Best of Rwanda Tour – Gorilla Trekking, Chimpanzee

Best of Rwanda Tour - Gorilla Trekking, Chimpanzee, Genocide Memorial & Culture

Destinations: Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre | Butare | Nyungwe Forest National Park | Volcanoes National Park
Duration: 9 Days

Overview

This 9 day best of Rwanda tour will take you to some of Rwanda’s most amazing destinations. Experience Chimpanzee tracking through Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda gorillas are the biggest item in an African Safari right now, so you'll go mountain gorilla trekking in the thick misty jungles of the amazing Volcanoes National Park. Then you'll off the best of Rwanda tour with historical Rwanda culture and genocide memorial visit. Enjoy all that Rwanda has to offer from Kigali to Musanze!


Highlights of this Safari

  • Go gorilla trekking and visit two contrasting troops in the enchanting rainforest of Volcanoes National Park
  • Spend two hours with wild mountain gorillas to admire their behavior, from the silverbacks that beat their chests to the play of the youngsters
  • Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park and discover a troop's intimate social structure
  • Find a dozen rare golden monkeys and other primate species beneath the Nyungwe Canopy, many of them endangered or critically endangered in the wild
  • Explore Rwanda's history and find a country that remembers the past but firmly looks towards the future in Kigali Genocide Memorial Center
  • Spend a day with a rural Rwandan community, learning about cultures in remote Africa and sharing stories with ebullient locals

This iconic best of Rwanda tour is centered on the country's premier attraction, the wild mountain gorillas. You will spend several nights in Volcanoes National Park to enjoy two gorilla trekking experiences. Trek deep into the forest and meet two different troops as you admire their colorful interactions and stand back as the Silverbacks (male mountain gorillas) thump their chests. Each experience will take you far from the trail as your guide will slice through the undergrowth until you reach the troop in their natural habitat. Spend an hour with the gorillas to watch how they socialize and live in these remote, untouched hills. Going twice to trek the gorillas will provide double the time for photos and allow you to compare different troops.

Gorillas are not the only endangered primates you can meet on this best of Rwanda tour. You will spend time in the Nyungwe Forest National Park, which includes a day in the wild chimpanzee tracking. Over a dozen rare primates are found here, included the owl-faced monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, and the ruwenzori colobus. Many are heard and seen from your lodge, with others found on dedicated primate walks through the forest. Tranquility reigns here and few visitors make it to Southern Rwanda which means that you have the exquisite wildlife encounters mostly to yourself. With several nights slated to this location, you also have a contingency if the chimpanzees are not spotted on your first day.

Tour Itinerary

Arrival

You'll be collected from the airport (or hotel).
Accommodation before the tour departs can be arranged for an extra cost.

Day 1: Kigali City, Rwanda History & Kigali Genocide Memorial

Land in Kigali and you will immediately encounter its modernity and fresh thinking. Plastic bags are illegal, boulevards draw comparisons with Paris, and there's an unexpected affluence that cascades across the city. Your hotel is the centerpiece of this prosperity, a historical residence that remains the luxurious heart of the country. The Best of Rwanda Tour will start with a half-day Kigali city tour that helps you to unravel not only Rwanda's history but also the optimism and enthusiasm that has steered the country since the 1994 horrific genocide. A guide will lead you to the National Genocide Memorial Centre, which will provide an excellent background to how such atrocities developed as you look back some 30 years before the genocide. Personal testimonies and photos are incredibly powerful while hundreds of thousands are buried in mass graves at the memorial. Thought-provoking and sometimes haunting, the memorial can be an intensely moving and emotional place. At the end of a half-day city tour, it is also imbued with inspiration. You will see the city and then see what the country had to recover from which will enhance your respect for everything you see in Rwanda.

Accommodation: Chez Lando Hostel

Meals & Drinks: All meals included, Drinking water (Other drinks not included)

Day 2: Kigali - Butare - Nyungwe Forest National Park

Rwanda's roads are another example of Rwanda's modernity that will trivially see you enjoy this Best of Rwanda Tour. To travel south to Nyungwe used to take a full day, perhaps more. Now it's just over two hours by car as you weave across the undulating hills that are speckled with colorful views. A lady carrying a fruit basket on her head as mud-red bricks glow in the rural villages or a rainbow of shirts worn for a local football game. Along the way, you will stop at two of the nationwide genocide memorials. These are churches where the atrocities took place, damp rooms with blown-out walls and human bones stacked in silent respect. Again, just meeting the memorials' guides and talking openly is a very inspiring experience and a showcase of where Rwanda came from and how far it has come.

