A visit to Rwanda reveals a world of incredible natural wonders that you won't find anywhere else on earth. Known as "The Land of a Thousand Hills", this beautiful country not only provides the most effortless and accessible gorilla trekking opportunities in East Africa but also presents a plethora of diverse landscapes and unique experiences for an enriching Rwandan safari.
The swamp marshes and savannah plains of eastern Rwanda give way to the rising hills and mountains in the west. Bamboo forests climb the fertile slopes of dormant volcanoes, creating a sanctuary for habituated but still wild gorilla families. Here in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, the late American primatologist Dian Fossey studied the behaviour of the endangered mountain gorilla for 20 years. And it also later became famous for being the setting for the film Gorillas in the Mist.
Apart from these precious primates, the park is also home to the rare golden monkey, black-fronted duiker, spotted hyena, and a few inquisitive elephants. One of the oldest forests in Africa, Nyungwe Forest National Park boasts a wealth of biodiversity, birdlife, and is home to the gorilla's smaller cousin, the chimpanzee.
Here you can trek through grasslands, swamps, bogs, and bamboo in search of these charismatic chimps as they swing in and out of sight through tree canopies, calling their companions. South of the park rests Lake Kivu – one of the Great Lakes in the Albertine Rift Valley – with its indented coast and deep-water bays. The natural beauty of Rwanda certainly personifies tranquil perfection. However, this friendly country has dealt with its adversity too, and offers intrepid travellers insight into Central African culture, their history, and inspiring perseverance.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting Rwanda
Although it's a year-round activity, the best time to experience gorilla trekking is during the dry seasons, from mid-December to mid-February and then again from June to September. Rwanda experiences two rainy seasons, namely March to May and September to December, making gorilla trekking tricky during this time.
Yes, it's important to note that children under 15 are not permitted on gorilla treks. A gorilla-trekking permit is also essential.
It all depends on your fitness level. You will be grouped accordingly with fellow trekkers to embark on either short, medium, or long treks. This also depends on the location of the gorillas. A trekking expedition can take from one to three hours, sometimes longer.
The best time is during their rainy season from mid-February to May, and then again mid-September to mid-December as the apes are easier to locate because their food source is easier to find. During the dry months, the chimp families are often too far into the forests sourcing food.
Yes! Akagera National Park, bordering Tanzania, offers a Big 5 safari opportunity. It also has one of the largest hippo populations in Africa – with over 700 hippo (and plenty of crocodile) in its Lake Rwanyakazinga.
Akagera is very bush-like compared to the rest of Rwanda, making it suitable for many different species. Besides the Big 5, you can also see plenty of giraffe, zebra, topi, and eland. Lake cruises on Lake Rwanyakazinga to watch the wildlife coming down to drink is another highlight here.
Yellow Fever Certificate of Inoculation is required. It's further recommended that you take malaria prophylactics, use insect repellent, and wear long pants and sleeves to prevent mosquito bites at dusk.
Both Rwanda and Uganda offer great opportunities for gorilla trekking. However, Rwanda's terrain is easier as it's more open, so you get a good view. Furthermore, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is home to one of the biggest populations of gorillas. Uganda's gorilla trekking expeditions are known to be more strenuous.