Rwanda safari activities range from gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park to wildlife in Akagera, primate watching of monkeys and chimpanzee in Nyungwe National Park and birding in various parts of Rwanda. Other tour options include visits to genocide memorials, canopy walks, boat cruises and cultural tours. Rwanda is renowned for mountain gorillas and golden monkeys which are found in Volcanoes National Park.
The climate of Rwanda is subtropical whereby there are two dry seasons and two rainy seasons throughout the year. Rwanda’s capital is Kigali of which it is where the international airport is found. Concerning languages there are various languages spoken in this country such as French, Kinyarwanda, Swahili and English.
Rwanda also known as the land of a thousand hills welcomes you to its lively City Life spectacular vistas and opens for you an opportunity to meet the endangered mountain gorillas. Below we have highlighted the top tourist attractions and best things to do on your visit in Rwanda.
Gorilla Trek in Volcanoes National Park
Situated in the northwestern part of the country the volcanoes National Park which is part of the virunga mountain range is home to the endangered mountain gorillas, in addition to other primates such as the Golden monkeys. This is the best place to enjoy a mountain gorilla trek during your visit.This park is located on the North western part of Rwanda bordering the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park of Uganda and the Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is habitat to a number of plant and animal species including the Golden Monkeys and the Gorillas too that are said to be an endangered species. The Volcanoes National Park is also home to other things like 5 out of 8 Volcanoes belonging to the Mountains of Virunga. It has a number of activities that take place in and around it like gorilla tracking, the Mountain Karisimbi Volcano climb, the golden monkey tacking, the Dian Fossey hike and the visit to the Iby’iwacu Cultural Village to mention but a few. See a list of Rwanda safari companies that take you for gorilla tracking in Rwanda.
Gorilla Trekking Costs $ 1500 USD Per Person Per Day
Wildlife Safaris in Akagera National Park
This southern Park offers holiday makers and opportunity to see the big five animals which include rhinos, Lions, leopards, elephants and buffaloes, in addition to a variety of other species of wildlife. Akagera National Park offers sweeping views and it’s the best place to enjoy a wildlife or game viewing safari while in Rwanda. It is in the eastern part of Rwanda and is very close to the Tanzanian border. The park is a protected wetland and is said to be the largest of its kind in Central Africa. It is known also as a safe haven for the adapted species of the savannah in Rwanda. The Akagera National Park is characterized by quite a number of things including the swamps, savannah and the woodlands and low mountains. Different animal and bird species can also be found here like the Shoebill stork that is a rare species, the giraffes, crocodiles, lions, zebras and elephants to mention but a few. Be sure to enjoy nocturnal and day light game drives and nature walks in the park.
Watch The Primates Of Nyungwe Forest National Park
This wildlife sanctuary is the most remote national park found in Rwanda. This is a forest National Park located in the Southwestern part of Rwanda at the border of Burundi. The park covers approximately 1019sqkm and has a lot to offer being a home to 13 primate species such as Chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, 87 mammals, over 300 bird species, 1067 plant species and many more. Nyungwe Forest National Park is somewhat an unaffected rainforest and is home to several primates including chimpanzees and the Columbus monkeys in addition to a variety of different types of birds. This is the best place to enjoy a chimpanzee trekking adventure while in Rwanda. There are guided nature walks conducted here, bird watching, canopy walks as well as primate watching. Outside the gates of the park are large fields of tea plantation. Nyungwe is found on the South western side of Rwanda narrowing to the border with Burundi and it is characterized by its tropical forests that are ancient and montane. It is notably known for having chimpanzees and also other primates like the Owl faced and Dent’s Mona Monkeys to mention but a few. Other activities that take place within this park include the and Nature and Canopy walks, the trails like the Igishigishigi that involves a suspension bridge so high up that leaves you with a magnificent view of the surroundings and the valley, the waterfalls, orchids and birdlife.
