Things To Do & See in Rwanda, Gorilla Trekking & Wildlife Tours
Safari Destinations in Rwanda, Things To Do in Rwanda
Planning on a Safari Tour to Rwanda, enjoy various Safari Activities like Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park, Wildlife Safari Tours in Akagera National Park, Cultural encounters at Iby'Iwachu Cultural Village and visit the numerous Genocide Memorials and National Museums where you will learn more about the tragic Genocide.
The Safari Destinations in Rwanda where travelers can spot and encounter the best Safari Tours include;
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is suitably located in the South Western part of Rwanda occupying an area of more than 1000 km2 and ranks one of the world’s most stunning and unspoiled Mountain rain forests. The forest is also known as Africa’s ancient with green vegetation as well as numerous biodiversity.
The reason as to why Nyungwe Forest is one of the prominent safari destinations in Africa today is because of the presence of the rare species of the chimpanzees that inhabit the thick vegetation in which they have survived for over years. These are fully habituated to be tracked by all travelers that transfer to the destination to experience the best of what the bush has to offer.
Things To Do & See in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Chimpanzee tracking is the most prominent Safari Activity carried out in Nyungwe Forest National Park for there are 400 Chimpanzees that can be tracked by all tourists looking for a chimpanzee tracking experiences in Rwanda. Two wild chimpanzee communities can be tracked in the forest and these are located in Cyamdungo and close to the Uwinka Visitor’s Center.
Tracking them will require you a period of 3-5 hours depending on the location of the chimpanzees and can be tracked in groups of 6-8 individuals with a skilled ranger guide and when you meet them, only an hour is allowed to stay in their presence taking numerous photos. Alternatively, other primates can be tracked and these include the black and white colobus monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, owl faced monkeys etc.
The Chimpanzee Tracking Permit costs US $100 per person interested in tracking the Chimpanzees.
There are various different bird species in Nyungwe Forest National Park that can be watched for the park inhabits about 310 different species 27 of which are endemic to the Albertine rift and these are usually singing in the trees making amazing sounds in the trees while flying from one place to another.
In order to have a wonderful encounter and experience with the birds in Africa, book a birding safari tour with a guide who will cost US $50 and this is very skilled and knowledgeable about the different species of birds that inhabit the thick forest. For they can identify the birds by ear, sound, habitat for example the Rwenzori turaco and grey-chested kakamega hence making the entire process of searching for the birds very flexible and easy.
Canopy Walks are carried out in Nyungwe Forest requiring your to traverse the walkway at the top of gigantic Mahogany Trees in Nyungwe. Along the Canopy walk you will spot various Birds, monkeys, terrain vegetation as well as the sharp valley full of rocks beneath the walkway. The Canopy is raised at 60 meters and the walk costs US $60 per person interested.
Hiking and Nature Walks
Transfer to Nyungwe Forest National Park and take on various nature walks to discover the hidden mysteries of the thick tropical rain forest. These include the following;
Congo-Nile Divide Trail
- It is a 227 km that curves along the Congo border and the Nile.
- Requires walking through many different rain forest, bamboo forests and bracken fields.
- Has a reserved campsite so carry your own camping equipment
- Most popular trail to take on and requires experienced hikers
- Longest trail among the rest.
- It is a 2.1 km hiking trail
- Offers wonderful views of the Canopy Trail and brilliant wildflowers
- Can be joined with the elongated Imbaraga or Umoyove Trails.
- It is a simple hike to take on
- Situated on the former site of a gold mine, market and army camp
- It is a very ideal destination for birding and has very many fern trees.
- It provides wonderful views of many different ridges, rainforests as well as beautiful flowers.
- On a clear day, you will spot Kibira National Park in Burundi
- Offers amazing primate and birding views.
- It is also referred to as the Mahogany Trail
- Enables one to relax near the waterfall
- It leads to other side trails that are used for chimpanzee viewing.
- It is regarded a difficult hike to trail.
- Requires moving among lonely gullies where you can hear different sounds of birds echoing from one place to another.
- This goes around two high peaks in the park.
- Offers beautiful views of the magnificent Lake Kivu in Rwanda.
- It is recommended for experienced hikers
- It includes hiking through four various beautiful waterfalls
- It is quite tiring and requires physical fitness.
- Requires you to trail to the highest peak in the park
- It has various beautiful floras and offers scenic views of the vast Lake Kivu, hills and islands in the DR Congo on a clear day.
- Requires moving via lush tea fields, steep rainforest gullies as well as the vast waterfall in the park.
- The trail has the park’s vast wetland, an old swamp as well as beautiful waterfalls.
