Brief description of the itinerary
This 6 day safari takes you to visit Rwanda and Uganda involving gorilla trekking and golden monkey tracking at volcanoes national parks a second gorilla trekking at the Bwindi impenetrable forest national park in Uganda and cultural adventure.
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 6 day Gorilla Tracking 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.
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: MOUNTAIN GORILLA TRACKING & IBYLWACU CULTURAL CENTER
In your Rwanda tour,You will get up early in the morning, be served a quick breakfast at your lodgings and head off to the Park Headquarters of Volcanoes National Park. Upon arrival at the Park Headquarters, you will be served coffee or tea, while a local cultural group entertain you with a local dance and drumming routine. Shortly thereafter, the final paperwork will be finished, and you will be assigned to one of the 10 families of Mountain Gorillas. A short briefing and talk about park etiquette will be given by your Park Ranger and then you will be ready to head off to the track for your search for the gorillas.
You will then drive to the starting point for your tracking. Because the Mountain Gorillas are forever moving about the forest, it could take anywhere from an hour to 8 hours to meet up with the particular Gorilla Family you have been assigned to. There are rangers in the forest following the trail left by the Gorillas in the early morning; these rangers are in constant contact with your Ranger Guide. When the Gorillas are spotted, your Ranger Guide will then be alerted and you will proceed to the exact location that they are at that moment. We highly suggest you take a few snacks with you and water, should you be in the forest for many hours; these snacks you will have to eat either before or after meeting the Gorillas, as it is not permitted to eat in front of them. When you finally meet up with the Gorilla Family, you will be allowed one hour of observing and photographing.
After the Gorilla Tracking, you will return to your accommodation for lunch and a little rest. There is an opportunity for your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide to 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.
Before night fall, you will be returned to your accommodation for dinner.
DAY 3: 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 4: BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST (UGANDA)
After breakfast, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will drive you from your lodge in Volcanoes National Park to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. The route will take you back through Kigali, a 2-hour drive, and then a 1.5 hour drive from Kigali to the Rwanda/Uganda border. After clearing Customs and Immigration, you will proceed to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a 2.5 hour drive. You will go directly to your accommodation.
You will be served lunch at your accommodation. After lunch, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide is available to take you to one of the local towns near the lodge, where you can immerse yourself in a bit of Ugandan culture. Alternately, if you prefer to rest up for the early morning coming up, that is fine.
DAY 5: GORILLA TRACKING (BWINDI)
After breakfast, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you to the Park Ranger station in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for your orientation with the Rangers, giving you some basic information on the Gorilla Tracking and some of the park etiquette. You will then be assigned to a particular Gorilla Family and a ranger-led group. After all the paperwork is done, your Ranger guide will escort you to the starting point for the Tracking to begin. As in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, it is uncertain as to how long it may take for you to meet up with your particular Gorilla Family; this could take anywhere from 1 to 8 hours, depending on where the Gorillas are in the park.
Your accommodation will prepare for you a packaged lunch to take with; this will have to be eaten either before or after your Gorilla encounter, as no food can be consumed when with the Gorillas. You will be allowed to spend up to an hour with the Gorilla Family, after which you will return to your vehicle and be re-united with your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide.
In Bwindi Impenetrable Forest there are many walking trails that you could explore in the afternoon if you would like, alternately, you may just wish to relax at the lodge and enjoy the beautiful views of the Virungas in the distance and the forest around the lodge.
Dinner will be served at your accommodation.
DAY 6: RETURN TO KIGALI & GENOCIDE MEMORIAL CENTER
After breakfast, your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you back to Kigali for your onward flight. This will be the reverse of the journey you did a couple of days previously; first a 2.5 hour drive from Bwindi National Park in Uganda to the Uganda/Rwanda border. After clearing customs and immigration on both sides of the border, you will then drive the 1.5 hours to Kigali. Your GORILLA COUSINS RWANDA guide will take you to a local Rwandese restaurant in Kigali for some traditional food for you to taste.
If time permits, your guide will take you to the Genocide Memorial Center in Kigali, a museum set up to commemorate the Holocaust of 1994. When the time is right, your guide will escort you to the airport to catch your flight.
End of tour
VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK/PARC NATIONAL DES VOLCANO INFORMATION
Volcanoes National Park, approximately 160 square kilometers in size, is situated in the Northern part of Rwanda. This is the oldest National Park in Africa, established in 1925; initially a very small conservation area to protect the Mountain Gorillas from poachers. The park was enlarged a few years later, then split in two with the political boundaries between Rwanda and the Congo being established. Dian Fossey, the American Zoologist who conducted her research originally in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, shifted into Volcanoes National Park in 1967, because of security concerns. Fossey established the Karisoke Research Center, where she continued with her Mountain Gorilla Research and advocacy work to protect these primates from poachers. In 1985 she was murdered at the Center, where she was buried. The Center has expanded its work, now employing over 100 people; in addition to the research and advocacy work, the Center is a tourist attraction that can be easily reached by a two-hour trail from the park headquarters.
