Rwanda Safaris, Gorilla Trekking, Primates in Nyungwe, Lake Kivu & Akagera BIG-5 Wildlife
Most popular park of Rwanda is Volcanoes NP, where you can track the gorillas, the golden monkeys or do different hikes in this dramatic, volcanic landscape. You can visit Nyungwe NP, one of the world’s most beautiful and oldest rainforest of Africa or you can go for safari in Akagera NP on the border with Tanzania. Affordable Rwanda safaris, Rwanda gorilla trekking tours, primates, chimpanzee tracking tours, wildlife safaris to Akagera National Park, leisure trips to Lake Kivu. We have here the best Rwanda gorilla trek tours from 2 days, 3 days, 4 days, 7 days to 20 days.
Remarkable Rwanda - famous for the silverback mountain gorillas that have captured the world’s imagination since Dian Fossey came to study the mountain gorilla families in the 1970s. Most popular park of Rwanda is Volcanoes NP, where you can track the gorillas, the golden monkeys or do different hikes in this dramatic, volcanic landscape. You can visit Nyungwe NP, one of the world’s most beautiful and oldest rainforest of Africa or you can go for safari in Akakera NP on the border with Tanzania.
But that’s not all this beautiful country has to offer. Rwanda is a largely undiscovered Eden, she promises unrivalled biodiversity, dramatic mountains and volcanos, some of the oldest and most precious rainforests on earth, a glittering skein of lakes, rivers and waterfalls and three stunning national parks. As to wildlife, Rwanda boats of 13 species of primates (25% of Africa’s total), and a remarkable 670 species of birds, many of which are globally endangered.
At Gorillas and Wildlife Safaris we can guide you through the best safari destinations in Rwanda on our Rwanda safaris. Our tours in Rwanda are packaged in a form of gorilla trekking safaris, mountain gorilla safari packages, tracking primates, chimpanzee tours in Nyungwe Forest, and game safaris to Akagera National Park. We book gorilla trek safari permits for tourists and international tour agents wishing to take safaris in Rwanda.
We do arrange cultural tours and safaris in Rwanda. Our tour guides know well all the sites of tourism interest in Rwanda including the Rwanda Genocide Museum, Dian Fossey’s grave, community village tours, Rwanda Museum, city tours etc.
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda - Home of mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda
Perhaps best known as a home for the rare mountain gorillas, the Volcanoes National Park protects the steep slopes of the Rwandan section of the Virunga Mountains, a range of 6 extinct and three active volcanoes that straddle the border between Uganda and DRC.
Volcanoes National Park is Africa’s oldest national park and the focus of most visitors to Rwanda.
Trekking through the park in far northwest Rwanda, one will find a tapestry of sensory delights. The visitor in the rainforest can hear the calls of birds and monkeys, and through the forest see the peaks of the ancient volcanoes.
This chain of volcanoes is home to the world’s few remaining mountain gorillas. Rwanda has approximately 250 mountain gorillas, 11 families of which have been habituated for tourism. Many visitors have to book their gorilla tracking permit years in advance.
With such a stunning backdrop, a gorilla safari here is the highlight of any holiday.
The park offers 50 km of walking trails, tours of the lakes and caves and a fascinating selection of mountain climbs.
Nyungwe Forest National Park - The Oldest Forest on Earth
Tucked away in the south-west corner of Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest is one of the oldest forest on earth, dating back before the last Ice Age. Ranked as Africa’s most important area of forest conservation, it is one of the largest remaining block of montane forests in Africa.
Most famous for its 13 species of primates, Nyungwe is the best place to see chimpanzees in Rwanda.
Extending your Rwanda visit beyond a gorilla safari to Nyungwe will usher you to a unique biosphere of chimpanzees, forest hogs, otters, duikers, civets, elephants, and over 300 bird species.
Along the 50km trails’ network in the forest you also get to see a lot of unique butterfly species, orchids, waterfalls, and panoramic viewing points.
Akagera National Park
If it is big game you are looking for, Akagera will not disappoint.
Named after the river which bounds it, Akagera lies at a lower altitude than Rwanda's other parks, located just 75km east of Kigali City.
This natural savannah environment is reminiscent of Africa's better-known safari reserves in Tanzania and Kenya – and the game can be good, but doesn't quite match the best of them.
Akagera National Park is dominated by a labyrinth of hippo filled swamps and crocodile - patrolled lakes, which follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, the (probably) most remote source of the Nile.
Across the savannah plains and tangle acacia forest range great plains game, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, and impalas, while predators include the lions, leopard, jackals and hyenas.
