Rwanda is a compact country, most popularly known as the Land of a Thousand Hills. It is a destination with breathtakingly spectacular landscapes, diverse wildlife, and unique cultures and traditions.
The beauty of visiting Rwanda for a holiday is that there is something for everyone to explore and experience. It is a stunning destination with endless adventures and exciting activities for nature enthusiasts to engage in.
The key areas of focus in Rwanda include the four national parks: Gishwati-Mukura National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park, known for chimpanzee tracking; Akagera National Park, famous for big five safaris; and Volcanoes National Park, where you can track mountain gorillas and golden monkeys.
Other touristic regions/districts in Rwanda include Lake Kivu, Kibuye, and Ruhengeri/Musanze.
Gorilla trekking is by far the number one experience you should expect to enjoy on a Rwanda safari. When it comes to gorilla tours in Rwanda, there is only one place to visit, and that is the Volcanoes National Park. Over 30% of the world’s 1063 mountain gorillas call the Volcanoes National Park home. There are 12 habituated gorilla groups that can be visited by tourists and every family is visited by a maximum of up to 8 visitors.
The gorilla families to visit in Rwanda include Titus, Agashya family, Umubano gorilla group, Sabyinyo, Susa A, Amahoro gorilla family, Ugenda, Kwitonda, Hirwa, and Susa B (Karisimbi).
Embarking on a gorilla safari in Volcanoes National Park is an amazing way to explore Rwanda. Volcanoes National Park (VNP) in Musanze is the most accessible African safari destination. It is the most popular among the four national parks where mountain gorillas live. The three other parks are Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park of Uganda and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It takes tourists just 2-3 hours to drive from Kigali to Northwestern Rwanda to track mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. When you think of visiting Rwanda for a gorilla tour, the first step is to obtain a gorilla permit through a reliable tour operator. A single gorilla permit for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda costs USD 1500 per person.
Gorilla safaris and permits should be planned and booked in advance, at least 2-4 months before the actual time of tracking mountain gorillas. Additionally, consider packing the right gear for your gorilla tour, such as a waterproof daypack, long-sleeved shirts, a sweater, long trousers, a camera free of a flashlight, a first aid kit, insect repellents, a rain jacket, a safari hat, snacks, and bottled drinking water.
Golden Monkey Tracking
Golden monkey tracking is a memorable primate adventure that offers tourists a lifetime chance to visit the golden monkeys in their natural habitat. The golden monkeys live in the Virunga Region, and a significant number of them have been habituated, which means there is a chance to track them in their natural habitat.
Treks to see golden monkeys begin at 7:00 am with a briefing and registration, and then at 8:00 am, the park guide leads you through the forest to look for the strikingly spectacular golden monkeys.
The normal golden monkey trek lasts for 2-4 hours, including one hour of close encounter and photography. Golden monkey trekking permits in Rwanda are available for booking at USD 100 per person, and individuals above 15 years have a chance to participate in this exciting primate adventure.
Visit Akagera National Park
If you think Rwanda is only for mountain gorilla trekking, then you have been missing out. Go on a safari in the finest savanna grassland parks in Rwanda, and explore Akagera National Park located in the eastern side of the country, where you will come across all the big five game.
Akagera is naturally stunning and the only savanna park in Rwanda (the Land of a Thousand Hills), spanning 1122 sq. km. Gazetted in 1934, Akagera is indeed a big game country. The parks hosts special wildlife such as elephants, buffaloes, leopards, lions, rhinos, antelopes, zebras, Maasai giraffes, hyenas, and 500 bird species, etc.
The park is mainly composed of savanna grasslands, acacia woodlands and the Kagera River system.
Besides game drives, tourists visiting Akagera National Park also have the opportunity to engage in a boat cruise on Lake Ihema, sport fishing on Lake Shakani, bird watching, nature walks, and cultural visits.
Visit Nyungwe Forest National Park
Extending for over 1000 sq kms, Nyungwe National Park is set on the majestic hills of southeast Rwanda. The park is the largest block of montane forest in East and Central Africa. It is also one of the oldest tropical rain forests in Africa.
The park is popular for hosting 13 primate species including the chimpanzees, L Hoest’s monkeys, large troops of acrobatic Angola Colobus etc. Chimpanzee tracking is the most popular adventure that attracts most visitors and a chimpanzee permit costs US$150 per person.
The park is also popular for the canopy walk! The first-ever canopy walk experience to be introduced in East Africa is right in Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest National Park (NFNP). This experience commenced in 2010, and visitors are led through a suspended walkway approximately 50m from the ground, guaranteeing an exceptional aerial view of the Nyungwe Forest canopy and primates.
Hiking Rwanda’s Mountains
Adventure seekers on safari in Rwanda are never left out. There are plenty of hiking opportunities in Rwanda, including hiking the Virunga Mountains in Northern Rwanda. The Volcanoes National Park boasts of hosting five of the eight Virunga Volcanoes. Popular hikes with the park include the Bisoke volcano Hike, Mt. Karisimbi hike, Ngezi Crater Hike etc.
Other areas to tour in Rwanda include Lake Burera and Ruhondo, Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Musanze caves, Gishwati-Mukura National Park, and others.
In summary, Rwanda is compact in size but features plenty of unique experiences, activities, and attractions that make it a premier destination. Visit Rwanda not only for mountain gorilla encounters but also for other wildlife safaris, hiking adventures, cultural tours, city tours, and so much more.