Visit Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre
This is a memorial centre that is a final resting place to over 250,000 Tutsi victims of the genocide that occurred in 1994. This centre is among the 6 main memorial centers in Rwanda that are there in remembrance of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. Others include; Natrama genocide memorial centre, Murambi memorial centre, Nyamata, Bisesero, and Nyarubuye memorial centers.
The memorial centre was opened in 1999 whereby the different remains of people that where around the city, in lakes and rivers where transferred to this place to be buried. The major aim for this place was to provide a dignified resting place for victims from the Genocide and also to provide support to the widows, orphans and survivors of the genocide. Apart from that it is also a place of education and research to various tourists who get to learn about the causes and implications of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
Explore Lake kivu
This is the largest lake found within Rwanda and it is located in the western part of the country close to two major towns – kibuuye and Gishenyi which offer fine restaurants, nice accommodation and several tourist activities. It is a lake that is very deep but all the more crystal clear. Its waters are fresh and it has the tenth largest Island in the entire world sitting on it; Idwiji Island. On its shores are famous towns like Gisenyi and Kibuye (Karongi) that really have a lot to offer.
Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s largest lake located on Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo border; it is approximately 90km long and 50km wide and covers an area of 2,700km2. A visit to this lake give you unforgettable experience whereby you can engage in various activities while there which include;
- Chill and unwind at lake Kivu, you can either walk around the lake, read a book, have awesome views like the sun sets, islands, the hills, among others. After the game drives, gorilla tracking, chimpanzee trekking, canopy walks among others, this is the best place to relax before heading back home.
- Participate in Biking and hiking in places near the lake, this involves biking and hiking along the hills around the lake, village visits (cultural interactions), venturing the Congo Nile Trail. The hikes can be for a half day or full day.
- Swimming, Lake Kivu is among the safest lakes to swim in, as there are lesser worries of hippos, crocodiles or even Bilharzia, most hotels have swimming pools, but you could also opt for a refreshing dive in the lake.
- Take boat ride on the Lake to Nyamirundi Island which is more like a coffee tour, here you are able to know how coffee is harvested, processed, up to how it is served. You can also buy some to take home an amazing time while at this island.
- Engage in water sports such as kayaking, sailing, fishing, motor boat cruises, wind-surfing among others.
Go Birding in Rwanda
Bird watching in Rwanda is to some extent disregarded in favor of mountain gorilla trekking safaris, however, the country prides in an excellent birdlife that rewards holidaymakers a great opportunity to see a number of Albertine Rift endemic species. Currently, Rwanda has a bird list of about 600 different species all living within this small country. the forest of Nyungwe national park which is an afro-montane forest is the best place to enjoy a bird watching adventure on your safari in Rwanda. it is listed by Birdlife International as an IBA – ‘Important Bird Area’. There are a number of Albertine Rift species endemic to Rwanda such as Grauer’s & Neumann’s warblers, Albertine owlet, red-collared mountain-babbler as well as the collared apalis.
Golden Monkey Tracking
Today golden monkey trekking has become a much sought after tourism activity with several tourists flocking into the country to see this endangered species. On the African continent, golden monkeys can be seen in just two countries and that is Uganda’s Mgahinga National park and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
They stay within the bamboo vegetation found close to the lower parts of the volcanoes. the golden monkey groups that are visited by tourists have been habituated to enable them get accustomed to human presence and overcome shyness. This activity is pretty similar to gorilla tracking and small groups of eight (8) people are allowed to visit them at a time. Trekkers will be given an hour with the golden monkeys to observe and take photos. Persons below fifteen (15) years may not be allowed to take part in this thrilling activity.
Enjoy a tour of the Iby’iwacu Cultural Village
In this village, you will find former poachers who were convinced and talked out of poaching and current focus on entertaining guests that visit this area. During your visit to the village, you will have a guided tour of the village for about one hour during which you will see the traditional house of a Rwandan king, observe how they mix their traditional medicinal herbs and even get a chance to make some shots using a bow and an arrow. Ibyiwacu is one of the very many cultural sites in Rwanda. The will be a very vibrant entertainment performance by the locals that include songs and dance. Don’t forget you camera behind because you allowed to take as many photos as you wish while with these very hospitable locals. Don’t forget to offer a tip to your local guide at the end of the adventure.