- It is quite easy to hike and take on.
- It is situated in the distant North Eastern part of Rwanda.
- Takes you through pine and eucalyptus forests.
- Includes two routes that lead to the summit which offers an amazing picnic as well as a camping site.
- Along this trail you will have an opportunity to spot chimpanzee locations as well as scenic views of the Banda Village where you will hear children’s voices.
Nyungwe Forest National Park does not only offer wildlife/ chimpanzee tracking expeditions, but also has remarkable cultural ventures it offers from the songs, dance, music and cuisine. Cultural encounters are done at the prominent Banda Village which is situated about 15 km down the Mountain from the Uwinka Visitors center.
Here, visitors can participate in various activities such as local food tasting, basket weaving and in case you are fortunate, you will also get an opportunity to attend a customary wedding ceremony and learn about how to make traditional medicine.
Volcanoes National Park
Also referred to as "Parc National de Volcans" by the locals, Volcanoes National Park is suitably located next to the prominent Virunga Mountains which include 8 different old volcanoes that are divided into three countries i.e Rwanda, Uganda and the DR Congo.
Things To Do & See in Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking is the most prominent activity carried out here due to the numbers of tourists that travel from various parts of the world to spot and experience the rare species of Gorillas in their thick forest habitat.
The Mountain Gorillas are distributed in 10 groups and the tracking process begins as you transfer to the Park Headquarters to be briefed on the Dos and Don'ts around the Mountain Gorillas then later in groups of 8 with a skilled ranger guide you will track the Gorillas for a period of 3-5 hours and when you meet them only an hour is allowed to stay in their presence taking various photos to keep for memories.
Golden Monkey Tracking
Other than Gorilla Trekking in the forest vegetation, travelers can also take on Golden Monkey Tracking where they will spot various Golden Monkey Troops interacting fully with their natural vegetation habitat playing and jumping from one tree branch to another. You will transfer along the various trails in company of a skilled ranger guide.
Dian Fossey Hike
This is also an exceptional hiking Adventure since it will take you to the Karisoke Research Center and Dian Fossey's Tomb where you will learn about the prominent Dian Fossey who sacrificed her life to save that of the Mountain Gorillas which were hunted and killed. The Hike is quite challenging although very rewarding to all that take part in it.
You can also take on the Crater Lake Hike which will offers you scenic views at the Crater Lake.
Costs of Permits-per person
- Mountain Gorillas: US$ 1500
- Dian Fossey Hike: US$ 75
- Golden Monkey Tracking: US$ 100
- Crater Lake Hike: US$ 75
Transfer to Rwanda's Musanze caves which were formed about 65 million years ago and are situated among the volcanic area where lava flow layers adjoined to form the Albertine Rift Valley. These can be hiked easily in a distance of 2 kms offering wonderful views of the gushing lights from the surface as well as the exceptional rock formation and the settlement of bats.
Buhanga Eco Park
Buhanga Eco Park is a candid Eco park with a serene forest that offers exceptional biodiversity as well as cultural importance. There are various pensive trails traversing through lofty trees which are a habitat to various birds and butterflies. The Eco Park is suitably built on an old sanctified site that was once used for coronation rituals of all the Kings of Rwanda.
Iby'Iwacu Cultural Village
Situated close to the National Park outside, the Iby’iwacu Cultural Village offers wonderful encounters of the ordinary Rwanda society. It tells more about the culture of the Rwandese and this can be presented through drumming, joyful dancing and warm welcoming something that differentiates the Rwandese from the rest of the world. The village exhibits the various hands on activities that resemble the rituals and ways of life of the ancient Kings of Rwanda.
Some of the performers were poachers before so many have joined the village so as to turn their lives around hence getting a new life and a very relevant contribution to the society as well as community. Visitors are free to join the performers while dancing and performing an experience that is so unique and very remarkable. While at the village, you can also take on various extended trips to the country side as well as external lodging which can be arranged on prior request. The reason behind the foundation of the cultural village is to improve the lives of the reformed poachers as well as communities of Rwanda. The cost for entering the village is US $20 per person.
Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is suitably located in the north Eastern part of Rwanda close to the border of Tanzania. The park was named after the prominent Akagera River which flows along the Eastern boundary which pours its water into various lakes with the largest being Lake Ihema.
The park features many periphery lakes, papyrus swamps, Savannah plains as well as rolling highlands that make Akagera National Park a very exceptional destination to visit by all travelers around the world looking for a fulfilling wildlife adventure safari in Rwanda. There is a lot of biodiversity including flora and fauna to spot and experience with a reserved wetland in the whole of central Africa.
