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Rwanda Gorilla Trek, Big Primates & Wildlife Tour - 9 Days

Overview
Itinerary
Accommodation
Inclusions
Overview

Rwanda Gorilla Trek, BIG Primates & Wildlife Tour - 9 Days

9 day Rwanda (all-inclusive) great primates expedition for wildlife game drive safaris in Akagera, track the rare mountain gorillas, Nyungwe chimps, golden monkeys and other primates, Lake Kivu, cultural villages and more.

This is a 9 day Rwanda safari that rewards you with an all-around educational and enriching experience of this beautiful country. Apart from tracking the endangered mountain gorillas in their home, you also track chimpanzees, golden monkeys and see more 10 other primate species, relax at Lake Kivu, visit cultural villages, wildlife game drives in Akagera National Park seeing lions, giraffes, leopard, hippos among others.

  • Day 1: Kigali City Tour
  • Day 2: Kigali – Akagera National Park - Game Drive
  • Day 3: Akagera National Park - Kigali
  • Day 4: Kigali - Nyungwe - Rwanda Cultural Tour
  • Day 5: Nyungwe Forest National Park | Chimpanzee Trekking & Cultural Tour
  • Day 6: Colobus Trails of Nyungwe & Lake Kivu
  • Day 7: Volcanoes National Park & Golden Monkey Tracking
  • Day 8: Parc National des Volcans - Gorilla Trekking
  • Day 9: Parc National des Volcans | Golden Monkey Trekking & Kigali

Primate Tracking in Rwanda

Rwanda is renowned for its gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, but the country is also home to chimpanzees as well a host of monkeys – colobus,  golden, L’Hoest’s, owl-faced, Dent’s, blue and vervet – alongside olive baboons as well as the nocturnal potto and bushbabies.

Chimpanzees are found in the Nyungwe National Park as well as in smaller number in the Gishwati Forest. Sociable creatures, chimpanzees live in extended communities and move around every day, foraging for food or occasionally hunting smaller mammals. They build fresh nests in the trees each night.

It is common to hear the chimpanzees before seeing them, with their vocalisations reverberating through the forest as they call to each other in a sort of bonding ritual.

Tracking starts early, at 5.30am, and can last anything from an hour to several hours depending on where the chimps are – visitors spend a maximum of one hour with them once they are found.

The terrain can be steep, slippery and muddy, passing through thick vegetation. Suitable footwear is essential, as well as a certain level of fitness. Permits can be booked online, at an RDB office or via a tour operator.

Golden monkeys are found in Volcanoes National Park as well as Gishwati Forest. In the former, there are two groups which can be tracked, one on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi and the other in the bamboo forest on Mount Sabyinyo. This is also a standalone excursion, departing from the Kinigi headquarters once each day.

Itinerary

Day 1: Kigali City Tour

On your arrival at Kigali International Airport meet and greet with your guide after a briefing about your tour, drive to your hotel for check in.

Afterwards, depending on your arrival time, your guide will take you for a city tour which includes among others the Gisozi genocide memorial site. This takes you 4 hours, here you learn and comprehend the history of genocide in Rwanda and other countries of the world.

Thereafter proceed to Kimilonko Market one of the busiest and biggest market in the city here you will enjoy and buy most of Rwanda traditional delicious food staffs and interact with local people, continue to visit Nyarutarma Golf club then proceed to Belgium memorial site and Richard kandt historical museum here you will be at the exact point where Kigali city started by a Germany colonialist and administrator 1907. Lunch at one of the city restaurants

After Lunch Ntarama and Nyamata Genocide memorial sites.

After lunch, your guide/driver will take you to Ntarama and Nyamata Genocide memorial sites outside Kigali. This will give you evolution of 1994 genocide tragedy happened in Rwanda. Though here there is no charge for entrance, but you may generously fill to give something to assist for preservation of these genocide sites, your offer will be highly appreciated. Back to Kigali overnight at your hotel, Dinner and overnight stay at your hotel.

Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)

Upmarket: Serena Kigali Hotel

Mid-range: Flame Tree Hotel

Lower Budget: Step Town Hotel

Meals included: Breakfast only. 

Day 2: Kigali – Akagera National Park - Game Drive

Have breakfast at the hotel and drive through Rwanda's phenomenal landscapes to Akagera National Park.