Rwanda Canopy Walk
The canopy walk is among the primary activities conducted within the Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda, and it is such a thrilling adventure activity best recommended for nature lovers plus adrenaline junkies. Today, the canopy walk has turned out to be an iconic activity that is included on all itineraries including a visit in Nyungwe forest National Park. The walk rewards tourists with breathtaking sights across this amazing forest which is considered to be one of the oldest Afro-montane forests in the East African region. You will be able to see the top canopy wildlife such as birds plus monkeys during this thrilling adventure.
Hike and Bike along the Congo Nile Trail
The Congo-Nile Trail was Officially opened towards the end of 2009. In reality, it is a network of criss-crossing roads plus trails which begin in Gisenyi on the northern tip of Lake Kivu and extends for 227 kilometers southwards to Cyangugu town found on the southern side of the lake. The terrain between these two major towns is comprised of endless rolling hills dotted with numerous remote villages and a couple of towns, offering hikers and bikers a good insight and experience the rural lifestyle of the Rwandan people. This is also a good place to see different species of bird as well. Some of the commonly encountered birds include: White-breasted cormorants, white tailed blue flycatchers and the black headed herons.
Gishwati Mukura Tours
Gishwati-Mukura National park is the 4th and Rwanda’s newest National Park; famously known for its diverse plant species; over 60 species of trees like the bamboo and wood and a big number of Rwanda safari wildlife species; around 84 bird species.
Boat Ride in Rwanda
In Rwanda there are several places you can enjoy a thrilling bat ride such as on Lake Ihema found within Akagera National Park. During these amazing adventures, you will get an opportunity to see huge hippos, crocodiles and different birds close to water shores. Some of the commonly spotted birds include: the herons, papyrus gonelek, jacanas, kingfishers and the ibises.
Visit Musanze Caves
Musanze Caves are found close to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The caves can be toured at any time of the day, rather in the afternoons after your gorilla trek, and you will be taken though this fantastic attraction by the professional and friendly tour guides, the entrance fees to Musanze caves is $ 55 per person and includes the transport costs to the site and the tips to the guides. The tourists that are interested in visiting these caves can book with the Rwanda Development Board in advance to be able to participate.
Horseback riding at Fazenda Sengha
For holiday makers interested in horse riding and enjoying the beautiful views, then Fazenda Sengha found in Kigali is the best place to go. The ranch is situated up the rugged area on Mount Kigali, and riders are required to wear helmets. Riding Shoes can be rented at the ranch and the recommended dress code is a pair of comfortable pants. Led by tour guides you will ride around the mountain and enjoy the breathtaking views.
Visit the Karisoke Research centre
This research centre mainly focuses on keeping track and studying the mountain gorillas found in Rwanda. It is funded by the Diana fossey gorilla fund international and it’s resources are finding several anti-poaching project as well as sensitizing the locals and international visitors about the importance of conserving the mountain gorillas.
The twin lakes Tour
Lake Ruhondo together with Lake Burera are known as the twin lakes of this beautiful country and are located a couple of kilometers from musanze town. They offer beautiful views of the volcanoes and can best be visited during short weekend trips. These are a beautiful must-see site.
Sorwathe Tea Plantation
This beautiful plantation is located between the capital city of Kigali and the well-known town of musanze. It offers a great tour of how to tea is produced in this country. There is tea tasting, nice lunch and breathtaking views.
This amazing lake is located about 48 km from the capital city of Kigali and it is a recommended tourist attraction you can visit especially when you have limited safari time. It’s beautiful lake shores are met with calm Waters and you will find several nice restaurants together with cafes by the shore. Enjoying the sunset views over this lake is one of the highlights here
National Museum of Rwanda
The ethnographic museum which is the National museum of Rwanda is found inside a university located in the town of butare. A visit to this museum will give you a detailed insight of the culture of the Rwandan people as well as their political and social history.
