Rwanda Wildlife Safaris

Rwanda Wildlife Safaris

Rwanda wildlife safaris have surged in popularity, thanks to the significant efforts of the government. Often called the “land of a thousand hills,” Rwanda has transformed from a nation marked by one of the worst genocides in recent history to a beacon of hope, peace, and good governance in Africa. The capital city, Kigali, boasts clean streets, five-star hotels, and a well-developed road network, while the countryside is adorned with picturesque rolling hills and verdant plantations.

The second largest city, Butare, known as “the intellectual capital of Rwanda,” is home to major institutions like the National University of Rwanda and the National Museum. Rwanda’s wealth has grown through industrialization, agricultural modernization, mining, and tourism.

Tourism in Rwanda is highly developed, featuring several luxury lodges within the game parks. The country has made significant efforts to promote its tourism assets. While Rwanda offers many fascinating attractions, most safari visitors are drawn to the opportunity to see mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. This park gained fame through the research efforts highlighted in the drama “Gorillas in the Mist.” It boasts lush green vegetation teeming with birds, butterflies, primates, and other mammals. Although gorilla trekking is also available in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda’s superior service quality and the park’s proximity to Kigali make it a preferred destination for gorilla tourism. For more details on the cost of a tour in Rwanda and what to expect as a solo traveler, you can read further.

 

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Major Activities on a Rwanda Wildlife Safari

The major activities on a Rwanda wildlife tour include:

  • Exploring the capital with our 1-day Kigali city tour package
  • Mountain gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park
  • Chimpanzee and golden monkey tracking
  • Game drives in Akagera National Park
  • Biking along the Congo Nile Trail
  • Bird watching in Nyungwe Forest and around Lake Kivu
  • Cultural and community visits, such as experiencing traditional dances at the Iby’iwacu Cultural Village
  • Visiting genocide memorial centers like Gisozi, Murambi, Nyamata, Bisesero, and Ntarama
  • Hiking Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke
  • Visiting Dian Fossey’s grave and her former Karisoke Research Centre
  • Enjoying sport fishing in Rwanda
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Volcanoes National Park

Located within the Virunga mountain ranges, Volcanoes National Park is home to about 400 mountain gorillas and 10 habituated gorilla families. The park’s thick forest and mountainous terrain can make gorilla tracking strenuous but adventurous for Rwanda tour enthusiasts. Since Dian Fossey established her camp in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda has become a global leader in mountain gorilla conservation and research. Visitors can arrange to see the former Dian Fossey research station and grave.

While mountain gorilla tracking is the main activity in Volcanoes National Park, visitors can also spot forest elephants, forest hogs, golden monkeys, buffalo, birds, and numerous butterfly species during their Rwanda wildlife tour. The park features several volcanoes and mountains suitable for hiking, such as Bisoke, Sabyinyo, and Karisimbi. Combining a gorilla safari in Rwanda with hiking one of these mountains is tiring but rewarding for adventurous travelers. Find out more about what to pack for a trip to Rwanda.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the most attractive destinations on a Rwanda wildlife tour. This vast tropical forest, with over 1,000 plant species, showcases Rwanda’s exciting biodiversity. After tracking mountain gorillas, Nyungwe Forest is the best place to track chimpanzees while on a Rwanda tour. The forest is home to over 240 bird species, making it a paradise for bird watchers.

In addition to chimpanzee trekking and birding, visitors can spot baboons, golden monkeys, colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, and other primates. A canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest is a must for bird lovers and those tracking chimpanzees in Rwanda. This unique perspective offers an exhilarating way to experience the forest’s rich wildlife and stunning scenery.

Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park is the premier destination for a safari in Rwanda. Located in the eastern part of the country, the park spans over 1,000 square kilometers of savanna, akin to those in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Its proximity to Kigali makes it easily accessible, and it boasts a diverse array of African mammals that gather around its numerous water points, such as the Akagera River and Lake Shakani.