Relax as we wait for lunch at Akagera Game Lodge. Proceed with the southern game drive alongside the Lake Ihema circuit where a plenty of animals can be seen, including elephants, Masai giraffes, buffaloes, zebras, hippos, Nile crocodiles and also many other mammal species. This game drive will also enable you to clearly view the gentle hills blending beautifully with lowland swamps and water bodies.

In the evening, you can relax at the lodge poolside, or take evening walks around the hotel where you can see various bird species or participate in day-to-day local pastoral lifestyle.

Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)

Upmarket: Ruzizi Tented Lodge

Mid-range: Akagera Game Lodge

Lower Budget: Akagera Game Lodge

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Day 3: Game drive and boat trip in Akagera National Park, Return to Kigali

After breakfast you will have your second game drive in the southern sector of Akagera National Park.

In the afternoon take a motor boat excursion trip on Lake Ihema to see the giant crocodiles and hippos. After, drive back to Kigali for dinner and overnight.

Upmarket: Serena Kigali Hotel

Mid-range: Flame Tree Hotel

Lower Budget: Step Town Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast and  Lunch only.

Day 4: Kigali - Nyungwe - Rwanda Cultural Tour

An early morning breakfast is followed by a drive to Nyungwe Forest.

On the way visit Nyanza King’s Palace, the National Museum of Butare.  Nyanza was the headquarters of the ancient Rwanda Kingdom before the arrival of the Europeans. The compound has the ancient palace constructed by King Mutara in 1934.

Next to it is the reconstructed King’s hut as it was on the arrival of the Europeans. It is tastefully decorated with the traditional mats and utensils.  

The Butare Museum is reputed to be the best ethnographic museum in East Africa. It is the home of the national ballet-intoro dancers.

Have lunch at Butare and proceed to Nyungwe National Park.

Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)

Upmarket: Nyungwe Top View Hill Lodge or request upgrade to One & Only Nyungwe House

Mid-range: Nyungwe Top View Hill Lodge

Lower Budget: Gisakura Guesthouse

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Day 5: Nyungwe Forest National Park | Chimpanzee Trekking & Cultural Tour

Have breakfast enter Nyungwe Forest in search for 13 primates species and over 300 bird species, making it a bird watcher's paradise!

Nyungwe Forest is one of the destinations in the world where you can see up to 13 primates species; these include chimpanzees, the blue monkeys, L'Hoest's monkeys, endangered golden monkeys and the Angolan black and white colobus monkeys among others. Nyungwe forest has huge concentrations of habituated primates whose troops can include 400 to 500 individuals! This is a unique tourism phenomenon.

Nyungwe forest is a nature lover’s paradise.  The only remaining mountain rain forest in East and Central Africa, Nyungwe boasts of 260 species of trees and shrubs, over 200 species of orchids and giant lobelias, 275 Species of birds of which 25 are endemic, colorful butterflies and 13 recorded species of primates (25% of Africa’s total) including the chimpanzees.

The forest is ideal for walks with beautiful waterfalls cascading in this serene environment.

Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)

Upmarket: Nyungwe Top View Hill Lodge or request upgrade to One & Only Nyungwe House

Mid-range: Nyungwe Top View Hill Lodge

Lower Budget: Gisakura Guesthouse

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Day 6: Colobus Trails of Nyungwe & Lake Kivu

After breakfast enter Nyungwe Forest to track the Nyungwe colobus monkey at Uwinka.

The Uwinka troop is reputed to be 400 strong is reputed to be the largest troop of arboreal primates in Africa. A walk in the forest is a whole learning experience conducted by knowledgeable guides well versed in botany, ornithology and interspecies relationship in this forest.

Enjoy a breath-taking scenery of the Virunga Mountains and the green vegetation enroute. You will have lunch enroute and proceed to Lake Kivu or relaxing on the shores.

Enjoy the rolling hills for which Rwanda is well known.

Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)

Upmarket: Serena Lake Kivu Hotel

Moderate: Paradise Malahide.

Low Budget: Paradise Malahide.

Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Day 7: Volcanoes National Park & Golden Monkey Tracking

Have breakfast and drive to Volcanoes National park to catch up with the golden monkey tracking activity.

These are the most endangered primate species at Parc des Volcans. In the evening, you may go for cultural walk to Iby’wachu for cultural entertainment by the Banyarwanda community.

