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Why You Should Go on Gorilla Safari in Rwanda in 2023

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Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Gorilla trekking through Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and Virunga Mountains is one of the world’s most sought after wildlife experiences. It’s also one of the greatest, and responsible tours here have contributed to the growing numbers of mountain gorillas.

Africa’s easiest and most accessible gorilla trekking is the main draw card of a Rwandan safari. After arriving at the capital city of Kigali, you are only a few hours’ drive away from the legendary Volcanoes National Park and its habituated but still wild gorilla families.

It was on the bamboo-covered slopes of Rwanda’s Virunga Volcanoes that the late Dian Fossey studied the behavior of the endangered mountain gorilla for 20 years, followed by the filmmakers who shot Gorillas in the Mist. Now small groups of privileged visitors can experience one of the most memorable wildlife encounters on earth – gorilla trekking through the pristine Virungas rainforest. Her work really was the beginning of the habituation process of gorillas, a process that still happens today, during which gorillas adjust to small and very strictly controlled numbers of tourists coming in to observe them.

Mountain gorillas only live in the dense vegetation of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and along the dormant volcanic Virunga mountain range that stretches across Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park & Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Why Gorillas are among the best tours in Rwanda? 

Easy Accessibility

In terms of accessibility for gorilla trekking, Rwanda is easier than Uganda. Rwanda is a far smaller country than Uganda, which means it’s a short journey by road from the capital of Kigali to Volcanoes National Park and Rwanda has better roads.

Many visitors still choose the park because of its location near the capital Kigali. Some visitors have found safari bookings in Rwanda more straight forward. Some also claim that the roads in Rwanda are better and that the gorillas are easier to find.

The Volcanoes National Park is only two hours’ drive on tarmac road from Kigali and the international airport. For one visit to the gorillas, you will need a minimum of two nights’ stay, and three nights would be ideal.

Safe & Security

Rwanda is considered to be one of the safest countries in the world when it comes to tourism. The chances of being mugged or stolen in Rwanda may be lower than in your own country. Security is tight in Rwanda and police can be seen almost everywhere. Security in the national parks is equally tight and there are almost no cases of poaching in Rwanda today. Rebel elements from neighboring countries have no chance in the Volcanoes National Park given the heavy military and police presence.  How about you the tourists? All tourists are escorted with armed rangers while tracking the gorillas.

Fossey Fund trackers and researchers protect and study roughly half of all the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, with the other half protected by the Rwandan national park authorities.

Peaceful Creatures

Mountain gorillas are very calm and peaceful creatures considering their size and strength. They are often referred to as “the gentle giants of the forest”. Gorillas are generally known to be gentle, peaceful and friend primates, and that the mere fact that they share 98% of their DNA with human beings only proves that they are more like us. Gorillas are social animals and only become aggressive towards humans when they feel threatened.

Gorilla trekking is absolutely worth the money, effort & time spent. Travellers that have experienced gorilla trekking will definitely agree with me that the experience of coming face-to-face with these gentle giants is very worth every effort, money and time put to planning the gorilla trekking holiday.

More Habituated Families

There are currently ten main groups that can be tracked in Rwanda; the Susa, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Umubano, Hirwa, Kwitonda, Karisimbi, Agashya, Bwenge and Ugende

The groups vary in number from around 9 to 39 individuals and all currently have at least one silverback male. Of the seven groups, there are a couple that tend to be found on the saddle between Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga which is around a two hour walk from the park entrance.

Whilst it is not possible to book a permit for a specific group, your chances of having a shorter walk are higher than in Uganda. Nothing is guaranteed though and you may find yourself tracking a group such as the Susa, first studied by Diane Fossey and often found on the slopes of Mount Visoke, a five hour hike away. 

Availability of Permits

Despite the higher cost of a gorilla tour in Rwanda, permits must be obtained to visit the gorillas and, as only eight are granted per gorilla group each day, they are extremely limited.

We will secure permits for you as far in advance as possible and at least four months before you intend to travel. The permits currently cost around US$1500 per person, which entitles you to one hour with the mountain gorillas. This money goes toward conservation of the habitat, anti-poaching efforts and education of the local communities.

Rwanda has more than twice the number of habituated mountain gorilla groups than Uganda and so permits are generally more easily available.

Majority Gorillas live in Rwanda

The Virunga Mountains spanning the borders of Uganda, DRC and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park are home to over 600 mountain gorillas. Rwanda, known as the Land of a Thousand Hills, is one of the best places to see mountain gorillas.

Tracking gorillas in Rwanda is safe and relatively accessible. At the latest count, there are approximately 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild, with 604 in the Virunga Massif. The population is slowly increasing, thanks to concerted efforts between our governments, communities and NGOs.

