In colonial times, the thrilling beauty of Rwanda’s rolling mountainous landscapes earned it the sobriquet “The Land of a Thousand Hills”. After independence, this small central African nation leaped to fame as the Land of “Gorillas in the Mist”, the adopted home of Dian Fossey and most important refuge for the rare mountain gorilla. Gorilla tracking in the Virungas was the country’s premier attraction, supplemented by the mesmerizing savannah and plains wildlife of Akagera National Park, the incredible biodiversity of the extensive Nyungwe rainforest and a range of mountain and lake shore around the beautiful Lake Kivu.
Rwanda leapt from glossy travel supplements to grisly front-page news with the genocide in 1994. Today Rwanda has reclaimed its rightful place as one of the world’s finest adventure and ecotourism destinations. The mountain gorillas are still there, every bit as awe inspiring as ever, as are the elephants of Akagera and the chimpanzees and monkeys of Nyungwe. Rwanda is also one of Africa’s top birding countries, with an incredible 670 different bird species recorded within an area the size of Wales or Belgium. And this nature-lover’s paradise remains, for all it has been through, a truly welcoming country, whose attractions are complemented by good facilities, fine food and its rich cultural heritage.
Rwanda’s story is one of the most dramatic in Africa, and tourism is truly thriving in this ambitious country. With easy access to the Parc National de Volcanoes, Rwanda is most often visited for a short gorilla trekking extension. We’ve seen a major shift to more luxurious accommodations in the gorilla trekking area, but we’re also seeing a greater focus on delivering tourism benefits to local communities and a steady rise in the gorilla population.
In addition to gorilla trekking, new destinations like Akagera and Nyungwe are tempting travelers for longer stand-alone Rwanda itineraries. Accessibility continues to improve with new international and regional flights, making Rwanda an easy extension to an East Africa itinerary.
RWANDA GORILLA TREKKING OVERVIEW
Each day, an early breakfast is served at the lodge before you depart by road to the Parc National des Volcans’ Kinigi Headquarters just a few minutes away. Here, you are given a safety briefing and allocated to a park ranger who will guide you and a group of up to 8 guests on your trek to find one of the habituated Mountain Gorilla families. You may depart on foot or be taken by vehicle to a starting point to commence your gorilla trek in the forest. The amount of time spent trekking is dependent upon which gorilla family you are allocated to and where they are found that day; you’ll be carrying picnic lunches in case you have a long trek.
Your trek commences at about 7,000’ in the upper terraced slopes of the volcano. Tracking the gorillas through the light Afro-montane forest on the slopes of the Virungas is a magical experience. Nothing can prepare one for the impact of encountering a fully grown silverback gorilla: up to three times as bulky as the average man, yet remarkably peaceful and tolerant of human visitors. There are no words to describe the thrill of recognition attached to staring deep into the liquid brown eyes of these gentle giants, which share some 97% of their genes with humans.
If you are lucky you can get to the gorillas, spend an hour with them, and be back at base in time for a late lunch! Some gorilla families, however, are more elusive and tracking can take a full day, especially when it is wet and muddy. Once the family is sighted you will spend a maximum of one hour with the gorilla family.
After this phenomenal wildlife experience, retrace your steps to your vehicle and return to the lodge for the afternoon at leisure or optional activities in the area to be coordinated with your driver-guide.
You may wish to take a drive to the bustling market town of Ruhengeri, nearby, or visit the beautiful lakes of Kivu, Burera, Ruhondo and Karago. There are the genocide memorials as well as community and conservation projects to be visited. Transportation to all optional activities will be with your private vehicle and guide.
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