The Inema Art Center
This art centre was founded by my innocent Nkurunziza together with Emmanuel Nkuranga and currently offers an insight into the country’s contemporary art. Besides the art displays they are yoga classes offered here in addition to happy hours as some of the inspirational and contemporary activities here.
FAQs on Rwanda Safari
Below we have come up with a couple of frequently asked question on Rwanda which we have professionally answered and Hope they will help you decide whether this is the best destination for you to visit and how best to prepare for your visit in Rwanda
Why visit Rwanda?
the largest number of tourists that comes to this country travel to see the mountain gorillas. this country prides in great contrast so visiting it is generally a humbling experience offering so much to see beside the mountain gorillas including some of the big five animals and culture tours that will give you personal experiences and encounters with the local hospitable people of this country. See also, the best time to visit Rwanda for safaris.
Is Rwanda safe to visit?
Yes, Rwanda is safe however when traveling in the large cities such as the capital it is recommended that you take extra care because similar to other large cities in the world, there are some petty crimes there. Tourists are always advised not to move with their valuable such as cameras, laptops and phones exposed. It is also recommended that when going on a wildlife Safari you should leave all your expensive jewelry at home. When moving at night its better you do so in the company of a guide and always avoid moving alone.
How to reach Rwanda?
There are number of flights that go directly in Rwanda such as Kenya airways, KLM, Qatar Airways, Brussels Airlines, Turkish Airlines, South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines
What are the visa requirements for visiting Rwanda?
All foreign visitors coming into Rwanda are required to have a passport valid for at least 6 months after the duration of their visit. Depending on your nationality one may be required to get a visa to enter into Rwanda. For that reason you are highly recommended to make a comprehensive search about the visa requirements from the embassy in your respective countries prior to the date of departure
From the start of 2018, Rwanda offers Nationals of all different countries visa on arrival either at the Kigali International Airport or all land- borders.
Citizen from the East African Community Member countries which include: South Sudan, Burundi, United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, shall be offered a free of charge entry or pass upon arrival for a stay of six months.
Travelers who are citizens of countries that are members to these international organizations below: La Francophonie, African Union and Commonwealth can acquire a visa on arrival and received a waived visa fee for a 30 days visit. These include: Zimbabwe, Albania, Zambia, Algeria, Vanuatu, Antigua and Barbuda, Vietnam, Armenia, United Kingdom, Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Solomon Islands, Barbados, Samoa, Belize, St Vincent and The Grenadines, Belgium, Saint Lucia, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago, Brunei Darussalam, Tuvalu, Burkina Faso, Tonga, Bulgaria, The Gambia, Cameroon, The Bahamas, Canada, Tunisia, Togo, Cape Verde, Switzerland, Cambodia, Comoros, Sudan, Congo, South Africa, Cyprus, Somalia, Dominica, Saharawi Republic, Djibouti, Republic of Macedonia, Egypt, Romania, Eswatini, Principality of Andorra, Equatorial Guinea, Pakistan, Eritrea, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Fiji, Niger, France, New Zealand, Gabon, Nauru, Grenada, Namibia, Greece, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, Guyana, Monaco, India, Maldive, Kiribati, Mauritania, Jamaica, Malta, Laos, Malaysia, Lebanon, Mali, Lesotho, Malawi, Liberia, Madagascar, Libya and Luxembourg
Citizens from the following countries are to be given visa free of charge on arrival valid for duration of 90 days: the state Qatar, Angola, Singapore, Benin, Sao Tome and Principe, Central African Republic, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Chad, Seychelles, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Philippines, The Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, Mauritius, Ghana and Indonesia.
What activity shouldn’t I miss during my visit in Rwanda?
There is no visit to Rwanda considered complete without trekking the mountain gorillas found in volcanoes National Park because there are very few mountain gorillas remaining in the world today. These can only be seen in three destinations including Rwanda, so this is considered a once-in-a-lifetime activity and its highly recommended for every tourist.
