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Rwanda Gorilla Trekking & Safari Tours

4.3/5  –  10 Rwanda Reviews

While Rwanda is famously the home of the Virunga Mountains, where Dian Fossey researched and habituated mountain gorillas in the 1960s, this country has a lot more to offer than gorilla trekking alone. In fact, if gorilla trekking is beyond your budget, Rwanda is still worth visiting as an up-and-coming destination offering primate walks, volcano hikes and bird-watching in Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park, plus boat trips on Lake Kivu in the Rift Valley and a classic safari in search of the Big Five in low-key Akagera National Park.

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8 Questions About Rwanda Safaris

 
 

8 Questions About Rwanda Safaris

Answered by Ariadne van Zandbergen

When is the best time to visit Rwanda?

Rwanda safari trips are available at any time and the best time depends a bit on your personal interest and tolerance for rainy conditions. Most people come to Rwanda for gorilla trekking, and this activity is available throughout the year. However, the wet climate in the Virunga Mountains, home of the gorillas, can make trekking a challenge – especially in the peaks of the Wet season (March, April, October and November). The driest months (June to August) are best for the Rwandan gorilla trekking experience and these months are also recommended for hiking in Nyungwe Forest National Park. Most of the primates in Nyungwe can also be located throughout the year, but chimps are easier to track during the Wet, as they tend to move further into the forest when food becomes scarce. Having said all that, if you have good weatherproof gear and you don’t mind being caught in the rain on occasion, the Wet season months have their advantages as they tend to be less crowded and lodges often offer lower rates. Gorilla permits are also easier to obtain in the Wet season. – Rwanda Safaris

More about the best time to visit Rwanda 1

Why visit Rwanda, what are the major attractions?

Rwanda is a beautiful little country most known for the genocide of 1994. The good news is that the country largely recovered from this terrible event and is now very safe and totally geared for tourism. The Rwandan authorities managed to keep their gorillas safe throughout this turbulent time, and seeing these gentle giants has become one of the top attractions in Africa. So, trekking mountain gorillas is by far the prime attraction in Rwanda and most tourists will visit Rwanda for that reason alone, often adding a few days in Rwanda to a safari in Kenya or Tanzania. However, there is a lot more to see and do in Rwanda than gorilla trekking. Other attractions include golden monkey treks and climbing one of the volcanoes in the Virungas. Nyungwe Forest National Park is worth a visit as well. This beautiful, high-altitude forest is remarkably accessible and is home to 13 primate species, including chimpanzees. Akagera National Park is Rwanda’s only savannah reserve. It doesn’t quite compare to the likes of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, but this scenic park has a lot to offer in terms of wilderness appeal and, since recent reintroductions, it is also home to the Big Five. – Rwanda Safaris

2

Rwanda gorilla tracking prices

Trekking mountain gorillas doesn’t come cheaply. In 2017 Rwanda doubled its prices for a gorilla trekking permit, which brings the current price to US$1500. The justification for this high fee is that there are only eight habituated groups of gorillas that can be visited by tourists in Volcanoes National Park, and each group can be visited by a maximum of eight tourists per day. So this makes a ceiling of 64 permits a day. Is it worth it? If you can afford it, it is definitely worth every penny. How can you put a price on such an amazing experience, described by many who’ve done it as a travel highlight of their life? – Rwanda Safaris

3

How is the wildlife viewing in Rwanda?

A Rwanda safari is quite different from most classic East African safari holidays. Most of the activities require hiking in rain forests. Aside from gorillas, other primates can be tracked, such as chimpanzees and golden monkeys. Viewing any of these primates is a very rewarding experience, but is difficult to compare to a safari in the Masai Mara, for example. Longer Rwanda holidays can include a trip to Akagera National Park for a more conventional safari. Akagera suffered hugely from human encroachment and poaching in the past, but this is now mostly under control thanks to the commitment of African Parks. Animals are still quite skittish and you have to work a bit harder for your sightings than in some other iconic savannah parks, but a trip to Akagera shouldn’t be missed.

4

How safe is Rwanda for tourists?

Rwanda is a safe destination. Unfortunately, the country is still stained by the memory of the genocide, which occurred as a result of historical conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples. The genocide took place 24 years ago and there have been no incidents since. Today, Rwanda feels like quite a well-run country and the people overall are very gracious and friendly. Many have returned after years of exile, which gives Rwanda quite a cosmopolitan feel as many of the returnees have studied abroad. As in any developing country, there is crime associated with poverty and visitors should take normal safety precautions in cities and urban areas. None of this should be a problem if you book Rwandan gorilla trekking tours with a reputable operator.