Proper Health of Gorillas

Gorillas that come into contact with humans can be vulnerable to human diseases, which gorillas experience in more severe forms. Mountain gorillas can even die from the common cold. However, studies have found that mountain gorillas that are regularly habituated with researchers and tourists have survived better than unvisited gorillas; they benefit from the greater protection available in those areas and from regular monitoring. Increased survival is also largely due to better veterinary care of sick and injured gorillas.

Tourists are allowed to be in the presence of the mountain gorillas for strictly one hour, which is intended to minimize chances of disease, spread from the human’s to mountain gorillas. There are high chances of disease spread from humans to the gorillas because about 98%of their DNA is similar to humans.

In conclusion, Rwanda gorilla trekking is designed for visitors who are probably ready to come and visit in Rwanda and want to go for a tour of the Gorilla families in the Volcanoes National Park. All these are the reasons as to why Gorilla safari is still one of the best tours in Rwanda.

Essential Guidelines on Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

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Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Of recent, we had a client who traveled with us for a gorilla safari in Rwanda, and all that she wanted after her tour is; to share the experience with others and also give some tips on what is required while trekking gorillas in Rwanda and below is her story.

First and foremost, gorilla trekking was the main activity on her trip and she would like to use this opportunity to recommend all people interested to try and have the same trip. She said Rwanda is an incredible country, safe and stable, clean with realistic governance and hospitable people.

Gorillas in Rwanda are found in Volcanoes national park which is situated in Musanze province at the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes. Trekking gorillas was a well-arranged activity that began as they reported at the park headquarters to be briefed about the gorilla trekking including all the dos and don’ts while with the gorillas. Afterward, she was assigned a gorilla group to visit; however, she wasn’t sure if anyone can request a gorilla group of his or her own interest.

To our experience, it’s possible to request a visit to a particular gorilla group that you could prefer to track. This is always done earlier mainly through your safari guide as he will approach the park officials and addresses your issue which is fine if done in time. This is done to some clients who need a specific gorilla experience such as gorilla groups that involves much hiking while others want those which are easy to find. She added that it is unpredictable how long the trekking will take because it varies from 2-6 hours depending on the movement of gorillas in the forest.

On her first visit; she trekked the Amahoro Group made of 18 gorillas varying through all ages. It was a 30 minutes drive on a rough road from where she had spent a night to the park headquarters. On reaching, they spent 20 minutes being briefed and later had to put on the trekking gears such as the waterproof-type pants gumboots among others.

Afterward, they started off the trekking in a forested bamboo area, it was a sunny morning but they still continued to a reasonably open grounds area but with less light where they got the gorillas as they were running their daily activities. She was happy because she trekked in good weather with no rain. She went on and recommended all trekkers put on layers due to the fact that the weather is unpredictable however you can get quite hot after walking.

On her second visit; she trekked the Kwitonda Group consisting of 17 gorillas including 3 Silverbacks. It was a 20 minutes drive on an uneven road from her place of accommodation to the park headquarters. It took them 1-hour trekking in the forest, walking up and down the steep forest through a worn path. The path had little stinging nettles. On reaching the gorillas, they spend 1 hour with the gorillas as it is the maximum time allowed while taking some memorable photographs. She went on and advised on the best type of camera required in taking photos;

  • Fast lenses are needed in order to take clear pictures since the gorillas are always in areas without direct sunlight however sometimes gorillas can be found in places with direct sunlight. Most of her photos were taken around ISO800, f2.8-5, and shutter speed of 1/10-1/240
  • She had bought a monopod but she did not use it just because gorillas were all around and the guide was regularly making them move to make sure they maintain a 7m buffer distance between them and the gorillas. The monopod takes a little while to set up, the space can often be cramped as you will have 8 tourists and the guides all stuck in the jungle and the gorillas may be in a pose position that you may want for just a short period of time.
    In her group, there were two keen photographers who had full-sized tripods2 full-frame cameras, a 70-200mm lens plus a wider fast lens. However, both of them left it and shot handheld cameras or occasionally with a monopod when the gorillas started resting after eating.
  • She used a D90 (1.5x crop sensor) and 70-200mm VR lens which looked to be fine for over 85% of the shots she wanted. Their guide on the second trekking was more strict on the distance between them and the gorillas however it could reduce from 2-5meters since the gorillas were mobile. This made her 70-200 mm lens on a Nikon crop sensor somehow long but a bit ok for most of her photos.
  • A zoom lens is better since it becomes too difficult while taking steps forward or backward while in the jungle.
  • It became tricky for her to get a clear view of the gorillas due to the little light in the jungle as well as the dark colour of the gorillas, so she advised all trekkers to keep checking while shooting.
  • Her first sight of gorillas was really amazing. ”I couldn’t hesitate the urge to blaze away with the camera taking memorable photos (particularly knowing I only had 1 hour with them), however later on I found it was nice to sometimes just stop taking photos and enjoy the little time with these beautiful creatures, watching their behavior e.g. eating, playing and grooming each other.” She added.
  • It wasn’t all that way easy for her as she was aiming at one or two gorillas at a time so as to get the best shot. The hour didn’t last for so long and by all means, she took the most incredible photos to treasure and also show to her friends.