How much is a gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda?
The cost of a mountain gorilla permit to see these amazing hairy giants is US $1500 a person per trek. For anyone to be allowed to participate in this activity they should be over 15 years of age.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Rwanda?
No, tap water in Rwanda is not safe. Kindly stick to the bottled drinking water that will be provided to you doing a safari and if you must, always boil all the water that you will drink. Fortunately, the tour operators provided bottled drinking water within the safari vehicles, and majority of the hotels and lodges provide bottled drinking water in the bathrooms for brushing your teeth
Is the English language widely spoken in Rwanda?
To some extent the Rwandan people speak English despite the fact that it’s not the official language there. Most of the staff you will engage with on your safari especially in the hospitality industry speak English, so communication will not be a challenge. French is the most commonly spoken language in Rwanda.
How is the accommodation in Rwanda?
Generally Rwanda offers good accommodation facilities ranging from the top-notch luxury facilities ideal for the big spenders, the mid-range facilities and then the budget facilities which are suitable for those on limited budget. There are also camping facilities available for the more adventurous tourists. So irrespective of what your budget is you will definitely find a place to stay in Rwanda.
How is the food in Rwanda?
Rwanda has a variety of food and when you visit the big hotels and restaurants you will find that there are specialized chefs ready to prepare you your desired meal including those with English, Arab, French and Italian influence. The Rwandan menu includes a lot of vegetables and most of its local food is influenced by the Ugandan cuisine.
Which vaccines do I need before traveling to Rwanda?
When visiting Rwanda every guest will be required to present a yellow vaccine certificate as proof of acquiring the vaccine shot. You are also greatly advised to visit your local physician back in your home country to get anti- malarial treatment as well as any other recommended medication. Ensure that you move with a copy of your prescription and have all your medicines well labeled as you pack.
How to avoid malaria Rwanda?
Some of the useful tips you can follow during your safari in order to avoid malaria include:
- Ensure that you take your prescribed anti-malarial drugs
- Always use insect repellent
- Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants to protect yourself against mosquito bites
- At alI times, you should always sleep under a mosquito net
What is the time zone in Rwanda?
In Rwanda, the local time is GMT + 2 which implies that it is always 6 to 7 hours ahead of the people on the Eastern side of the United States in same time of the year as well as with daylight savings-time
How much should I tip when on Safari in Rwanda?
Although tipping is not mandatory in Rwanda, a tip is warmly received as a gift of appreciation of one’s good service. Below we have come up with a brief guide and how much you should tip who when on Safari.
The Safari guide $10 per person per safari day
The staff at the lodge $10 per person per day
The gorilla trekking guide $10 per person per trek
The gorilla truck has $10 to the team per trek
What is the electric current used in Rwanda?
In Rwanda all electrical appliances use 230 volts. The electric appliances use the dual pin type c plugs. Majority of the hotels and lodges will provide you with adapters however to be on the safe side we greatly advice that you carry your own. Travelers particularly carrying their personal hair styling equipment such as flat irons, hair dryers or culling irons, it is better that you make sure that they are dual voltage however don’t forget to change this voltage where need be once you reach Rwanda to avoid damaging them on your Safari. However you may realize that a number of lodges especially those in the remote parts of the country run on generators and these are normally switched on for 6 to 7 hours each day to light the rooms and power the fans is the rooms. For that reason, it is advised that you always plan your day especially for the ladies to have your hair well worked on before the power is turned off.
Are there any luggage restrictions while on Safari in Rwanda?
Well just as it is with all safaris across the world never Park what you don’t mind seeing again. Personal items like camera, medication, cell phones, eyeglasses, iPads, wallets, laptop, passport and sunglasses should at all times be carried with you. Remember to always keep you expensive jewelry back home. Avoid bringing things that are irreplaceable or personal items that seriously attached to you.
Different airlines offer different luggage restrictions, therefore, make a comprehensive search regarding the luggage allowance that the airline you wish to travel with offers. One of the most commonly used rule in terms of luggage size is to pack bags that what you can easily carry around.
