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About Republic of Rwanda

Renowned as the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda is a land of verdantly rolling hills, plunging ravines and rich cultivation. Studded with lakes, waterfalls and ancient forests, she boasts 200 species of tree and 300 species of orchid.

Rwanda is of the only three countries that offers 13 species of primates including the world-famous mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and the rare Golden Monkey. Most of these are found in Volcanoes National Park. It is a dense, lush, tropical Paradise spread across five dormant Volcanic-Mountains at the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo; Mount Bisoke, Muhabura, Karisimbi, Sabinyo and Gahinga. Thanks to it’s abundance of over 180 bird species, 1,050 plant and 85 mammal species, this park has everything you imagine Africa’s most beautiful forest park to look like. Add to that a endearing gorilla trekking experience and you have one of the world’s natural seven wonders.

On the other hand, Every possible wild life experience that you can envision is captured here at Akagera National Park. This includes a wide range of antelopes, zebras, buffalo, giraffes, hippos, lions, leopard, spotted hyenas, golden cats and giant forest hogs. Kigali, the city that never sleeps ranges over several hills.

Serene and compact, Rwanda offers a world-class range of hotels, restaurants and bars and is one of the best place to experience the extraordinary spectacle of the Intore Royal Ballet.

Also in the city is the world famous and exceptionally moving Genocide Memorial Center, a permanent exhibition documenting the tragedy of the 1984 Rwandan Genocide.

Not forgetting Intore traditional dancers. They are sons of the king’s noblemen who were originally based at his court in Nyanza–where they performed for his pleasure. They showcase series of rhythmic pieces, the most famous of which is the Crane Dance.

Best time to visit

Gorilla tracking is quite frustrating the rainy months from April, March and May for two reasons. For starters, the vegetation overgrows at this time making frustrating to observe them or take their pictures.In this regard, the dry season is much more recommendable as it offers a hustle free experience. It occurs from June-March.

Top Destinations to Visit in Rwanda

Volcanoes is dense, lush, tropical paradise, lying across five dormant Volcanic Mountains at the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo; Mount Bisoke, Muhabura, Karisimbi, Sabinyo and Gahinga. Thanks to its abundance of over 180 bird species, 1,050 plant and 85 mammal species, it has everything you imagine Africa’s most beautiful park to look like. Add to that an endearing gorilla trekking experience and you have one of the world’s natural seven wonders. It has 10 habituated gorilla families, each comprising of at least 7 members.

You will never feel in any danger for a minute at this 130 Km2gem of Rwanda, it is absolutely safe destination.

Location

Also known as “Parc National de Volcans”, Volcanoes is just two hours’ drive from Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport. As such, if you have limited time, you can fly in early morning, track gorillas and later fly out at night. 

How the gorilla trekking unfolds

The rangers are profoundly dedicated to their calling and have a strong connection with the gorillas. You will feel you are in safe hands the minute you meet them. In an effort to make the adventure less exhausting for you, you can hire a local porter to carry your luggage. This will allow you travel lighter.

Upon arrival at the park headquarter in the Western region of Rwanda, you will be assigned a large gorilla family comprising of several adults, juveniles and few babies. You will be divided into groups, each with 8 tourists at most.

After getting briefed, the hike will start off along an easy path with thick jungles on each side. Before long, the hike will start to get steeper but worry not, there are lots of stopovers where you can take a break to allow your body regain its full vigor. Soon, you will be walking on old lava that nature is has broken down into small spherical pieces. This rough texture makes it easier to hike compared to slippery trails.

Your group will be led by two rangers armed with AK47s to scare off stray forest buffaloes from attacking you. Due to the high elevation of the park at 2,500-4,500 meters above sea level, temperatures can drop as low as 10’s (or 35’s if you still use F). Luckily, this will hardly have an effect on you because your body heats up as you hike. Nevertheless, you need a raincoat just in case it starts to rain while you are still in the forest. 

There are brief stops in scenic settings where you can have photographic moments.

When it all seems like the adventure will be fruitless, you will land on a family of gorillas at a random location—where they are bonding or searching for food! Right there! The gorilla family members are usually spread out across perhaps a thirty meter area in the jungle. You will move from place to place, meeting each member of the family and appreciating their uniqueness. A little infant might frolic in front of you to show off new climbing skills he has learnt. If in the mood, he might reach out to you and touch you. It’s such an emotional encounter that has left many in tears of joy.