You will stop in Butare, the former colonial capital of Rwanda, where a variety of early 20th-century buildings remain, including a large Cathedral from 1900. Stop for lunch and then visit the National Museum of Rwanda, widely regarded as the finest museum in East Africa. No punches are held back as the museum explores a Rwanda's culture and colonial history beginning as Rwanda was declared part of the German Empire four years before any European had even set foot in the country. Continue through the afternoon and then arrive at the Nyungwe Forest National Park, where your lodge is nestled on a slope that overlooks the canopy.

Accommodation: Luxury Accommodation at Nyungwe Forest Lodge, Moderate Accommodation at Nyungwe Top View Hotel, or Budget Accommodation at Gisakura Guest House.

Meals & Drinks: Breakfast (Lunch & dinner not included), Drinking water (Other drinks not included)

Day 3: Chimpanzee Tracking / Canopy Walk / Nature Walk / Birding

Wake up early in the morning and have breakfast. Proceed to Nyungwe forest for chimpanzee tracking with the help of the rangers. The rangers know the best spots where you can easily track the chimpanzees. Sightings are not 100% guaranteed, but local trackers have an excellent understanding of where these rare chimpanzee can be found. The sounds will guide you as the odd shout will echo back across the canopy. Clues are spotted, like the discarded nut shells on the floor or the broken branches still hanging low. The forest is thick, and only at the last moment do you see them. First one, with her human-like hands used to scamper away into the higher branches. Then all of the sudden you will see the whole troop, a dozen chimpanzees that are draped across old mahogany and ebony trees. Watch them interact and admire the behavior that feels so real it nearly becomes surreal. A couple will swing past you, and the comparisons are remarkable. It only takes a glance to realize that they are closely related to man, and after an hour, you will be convinced that the comparisons are almost absolute.

Accommodation: Nyungwe Top View Hotel (Mid-range hotel located inside Nyungwe Forest NP)

Meals & Drinks: Breakfast (Lunch & dinner not included), Drinking water (Other drinks not included)

Day 4: Nyungwe Forest – Tracking Rare Rwanda Primates

The Fourth day of the best of Rwanda tour takes you back to Nyunge Forest. As you trek the chimpanzees, you will find other primates, all unusual characters that take their place in the rungs of the forest. Like the bizarre expressions of the owl-faced monkey, the shimmering fur of the silver monkey, or the elongated tails of grey-cheeked mangabeys that occupy the forest floor. Over a dozen primates are scattered through this forest, from the bashful colobus monkeys in the highest branches to playful vervet monkeys that want to come closer. Today's relaxed primate safari aims to spot as many different species as possible, the guides and chimpanzee trackers using the forest's clues to lead your journey. Sometimes the Nyungwe chimpanzees travel far in a day, so a second day can also track the chimps if you were unsuccessful yesterday.

Day 5: Nyungwe - Lake Kivu - Volcanoes National Park

In the early morning of the Best of Rwanda Tour fifth day, have a beautiful breakfast and drive off to Volcanoes National Park. As you enjoy the ride, you will clearly see the beautiful Lake Kivu, which you can look across to glimpse the Democratic Republic of Congo. Villages are packed into the country's precipitous volcanic slopes, the mud bricks and straw roofs are dappled with green hues. It takes four to five hours to cross Rwanda from south to north, and the final part of the journey leads you from Ruhengeri into Volcanoes National Park. Roads become narrower and steeper to bring you beneath a canopy that always exudes the smells of fresh rain. Mist rises and floats like a phantom amongst the ancient volcanic memories. Your safari lodge is perched above it all to provide an aerial vista that will quickly have you uttering the words gorillas in the mist. Rest, relax, enjoy the tranquility of rural Rwanda as you prepare for tomorrow morning's gorilla trekking.

Our accommodation ranges from luxury, moderate, budget, and camping. All these accommodations offer a magnificent view of the park. For Accommodation you can choose either luxury of moderate accommodation at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge or Muhabura Hotel/ Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge.

Accommodation: Muhabura Hotel (Mid-range hotel bordering Volcanoes NP without fences)

Meals & Drinks: Breakfast (Lunch & dinner not included), Drinking water (Other drinks not included)

