Rwanda is an incredible country offering so much diversity and packing a lot of punch for such a tiny place, relative to it’s huge neighbours in Tanzania and Uganda. Rwanda has a chequered history but has managed to make an extraordinary recovery in a short space of time, becoming a leading East Africa economy and becoming a much heralded example of what can be achieved with good governance. Historically, the main draw for Rwanda is the amazing mountain gorillas and golden monkeys of Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park; one of the most enriching African wildlife experiences on the planet today.
Once just a haven for primate enthusiasts, Rwanda has fast become much more than that. As well as gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park and chimp trekking in Nyungwe National Park, Akagera National Park now offers brilliant big fivesafari… and all can be done is serious luxury. Rwanda is taking the low volume, high price approach when it comes to wildlife tourism – some of Africa’s most exclusive lodges have opened here. This approach is good for conservation, but it does mean that it is simply too expensive for some – a more affordable and equally beautiful place to gorilla and chimpanzee trek is Uganda.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking - A travel guide
Rwanda, quite rightly, is most famous for gorilla trekking. It is an extraordinary experience, only possible in a few places on earth these days. Volcanoes National Park, in the North of the country and part of the Virunga Mountains on the border with the Congo and Uganda, is where the trekking takes place. Stunning vistas abound as you trek through jungle to find the Silverback mountain gorillas. There are several gorilla families and trackers head out early, before your trek begins, in order to locate them. Knowing where the gorillas are in advance allows the park rangers to assign appropriate gorilla families to the small groups who head out – so you can request a closer family if you feel you aren’t as fit as you maybe once were! It should be noted though, that any gorilla trek does require at least some stamina and good mobility.
Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking is not the only activity on offer in Volcanoes National Park. Learn about the history of the gorillas and trek to the grave of Diane Fossey, a pioneer in the preservation of the area and the species, without whom gorillas may be even more endangered than they are today, if here at all. The Musanze Caves are also well worth a visit, a stunning geological formation you can spend an afternoon exploring.
Chimp Trekking in Nyungwe National Park
In the South of Rwanda lies Nyungwet Forest National Park, home to habituated chimpanzees. These characters are extraordinary and it only takes a minute in their presence to realise their level of intelligence and see where we came from. More energetic than the gorillas, the chimpanzees fly from tree and across the forest floor, shouting and playing and ignoring your presence completely. Watching them interact is a very special experience and combined with the gorillas offers an unbelievable trip.
We also have high hopes for Lake Kivu as an interesting Rwandan holiday destination. Lake Kivu sits just north west of Nyungwe and is a beautiful spot, so we hope to see some developments spring up here in the near future.
But it doesn’t stop there…
Akagera National Park is a much overlooked corner of Africa. In part, this is due to historical high levels of poaching (during the 90s when Rwanda was not the safe place that it is now) and subsequent lack of game. Since the early 2000’s, however, the park has been managed very well with numerous re-introduction and conservation programmes proving a great success and bringing it back to life. The park is back in full swing and you no longer have to leave Rwanda for a great safari to add on to your primate experiences.
No Rwandan adventure is complete without at least a day or two in the vibrant capital Kigali. Most people stay at the Kigali Serena Hotel, though there are a few boutique hotels to choose from too. It’s safe, friendly and full of life with some great cultural spots to check out, modern art gallerys and museums. It is also home to the genocide memorial museum, of course a sad place to visit but an extremely good place to learn about Rwanda’s recent history. Here, you can also get a window into how the whole country has vowed to learn from it to ensure that those kind of divisions can never manifest that way again.
Travel advice and logistics with the African Holiday experts
Rwanda really is one of our favourite of the African countries we recommend. Aside from it's beauty and unbelievable primate experiences, it is logistically so easy to get to and to combine with other experiences further a field. We love recommending it because it is so simple to get to from London with it's capital being very well connected, and also it is not far from Indian Ocean Zanzibar so you can adventure in the mountains then relax on a white sand beach.... Rwanda is also exceptionally easy to add on to a Tanzania adventure and specifically the Serengeti, with a direct flight to and from Kigali. This way, you benefit from amazing primate experiences with the Chimpanzees and Mountain Gorillas , as well as some of the best game drives on the continent. Rwandan Franc is the currency, but as with the rest of "safari Africa" US dollars are also widely accepted.