Most tourists who have been here can’t help but gawp at the sight of huge silverback when they loom into view. These alpha males are four time bulkier than man and strong enough to rip apart a fully grown sheep. Given this background, it is such an intimidating encounter especially when he walks right to you to analyze if you are a friendly visitor or trouble maker. The good news is that they are not violent to tourists having undergone habituation.

DOs and DON’Ts of gorilla trekking

  • You will spend a full hour in the company of gorillas during which you are not expected to take their pictures with your camera flash on. It irritates their sight and makes them restless. Similarly, you are advised not to wear cloths with shouting colours like red. It deprives them of peace of mind as it is identical to blood and death.
  • Though gorillas have the ability to live in harsh environments, their immune system is quite weak. To this effect, tourists are expected to keep a seven meter distance from these amazing gentle creatures. This minimizes the possibility of transmitting diseases to them.

Travel tip

  • Good hiking boots with a good grip are a must. The some stretches of the forest floor are quite steep and slippery. 
  • Wear long pants, long sleeved shirts and gaiters. The park has lots of stinging nettles. Besides, you will walk through a very dense forest and it is good to protect your skin from scratches.
  • If you wish to empower locals directly and effectively spread your wealth about, you can’t go wrong with hiring a local porter to carry your backpack. It is good for the local population to earn from tourism.

Best time to visit

Gorilla tracking is quite frustrating during peak rainy months like April, March and May for two reasons. The vegetation of the park overgrows at this time making difficult to observe gorillas or take their pictures. In this regard, the dry season is much more recommendable as it offers a hustle free experience. It occurs from June-March.

Other things to do in Volcanoes National Park

  1. Pay homage to Dian Fossey

You can honor the historical scientist and gorilla advocate Dian Fossey with a visit to her grave. It is not so far from the Headquarters of Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, a nonprofit institute she founded to save gorillas from going extinct. Fossey took her last breath in December 26, 1985 (aged 53), she was killed by a gang of poachers who weren’t happy with her endeavors to protect the gorillas.        

  1. Explore Musanze Caves

Formed over a million years ago, Musanze caves offer an insight into volcanic eruptions that led to the formation of the 8 mountains in Virunga region. It is spacious and full of unique rock formations and nocturnal bird species like bats. There is no better way to see the full beauty of Musanze than by pursuing a 2 kilometer trail that passes through them. It is an informative and inspirational tour.

  1. Iby’iwacu Cultural Village

Visiting Iby’lwacu Cultural Village is absolutely worth doing before or after gorilla trekking in Volcanoes, a park it neighbors. It showcases what typical villages in Rwanda look like, offering deep insights about traditional way of living. Here, authentic crafts are sold and traditional dances performed for tourists. The initiative was established to combat poaching in Volcanoes National Park by offering former poachers alternative work and livelihoods. This includes selling crafts. Inspired by the project, so many poachers have influenced those around them to get in involved in gorilla conservation.

Found in the Southern-Western hemisphere of Rwanda, Nyungwe is one of the few rainforests in the world that successful outlived the ice age. That’s why it is revered as one of Africa’s oldest rain forests in Africa. It covers over 1,000sq kms that stretches in Burundi. 

It is must visit destination for the thrill of tracking chimpanzees and a variety of monkeys; Colobus Monkey, L’Hoest’s Monkey, Golden Monkey and Blue Monkey. No other place in Rwanda receives as much rainfall as it in a year, over 2000mm. This massive rainfall creates astonishing waterfalls that add to the beauty of the park. During your time here, you will inhale pure oxygen without any air pollutants, the forest is so pristine.

On the part of hiking, there are several trails of varying lengths and gradient. There are options for both enthusiasts of tough hiking challenges and those in need of trails for a leisurely stroll.

Chimpanzee tracking

 If lady luck sides with you, you might come across 3 different types of monkeys all on a single hike. To get better sightings of them, tag along with a pair of binoculars or a camera with a powerful zoom. As you delve deeper into the forest, you will see a variety of flowery vegetation and gigantic redwoods with roots as thick as your body.

By the end of this experience, you will leave very impressed by the whole set up, the professionalism of staff, the organization and processes in place.

The family you will track consists of a dominant alpha male, subordinate alpha males, adult females, juveniles and babies. They are fully habituated and your presence won’t interfere or influenced their behavior at all. They are a very active family and play a lot and sometimes fall off trees especially when they don’t calculate their strides. In most case, this doesn’t seem to harm or worry them.

To stop them from wandering out of sight during the one hour you will spend with them, keep quiet and stay calm while in their presence.

