No spectacle is as overwhelming and humbling as coming face-to-face with a mountain gorilla in its natural habitat. In the Volcanoes National Park – celebrated as the setting for the book and film Gorillas in the Mist – approximately 400 of these endangered animals live peacefully, making the area one of the best and easiest places to track gorillas.
The 16,000ha park – the oldest in Africa - offers the life-changing opportunity to trek through the dense Afromontane forest with golden monkeys swinging overhead, in search of these grandiose animals. The beady eyes of three-horned chameleons will watch your feet trampling across the forest floor. Gorilla trekking is not the only activity on offer in the park, as guided nature walks and challenging hikes take visitors through this incredibly biodiverse area.
It was in this park that Diane Fossey spent 20 years of her life studying mountain gorillas and it was largely her dedication to these animals which ensured their safety from the terrors of poaching. The park now acts as a conservation area for mountain gorillas and is home to around half of the world’s population. It is for this reason that gorilla trekking permits must be arranged before coming to the park and strict conservation rules be abided by.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting Volcanoes National Park
The best time to visit Rwanda depends entirely on what you wish to experience, as it’s a year-round destination. However, if you’re planning your luxury Rwanda safari around gorilla and chimpanzee trekking, then you should aim to visit during the dry seasons as trekking conditions are easier. The long dry season is from June to September, and the short dry season is from January to February. Don’t worry, though, as our Travel Experts will help you decide on the best time for the experiences you wish to have.
There are so many excellent things to do and see in this country. Rwanda safaris are exciting not only for the gorilla and chimpanzee trekking but for the myriad of other wildlife calling it home, as well as its diverse landscapes and fascinating cultures. Here are some of the best things to do in Rwanda.
Gorilla trekking: The most famous activity in Rwanda, gorilla safaris, is when you hike through the forested slopes to meet the gorilla families.
Hiking and nature walks in Volcanoes National Park: Volcanoes National Park is the setting of the famous “Gorillas in the Mist” book and film. And walking through the park will inspire you to write your own story, thanks to its rich biodiversity!
Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park: This national park is a tropical rainforest where you can see chimpanzees and plenty of other primates in their natural habitat.
Lake Kivu: With its surrounding tea plantations and sandy shores, predator-free Lake Kivu is one of the most beautiful lakes in Africa.
Culture, cuisine and coffee: Rwanda is a hotspot for coffee lovers and foodies, and you can explore the plantations, many restaurants, and cultural gems for days on end.
Big 5 safari in Akagera National Park: Africa’s largest protected wetland and remaining refuge for savannah-adapted species in Rwanda, this Akagera National Park is a safari mecca.
Kigali: The capital of Rwanda and one of the safest African cities, Kigali is a bustling entertainment hub with plenty of museums, markets, restaurants, culture, and more to explore.
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.