Transfer to Kinigi Park Headquarters to track gorillas in Parc National des Volcans. Gorilla tracking through the forest, hills and swamps can be tough, arduous and tiring, sometimes taking up to 8 hours in the forest. But coming face to face with the great primates is well worth the effort.

Accommodation options available

Up-market: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge | Five Volcanoes Lodge

Moderate: Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge 

Low Budget: Kinigi Guest House | Hotel Muhabura

Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Day 8: Parc National des Volcans - Gorilla Trekking

Have breakfast and go to ORTPN offices for briefing after that set off in the forest for gorilla trekking.

A thrilling trek through the refined foothills of the Virungas provides inspiring views in all directions. Then, suddenly, the trail enters the national park, engrossing trekkers in the strange closeness of the rainforest, alive with the calls of colorful birds and chattering of the rare golden monkey, and besieged with fresh spoor of the mountains' elusive populations of buffalo and elephant.

Through gaps in the forest canopy, the marvelous peaks are sighted, easily easy to get to and among the uppermost in Africa, indicating an ascent. Gorilla trekking is quite strenuous but a worthwhile on encounter of these gentle giants. The enthusiasm of your coming across with these apes will wipe away your intricacy of the strenuous trek.

Spend time watching gorillas, watch the adults feeding their young ones, brushing and resting as the youngsters play from vines in a pleasurably playful display

Accommodation options available (all on full board basis)

Up-market: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge | Five Volcanoes Lodge

Moderate: Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge 

Low Budget: Kinigi Guest House | Hotel Muhabura

Meal Plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Day 9: Parc National des Volcans | Golden Monkey Trekking & Kigali

Have early breakfast at the lodge and enter the forest in search for golden monkeys and other primates. The trek will expose you to excellent birding and other primates like colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and grey-cheeked mangabeys among others.

After the trek, proceed to Kigali Airport for your scheduled flight back home

Please note that this is a guideline program that may be customized according to traveler's needs and preferences. The variations are normally made to improve the tour and your experience.

Accommodation
Inclusions

Included

  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • 1 Expert local driver/guide
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Meal as indicated in the itinerary
  • Park Entrance fees
  • Gorilla permits
  • Chimp permits
  • Guiding fees
  • Activities mentioned in the itinerary

Excluded

  • International flight (can be arranged if required)
  • Visa and personal insurance.
  • Gratuity for your professional driver guide
  • Personal expenses such traveling insurance
  • Excess baggage fee
  • Communication charges that include, laundry, emails, faxes and phone calls
  • Beverages including luxury champagne, luxury spirits, beer, wines during meals
  • Meals not indicated in the itinerary
  • Tips
  • Any item or activity not mentioned in the tour package

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The Primates of Rwanda

If you are looking for memorable lifetime primates experiences, then certainly Rwanda is the best for gorilla trekking and the BIG primates tours.  Primates in Rwanda included mountain gorillas – chimpanzees and several monkeys species spread in several forests across Rwanda. You will, however, need to book permits to trek to any of these primates. The price for Rwanda gorilla trek permit is USD1500 for example while golden monkey tracking goes for $100 and chimps tracking in Nyungwe USD90, even Rwandans have to now pay that price.  The Permits were raised to their present level due to the conservation effort costs, support for local Community Infrastructure and as part of its marketing Rwanda as a Prime Upmarket Tourist Destination.

Rwanda Mountain Gorillas  in the Volcanoes National Park:

Most tourists to Rwanda safaris are coming for gorilla trekking. In Rwanda, gorillas are only found in Volcanoes National Park which is part of the great Virunga massif that has Virunga National Park of Congo DR, and Uganda's Mgahina Gorilla National Park. The Virunga massif has about 540 mountain gorillas currently.

Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park provides the perfect scenic setting for Mountain Gorilla Tracking and many other things can be combined such as Volcano Hiking, Golden Monkey Tracking, Birding, even caving.

The Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park can only be seen in the wild – there are none found in any zoo in the world.

Chimpanzees in Rwanda-Nyungwe Forest:

In Rwanda, Chimpanzees are found in the Nyungwe National Park as well as in smaller number in the Gishwati Forest. Sociable creatures, chimpanzees live in extended communities and move around every day, foraging for food or occasionally hunting smaller mammals. Tourist chimps trekking can only happen in Nyungwe National Park. They build fresh nests in the trees each night. The section of Nyungwe Forest National Park where the Chimpanzee tracking begins is near Cyamudongo, that is locted about 4.5 hours driving from Kigali. The forest is Africa’s oldest montane (mountainous ecosystem) forest, home to 13 species of primate, including an estimated 500 Chimpanzees. As you pass through the forest, you will hear the whoops and cackles of L’Hoest’s and black-faced vervet monkeys.