During the one hour you will be with them, the ranger guide in charge of your group will keep reassuring them that you are not dangerous. He will achieve this by making low grunting sounds. He will also clear branches obstructing your photography without causing any discomfort to the chimps.

Canopy walk

Nyungwe offers a world class canopy walk high in its lusciously green and towering trees with gigantic sizes.

The climb starts gradually and takes you to the top of the top of the forest, 60 metres above the ground. Its midpoint will provides you with a view like no other. You will dreamy views over the southern region and look into the depths of the park. You will feel a refreshing breeze sweep over you, leaving your skin feeling more alive than ever.

For better views of the birds, keep your eyes open and pay attention to branches cracking in the distance.

The canopy tour starts at Igishigishigi trail and Umuyove trails. It be done at any time of the year at a fee of $60. The bonus of the trip is the great probability of encountering at least 40% of the 310 recorded species, 27 of which are Albertine Endemics like Green Broadbill.

Best time to visit.

Chimp trekking in Nyungwe Forest is much fun in the wet season, when the primates are feeding in more predictable territories. This cuts across April-March-April.

Travel Tip

Temperatures in Nyungwe can drop as low as 150C. Carry with you enough clothing. During your tour with Umoja Motherland Safaris, we shall book you into lodges with efficient heating systems.

There is something magical about this park and the people in it. Its landscape is splendid, with wide views over lakes, escarpments, rolling mountains, savannah plains and wetlands. Found in the north eastern region of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania, Akagera is one of the very few places in Africa where you stand a good chance of finding Shoebills and Sitatunga.

In the wet season, it is as green as lime and radiant like gold in dry seasons. The park supports developing and educating the surrounding communities in an effort to provide them sustainable sources of income.

Bird watching

Most birders a special inclination towards it for its 500 bird species highlighted by thriving population of Red-Faced Barbets, Miombo Wren-Warblers, Shoebill Stork, Papyrus Gonolek, Bennett’s Woodpecker, African fish eagles and Lilac breasted rollers among others.

Big Game

Although it has all members of the Big 5, Akagera isn’t like Serengeti or Masai Mara reserve, it is solid in its own right. 

In early 1990’s Akagera suffered a catastrophic inter-human conflict that zeroed down its wildlife population by over 40 %. Among the worst affected animals were the predators especially lions, over 80 of which were poisoned.

In an effort to enable the park regain its lost glory, massive sensitization of locals was undertaken. Lots of wildlife were also translocated into the park from different parts of Africa. This has played a key role in repopulating the park, enabling it to quickly grow from strength to strength. This can be seen in the tremendous increase in varieties of wildlife species across its valleys and flat landscape. It has hundreds of topis, zebras, waterbucks, giraffes, roan antelope, elands, lions, cape buffalos, impalas, elephants, antelopes and leopards.

 It takes about five hours to drive through its vast expanse of 1,122 sq km which is interconnected by a network of well-maintained paths.

You will notice that there are very few vehicles. Similarly, the guides linked by radios don’t charged after every sighting as the park has enough to offer in every square kilometer.

Boat cruise

The two hours boat tour on Lake Ihema is highly recommended for avid birders. Among the places you will visit includes an island mainly occupied by birds and crocodiles. Along the shores of the lakes, you will find hippos, crocodiles, warthogs, storks and grey crown crested cranes among others. The best part of the trip was the sunset boat tour.

Boat Trips occur 4 times per day at 7.30am, 9am, 3.30pm and 5pm. If you wish to have a Non-scheduled, private trips, we are happy to help you organize and plan a trip at whenever you are ready.

Best time to visit

Thanks to the zero rate of poaching and migration, Akagera provides fruitful excursions throughout the year. However if you wish to visit it when it is less crowded, weekdays provide a better experience. The park is busier at weekends.

The Nyamirambo Women’s Centre is a local self-help group formed by local women and with support of women from other countries. Its purpose is to get them better employment opportunities. Over time, it has grown it a big success story, led to the establishment of a library, hair dressing shops and communal water fountain.

 They use this tour to give tourists a sense of real life in Kigali City, the hilliest capital in East Africa. It takes hours, offering you a firsthand feel of how a majority of Kigali residents live.

The guide will give you a short but much appreciated insight about Rwandese delivered with warmth, true local knowledge.

As you explore the different neighbourhoods, you will meet lots of locals and get to know their daily life along the way. The women are usually at work in the shops and happy tell you more about what they make. Such include quality handmade crafts like baskets, necklaces, bags.

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