There are various wildlife species but many are restricted to the papyrus swamps like the Sitatunga and the most wanted shoebill stork. The wildlife species that can be spotted here include the elephant, buffalo, topi, zebra, waterbuck, roan antelope and eland and other antelope like the duiker, oribi, bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, bushbuck, impala and primates like the olive baboons, vervets, the isolative blue monkey that are often spotted during the day and bushbabies that move in the night.
Large predators like the lion, leopard, side striped jackal, hyena as well as the black rhino where re-introduced to reinstate the BIG 5 status. Other than the wildlife species the park inhabits, there are about 500 different bird species that can be watched here at Akagera. For example the endangered shoebill stork, papyrus Gonolek and other water birds inhabit the papyrus as well as the wetlands.
Things To Do & See in Akagera National Park
Take on a game drive in Akagera National Park to spot the various wildlife animals grazing and wandering around the park an experience that is fulfilling and remarkable. The animals you will spot include the Sitatunga, buffalo, elephant, eland, impala, etc. You can move with your own experienced guide or hire a community freelance guide who will inform you about the various animals as well as make it easy for you to navigate through the park with ease from one side to another of the park. These are very exciting and wonderful experience to take on along the various tracks in the park.
Fishing and Boat Cruise
Take on a boat cruise while in Akagera National Park at Lake Ihema an experience that is so wonderful and exciting. You will cruise via the forest margin Lake Edge and along you will spot huddles of hippos as well as crocodiles. If you are a vivid birder, you must take on this cruise where you will spot various bird species flying from one place to another. The trips are scheduled 4 times a day i.e 7:30 am, 9 am, 3.30 pm and 5pm although non scheduled, private trips can be organized upon prior request. If you are interested in sports fishing you should transfer to Lake Shakani and in case you get a catch, you will cook it at an open fire at the campsite.
Birding is one of the prominent activities carried out at Akagera National Park with numerous birds that can be spotted while on a bird watching safari. There are various savannah species like the waterfowl as well as other 5000 different species that are endemic and threatened species like the papyrus gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri), which is restricted to the papyrus swamps, the localised red-faced barbet (Lybius bidentatus) and the sought after swamp flycatcher (Muscicapa boehmi).
- Entry fees-US $35(international) & US $25(EAC members)
- Charge of US $7.5 per car
- Discounted charge for children below 12 years
Those below 5 years are for free
- US $20 for community freelance guides-half day and US $30 for full day
- Night Game Drive (per person, 2.5 hrs): US$40
- Fishing (per person per day, own equipment): US$20
- Boat Trip (per person, morning or day, 1 hour): US$30
- Boat Trip (per person, sunset, 1 hour): US$40
- Behind the Scenes Tour (per person, 1.5 hours): US$20
Twin Lakes Burera and Ruhondo
The twin lakes in Rwanda i.e Lake Burera and Ruhondo are situated in the area between Musanze and the Ugandan border and these are very beautiful offering extraordinary experiences to all tourists that visit them while on vacation holiday. These are filled by rivers and lake from Uganda and while here visitors should be sure to have beautiful views of steep and severely farmed hills that are enfolded by unspoiled dark blue waters as well as the tremendous scenic Virunga Volcanoes on a clear day.
The place has a very stunning landscape that offers unique sightings to all visitors. You can also take on a wonderful boat cruise where you will have an opportunity to spot various water birds like the herons, kingfishers, darters, cormorants, hammerkops, stalks, cranes. Carry a pair of binoculars and a bird book to guide you through the entire experience.
Kigali Genocide Memorial
Located in Gisozi, the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre was officially opened as a Genocide memorial on the 10th anniversary of the genocide that happened in April 2004 when various people lost their lives. This was founded by the Aegis Trust an organization devoted to ensuring that the genocide does not occur again and this educates people with joined hands with the government of Rwanda.
In the area are gardens, burial grounds, archival exhibits, wall of names of the victims that lost their dear lives in the genocide. In the interior are 3 various exhibits with the main among them having a comprehensive history of the years until the genocide- massive massacres as well as personal accounts, texts which are posted in Kinyarwanda, French and English, photos, video clips, artifacts.
The genocide Memorial is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day despite 4:00 pm is the time the last entrance is allowed so get there before 4:00 pm to experience and talk to some of the victims that survived this tragic event. They will narrate the whole event like a book.
Nyamata Catholic Church – Genocide Memorial
Situated in the Bugesera District which requires one about 35 km South of the capital city of Rwanda-Kigali, Nyamata Catholic church was such a very appropriate to the victims-Tutsi people who ran to this church so as to survive being killed by the Hutu people during the Genocide in 2004.
