BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE ITINERARY
This 11 day itinerary offers travelers in a Rwanda safaris ample time to have adventures of Rwanda, visiting all the most relevant attractions and carrying out all tourist activities which include gorilla tracking,golden monkey tracking,wildlife tours,mountain climbing,cultural visits.
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN KIGALI & AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK GAME DRIVE
In your visit to Rwanda, Your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will meet you at Kigali Airport and give you a short briefing of the upcoming itinerary. You will then drive directly to Akagera National Park and check in to your accommodation, where you will have lunch. The drive from Kigali Airport to the Park is about 2.5 hours; the roads are good and there is little traffic once you are out of Kigali. There are opportunities to stop, and you should feel free to request your guide to stop whenever you so wish. If there are any supplies you may need for your week in Rwanda, this is a good time to tell your guide, as the shopping in Kigali is considerably better than on the road; in the park itself, there are no shops.
When reaching your accommodation, you will check in and prepare for lunch. After lunch and a rest, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you on an afternoon Game Drive. Akagera National Park is quite unusual, in that it does not have the huge number of tourists that the game parks in Kenya and Tanzania have; as such, you could spend hours in the park moving about and not see other vehicles with tourists. The park has recently re-introduced lions into the park and there is a program in place to re-introduce Rhinos as well. This will then give Akagera National Park Big 5 status; something Rwanda has not had for many years.
Before night fall, you will return to your accommodation for dinner. There is little entertainment in Akagera National Park in the evening, with the exception of the lodge you may be staying in. Many of the lodges arrange a local dance and drum group to come to the lodge to entertain the guests after dinner. As you are going on an early morning Game Drive, we suggest you make it an early night, as Day 2 of your itinerary could be exhausting with all the driving and the early start.
DAY 2: GAME DRIVE & LAKE IHEMA BOAT CRUISE
After an early breakfast, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you on a morning Game Drive. This is the best time to get an opportunity to see the predators in the park going for a ‘kill’, as later in the day, when the sun is too hot, the animals tend to find shelter from the heat. There are a number of predators in Akagera National Park, including lions and hyenas, both of which enjoy early morning hunting. The park also has many other large mammals, as well as a great variety of birds. East Africa in general, is a haven for bird watchers, and this park is no exception, especially around the wetlands and marshes, there are many endemic species to be found.
You will return to your accommodation after the Game Drive for lunch. After you have rested up a bit, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you for a Boat Cruise on Lake Ihema. This is voted by most visitors as the best way to see the wildlife in Akagera National Park; there are hippos, crocodiles, water buffalo and dozens of water birds. The cruise takes a couple of hours.
After the cruise, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will escort you back to your accommodation.
DAY 3: VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK & IBYLWACU CULTURAL CENTER
After breakfast, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you from your accommodation in Akagera National Park to your accommodation at Volcanoes National Park to check in. The drive is approximately 2.5 hours; the roads are well paved and the scenery is enjoyable. This land of 1000 hills will not disappoint you with great vistas. One of the interesting things to view in Rwanda when driving between destinations, is the farming done on the hills. The challenges that these local farmers have with the high slopes; irrigation, soil erosion and just the mere steepness of the hills complicates the harvesting process. Most farms in Rwanda are less than 1 Acre in size, so the hills look like a quilt of crops being grown.
Lunch will be served at your accommodation. .
In the afternoon your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you to the Ibyiwacu Cultural Center in Kiningi. Here at the Center you can watch local drummers and dancers perform their native music and dance moves. In addition, the local people put on costumes and recreate a traditional wedding ceremony for their guests, a most interesting drama to watch. There are handicrafts for sale at the center; all locally made in the immediate community.
Before night fall, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you back to your accommodation for dinner.
DAY 4: 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 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 5: GOLDEN MONKEY TRACKING & MUSANZE CAVES
After an early morning breakfast, you will be taken to the Park Headquarters, as for the Gorilla Tracking. Again, you will be served coffee and tea while you get an opportunity to be entertained by the local drummers and dancers. Afterwards, you will be assigned to your Golden Monkey Tracking group with a Park Ranger; you will then be highlighted on the tracking procedure and protocol for the Park. After this orientation, you will be taken to the location of the start of the tracking into the forest.
Unlike the Mountain Gorilla Tracking, the Golden Monkey tracking does not take as long, in terms of meeting up with the primates, as they are usually feeding in the Bamboo Forest at the base of the mountain. You will get to spend an hour with the Golden Monkeys, after which you will then return to your vehicle and re-unite with the GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide, who will escort you back to your accommodation for lunch.
After lunch, you will be taken to the Musanze Caves, a short distance from your accommodation. These caves have been used by local people to live in; now they are an attraction for visitors. The largest of the caves is 2 kilometers in length.
You will be taken back to your accommodation before night fall. Dinner will be at your accommodation.
DAY 6: 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.
The first day you spend 6 hours hiking and climbing to the 3,700 meter level. Here, you will overnight; 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 7: MOUNT KARISIMBI CLIMBING & NYUGWE 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 take you to a Rwandese restaurant for lunch, this will be en-route to the Nyungwe National Park, a distance of 115 kilometers.
After lunch, you will be driven to your accommodation at Nyungwe National Park; you will check in and have a rest before dinner at your accommodation. The drive is 2 hours from the base camp of Mount Karisimbi to Nyungwe National Park, not including a stop for lunch.
DAY 8: CHIMPANZEE TRACKING & CANOPY WALK
After an early morning breakfast, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you to the Park Headquarters where you will receive an orientation for the Chimpanzee Tracking. You will be assigned to a group and a Park Ranger; when everything is organized, you will begin your tracking of the Chimpanzee. Unlike the Mountain Gorillas, the Chimpanzee are always moving about the forest, swinging on the branches of the trees, chattering the whole time. It is not unusual for the Chimpanzees to engage with you; at times coming right up to the visitors and holding their hands as they walk along the path. The Chimpanzees are the closest to humans of the Great Apes; their similarities are numerous.