Day 6: Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park

Have an exquisite breakfast and go to the park headquarters at Kinigi for briefing about gorilla trekking and meeting with the rangers. Hiking through the jungle will be amazing, but some level of physical fitness is required as you track the Rwanda gorillas. One glimpse and your heart will nearly stop. There she is, stretching her furry arms and bouncing on her toes in a moment of frenzy. It's some form of a welcome, although the gorilla's powerful frame means you are more likely to step backward rather than forwards. Guides will usher you onwards, and a few more steps will show the whole troop to be found in a forest clearing. Two silverbacks lounge on the edges, their back fur as charismatic in color as a wizard's beard. A baby with a hairless head suckles on her mother, before being carried away on a broad back. Half a dozen gorillas playfully fight in the clearing, oblivious to your wavering camera. One has been left out, a gorilla with wrinkled eyes and a melancholy frown. Gorilla Trekking is an exciting experience as every step will take you deeper into the forest and away from any trail. Less than 1,000 mountain gorillas remain in the wild and around half of these occupy this particular forest. This realm is untrammeled, and the inaccessibility has helped to preserve these final few mountain gorillas. For an hour, you will watch and marvel at the facial features and the subtle interactions as you admire the faces permanently sketched with emotion. A gorilla will pull down a piece of fruit and start to eat, and you will know how it tastes by the primate's scrunched-up nose and momentary surprise. A young gorilla will crawl powerfully across the clearing and then stop to give you a curious stare, and then show you what he thinks through a series of facial twitches. These are wild mountain gorillas, and you will be replaying these individual moments for years to come. This 9 Day Best of Rwanda Tour promises you that.

Accommodation: Muhabura Hotel (Mid-range hotel bordering Volcanoes NP without fences)

Meals & Drinks: Breakfast (Lunch & dinner not included), Drinking water (Other drinks not included)

Day 7: Volcanoes National Park - Rwanda Culture & Community Encounter

Today the Best of Rwanda Tour Adventure takes you to the far Northwestern Rwanda where the gorillas are not the only primates cut off from the world. Rural Rwanda communities continue their ancient lifestyles and traditions as they sow the fields wearing colorful wraps and endearing smiles. These are not communities that reflect the typical African clichés, and you will enjoy the surprises. You will visit a community that sees very few tourists and a local guide will help to unravel a true portrait of village life. You will see the local school and feel the warmth of the welcome as you explore a church and the contrasting approaches to religion. Taste local beer and enjoy a typical local lunch as you visit the village elders and gain perspective on how decisions are made here. You will likely share something of yourself too, for this is a cultural experience for both you and the community. Rather than being a place to point the camera, it's a village where you will first make friends, and then watch as the whole community wants to pose for your lens.

Day 8: Second Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park

To immerse you in this Best of Rwanda Tour memory tales, we'll take you on a gorilla trekking trail a second time. This time you will see a different mountain gorilla family. There may be only one silverback and this gorilla’s muscled arms will tear down trees as his broad chest dominates the landscape, and his humongous hands will slowly wrap around the branches. It's enough to make you involuntarily step back, but the guide will catch you and ensure that you do not show fear by backing off. Spend your hour with the gorilla family and follow the individuals as they respond to the silverback's grunts. Relationships are spotted as you see a mother nurturing her son, a female tempting the silverback, a baby seeking attention but finding none. Everyone who goes gorilla trekking returns to the lodge to discuss tales of what they saw, and it is remarkable how different these tales can be. By going twice, you can double the sights found in this surreal forest.

Gorilla trekking can be physically demanding, although it's worth noting that the actual trek is usually shorter in Rwanda than in Uganda. Groups are allocated predominantly on fitness levels and interest, rather than the actual gorilla family. It is impossible to request to visit a particular gorilla family, as their location is always unknown until you arrive at the trailhead. Instead, the guides will allocate the mountain gorilla groups based on the estimated length of the trek. Feel free to request the longest or shortest hike and you will be accommodated. Realistically, expect to walk between one and three hours before you see the Rwanda gorillas. The distance covered is relatively short, but the terrain makes it slow going, especially as the guides often have to slice through the undergrowth to create the trail.

A maximum of eight visitors are allocated to one gorilla group, and officially you can come to within seven meters of the primates. In reality, the troops' playful behavior means that there are times when you are closer. Each gorilla permit (included in the best of Rwanda tour package) and gorilla trek will provide for one hour, and visitors will find that this is generously controlled by the guides. You are not on a strict clock as these are wild animals, and the gorillas' behavior is as important as the time on a watch.

Day 9: Volcanoes National Park - Kigali – Departure

Your lodge will provide you with an exquisite space to spend your final morning in Rwanda. Admire the panorama, recall the gorilla moments, and allow serenity to provide its reenergizing role. It's just over two hours back to Kigali International Airport, and you will be transferred in plenty of time for your departure flight. You will have full use of the lodge's facilities until your departure, allowing for a relaxed start to your day of traveling.

End of The Best of Rwanda Tour

Additional accommodation can be arranged for an extra cost.
A transfer back to the airport (or hotel) can be arranged for an extra cost.

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