This was due to the fact that at the beginning of the genocide on 7th April 1994 many groups from the Tutsi ethnic group ran to churches thinking these would protect them from the brutal Hutus who were killing them mercilessly which was wrong for these didn’t respect any boundaries so when the time came, they went and penetrated into the churches hence killing the weak minority Tutsi at the time. About 10,000 people were murdered as well as in other catholic churches around Rwanda and priests, nuns, and other church officials fled the country and those that remained behind, took part in the massive killing.
The church has very many holes that were made by the constant billets that passed through and these were shot at the Tutsi who were hiding in cup boards as well as closets hoping that these would protect them from being killed by the armed Hutus. The church has a basement with many mass graves with 8 others outside the church with a vast one being distinctive. There are short narrow hallways with racks of skulls and bones that cover the floor until the ceiling as well as graves with coffins each with a set of bones.
Ntarama Genocide Memorial
On 14th April 1995, the church of Ntarama was transformed into a genocide memorial with graveyards of about 5,000 people that lost their lives during the tragic Genocide. It is one of the six National Genocide Memorial sites in Rwanda with human remains, clothing and artifacts belonging to the people that lost their lives and these are demonstrated to all people around the world who visit these places to get to learn about what happened in 2004.
The church also includes a school and is suitably located 25 km South of Kigali and a total of 5000 people were murdered and most of them were children and women. The Tutsis ran to this place to seek refuge thinking that these would protect them from the brutal Hutus who were very armed and superior since many of them had guns which they used to murder the Tutsis.
National Museum of Rwanda
The National Museum of Rwanda is situated in Butare Town which is about 130km south of Kigali city and occupies an area of more than 20 hectares. It was officially constructed in the late 1980s and provides information about the historical and cultural days of Rwanda. It is the best ethnographic museum of East Africa and reveals the traditional/ customary wealthy life and culture of the Rwandese.
There are various documents and features in the museum and these include; maps, photos, Historical materials, Architectural ethnographic displays of art objects, Artifacts documenting agriculture hunting fishing, basketry, pottery, textiles, wood carving and metallurgy, gardens contain indigenous vegetation and a traditional craft training centre, collection materials archive that include testimonies on Rwanda history given by elders in the community, photographs from the museum’s holdings and historical audio and video, collection Displays at the Museum, the public collection is displayed in seven rooms with the remaining artifacts in storage etc.
Karisoke Research Center
The Karisoke Research Center is situated in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda and was founded by Dian Fossey on the 24th September 1967 so as to study the rare species of Mountain Gorillas. It is situated in the middle of Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke hence joining the names making it Karisoke after the two Mountains. After the death of Dian Fossey in 1985, the research center continued to function despite the fact that this shifted to a more modernized feature in Musanze.
The research center toady protects and keenly monitors the Mountain Gorillas through carrying out various science and research projects as well as educative programs and community health to development projects. This has provided important information about the Mountain Gorillas as well as their natural habitat which has attracted various research students as well as scientists from all over the globe and these come to learn more about these rare species. The presence of this research center had contributed a lot to the community since many have attained education from the schools the fund has renovated as well as the clean water and parasite treatment which have enabled the people to live comfortably since most of their needs are met.
Lake Kivu is Africa’s 6th largest lake and borders Rwanda in the west near the Great Rift Valley. It occupies the area between Rwanda and the DR Congo and offers extraordinary scenic views of the surrounding vegetation terrain as well as the birds of the air that fly singing from one place to another. There are three major towns around the vast Lake Kivu and these require 3-4 hours from Kigali which is the city center for Rwanda.
The most prominent of all the towns is Gisenyi with a beautiful beach where many different people from all over the globe transfer to relax and have fun to the fullest. The beach also offers scenic views of the lake and islands in the distance as well as birds enjoying their habitat to the fullest. On your way here, you will spot the local people waving and smiling at you as children call unto you using the local term “Muzungu” meaning the white people a sign that you are welcome to their land.
Presidential Palace Museum
The presidential Palace Museum is suitably located 40km east and about 2 km of the Kigali International Airport and this keeps the relics of the plane in which the former Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana was assassinated in 1994 as he was flying with the president of Burundi to an urgent meeting to sort out some political issues.
This area has flight debris that went down after the plane was shot down on the 6th April 1994. The palace museum was a reserved home for President Juvenal Habyarimana and Pasteur Bizimungu in the 1970s to 1990s. There are secret rooms, a grand edifice and a presidential night club that can be explored/ visited on a guided tour through the palace.