Rwanda

About Rwanda

Rwanda mountain gorilla safaris

Do you want to visit mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, colobus, or golden monkeys? Rwanda offers you a remarkable primate safari with no difficulty. This small landlocked country is home to the highest number of primates, which together offer you a memorable primate trekking safari. Primates are key tourist attractions in Rwanda attracting the highest number of travelers from all over the world. Primates especially chimpanzees and gorillas are close relatives to human beings whose human-like characters make them distinct creatures worth visiting. Any Rwanda safari without visiting these primates is undeniably incomplete. Also, some of these primates are highly endangered and hardly found elsewhere in the world. The best places to go for primate trekking in Rwanda are:

Volcanoes National park

Located in northwestern Rwanda, Volcanoes national park is Rwanda’s first stop center for primate trekking. The park is home to 10 habituated mountain gorillas hence the best stop center to visit and interact with the endangered mountain gorillas. Volcanoes are one of the four national parks that shelter mountain gorillas in the whole world. Other gorilla parks include Virunga national park in Congo, Mgahinga and Bwindi forest national parks in Uganda. Also, Rwanda offers luxury gorilla tours due to her costly gorilla permits @ 1500 per permit compared to Uganda and Congo. Each gorilla family is visited by 8 people hence 80 gorilla permits issued every day. Besides gorillas, Volcanoes National park is home to the endangered golden monkeys. Have a close encounter with golden monkeys; enjoy their lively characters at as low as $100 per permit. Endeavor to hike to the graveyard of Dian Fossey, an American primatologist who lost her life to save mountain gorillas that were on the verge of extinction in the Virunga massif. Other attractions to visit in Volcanoes National park include Bulera and Buhondo twin lakes and Musanze caves. If you are physically fit, enjoy hiking to the top of Mount Karisimbi or Bisoke whose slopes shelter endangered gorillas.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Home to the highest population of chimpanzees, Nyungwe forest is a must-visit on your Rwanda primate safari. Unlike gorillas, chimpanzees are lively and constantly move jumping across trees at high speeds while shouting at each other as a form of communication. Chimpanzees are a core attraction in the Nyungwe forest estimated to shelter over 500 individuals. Interestingly, chimpanzees are visited at $100 for a permit, which is far less compared to $1500 for mountain gorillas. Chimpanzee trekking in the Nyungwe forest is done in two areas, which are Cyamudongo forest and the main forest. Different chimpanzee communities have been habituated for trekking. Chimpanzee treks in Nyungwe start off from any of the three reception centers at Gisakura, Kitabi, and Uwinka depending on where travelers spent a night. The loud screams, hoots, and cracks of tree branches alert travelers where chimpanzees are located. Besides chimpanzees, the Nyungwe forest offers travelers with exceptional canopy walk which gives you an aerial view of the forest and the Virunga volcanoes. Also, enjoy a forest walk to Kamiranzovu waterfall and other spots in the park. You will enjoy the sweet sounds of birds, which sing endlessly up in the trees making your safari more fun and enjoyable.

Akagera national park

Akagera is almost unrecognizable today compared to just 20 years ago when it was on the verge of being lost forever. While peace was finally restored in the 1990s after the 1994 Genocide, Akagera’s demise was just beginning. Refugees returning to Rwanda after the genocide were still battling for their own survival and turned to the forests for timber, wildlife for protein, and the wild savannas for their livestock. Lions were hunted to local extinction, rhinos disappeared, and the park’s wildlife was displaced by tens of thousands of long-horned cattle. Biodiversity was practically lost, and with it so was employment and tourism. The park’s value was virtually diminished, which makes its story of revival even more remarkable.

In 2010, African Parks assumed management of Akagera in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), shifting the park’s trajectory from one of oblivion to prosperity and hope. After years of preparation, through effective law enforcement and management, 2017 saw the historic return of 18 Eastern black rhinoceros after a 10-year absence, thanks to the support from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. An additional five captive-bred black rhinos were translocated from Europe in June 2019, with the support of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), to augment genetic diversity. Two new male lions were also translocated to Akagera in 2017 to enhance the genetic diversity of the growing pride, which has now tripled since their initial reintroduction in 2015. With poaching essentially halted, the park’s key wildlife populations have continued to rise. The park is generating more than US$2.5M in annual revenue, making it 90% self-financing driven by the tens of thousands of people, half of whom are nationals, coming to see its rebirth.