The most popular activity in Akagera National Park is game driving, where visitors can spot hyenas, jackals, antelopes, giraffes, baboons, zebras, buffaloes, leopards, and elephants. Lions and black rhinos are being reintroduced to the park, offering visitors the chance to see Africa’s Big Five. Bird watchers will be delighted with over 500 species to spot, including the shoebill stork, on a 3-day wildlife safari in Akagera.

For those planning a visit, you might be interested in an article about the cost of a safari in Akagera National Park.

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Rwanda Wildlife Tour – Other Important Places to Visit

Gishwati Forest

The Gishwati Forest is one of Rwanda’s most visited tourism sites, covering over 250,000 acres. It offers stunning views of Lake Kivu and is a haven for bird enthusiasts, with over 400 resident species. However, the forest has faced significant deforestation due to ranchers, pastoralists, and refugees who sought shelter following the 1994 genocide. Restoration plans are underway to rejuvenate the forest to its former glory. Notably, Gishwati Forest was recently merged with the nearby Mukura Forest to form Gishwati-Mukura National Park, making it one of Rwanda’s four national parks.

Genocide Memorial Centers

To truly appreciate Rwanda’s progress, visiting one of the genocide memorial centers is highly recommended. The three-month genocide in 1994 resulted in the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Memorial sites, such as those in Kigali, serve as poignant reminders of this dark past. These sites feature mass graves, photographs, film footage, and other exhibitions that provide a glimpse into the country’s traumatic history. Visiting these memorials is a chance to show respect to the victims, remember those lost, and confront the reality of Rwanda’s past.

One significant center is the Nyamata Church, where about 50,000 genocide victims are buried. The church remains intact, with visible remnants of human clothes, bones, and bloodstains on the benches. Another important site is the Gisozi Genocide Memorial, built on the graves of over 250,000 genocide victims.

The Congo-Nile Trail

The Rwanda Development Board has worked diligently to position Rwanda as a leading tourism destination in Africa, diversifying opportunities with the introduction of the Congo-Nile Trail. Hiking along this trail has become one of the most exciting activities for visitors. The famous trail winds through Lake Kivu, offering hikers the chance to marvel at Rwanda’s stunning natural beauty, lush vegetation, rolling hills, and clear lake waters, all while enjoying views of nearby mountains. This trail is a testament to Rwanda’s commitment to expanding its tourism offerings and showcasing its breathtaking landscapes.

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu, located at the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is one of Rwanda’s natural wonders, covering an area of over 2,600 km². Positioned at about 1,450 meters above sea level, it is the highest lake in Africa. Notably, Lake Kivu is one of only three lakes globally known for occasional eruptions of carbon dioxide from its depths, a phenomenon termed an “exploding lake.” However, no significant eruptions have been recorded recently. Visitors can enjoy stunning beaches, lush vegetation, islands, fishing villages, and ports like Rubavu. Touring Lake Kivu offers opportunities for hiking, bird watching, nature walks, chimpanzee tracking, and boat riding.

Mount Karisimbi

Mount Karisimbi, one of the highest peaks in Africa, is part of the Virunga mountain range. Hiking Mount Karisimbi is a top activity in Musanze, requiring a six-hour ascent to the summit. Those who reach the top are rewarded with magnificent views of Volcanoes National Park and opportunities to spot various bird species. Visitors often combine hiking Mount Karisimbi with tracking mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. This combination is a challenging venture that demands considerable fitness, as it needs to be accomplished within a few days.

Mount Bisoke

Mount Bisoke, an active volcano on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is ideal for those wishing to explore the beautiful Rwandan countryside. The trek up Mount Bisoke takes about six hours and includes some steep sections, culminating in stunning views of Volcanoes National Park. The hike also offers the chance to marvel at the Crater Lake and the verdant scenery surrounding the mountain, making it a rewarding experience for adventurous visitors.

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