The challenge with Chimpanzees is finding them, as they are not habituated (accustomed to human beings’ presence) and are often a little shy; fortunately, their human instinct is strong and they show a lot of curiosity and eagerness when tourists are around.

Chimpanzees and humans share 98% of their DNA, making them even more fascinating to observe, especially when they display what we call, ‘human behaviour’. Chimp trekking is fast-paced and exciting and in our opinion, this makes it more of an adventure than Gorilla Trekking; there are less-established paths, denser forests to go through and just discovering them on one’s own makes it more exciting.

Chimpanzee Tracking permits are only $90, which is considerably less than the Gorillas. There are only 8 chimpanzee tracking permits per day for Nyungwe Forest.  So it is advisable to book these permits well in advance, even a year ahead is not too soon.

Chimpanzees move each day and build new nests.  It is estimated that there are about 600 Chimpanzees in Nyungwe. Chimps tracking in Nyungwe National Park does not mean you will see them but the chances of you seeing them have increased in recent times and more and more visitors spend a full hour with them while in the park on a chimpanzee trek.

Chimpanzees live for about 40 to 45 years – even as you track them you will soon learn that chimpanzees are quite intelligent.

Here in Nyungwe Forest you will find them mostly foraging for fruit, however, they will also hunt and eat smaller mammals including monkeys at times.

Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe starts early, at 5.30 am, and can last anything from an hour to several hours depending on where the chimps are – visitors spend a maximum of one hour with them once they are found.

The terrain can be steep, slippery and muddy, passing through thick vegetation. Suitable footwear is essential, as well as a certain level of fitness. Permits can be booked online, at an RDB office or via a tour operator.

Golden Monkeys of Rwanda – Volcanoes National Park:

The Golden Monkeys (Cercopithecus kandti) are best seen in the Bamboo Forests of the Virungas and in Rwanda that means tracking them in Volcanoes National Park.

They are also found in Gishwati Forest in Northwestern Rwanda.  They are also rumored to be in a patch of Bamboo Forest of Nyungwe Forest however that is unconfirmed.  The best place to see them is in Volcanoes National Park.

There are two groups that can be tracked in Volcanoes National Park The Musongga Golden Monkey group comprised of about 100 monkeys on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi and the Kabatwa Golden Monkey Group made up of about 70 monkeys in the Bamboo Forest on Mount Sabyinyo.

They are colorful and it is a delight to observe them as they scamper about in the thick Bamboo Forest while they feed on leaves and fruit.

Angolan Colobus Monkeys of Rwanda – Nyungwe Forest:

The Angolan Colobus Monkeys are black with white ornaments – when you observe them in the forest while tracking them in Nyungwe Forest you will be amazed how large the group is – over 350 to 400 individuals in size – comprising the largest group of Angolan Colobus Monkeys in all of Africa.

The Angolan Colobus Trek is not as strenuous as the Chimpanzee Trek tends to be and the sheer number of them in the tree-tops, the chatter of this groups delights visitors including their sloppy eating habits which actually help spread the seed of the fruit that they are eating in the forest.

If you want to the Angolan (Ruwenzori) Colobus Monkeys in abundance than a Trek – actually it will be more like a nature walk is the perfect morning activity for you.

The Angolan Colobus walk has more in it than simply seeing the Colobus Monkeys but you will see other primates, birds and the vegetation of this montane forest.

L’Hoest’s Monkeys of Rwanda – Nyungwe Forest:

L’Hoest Monkeys at times referred to as Mountain Monkeys are endemic to the Albertine Rift and you can find them the Rwenzori Mountains and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda and in Rwanda they are found in Nyungwe and Gishwati Forest – the latter is a forest that is in the process of being restored to a National Park.

They have dark black bodies and a fuzzy white beard – they move on all fours when on the ground as they forage for good.

The males weigh between 5 kilos, while females are smaller in size – they spend their times in various forest which are found in Nyungwe Forest.

Their small groups are dominated by females with normally only one make in the group they can be often seen from the main road that cuts through the forest near the Unwink Reception to the forest.