Gishwati Mukura National Park

This is Rwanda’s newly opened national park located in western Rwanda shared by Ngororero and Rutsiro districts. The forest is home to numerous white colobus monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, blue monkeys, and some wild chimpanzees.

Best time to visit Rwanda

The best time visit Rwanda is from mid-May to mid-October, this is the long dry season and has perfect conditions for tracking gorillas. There are four seasons to consider when planning your Rwanda safari, however, the weather is fairly temperate and favors travel year-round, thanks to its compact size, proximity to the equator, and high altitude, which gives it a fresh highland feel and consistent temperature. The average daytime temperature is around 30°C or 86°F. The capital of Kigali enjoys an average temperature of 21°C or 70°F.

You can track gorillas year-round in Rwanda, however, you will want to bear in mind that the rainier months will make tracking more difficult with muddy conditions.

Rwanda Safari Parks and Reserves

Rwanda is a landlocked east Africa country boasting majestic volcanoes, lush, dense greenery, imposing mountains, and spectacular wildlife. Nicknamed the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, Rwanda has suffered a turbulent history in recent years but is now entering an economic and environmental resurgence sure to elevate it as a top tourist spot for natural beauty. Where else can you reach dizzying peaks, wade through plush vegetation and monkey around with gorillas? Here’s our definitive guide to the best national parks and reserves in Rwanda.

Volcanoes national park

The Volcanoes national park is the highlight of any trip to Rwanda. It remains one of the best places in East Africa to track mountain gorillas, a rare species that inspired the Hollywood blockbuster Gorillas in the Mist. Gorilla tracking is now the biggest attraction for visitors to Rwanda, and thanks to the work of renowned zoologists like Dr. Dian Fossey, and it’s home to the endangered golden monkeys.

The park comprised of five magnificent volcanoes steeped in bamboo and lush rainforest, of which Karisimbi is the tallest, standing at over 4,500 meters high. Climbing the volcanoes is often seen as one of the most exhilarating experiences of any trip to Africa, and can be done for an affordable price here. The mountainous and volcanic region of the Virungas is also situated within the park and is a popular draw for visitors wishing to traverse the stunning landscape, offering various hikes and trails with differing levels of difficulty.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Located Southwestern Rwanda, Nyungwe forest national park resides as the country’s largest and most important area of spectacular biodiversity. Boasting over 1,000 plant varieties, hundreds of bird species, and 75 types of mammals, not to mention 13 varieties of primates, Nyungwe Forest is home to a rich and incredible array of natural wildlife, flora, and fauna. Having survived the last Ice Age, the park covers an area that is home to Africa’s oldest rainforest systems. Here visitors can track chimps and rare monkeys, including the 400 Angolan Colobus monkeys that are frequently seen swinging enthusiastically in the trees of the forest.

It is one of the best areas for hiking too, with over 20 km of well-preserved walking trails winding through the rainforest vistas, waterfalls, and marshlands. And if you’re up for a trek, you can spot more than monkeys and gorillas here; walk along the Nile and the Congo to witness the various water springs that lead to the headwaters of the Albertine Nile. Although the area was once far more impressive, before it was decimated by banana plantations and deforestation plans, the Nyungwe Forest National Park is still a sight to behold. Furthermore, with increased conservation efforts, it is quickly making an ecological comeback and is becoming a remarkable Rwandan success story.

Akagera national park

Originally constructed in 1934, Akagera national park was created to protect the area surrounding the Kagera River, and was once one of the best wildlife reserves in Africa. However, political violence and civil unrest took its toll on the area in the late 1990s, and refugees emigrated in mass numbers, causing much harm to the environment. It thereafter spanned a significantly reduced area, and as the park was only a fraction of its former glory, it became a region of concentrated charity efforts, which saw various groups including the African Parks Network (APN) and the Akagera Management Company (AMC) dedicate time and money into transforming the park into a natural haven once more. And this exertion proved fruitful; the park has recently become Rwanda’s fourth-largest source of economic revenue and is now renowned again as one of the most scenic savanna reserves in Africa.