5

How to select a reliable Rwandan tour operator?

Most specialist Africa tour operators will be able to add a Rwanda gorilla trekking package to any African safari. If you’re considering a holiday in Rwanda – as opposed to an add-on to a trip to another country – you should carefully choose your operator to ensure you end up in the right hands. Checking the operators and Rwanda gorilla trekking tours offered on Safaribookings.com is a good start. Always read the customer reviews (but never base an opinion on a handful of reviews only), and consider using a local operator, thereby cutting out intermediaries with expensive offices in London or New York. This means all your money will go into the Rwandan economy and you’ll be doing your bit to support local communities. The downside is that small operators don’t always have the back-up and resources to deal with a situation if things go wrong, such as a vehicle breakdown. International operators, on the other hand, can include your flights in a Rwandan safari package.

6

What type of accommodation can I expect on a safari?

Rwanda has come a long way since its early days of safari tourism 15 to 20 years ago. There are now top-notch accommodation options in all the main tourist destinations. Where once there were only a handful of local guesthouses available, there are now tourist-class hotels in or around Volcanoes National Park, Nyungwe Forest National Park and Akagera National Park. In recent years, several small, exclusive safari lodges – so popular in more mainstream safari countries – have opened as well. This should help put Rwanda on the map for the repeat African visitor who loves the classic safari holiday.

7

What can I expect from an African safari in Rwanda?

Although Akagera National Park is developing as a great savannah safari destination, Rwanda safaris are not on the same level as classic safaris offered in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana. So, the word ‘safari’ might be slightly misleading. Most people come to Rwanda for the activities offered in the rain-forest environment: gorilla and chimpanzee trekking, volcano hikes and bird-watching. Seeing mountain gorillas is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and most people walk away in awe of these magnificent gentle giants living their life in this stunning rain-forest environment. Spending an hour with them is an absolute privilege. Because of this, and since gorilla trekking has been publicised more in recent years, it has become a bucket list activity for many general tourists. The other activities will mostly appeal to the more active traveller. The country experiences high rainfall throughout the year, so you’ll be walking a lot on slippery forest paths and you might well get wet on a few occasions. The daily limit on the gorilla permits means tourist numbers tend to be low wherever you go and you’ll enjoy a feeling of exclusivity and discovery. The Rwandan people are extremely proud of their country and are very welcoming to all visitors.

8

Rwanda Safari Reviews

4.3/5 10 Reviews
Expert
Sue Watt  –  
United Kingdom UK

Sue is an award-winning writer who specializes in African travel and conservation. She writes for national newspapers, magazines, Rough Guides and Lonely Planet.

Reconciliation and renaissance
4/5

Rwanda is one of the most inspiring countries I’ve visited. I first went in 2004 and have returned many times since: each time, I’ve been amazed at the country’s ongoing regeneration and resilience. Rwanda is known for two things:...

Full Review

Expert
Philip Briggs  –  
South Africa ZA

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

East Africa’s phoenix state
4/5

Once regarded as among the most fractious of African countries, Rwanda suffered multiple outbreaks of civil war and ethnic violence of its first 30 years as an independent state, culminating in the horrific genocide that claimed the lives...

Full Review

Christophe Iradukunda  –  
Rwanda RW
Reviewed: Aug 28, 2019
I had an amazing experience about Rwanda
4/5

About wildlife in Rwanda is good as in National Parks there are animals that can't be found any where in world, like Mountain Gorillas in Virunga Park, Lions, Rhinos and other wild animals in Akagera National park. In Nyungwe national park...

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Dalonda  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Feb 3, 2017
A definite "bucket list" adventure and I would do it again!
5/5

The entire trip was a positive overwhelming experience. It is one of the cleanest countries I have visited. The people seemed to be happy and proud of the culture and their country. I was never concerned for my safety. It is about a 3...

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Gail McKay Reviewed: Apr 21, 2015
Life-changing, life-affirming!
5/5

Foremost, the individualized attention that I received was incredible - from personal pick-up and transportation to the orientation and assisted itinerary. It was almost fate to be taken to a local restaurant - the Ogopogo - how terrific...

Full Review