As for the birds, this stunning realm offers 525 species including 40 raptors. The lakes and swamps add variety, and the birding can be excellent.
The Lovely Lake Kivu and its Shore
After the exciting but perhaps also tiring mountain gorilla trekking safari, chimpanzee trekking and extensive game driving in Akagera National Park, Lake Kivu provides the ideal place for rest and recuperation.
Lake Kivu forms Rwanda's eastern border, and the scenery of wooded hillsides plunging into the lake is often stunning. The white sandy beaches and sultry hot springs offer fabulous lakeside resorts, watersports, canoe island tours, exciting village tours, boating and fishing tours, also offered on many of Rwanda’s other 22 lakes.
Visit to relax and explore: in the north is the town of Gisenyi; Kibuye stands in the middle; and Cyangugu is furthest south.
It is the largest of Rwanda’s many freshwater lakes and the 6th largest, the 15th deepest lake in the world and one of its only three ‘exploding lakes’ (due to gaseous volcanic activity).
Gorillas and Wildlife Safaris books your wonderful holidays to Kivu.
We have negotiated special tour operator’s tariffs with the lodges at lake Kivu and will definitely ensure that you get the most affordable packages whether you stay in upscale or lower budget accommodation.
THE MOUNTAIN GORILLA TREKKING EXPERIENCE
Mountain gorillas ( Gorilla Berengei Berengei) can only be found in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo. The act of tourists visiting mountain gorillas is what is called gorilla trekking. In Rwanda, gorilla trekking can only be done in Volcanoes National Park. The park is located at least 2 hours of driving from Kigali, Rwanda's capital city, where the main international airport is also located. Volcanoes National Park, Parc Nationale Des Volcans, has 11 mountain gorilla groups for gorilla trekking and tourists can visit only one gorilla group each day. Every gorilla group can be visited by 8 persons per day. You can, however, book yourself a second gorilla trek on the next day. You will need a gorilla trekking permit to visit the Rwanda gorillas. Each gorilla permit for Volcanoes National Park is USD1500. Only those aged 15 years ab above can track the mountain gorillas.
Mountain gorillas are wild animals and, as such, sightings cannot be guaranteed. However, for the last 14 years, no one has trekked the gorillas and failed to see them in Rwanda. Certainly, you won't be the one with bad luck! On the trek, once you find the gorillas, you will be allowed an hour with the gorillas and you can only go not more than 6 meters from them. As the gorilla tracking can sometimes take a full day, you will need to go with your packed lunch and lots of drinking water when trekking to the gorillas.
Gorilla trekking timings and conditions vary tremendously as the gorillas move continuously through the rain forest. It is good to be prepared and remember the weather can change with very little warning. The terrain is often steep and through areas where there are no marked paths.
TIPS FOR THE BEST GORILLA TREKKING EXPERIENCE IN RWANDA
Secure Gorilla Trekking permits early
Gorilla Trekking is the most popular foreign tourist activity for Rwanda. This means the competition is quite high for the few gorilla permits in Rwanda and it becomes hard to secure gorilla trekking permits a few days to your Rwanda gorilla tour (although it is often possible with luck more so in the green season months of October, November, April and May). It is best to have your gorilla trek permit fully confirmed at least 4 months in advance.
Assess your fitness levels
There is a likelihood you could walk for 3-6 hours on a gorilla trek. Gorillas are located deep in Bwindi forest with thick undergrowth over several steep volcanic slopes. Gorilla groups keep roaming this forest looking for their favorite food. They are never stationed in the same place over days. Your gorilla trek will follow this same trend and it is quite unpredictable knowing how long or tough your gorilla trekking shall be. The longer trek is not necessarily a problem, just something to be prepared for. A bit of moderate physical fitness is needed for gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
Guides & Porters for the gorilla trek
You will be guided through the forest on your gorilla tracking guide whom you will meet at the departure point in the morning of your trek. Your guide can help you book a porter (or two!) so that you can track without having to carry the few essential items listed below in a day pack which you should bring with you. The porters are from the local community and very used to the local conditions and can assist in pushing, pulling and supporting you during your trek to the gorillas. They are usually an additional fee, over and above your safari cost, and you should budget on approximately USD15-20 per porter per day as a fee with additional tipping being optional.
As the porters do not have tracking permits they will be stopped a short distance from the point you will be viewing the mountain Gorillas. Please remember to take whatever you may need from your bag to view the gorillas and rather leave valuables at the lodge/camp.
You will be allowed up to one hour for viewing of the gorillas from when they are sighted by your group. This is to ensure that the wild animals are not overexposed to human presence. Whilst in their presence you will also be required to keep minimum distances from them – generally between 5-7 metres and your guides will ensure this is enforced.