The bird-watching here is unparalleled, with plenty of eagles, raptors and other birds of prey regularly soaring through the sky. It is one of the only places on the continent where visitors can watch a zebra roam wild, and the area is brimming with buffalo and elephants. Poaching issues have recently been broached and tackled, allowing for the re-introduction of both lions and black rhinos.

Mukura Forest Reserve

Mukura forest reserve is one of the few remaining montane rainforests in Africa. With an average altitude of 2,600 meters, it is one of the highest, most extensive and continuous areas of forest in Rwanda. Lying high on the Rift Valley Wall, there are over 150 recorded animal species here, including over 1,000 varieties of bird and 293 species of reptiles and amphibians. Presently the reserve is not properly developed for tourism, however, it is still accessible for visitors via the road which connects Karonhi to Mukaga, a path heading north at Nange. Following a dirt road that leads close to the forest’s edge, visitors will reach the outer perimeter of the forest, a lush green spectacle bursting with the sounds of wild animals.

Although still a breathtaking sight, the vegetation here has decreased rapidly in the last 50 years, by nearly 50%. The biggest reason for this is the growing population of villages emerging around the outskirts of the forest, settlements which are dependent on the reserve as a means of income and resource. With this post-genocide resettlement, it is difficult to predict how long the beauty of the reserve will last, but if possible, Rwandan travelers are urged to visit this natural treasure if they can.

Gishwati Forest Reserve

Gishwati forest reserve should really be called the vanishing forest reserve, having lost approximately 99% of its original expanse. Now only a small patch of about 2,500 acres remains of the formerly vast 250,000-acre area. Although human intervention is the main cause of this, natural disasters in the form of landslides and soil erosion have played their part in decimating the biodiversity of the reserve. However, since 2001, efforts have gone into reforesting the area, an activity which has increased the area of the park by 1,000 acres in only a few years.

Eco-tourism, as well as the work of the Gishwati Forest Conservation Program, are two important factors integral in bringing this reserve back to life. The Rwandan Ministry of Lands and Environment has plans to build a 10,000-acre corridor to connect Gishwati to the Nyungwe Forest National Park.

The reserve is a home to chimpanzees that are currently under research by the Rwandan government.

Wildlife and Birds in Rwanda

Rwanda Wildlife

Rwanda has three main wildlife destinations, Volcanoes National Park, Nyungwe Forest National Park, and Akagera National Park, each of which hosts a quite different fauna to the others. Bird watching aside, wildlife viewing opportunities outside these national parks are limited.

Volcanoes National Park is best known for its population of several hundred mountain gorillas. This includes a dozen habituated groups for which a total of 96 tracking permits are issued daily. Other wildlife includes the golden monkey (also endemic to the Albertine Rift Endemic), elephant, buffalo, giant forest hog, bushpig, bushbuck, and black-fronted duiker.

Nyungwe Forest National Park is the most biodiverse site in Rwanda. It protects at least 1,050 plant species, along with 85 mammals, 310 bird, 32 amphibian, and 38 reptile species. Thirteen primate species are present: chimpanzee, Ruwenzori colobus, L’Hoest’s monkey, silver monkey, owl-faced monkey, red-tailed monkey, Dent’s monkey, crowned monkey, Vervet monkey, olive baboon, potto and at least two species of bushbaby. The only member of the big five extant in Nyungwe is a leopard, but they are very infrequently observed. Antelope include bushbuck and three types of duiker. The tree hyrax is a seldom-seen guinea-pig-like animal whose blood-curdling screech is often heard at night. Akagera National Park is a more conventional Africa savannah reserve where all the Big Five might be seen. Buffaloes and elephants are most common, but leopards are observed with increasing frequency on night drives, and the lion and black rhino – respectively reintroduced in 2015 and 2017 – are also quickly growing invisibility. Other wildlife includes Masai giraffe, Burch ell’s zebra, warthog, olive baboon, Vervet monkey, hippo, impala, Deface waterbuck, bushbuck, common duiker, Eland, Topi, Bohor reedbuck, oribis, roan antelope, klipspringer, and the secretive semi-aquatic Sitatunga. Spotted hyena, genet, civet, white-tailed mongoose, bushbaby, elephant-shrew and various species of owl and nightjar are often seen on night drives.