Hope the above tips and experience will help you while planning a tour. Don’t miss trekking the gorillas as it is the best experience of a lifetime!

The Best of Rwanda’s Tourism

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There are several unique tourism activities to do in Rwanda; this country is long past its war torn days and now it’s one of safest countries visited in Africa. You will feel the real true African country with lots of unique attractions which have attracted many safari tours to Rwanda. This country is extremely small and there is one unique thing about this small country, this is gorilla trekking which is done in volcanoes National park and it has raised increased revenues for the country.
There is the Kigali city which is in the heart of Rwanda, this gorgeous city with great weather can get you taste the history here through visiting the genocide memorials and here you will learn about the turbulent past of this country. You will also have a chance to visit the different local markets which are found in the city as well as the art facts and the craft shops which are found within the city. These have also attracted many safaris to Rwanda.

Thinking about Rwanda makes you come close to the mountain gorillas and these can be spotted in volcanoes National park which is found some few kilometers from Kigali city. You will enjoy a very unique experience taking Rwanda Gorilla  adventure, take this advantage and experience the largest group of gorillas  when you come for a  safari . Gorilla trekking can also be carried out in Uganda and the Democratic Republic Congo.

Rwanda has also got three national parks and these include; Akagera National park, Nyungwe National park and Volcanoes National park, there are many animal species which can be spotted in these national parks and some of these include; the chimpanzees, bird species, elephants, lions, leopards, and the monkeys. Lake Kivu also makes a border between Rwanda and Congo and it’s a great region where the tourists are safe to visit and swim, you will also visit the safari cities like Kibuye and Gisenyi near DR Congo border.
The other attractions which are found in Rwanda include; city tours, cultures, bird species and many wild animal species. The Butare is a cultural hub for the country and was once the most important city before 1965. You will also visit the great national museum which will help you explore the great history of Rwanda

Experience Kigali Nightlife

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Nightlife is the collective term for any entertainment that is available and more popular from the late evening into the early hours of the morning. It includes the public houses, nightclubs, discotheque. There is nothing interesting on a Rwanda tour like enjoying a night in Kigali city in the very place where your trip starts. Kigali city is an exciting world to explore from the Business centre, clubs, bars, cinemas sited just in the heart of the city. Nightlife in Kigali is great around the business center and one can enjoy a wide range of nightclubs, cafes, cinemas and bars that keep the city burning up the entire night. To get the real beauty of the city embarks on the Kigali city tour during both day and night and experience the unbelievable of Rwanda holidays. Get a chance to meet up with young and rich Rwanda locals, experts and business associates during your stay as you chill around with drinks and eats which are the order of the day. You can run out of choice due to variety on display but still your favorite can never be missed. The dance floor are organized and equipped with mirrors and weekends are always fun because many show up in celebration of ending the hectic week. The music played is a mix of all cultures including African, western pop and in most cases the songs played can’t leave one seated however reserved you are. Don’t miss the chance to take your Rwanda holiday on to new heights of action, drama and fun all within the span of a few hours in the wonderful sleepy city of Kigali.

Being in a new place and environment, many travelers like to start nights with delicious and favorite meals out with cool drinks in places that have positive reputation. In Rwanda still tourists do same and some fancy spending a few hours in a nice place with friends as they knock off a few drinks. However, those who love dancing ,clubbing also start the night by chilling in calm places but later head out for more exciting night clubs and bars. Apart from Kigali city tours, the capital has a lot to offer in terms of good food and fun atmosphere for the day, evenings and nightlife. It’s good to chill and relax in the home of unique cultures, creative professionals and many recreational grounds. Check out Heavens Restaurant & boutique hotel one of Kigali’s most appealing place for tourists and expats. Quality food and wide selection of cocktail in quiet ambience can occupy your stay in the city any time of day for through the week. The right timing for this hotel is during lunch and diner hours between 12pm-10.30 pm on week days but Sundays and Saturdays they open quiet early and also close early. There promotions make you double your fun by paying for one drink and get the other for free. Wines here are of class and surely of great taste. Also other restaurants like Khana Khazana, Brachetto, Meze Fresh, Africa Bite, Zafran, caiman among others are worth checking out.

