Welcome to Rwanda, the “land of a thousand hills”. This tour has been designed to show you the best highlights of this fascinating country from a primate’s eye view of Nyungwe Forest on a canopy walk to close encounters with chimpanzees and the gorillas of the mist. Accommodation is provided in en-suite lodges of mid-range standard, chosen for their comfort and great location.
Day 1: Arrival to Kigali
Welcome to the land of a thousand hills! This small but scenically stunning country known for its endless rolling green hills and also known as Switzerland of Africa , which you will experience on your fly-over to Kigali International Airport.
A representative from your hotel will pick you up and drive you to your hotel in a quiet leafy street in the heart of down-town Kigali.
If time allows, you are free to explore the city today. There are many activities in Kigali that are easily arranged through the reception at your hotel, for example city tours and visits to the craft markets browse amongst the pottery, carvings, batik, weaving, musical instruments, leather and fabrics on offer. Prepare to use your haggling skills! All activities today are at your own cost.
Day 2: Visit Genocide Memorial & Travel to Nyungwe Forest
Your shoebill safari guide will greet you at the hotel in the morning and drive you to Nyungwe Forest in western Rwanda. If time allows and you feel up for it, you can visit the Genocide Memorial in town before setting off. The Genocide Memorial is a place of commemoration for the 250,000 victims buried in mass graves here and an important remembrance of the unfathomable brutality of the 1994 genocide. The exhibit is an intensely emotional experiences but also an educational one, where you will learn about the darkest hour in Rwanda’s recent history.
On your drive today, you will be passing through the town of Butare, about 135km from Kigali. Here you can visit Butare National Museum displaying a range of ethnographic objects that will give you an insight into the rich traditional life and culture of the country.
At the end of the day you will reach Nyungwe Forest National Park, one of the world’s oldest and most beautiful rainforest in Africa. The forest is incredibly biodiverse with 13 known primate species residing here, from colobus monkeys, mangabeys, blue monkeys and, of course, our nearest relatives, the chimpanzees.
Nyungwe Forest is also famous among the birding community who come to spot some of the 310 bird species recorded here, 26 of which are endemic to Rwanda. You will have plenty of time to explore the interior of the forest tomorrow.
Day 3: Chimpanzee Tracking & Canopy Walk
Today you will venture deep into Nyungwe Forest National Park in search of the chimpanzees. On a Chimpanzee Tracking experience in Nyungwe Forest you will have the opportunity to follow an experienced guide into the forest to observe these fascinating creatures at a close range. Watching them interact with each other and go about their daily routine of grooming, playing and foraging is an incredible experience.
While your chances of encountering chimpanzees are high during your tracking excursion, it is never 100% guaranteed. These are, after all, wild animals with wills and minds of their own!
From the trails below the foliage you will now head up high into the forest canopy on one of East Africa’s first canopy walks. The network of suspension bridges will lead you on a 1.5 hour walk over a deep gorge, through beautiful and lush vegetation and difference animal habitats.
Day 4: To Lake Kivu
From the rainforests of Nyungwe you will travel north along the shores of Lake Kivu, one of the African Great Lakes in the Albertine Rift, creating a natural border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The stunning shores of Lake Kivu contain some of the best inland beaches on the continent. Choose to relax at the lodge today, take a stroll on the long stretch of beach near the property, or explore the shorelines and bays on a half-day kayaking tour. Let your Travel Consultant know if you want to add a guided half-day kayaking tour to your program today. Activities at Lake Kivu are at your own expense.
Day 5: Volcanoes National Park
If you think after Nyungwe Forest and Lake Kivu, that Rwanda can’t get any more scenic, you haven’t seen Volcanoes National Park. The national park contains parts of the Virunga mountain range and its 5 volcanoes that form the border between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Besides being one of the most scenic sights in Africa, the park is also the gateway to face-to-face encounters with the iconic mountain gorillas.
While the main draw of visiting Volcanoes NP is to see the real gorillas in the mist, there are other fantastic activities to experience here like, tracking excursions to find the rare golden monkeys, volcano hikes and a visit to the Dian Fossey research center.
Optional: Explore more of Lake Kivu
Lake Kivu offers some of the best outdoor activities in Rwanda from hiking or mountain biking the Congo Nile Trail, a network of over 200km of trail stretching along the length of the lake, to kayaking excursions to explore some of the islands scattered across the lake. Should you want another day to fully discover this stunning region let your Travel Consultant know at the time of booking?
Optional: Go Gorilla Tracking in Uganda instead for half the price!
From Lake Kivu you are close to the Ugandan border and Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga National Park where, combined, more than half the gorilla population in the world reside. The permit prices for gorilla tracking in Uganda are USD 700, less than half of the cost of gorilla permit costs for tracking in Rwanda.
Should you feel like this is better suited for your budget we can arrange your gorilla tracking experience to be in Uganda instead? You would then skip this visit to Volcanoes NP and head straight for Bwindi Forest or Mgahinga NP.
Day 6: Gorilla tracking (optional)
Encountering the rare and endangered mountain gorillas is an experience of a lifetime. In the company of an experienced park ranger you will be tracking the whereabouts of one of the habituated family groups who live in the park and can tolerate the presence of humans for a brief period every day.
Your gorilla tracking experience will be an exciting, yet challenging, journey along forested (sometimes muddy and slippery) slopes, tangled vines, thick vegetation and bamboo forests before you reach the territory of these gentle giants. En-route, your ranger will point out telltale signs of previous gorilla activity like dung, nests and chewed bamboo shoots. Depending on the location of the gorillas on any given day the walk can take anything from 1 to 7 hours. Once the family of gorillas have been located, settle in to the environment and enjoy the hour you have to quietly observe these fascinating primates whose habits and mannerisms remind us so much of our own.
Encountering the mountain gorillas in the wild is a truly humbling and emotional experience, one that you are sure to remember for the rest of your life. Gorilla Tracking is an optional activity at an additional fee of USD 1,500 per person.
Day 7: Return to Kigali
Enjoy your last morning in the rain-forest today before your guide drives you back to Kigali for your departure flight. Please make sure your international flight departure is not before 3 pm. For flights departing before 3 pm we will arrange a night in Kigali for you at an additional cost. Not ready to leave this beautiful spot? No problem. Extra nights at the lodge in Volcanoes NP can be booked upon request.