Birds of Rwanda

Rwanda has three main many birding destinations but the main ones are Volcanoes National Park, Nyungwe Forest National Park, Akagera National Park and all of them have well-developed birding trails.

Volcanoes national park

Around 200 bird species have been recorded, a list that includes at least 16 Albertine Rift Endemics, but logistically it is not an easy site for bird watching some species include Grauer’s rush warbler, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori double –collared Sunbird, handsome francolin, strange weaver, dusky crimson-wing, collared Apalis, red-faced woodland warbler and Archer’s round-robin.

Nyungwe national park

Around 310 species have been recorded in the forest and it’s one of the best places for birding in Rwanda some bird species include Rwenzori Nightjar, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Kivu Ground Thrush, the Handsome Francolin, Dwarf Honeyguide, Great blue, and Rwenzori Turaco, montane Double Collared Sun and the Red-Throated Alethe.

Akagera national park

Around 480 bird species have been recorded in Akagera, and it is particularly strong on raptors, water birds, and savannah and woodland species such as shoebill, papyrus Gonolek, African Wattled Plover, Giant Kingfisher, Senegal Lapwings, Squacco Herons, African Openbill stock, Grey Crowned Crane, African Darter, Long-toed and Water Thick-knee.

Rwanda Safari Lodges

Rwanda safari lodges and camps For many, its name is still tinged with sadness, but in the 25 years since Rwanda was torn apart by violence, the East African country has rebuilt itself into one of the unlikeliest of destinations for travelers seeking a plush sanctuary and glimpses of the endangered mountain gorilla.

Lodges in Volcanoes National Park

  • Singita Kwitonda Lodge
  • Bisate Lodge
  • Governor’s Camp Sabinyo
  • Tiloreza Eco Lodge
  • Nyungwe Forest Lodges

One and only Nyungwe house

  • Top view Lodge
  • Kivu Emerald Hotel
  • Akagera Safari Lodge
  • Akagera game lodge
  • Ruzizi tented Lodge
  • Akagera Rhino Lodge

Rwanda Weather & Climate

Rwanda boasts an agreeable tropical climate that’s not too hot or too cold. Though it’s located just south of the equator, the country’s high altitude helps keep temperatures moderate throughout the year. The country’s weather and climate are also characterized by frequent showers during the better part of the year and about 40 inches of annual rainfall on average.

It’s especially rainy in the northeastern corner of the country, steeped in the rainforest. Average daytime temperatures in Rwanda hover around 75 degrees Fahrenheit in the lower mountains, and a much cooler 55 degrees Fahrenheit along the higher mountains, while nighttime temperatures average in the 60s.

In Rwanda, there are two rainy seasons, the first from January to April and the second from October to mid-December. In between the two rainy seasons is a short dry season characterized mostly by sunshine and some light clouds. Even during the dry season, there is occasional light rainfall in Rwanda. This plentiful rain supply in spite of Rwanda’s short distance from the equator is due to its high altitude.

Is Rwanda safe for tourists?

Rwanda is one of the safest destinations in Africa, particularly for solo travelers. Crime is relatively low, with visitors sometimes experiencing petty crime, and locals are welcoming, friendly, and hospitable. Pickpockets are active in crowded places, such as markets, and hire cars may be broken into for valuables but this is very rear but they happen some times.

Rwanda mountain gorilla safaris

Do you want to visit mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, colobus, or golden monkeys? Rwanda offers you a remarkable primate safari with no difficulty. This small landlocked country is home to the highest number of primates, which together offer you a memorable primate trekking safari. Primates are key tourist attractions in Rwanda attracting the highest number of travelers from all over the world. Primates especially chimpanzees and gorillas are close relatives to human beings whose human-like characters make them distinct creatures worth visiting. Any Rwanda safari without visiting these primates is undeniably incomplete. Also, some of these primates are highly endangered and hardly found elsewhere in the world.

