Prime Safaris and Tours Ltd is dedicated to offering you all-inclusive Rwanda safari packages and also tailors the best Gorilla safaris in Rwanda according to your interest.
Short Rwanda Safari Packages | Short Rwanda Gorilla Tours
Short Rwanda safaris are custom-designed Rwanda safari itineraries for travelers with limited time in Rwanda yet they want to tour her wonderful attractions. These short Rwanda trips offer short Rwanda gorilla safari trips to Volcanoes park, mini Rwanda wildlife safaris to Akagera National Park, brief Chimp trekking in Rwanda safaris and community cultural encounters are designed to enable mini-break holidaymakers to enjoy Rwanda’s unique taste of nature, Wildlife, Chimpanzees, Gorillas, and African culture.
Our short gorilla safaris in Rwanda range from 1 day Rwanda gorilla safari, 2 Days Rwanda Gorilla Safari Tour, 3 Days Rwanda Gorilla Tour, 4 days Rwanda gorilla trekking safari, and 5 days Rwanda gorilla safari.These short Rwanda safaris offer cheap and affordable Rwanda gorilla safari tours to enable the limited time and budget clients to have an encounter with Mountain Gorillas and other popular Rwanda safari attractions that they admire.
Long Rwanda Safari Packages | Long Rwanda Gorilla Tours
Our long gorilla safaris in Rwanda can stretch from 6 days up to 12 Days Rwanda safari packages. Long Rwanda tours are designed to suit the interests of travelers with enough time at their disposal and resources.
RWANDA NATIONAL PARKS – SAFARI GAME PARKS IN RWANDA
Akagera National Park is situated in the north east of Rwanda covering an area of 1,085km2 which makes it the largest protected area in Rwanda. The Akagera National Park boarders Tanzania and is traversed by Akagera river one of the sources of River Nile of which the park derives its name. Akagera National Park was established in 1934 to provide protection in three varied eco-systems i.e. mountain, swamp and savannah. The park is rich in water environments with series of lakes that characterize its floor including Lake Ihema which is the second largest in Rwanda, Lake Rwanyakizinga, Lake Shakani, Lake Mihindi and Lake Gishanju not forgetting the famous Akagera River that traverse the eastern boarder of the park.
Nyungwe National Park is located in southwestern part of Rwanda, at the extreme border between Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The famous Nyungwe forest national park is one of the best preserved and conserved montane rainforest in whole of the East and Central Africa. The park lies at an elevation of 1,600 meters and 2,950 meters above sea level and its expansive network of well-maintained forest trails direct visitors to a number of waterfalls and viewing points. Covering over 1000 square kilometers, Nyungwe Forest national park that was gazzetted in 2004 is surely one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine mountain rainforests. It’s believed to be one of Africa’s oldest forests.
Volcanoes National Park dubbed the safe haven for the mountain gorillas is situated in northwestern part of Rwanda and it’s bordered by national parks like Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The park is home to five of the eight stunning volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains namely: Karisimb volcano, mountain Bisoke, Mountain Muhabura, Gahinga Volcano and mountain Sabyinyo which are covered in rainforest and bamboo vegetation that dominate Volcanoes national park.Spanning on a 160sqkm area in the northern part of Rwanda, Volcanoes national park is the oldest national park in Africa. It was initially a small area around Karisimbi.
Location of Rwanda
The Republic of Rwanda is a land-locked country located in central Africa. It is bordered on the east by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with which it shares the shores of Lake Kivu; on the north by Uganda; on the west by Tanzania; and on the south by Burundi. Rwanda is a small country with an area of 26,338 square kilometers (10,169 square miles). Comparatively, Rwanda is about the size of the state of Maryland. The capital city of Kigali is in the center of the country.
Climate-The average daytime temperature is around 24°C, except in the higher mountains, which take up a lot of the country, where the range is 10°C to 15°C. Rwanda can be visited at any time of year. The dry season from mid-May to mid-October is easier for tracking mountain gorillas, but the endless hills are barren, a contrast to the verdant greens of the wet season. Peak season for gorilla tracking is July and August; travelling outside this time means it is easier to arrange a permit.
It rains more frequently and heavily in the northeast, where the volcanoes are covered by rainforest. The summit of Karisimbi (4507m), the highest peak in Rwanda, is often covered with sleet or snow.
Language-In addition to the indigenous language of Kinyarwanda, French and English are official languages. French is widely spoken throughout the country. In the capital and other tourist centres, many people speak English.
Economy-Primarily a subsistence agriculture economy, Rwanda nonetheless produces for export some of the finest tea and coffee in the world. Other industries include sugar, fishing and flowers for export.
Hiking and biking-The fine road network, with little traffic, offers wonderful opportunities for long bicycle trips across the verdant hills and valleys. Mountain biking and hiking can be enjoyed on the thousands of kilometres of fine rural trails linking remote villages, criss-crossing the entire country.
