growth of thick bamboo, afro-montane and thickets on the hills.
On the escarpments, valleys and lowlands there are thickets, grassland and swamp vegetation that host various species of wildlife chiefly the Mountain Gorillas and other primates, mammals and numerous species of birds. This region is famous for harboring half of the surviving Mountain Gorillas in the wild on the planet numbering 800 in total. For this reason, the governments in the region are committed to protecting these Silverbacks, their families and their habitat.
Other tourism activities in the Park are tracking elusive but equally rare and endangered, Golden Monkeys an activity that is not as physically challenging as tracking the Mountain Gorillas but rewarding in the same way. Hiking to the top of Karisimbi volcanic mounains at 3800 meters above sea level offers a rewarding exercise for flexing muscles and face off with African rugged terrain. Along the way you will encounter the ever-changing landscapes, a vast variety of indigenous plan life, primates, insects and many different mammals. If you are interested in the culture of the region, there is plenty of opportunities to go on community walks and get a feel of the local African lifestyle. Share traditional food, listen to folk stories and other fascinating tales, a wide range of music and songs, take part in body gyrating traditional Intore dance and enjoy the heartfelt African hospitality. At the end of it all you will appreciate the local community culture, and be a little more “African” than when you first arrived.