What to pack on gorilla trekking in Rwanda
• Plenty of water – 1-2 litres per person
• High energy snacks in addition to your packed lunch provided by the lodge/camp
• Spare film and batteries for videos and cameras
• Gloves (gardening type are good)
• Waterproof bag to protect photographic equipment
• A hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and band-aids might be useful
• A lightweight waterproof jacket/poncho
• Walking sticks are made available at the start of the trek for some of the steeper and more slippery tracks and may prove to be very handy.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Age Limits
The age limit for gorilla trekking is 15 years and the authorities are very strict on this! With special written permission however, a 14yr old might pass.
Videos & Photography for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
In Rwanda, it can be difficult to capture good photos under the dark canopy of Volcanoes National Park, as the name suggests! If you are very lucky, you may encounter your gorilla family in a clearing.
Here are a few tips for photographing the gorillas in Rwanda:
- If you’re taking photos using a standard point-and-shoot camera, then make sure your camera is fully charged.
- Always take extra memory cards.
- Remember that flash photography is not allowed when you are with the gorillas. Make sure you have your camera manual with you so you know how to disable the automatic flash and automatic focus light functions.
- We recommend a good SLR camera. The best lenses are those with a wide aperture such as f2,8 which allow in max light and are best in gloomy conditions. A 24 – 70 mm and a 70 – 200 m is a good combination. If you have space then consider a 300mm and a wide-angle but it’s a steep walk so consider hiring a porter. A 50 mm 1.4 lens is also ideal for low light shooting and something to consider as a standard lens.
- Professional filmmakers require permission and need to purchase filming permits in advance RDB (Rwanda).
- Keep your camera and/or phone in a waterproof bag (such as a large Ziploc bag). Cue: you’re in the rainforest.
Professional photographers, filmmakers or media should advise us at the time of booking as special procedures are required as well as costs to be incurred for photographing and filming.
CAMERA SETTINGS FOR GORILLA PHOTOGRAPHY
Shooting in RAW format is the way to go. A jpeg is smaller in size because it discards a lot of information and so information cannot be retrieved if your exposure is slightly out. If you are shooting in jpeg, make sure your camera is set to the largest file size and also set your white balance according to the light conditions.
ISO and shutter speed
It can get dark in the forest – very dark. And gorillas are very dark subjects. If you have a Nikon D3x or D800 you can shoot at ISO 3200 and get away with it very well. My recommendation however is to try to keep in the range of IS0 800 to 2000 for maximum quality of image. High ISO gives a faster shutter speed but can affect quality and cause noise. Keep ISO as low as possible without getting blurred images. A rule of thumb is don’t shoot below 1/200th of a second with a 200mm lens. If you are using an 80 mm lens then you can shoot at slower speeds of say 1/80th and so on. If the gorillas are on the move you should up your shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second or more.
Metering and priority settings
A good default setting is to use centre weighted metering, aperture priority and an aperture of f5.6 or so. If there is a lot of dark gorilla in the viewfinder you will need to underexpose by up to two stops of light – 2 using your AE +/- button or you will overexpose your image. It is also a good idea to consider manual shooting if you are in fairly consistent lighting conditions. Your camera likes shooting subjects where the differences in exposure are not too extreme and its for this reason that cloudy or shady conditions are often best for shooting dark subjects like gorillas.
Single point focus is usually always best – you don’t want the camera focusing on the tree instead of the gorilla and usually you will want to lock your focus on the eyes. If you have a group of gorillas that you want to keep as much in focus as possible then focus about 1/3 into the picture. You may want to change focus to multi -point if you have lots of moving subjects but suggest single focus points will give you more control. You will probably shoot on single shot, but may want to change your focus settings to continuous focus and rapid fire if they are on the move and playful.
When you are with the gorillas there is a 7 meter buffer rule between you and animals. The reason is that their DNA is so close to ours that it is very easy for them to pick up flu and colds. Gorillas don’t know this rule and so don’t be surprised if they do approach closer (and be ready for it with a wide lens available), but if the guides ask you to move away then always do so smartly.
Your time with the gorillas is precious. Don’t shoot away wildly. Plan your shots. Close ups, wide shots, angles and framing. Think about your options. Also, don’t forget the wide shots of Make sure that you don’t spend the whole time looking through the lens. Sit and watch and consider the fact that you are watching one of the gentlest and most fascinating creatures on the planet.
As with all wildlife photography it’s about the moment. Try to catch the little moments such as when the gorillas are interacting or when the sun catches their eyes. Also, why not video your friends as soon as it's over and let them tell you about their experiences of this fantastic experience.