You will return to your accommodation for lunch. After lunch, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will escort you to the starting point of the walking trail that takes you through the rain forest to the Canopy Walk, a 50 meter suspension bridge that hangs over the top of the trees. From this vantage point you get a birds’ eye view of the forest and its inhabitants. This is the only such Canopy Walk in East and Central Africa, and it does provide a unique opportunity to view the forest from above.
When you have completed your hike and return to your vehicle, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will drive you to your accommodation at Lake Kivu, a drive of just over an hour.
Dinner will be served at your accommodation.
DAY 9: LAKE KIVU BOAT CRUISE & SEA KAYAKING.
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.
Lunch will be served at your accommodation.
After you have rested a bit after your lunch, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you to Kibuye where you will go for a sea-Kayaking afternoon around the Bay; paddling on the silent waters of Lake Kivu around the islands. This is a unique opportunity to visit some of the local fishing villages along the shoreline, enjoying the beautiful vistas of the lake. You will return to your accommodation before nightfall.
Dinner will be served at the lodge.
DAY 10: LAKE KIVU CONGO NILE TRAIL
After breakfast, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you to the starting point of the Congo Nile Trail, where you will pick up your bicycles for the day-long expedition along the shoreline of Lake Kivu. The Congo-Nile Trail can be a 3-day bicycle or 5-day hiking trip, but there are sections that are most appropriate for a one-day journey. You will pass through local villages and towns en route, visiting with local people and sampling some of the traditional foods that are being prepared along the road. There is little traffic on this road, but caution must be taken, as in any bicycle trip such as this, as there are the occasional trucks and buses that will pass you along the way.
Your lodge will prepare a packed lunch for you to take with, so you do not have to look for a place to have lunch on the road. There are many places to stop for drinks and snacks should you be so inclined.
It is a most spectacular way to spend the day, roaming from one village to another to witness the lifestyle of the people and to witness (and participate in) the traditional fishing techniques and nets that the locals use; the most common money earner for the people on the shores of Lake Kivu. Before dusk, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will meet you at a predetermined location, and return you to your lodge. Your guide will return the bicycles to the rental shop after dropping you off, so that you do not have to do the return trip.
Dinner will be served at the lodge.
.DAY 11: 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 for lunch 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.
NYUNGWE NATIONAL PARK
Nyungwe National Park is a natural very dense rain forested in the south west of the country, bordering Burundi and Lake Kivu and Democratic Republic of Congo. Because of Rwanda’s high altitude reaching 3000 meters above sea level in some places, it has, what is called a montane rainforest; forming a natural spring source from which river tributaries power their waters into the Congo River in the west and River Nile in the east. Lower altitude levels have bamboo forests, grassland, swamp and aquatic vegetation that support a lot of wildlife. The Park supports 12 primates, in excess of 270 birds, 85 mammals, 38 reptiles and a host of insect species plus over 1000 plant species. Worthy of special mention, is the Angola colobus monkey, now extinct in her original home country Angola, and groups of habituated chimpanzees for tourism activities. Very interesting activities for visitors to participate in, are the Chimpanzee and other primate tracking, bird watching walks, canopy walk. More challenging and needing some high levels of body physical fitness is mountain hikes which are very rewarding and offer both physical and mental relaxation.
Nyungwe offers a set of small trail network that makes visitors into the park explore the dense forest ecosystem and appreciate nature at best including rough and rugged Bigungu peak, waterfalls, Gisakula tea estate and upclose to wildlife. One unique experience that should not be missed is the 50 meter Canopy Walk; a suspended rope bridge on top of the forest canopy. Here one can get a bird eye’s view of the forest and the wildlife roaming about within it.
GISAKURA GUEST HOUSE
Gisakura Guest House is located 2 kilometers outside the Nyungwe Forest National park, close to the Gisakura Tea Estate. There are 3 types of rooms, all with hot showers; singles, doubles and triples.
- Next to Gisakura Tea Estate
- Restaurant and Bar
- Gardens with various Orchid and tree species
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. rwanda safari
- 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)
AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
Akagera Nataional Park is the second largest national park in Rwanda; it is located in the north eastern section, bordering on Tanzania. Akagera is quite exceptional in terms of the topography; unlike most of Rwanda, that is hilly, this park is made up mostly of large open flat plains. The Akagera Riverbanks are made up mostly of aquatic swamps; whereas the surrounding area is made up of crater lakes. The forest woodland area next to the swamps is the habitat for several mammal species, such as the leopard, zebras, spotted hyena, buffalo, elephant and topi. Also one can find Masaai Giraffe and lions, as well as many bird species, insects, reptiles and fish species in the waterways.
Akagera National Park is the place to see at least 4 or the Big 5, and possibly even the Rhino, which is being planned to be introduced soon. In addition to Game Drives, there are a number of walking trails, particularly good for bird watchers. There is a boat cruise to give you a totally different perspective on the wildlife; this is done on Lake Ihema, where you can get extremely close to the various mammals and aquatic birds in the area..
ACCOMMODATION IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
AKAGERA GAME LODGE
Akagera Game Lodge is within the boundaries of the National park, near its south entrance. The lodge is located on a ridge, overlooking Lake Ihema. The swimming pool is perched on the edge of the savannah. The large reception area has many African carvings and pieces of art.
Accommodation consists of bedrooms, suites and cottages. Every room has a terrace with chairs, Satellite TV, writing desk and chair.
- Swimming Pool
- Gift shop
- Gym, Spa & Tennis Courts
- Children’s pool