There is little doubt that the main attraction to Volcanoes National Park is tracking the endangered Mountain Gorillas, the foremost wildlife experience on the continent. The park does offer many other attractions for visitors; there are daily Golden Monkey Tracking tours, one-day and two-day volcano climbing to the summits of Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke, respectively. In September every year there is a baby gorilla naming ceremony; it is called Kwita Izina. There are lakes and caves to be explored, as well as a number of unusually interesting cultural encounters with local people. The Park is home to almost 200 bird species, 29 of them endemic to the Rwenzori Mountains and the Virungas.
Due to the large altitudinal range in the park, there is a large variety in the types of vegetation that exist; everything from grasslands to dense forests. These different flora support equally as diverse fauna. In the park one can see black-fronted duiker, buffalo, spotted hyena, bushbuck, and even a few elephants. Tourism is the main function of the park; the majority of the revenues generated by the park are put back into the park for maintenance and for the conservation of the wildlife that lives within its borders. Around 10% of the revenue goes to local projects in the area to help the indigenous people benefit from the large revenue stream generated by the park.
VOLCANOES – ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS
FIVE VOLCANOES BOUTIQUE HOTEL
Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel is located in Musanze Province, on the road to Kinigi, where the Volcanoes National Park head office is situated. This 5-star accommodation has beautiful views of the rolling hills and the neighbouring forest. There are 13 rooms, a VIP cottage, each with air conditioning, flat screen TV, a refrigerator and a kettle. The hotel has a restaurant, pool, traditional sauna and a steam sauna.
SABYINYO SILVERBACK LODGE
The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is also located in Musanze District, close to the Volcanoes National Park headquarters. The views of the Virunga Range from this foothill location are excellent. The lodge comprises of 8 cottages, all with stunning views of the Virunga Volcanoes, and are well spaces for privacy. Each cottage has a sitting room area with a fireplace, a bedroom and dressing room. The large bathrooms have both a bath and a shower with 24 hour hot water.
There is a sheltered balcony on each of the cottages, where one can have a relaxing breakfast. There is a library and games room in the main lodge building; also a bar and restaurant.
Virunga Lodge is located an hour’s drive from the Volcanoes National Park Headquarters, with one of the most magnificent views in Africa; the lodge is on a ridge overlooking Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo. There are 8 spacious stone rooms, all with wooden floors, locally made wooden furniture and large verandas. The private toilet and shower for each is connected by a short covered walkway. Toilets at the lodge are low-flushing eco toilets and the showers are solar heated hot water. They offer free evening entertainment in the form of local Indore danceers.
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST NATIONAL PARK (UGANDA)
Located in the South West of Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is 321 square kilometers in size. Bwindi is an ancient Rainforest that is home to half of the world’s Mountain Gorillas, as well as many other primates. The environment that these Mountain Gorillas live in is significantly different from that of their relatives in Rwanda. The Tracking in Bwindi is much steeper and the forest much more dense than in Volcanoes National Park. Here in Bwindi there are over 120 mammal species, 346 bird species, 202 butterflies species, 163 species of trees, 100 of ferms, 27 different species of frogs, chameleons, geckos; many of these are endangered.
Although the main activity in Bwindi is Gorilla Tracking, there are many other delights in this beautiful forest. Here in Bwindi there are 9 habituated Gorilla families; only 8 visitors per day are allowed to see each family. There are 4 trail heads for Gorilla Tracking in Bwindi; these trails lead to other attractions such as rivers, waterfalls, swamps – all of which have a lot of wildlife concentration.
BWINDI – ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS
BUHOMA COMMUNITY BANDAS AND CAMPSITE
Buhoma Community Bandas and Campsite is just inside the Bwindi park entrance gate; the bandas, tented rooms, dormitories and self-camping facilities are all available for guests. The hotel has a restaurant and bar, laundry service, free parking, shower facilities for campers and a gift shop.
MUTANDA LAKE RESORT
Mutanda Lake Resort has dramatic views of the Congo and Rwanda from it Lake Mutanda location. It is a mid-range accommodation, conveniently located for the Nkuringo and Rushaga Gorilla Families. The cottabes are built on wooden platforms, with verandahs for viewing. The lodge building is located to afford one of the most beautiful views in Africa.
Mutanda has free WiFi, a shuttle service from Kabale, Kisoro, Lake Bunyonyi and Kigali. They have a complete bar and restaurant on the premises.