The best places to go for primate trekking in Rwanda are:

Volcanoes National park

Located in northwestern Rwanda, Volcanoes national park is Rwanda’s first stop center for primate trekking. The park is home to 10 habituated mountain gorillas hence the best stop center to visit and interact with the endangered mountain gorillas. Volcanoes are one of the four national parks that shelter mountain gorillas in the whole world. Other gorilla parks include Virunga national park in Congo, Mgahinga and Bwindi forest national parks in Uganda. Also, Rwanda offers luxury gorilla tours due to her costly gorilla permits @ 1500 per permit compared to Uganda and Congo. Each gorilla family is visited by 8 people hence 80 gorilla permits issued every day. Besides gorillas, Volcanoes National park is home to the endangered golden monkeys. Have a close encounter with golden monkeys; enjoy their lively characters at as low as $100 per permit. Endeavor to hike to the graveyard of Dian Fossey, an American primatologist who lost her life to save mountain gorillas that were on the verge of extinction in the Virunga massif. Other attractions to visit in Volcanoes National park include Bulera and Buhondo twin lakes and Musanze caves. If you are physically fit, enjoy hiking to the top of Mount Karisimbi or Bisoke whose slopes shelter endangered gorillas.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Home to the highest population of chimpanzees, Nyungwe forest is a must-visit on your Rwanda primate safari. Unlike gorillas, chimpanzees are lively and constantly move jumping across trees at high speeds while shouting at each other as a form of communication. Chimpanzees are a core attraction in the Nyungwe forest estimated to shelter over 500 individuals. Interestingly, chimpanzees are visited at $100 for a permit, which is far less compared to $1500 for mountain gorillas. Chimpanzee trekking in the Nyungwe forest is done in two areas, which are Cyamudongo forest and the main forest. Different chimpanzee communities have been habituated for trekking. Chimpanzee treks in Nyungwe start off from any of the three reception centers at Gisakura, Kitabi, and Uwinka depending on where travelers spent a night. The loud screams, hoots, and cracks of tree branches alert travelers where chimpanzees are located. Besides chimpanzees, the Nyungwe forest offers travelers with exceptional canopy walk which gives you an aerial view of the forest and the Virunga volcanoes. Also, enjoy a forest walk to Kamiranzovu waterfall and other spots in the park. You will enjoy the sweet sounds of birds, which sing endlessly up in the trees making your safari more fun and enjoyable.

Akagera national park

Akagera is almost unrecognizable today compared to just 20 years ago when it was on the verge of being lost forever. While peace was finally restored in the 1990s after the 1994 Genocide, Akagera’s demise was just beginning. Refugees returning to Rwanda after the genocide were still battling for their own survival and turned to the forests for timber, wildlife for protein, and the wild savannas for their livestock. Lions were hunted to local extinction, rhinos disappeared, and the park’s wildlife was displaced by tens of thousands of long-horned cattle. Biodiversity was practically lost, and with it so was employment and tourism. The park’s value was virtually diminished, which makes its story of revival even more remarkable.

In 2010, African Parks assumed management of Akagera in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), shifting the park’s trajectory from one of oblivion to prosperity and hope. After years of preparation, through effective law enforcement and management, 2017 saw the historic return of 18 Eastern black rhinoceros after a 10-year absence, thanks to the support from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. An additional five captive-bred black rhinos were translocated from Europe in June 2019, with the support of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), to augment genetic diversity. Two new male lions were also translocated to Akagera in 2017 to enhance the genetic diversity of the growing pride, which has now tripled since their initial reintroduction in 2015. With poaching essentially halted, the park’s key wildlife populations have continued to rise. The park is generating more than US$2.5M in annual revenue, making it 90% self-financing driven by the tens of thousands of people, half of whom are nationals, coming to see its rebirth.

Gishwati Mukura national park

This is Rwanda’s newly opened national park located in western Rwanda shared by Ngororero and Rutsiro districts. The forest is home to numerous white colobus monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, blue monkeys, and some wild chimpanzees.

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