What to pack for a safari in Rwanda?
The general rule for packing for any Safari irrespective of which destination you are going to is to always pack light. Below are some of the recommended things that should not miss on your packing list when visiting Rwanda.
Pack neutral colored clothing especially for adventures in the game
Pack a waterproof jacket or coat for trekking in the forest
A warm sweater or jacket for layering especially during the cold evenings and chilly early mornings
Comfortable waterproof hiking boots especially for those taking part in gorilla trekking; it’s more advisable that thee boots offer good ankle support.
At least two pairs of stockings
Comfortable flip-flops or Sandals
Gardening gloves especially for those going to trek mountains Gorillas and chimpanzees
Long sleeved shirts or blouses to protect against insect bites
Safari trousers or jeans
A hat having a wide beam and if possible with an under chin strap so that doesn’t have to fly away
Other necessities include sunglasses, camera with enough memory cards and some spare batteries, a flashlight and a toilet bag having all your personal necessities
Chargers for all your electrical gadgets such as cameras, phones and laptops
A personal first aid kit that should include the following items: eye drop, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, pain tablets, antiseptic cream and Band-Aids. You are in addition advised to visit your physician back home so that he / she gives you a detailed list of items to include in your first aid box.
What is the best time to visit Rwanda?
Rwanda can best be visited from mid-June up to mid-October when the country is experiencing the long dry-season. This is the perfect time to actually do a gorilla trekking gorilla. The country generally experiences four main seasons despite the fact that temperatures are generally favorable all year round. Its small size and closeness to the equator makes its ‘high altitude’ country. On average, the day time temperatures are 30°C (86°F), and at night these can drop to an average of 21°C (70°F).
Although activities like gorilla trekking can be done all year round, you should keep in mind that some of the months are more wet compared to other months which consequently makes trekking the slippery muddy trails very challenging.
What is The Cost of a Safari in Rwanda?
Trekking the gorillas of Rwanda costs $1500 USD per person per day. Other wildlife safaris in Rwanda cost about $200 per day Below are the sample safari packages for your safari in Rwanda.
Seasons of Rwanda
The Long Rain Season (March – Mid-May)
From March to mid-may Rwanda experiences the long rain season with heavy rains being experienced in the mountainous areas. during this time it is not advised to engage in activities make gorilla trekking although the tracking of chimpanzees can be done in Nyungwe Forest National Park since the fruits and figs within this verdant forest have ripened and for that reason the chimpanzees moved to the lower parts of the trees to feed on them making it easier to see them.
The Long Dry Season (Mid May – Mid-October)
The Long dry season is experienced in Rwanda from mid-may to mid-June. This is considered as the best time for taking a safari in the country and activities like gorilla trekking conducted in volcanoes National Park as well as well game viewing are in high gear. There is a large number of tourists in the country and this is considered to be the peak tourist season. Viewing of wildlife is very good at this time with species like Buffalo, zebras, and elephant being easily seen since most of the vegetation has dried up. Tracking of golden monkeys can be done during this season as well.
Although this is the dry season, holidaymakers interested in gorilla trekking are advised to carry a rain jacket because this being a rainforest it can rain anytime. The accommodation during this time of the year is also on high demand which subsequently pushes up the accommodation fares; this is not a good time especially for people on a limited budget to safari in Rwanda
Short Rains Season Mid-October – November
The short rain season starts in mid-October up to the end of November. This is a great time to see different trees and bird species, and many of the plants are flowering. At this time specialist Bird tours can be organized during especially in the month of November. The wet season also offers the perfect conditions for taking photographs since the rains fall for a short time and the skies clear immediately.
Short Dry Period December – February
From December to February, Rwanda is experiencing a dry spell offering better views of wild animals. This season is also perfect for Holidaymakers looking forward to hiking, tracking or canoeing. The accommodation prices on the other hand tend to be higher compared to those in the wet season since most tourist destinations are crowded with tourists.