Another bar and restaurant places in Kigali include KGL fast food a close place to get fastfood in Kigali especially in the afternoon and evenings for burgers, Sundowner a restaurant and bar with everything one can ever ask for, one love club, Papyrus close to Sundowner one of the most popular nightlife busiest spot in the city. Its opening hours stretch into early morning and serve everyone who spends a night in their premise. For an evening meal and jazzy music, try City Beach another fantastic Kigali restaurant known for hosting live jazz bands every weekend and end of month. However if jazz isn’t on other live music are ever in place to keep you entertained and also keep the trend of the restaurant.

It’s one of the best places to visit or chill from for everyone who love cool music nad relaxing environment. If you’re looking for more than an evening of eating, drinking and socializing, K-Club is a home to fancy people and responsible young and old a place worth spending some good time while in Kigali. Dressing nice here is a hobby that whoever comes around looks just great. Historically Kigali is Rwanda’s business hub and holds the most Unique Rwanda treasures, hotels, hospitals, schools, Airport etc.

2014 Tour of Rwanda to Be Held in November

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Tour Du Rwanda

The Rwanda tour race has been modified in terms of a new and competitive course so that people from other areas can also have the opportunity to view the race and enjoy it. The new course will include Ngoma and Nyanza which will be the fourth stage covering a distance of 173 kilometers,” explained Ferwacy president Aimable Bayingana.

The competition, which will start with a 3,5km time-race around Amahoro stadium, will run through seven stages: Kigali-Kibungo, Rwamagana-Musanze, Musanze-Muhanga, Muhanga-Rubavu, Rubavu-Nyanza and it will conclude in Kigali.

The most difficult and longest stage will be the 5th from Rubavu-Nyanza, Bayingana said.

“The total budget of the country tour is estimated to be Frw 400m, slightly more than last year’s Frw 370m. 16 teams, including professional ones, have already confirmed their participation; there are teams attending from USA, France, and Kenya,” the chairman said.

Bayingana further said Rwanda will be represented by three teams. “We need them to have adequate time to prepare and where necessary, a competitive test tour will be staged by our teams to go through the course before the competitions,” he noted.

The director of sports in the ministry, Emmanuel Bugingo, said the Tour is one of the biggest sports events in Rwanda which has put the country on the international scene since it attracts participants from all over the world hence promoting Rwanda safaris in the country.

Valentine Rugwabiza, the CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, said the event is very important to the country because it is a platform to attract tourists. It helps to show Rwandan tourism sites and beauty.

Rwanda Named Among Top Tourist Destinations

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rwanda Thousand Hills

Rwanda has been ranked among the top 10 world adventurous places for 2013, according to Globe Spots, an international travel guide for tourists. Canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest. Rwanda has once again been named a top tourism destination.

The travel guide on Monday released a list of 10 countries in the world that are of classic travel for great sights and convenient travel,  adventurous places for those who are going above and beyond, seeking out the best travel, and hardcore places for those who are willing to travel anywhere just for the buzz.

According to the web portal, Rwanda was ranked sixth globally. Portugal comes number one on the list, followed by Mozambique, Kyrgyzstan, Panama, Armenia, Cuba, Ukraine, Malawi, and Canada in that order.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Rica Rwigamba, head of tourism and conservation at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said that the ranking provides confidence to tourists.

“In Rwanda, we have much more to offer to tourists beyond the mountain gorillas. And we are proud of that. We are committed to showcasing Rwanda’s beauty to the world,” she said.

According to the Globe Spots website, there is more to visit in Rwanda than gorilla tours and Genocide sites, such as stunning ubiquitous mountains, national parks, excellent lake beaches, great culture, and a dynamic capital city.

“The country has a lot to offer its visitors and is working really hard to convince them to forget about its dreadful past. And with its incredibly well-paved roads, clean and safe streets, and friendly helpful people, Rwanda makes a perfectly smooth introduction to Africa,” it says.

For the fifth year, the travel guide magazine has captured what’s happening on the travel scene. As usual, they focused on destinations they thought will be hot – or at least should be.

Since the beginning of 2012, the country hosted about 493,744 visitors, representing an increase of 22 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

It recorded a remarkable 16 percent increase in leisure visitors as well as an eight percent increase in business visitors.

Last year, the tourism industry generated $252 million in revenues. Some of the popular tourist attractions in Rwanda include mountain gorillas, canopy walks, national museums, Lake Kivu, bird watching, Congo Nile trail, Akagera, and Nyungwe National parks, culture, among others.

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