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 about Gorilla Tracking while on your Gorilla safari in Rwanda . 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 Tracking of the Mountain Gorillas 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.
Of tcamping 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 SUMMIT & CROSSING THE RWANDA/UGANDA BORDER TO BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
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 begin your trip to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. The journey from the base of Mount Karisimbi to the Cyanika border crossing is about an hour and a half.
After going through Customs and Immigration, you will then drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda, another couple of hours. En route you will stop and have lunch. Your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you directly to your accommodation where you will be able to rest up for the early morning coming up.
Dinner will be at your accommodation.
DAY 5: GORILLA TRACKING IN BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST
After an early morning breakfast, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you to the Bwindi Park Headquarters for your Gorilla Tracking orientation. You will be assigned to a particular Gorilla Family to track and when the paperwork is complete, you will be taken to the forest for tracking. As it is unknown precisely where the particular Gorilla family that you are tracking is, it may take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours to meet up with them. When you do meet up with the Gorilla Family, you will be permitted to spend up to an hour photographing and viewing the Gorillas.
Your accommodation will prepare a packed lunch for you, which you may not eat when you are with the Gorillas; you should be prepared to eat your lunch either before or after contact with the Gorillas. When your tracking is over, you will return to your vehicle and re-unite with your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide, who will take you back to your accommodation for a rest.
In the afternoon, you can spend the time resting or if you prefer, your guide can take you to a nearby community near your accommodation to meet the local people for a cultural encounter. You will have the opportunity to see how the indigenous people of the forest live and make their livelihood. It is also a chance to try some local foods that the people are preparing, using traditional recipes and techniques.
DAY 6: TRAVEL TO LAKE BUNYONYI
After breakfast, you will pack your things and drive to Lake Bunyonyi, a 2-hour drive from the gates of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The drive itself is quite a pleasant experience, through many villages; communities that earn their living from agricultural pursuits. Here in the mountainous areas of Uganda the farming is done in a terraced format; there are small plots of different crops grown up the mountain sides. You will get a good understanding of the difficulties that these farmers have to endure in terms of irrigation, soil erosion and simply harvesting their crops.
Your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you directly to your accommodation on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi, the most beautiful lake in East Africa. Here swimming and water sports are unhampered by hippos or crocodiles; the water itself is pure and does not have bilharzia, which is most common in most lakes in East and Central Africa. This is an afternoon scheduled for rest and relaxation, either in the pool or lakeside.
Dinner will be served in your accommodation.
DAY 7: LAKE BUNYONYI ISLAND BOAT TOUR & CULTURAL/NATURE HIKE
After breakfast, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you to where you can rent a wooden boat to go exploring on the lake. You can choose from a motorized boat or a paddle boat; both are available with a guide. There are many islands in the lake that are well worth visiting; most are occupied with local people, who are most welcoming. It is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in a little African culture, enjoying some time with the island people. The Batwa Pygmies are a very interesting group to spend some time with; enjoying their folklore and watching them prepare food with traditional tools.
When you have finished your scenic boat tour of the islands, you will meet up with your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide, who will take you back to your accommodation for lunch. After lunch your guide will escort you to the shoreline road where you can go for a mixed cultural and nature walk; through forested areas along the shore, interrupted by small villages, where again you can encounter some of the indigenous people of the lake.
Before night fall, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will return you to your accommodation for dinner.
DAY 8: LAKE BUNYONYI SWIMMING & RETURN TO KIGALI
After breakfast, you will have a few hours to relax and enjoy the beach and lake before packing up your things and begin your return to Kigali. Depending on your flight schedule, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide can give you a tour of Kigali, including the Genocide Memorial Center, commemorating the 1994 civil war that devastated Rwanda. There are also local markets, museums and handicraft workshops that you can visit before your departure from Kigali International Airport. The drive from Lake Bunyonyi to Kigali is about 3 to 4 hours (depending on the time spent at the border crossing).
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.
VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS
GORILLA NEST LODGE
The Gorilla Nest Lodge is located on the foothills of the Virunga Volcano range, providing breathtaking views of the hills and slopes of Volcanoes National Park. It is nestled in a forest of Eucalyptus trees. There was a fire that damaged many of the buildings, but restoration is going on; accommodation is available during the construction. This lodge is a 5-star accommodation.
- Restaurant and Bar
- Terraced views on all buildings.
LA PALME HOTEL
La Palme Hotel is a 3-star accommodation located in Musanze City, outside the Volcanoes National Park.
The restaurant is locally famous for its high quality Africal, French and Oriental cuisines.
- Restaurant and Bar
KINIGI GUEST HOUSE
Kinigi Guest House is located 11 kilometers from Ruhengeri City, at the bottom of Sabyinyo Volcanic Mountain. All rooms have electricity and warm water. There are 4 VIP suites.
- Large flowered gardens on the property
- Panoramic view of Sabyinyo Volcanic Mountain (elev. 4,480 meters)
LAKE BUNYONYI (UGANDA)
Lake Bunyonyi is known as the most beautiful lake in Central and East Africa; it is framed by lush green-terraced hills that reach heights of almost 2,500 meters. The most magical part of the lake are the 29 islands, all of different sizes and shapes that are scattered across the water; many are inhabited with local people, living a traditional lifestyle. One of the tribes on the lake is the Batwa Pygmies, who are most interesting to spend time with. They are most welcoming and enjoy sharing their homes, food and folklore with travelers.
There are many ways of enjoying this clean safe lake; safe, because it is one of the few lakes in Africa that does not have Hippos and Crocodiles to disturb people enjoying the water. Also, the lake is Bilharzia free, which is a real bonus, as most lakes are not recommended to swim in. There are endless numbers of water related sports and entertainment to immerse in….everything from swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking as well as motorized water sports. Lake Bunyonyi is famous as a rest spot after Gorilla Tracking in Bwindi, which is nearby. People come for an overnight to enjoy the refreshing water activities; although spending a few days around the lake is highly recommended, as it is a gem of a place. The local towns and villages dotted along the shore, provide great entertainment for visitors; local markets, handicrafts and music and dance groups everywhere; a cultural oasis.
LAKE BUNYONYI ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS
The Arcadia Lodge is located high on a ridge overlooking Lake Bunyonyi; the 11 self-contained cottages are arranged around a central lodge building. The lodge has a 25 seater motor launch for trips to the islands; day and night cruises are offered. The Lodge also has JetSkis and quadbikes for hire to explore the lake and lakeshore respectively. The lodge is located on a 14-acre manicured garden, with lots of birdlife visiting the property; there are over 200 species of birds on the lake.
LAKE BUNYONYI ECO RESORT
The resort is located on Kyahugye Island, one of the larger islands on Lake Bunyonyi. The location on the ridge offers amazing panoramic views of the island and across the lake itself. The lodge is a showcase for traditional art; a cultural encounter just looking at the artwork. There are 10 cottages, each standing on its own, each with a spectacular view of the forest, Lake Bunyonyi and the surrounding communities. They have a suite and a Deluxe Cottage, both have private balconies, wooden floors, large windows and woven bamboo craftwork.
The lodge offers hot showers, 24-hour room service, WiFi, a fire pit and a large bar/restaurant. There are canoes and boats available and of course swimming in the lake.