Owl-Faced Monkeys of Rwanda – Nyungwe Forest:

Owl Faced Monkey unique in that it has a beak-like nose and the face resembles an owl.  This shy monkey is rarely seen but you just might be the lucky one as you hike along the many trails of Nyungwe Forest.

The Owl Faced is closely related to the L’Hoest’s Monkey and like it Owl Faced Monkey lives in small groups of one male and various female.  Because Owl Faced Monkeys are so elusive they have been hard to study

The Owl-Faced Monkey  gray and has a white stripe that goes from the top of the lip to the top of the nose give the owl monkey that owl face

In Rwanda, you find the Owl-Faced Money in Nyungwe Forest.

Dent’s Mona Monkey:

The Dent’s Mona Monkey is found in Nyungwe Forest. You often find the Dent’s Mona Monkey with other monkey’s such as Blue Monkeys or Gray-Cheeked Mangabeys, also the large groups of Ruwenzori Colobus Monkeys.

The Dent’s Mona Group is relatively small with one male surrounded by his harem, however once again as with other monkeys, it is females who rule the group.

Dent’s Mona Monkeys have a long black tail, a white rump, and a brown back. Their faces are quite furry and when they find food they carry it off with their large cheek pouches. They prefer fruit but at times will resort to leaves and even insects.

You can find Dent’s Mona Monkeys are found in Nyungwe Forest.

Blue Monkeys in Nyungwe

The name Blue Monkey may be deceiving since, in reality, the Blue Monkey is not blue.  The real colors of a blue monkey is light grey and an olive fur that together gives off this kind of blue hue as they are in the tree-tops.

The Blue Monkeys live in the tree tops that make up the forest canopy in Nyungwe Forest meaning that you have to look up in order to spot them while on the trails in Nyungwe Forest.  They rarely come down to the forest floor but find food and shelter in the tree-tops.

They live in female-centric groups of 10 to 40 with only one male. All the females raise each others, infants.

These tree-dwelling monkeys can be found around Uwinka Visitors Center in Nyungwe Forest.

Rwanda's Olive Baboon:

Olive Baboons can be found in various parts of Rwanda including on the Road at Nyungwe Forest and inside of Akagera National Park.

They are primarily a terrestrial primate and they live in large groups.  After the chimpanzees, this is the largest of primates and the stockiest.

They have an olive dark coat and a dog-like snout and threatening teeth.  The Olive Baboon is quite aggressive and they frequently raid crops.

They have been known to take things from vehicles with passengers inside and at Akagera Game Lodge – keep your door locked since they are known for raiding the rooms for food.

Rwanda's Vervet Monkey:

This is grey Guenon that is very common all East Africa including in Rwanda in Nyungwe Forest they can be found around the Gisakura Guesthouse – the Vervet Monkey is often found n the savannah and open woodlands including in Akagera National Park.

They like the Baboons raid crops and again even enter homes to forage for food, not quite as brazen as baboons however they do their share of raiding.

They have a black face mask and the rest of the body is gray.  This is the most numerous monkey in the world and is quite common including all over Rwanda.

There are no Vervet Monkey Treks – you simple run into them wherever you go.

Rwanda's Pottos:

Most likely you will not see any pottos since they are creatures of the night and you have to take a nocturnal walk or game drive in Akagera National Park.

They are part of 4 nocturnal primates found in Nyungwe Forest. Pottos are closely related to the Lemurs of Madagascar.

The potto is small growing to 30 to 40 centimeters, it has a distinct odor that some liken to curry.

They are grey-brown in color with a wooly fur. The hands and toes are shaped in such a manner that they can grasp branches firmly without falling. The neck has sharp point which they use to protect themselves.

Rwanda's Needle-clawed Bushbabies

Bushbaby – the name may come from their appearance or their cry.  They are found in various parts of East Africa and beyond including Zanzibar.

They are nocturnal creatures and can only be seen on night game drives or nocturnal Forest Walks.

They can leap quite a distance and move swiftly on the branches of trees.  They tend to live in dry woodlands and in Savannah areas.

They are very small with a wooly thick fur that ranges from silver-gray to dark-brown.  They have very large eyes that give them good night vision, have strong hind limbs for leaping and have keen ears that help them to hunt insects.  Their diet includes small birds. insects, fruit, seeds, flower, nuts and tree gums.

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