Religions-The majority of Rwandans, about 65%, are Roman Catholic, with another 9% Protestant. Only about 1% of the population is Muslim. About a fourth of Rwandans are adherents of indigenous beliefs. However, these numbers and divisions are not clear cut. Many Rwandans practice both their traditional religion and Christianity at the same time.
Public Holidays-Good Friday and Easter Monday, which fall on variable dates, are recognized in Rwanda. Other public holidays are:
1 January (New Year’s Day); 1 February (National Heroes Day); 7 April (Genocide Memorial Day); 1 May (Labour Day); 1 July (Independence Day); 4 July (National Liberation Day); 15 August (Assumption Day);1 October (Patriotism Day); 25 December (Christmas Day), and 26 December (Boxing Day).
The Rwandan Franc (Frw/Rwf) is the legal currency in Rwanda. American Dollars and Euros are accepted in some hotels and restaurants however expect to receive your change in Rwandan Francs.
What is the Geography of Rwanda?
Rwanda is a landlocked republic in Equatorial Africa, situated on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift, a western arm of the Great Rift Valley, on the watershed between Africa’s two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Much of the country’s 26,338 km2 is impressively mountainous, the highest peak being Karisimbi (4,507m) in the volcanic Virunga chain protected by the Volcanoes National Park. The largest body of water is Lake Kivu, but there areother numerous lakes around the country, notably Burera, Ruhondo, Muhazi and Mugesera, some of which have erratic shapes following the contours of the steep mountains that enclose them.
Getting to Rwanda
The main airport in Kigali is the Kanombe International Airport. It is located 10 km east of the Kigali centre.
Kigali currently receives direct flights from Nairobi, Entebbe, Bujambura, Addis Abeba, Kilimanjaro, Brussles, Amsterdam, Dar es Salaam, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Juba, Lagos and Dubai via Mombasa.
It is also possible to take a bus from neighboring countries.
Rwanda has possibly the best roads in East Africa. Most visitors who have booked through our company will be provided with good private vehicles, usually 4-wheel drive. All of the major centers are connected with local and luxury bus services. Air charter services are available anywhere in the country. Short distances within cities can be travelled either on foot or by taxi-velo (bicycle taxi). These are relatively inexpensive.
Motorcycle taxis (taxi moto) are the most popular in Kigali. These taxis can be identified by their jerseys and they always have an extra helmet. Most drivers speak basic English or French. Laws require moto-bikes to use helmets, and Rwandans abide by this. Taxis are common and can be found at taxi stands in Kigali and provinces and they have specific bus stops. One may hire a special taxi or by calling them or if at any hotel, one may get the hotel reception calling taxi as most of hotels have a taxi station near them. They are more expensive than motorcycle taxis and other public buses.
“Matatus” are the white with green or yelow minibuses that travel across the country. Rwanda has a good local transportation system for inter-region connectivity, good road system, and has plenty of well-maintained and modern minibuses. Cars and drivers can be hired from Kigali, and most of the roads are well maintained. To make your trip more interesting, if consider driving from Kigali to other provinces of Rwanda, eg. Along lake Kivu, it is recommended that you get a 4×4 and travel with someone who knows the area or use the public transport (Matatus) as from the regional cars parking at Nyabugogo, each 30 minutes there are buses from different transport agencies linking Kigali to other cities of the country. Back country driving is perfect for anyone with a sense of adventure.
How to Communicate in Rwanda
Rwanda has an excellent cell phone network covering almost the entire country. International phone calls can be made easily. Appropriate SIM cards for the network are readily available everywhere, even in remote towns, and cell phones can be purchased or rented from major shops in Kigali. Most towns of any size will have several Internet cafes and computer centers.
What time zone is Rwanda?
The entire country of Rwanda is in Central Africa Time Zone (UTC+02:00)
Is Rwandan Visa Required when under taking Safari to Rwanda?
A Rwanda Visa is required for all visitors except for nationals of the UK, Germany, Sweden, Canada, USA, Hong Kong, Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa Tanzania and Uganda (for a duration of less than three months).
For the rest of the unmentioned countries, the cost goes for about USD60, depending on the place of issue. For fly in travelers, visas of recent are being issued at Kigali airport on arrival, and you can also usually buy visas at overland boarders.
Nationals of countries without an embassy can also obtain a visa on arrival by prior arrangement with their hosts, who can arrange a facilitate de’ entrée.
In case you plan on hiring a vehicle while in the country, do organize an international driving license (via one of the main motoring associations in a country in which you are licensed to drive), which you may be asked to produce together with your original license.
For Identification and security concern, just in case the worst comes to the worst, it’s advisable to detail all your identification information, make copies of it and distribute a copy into your luggage, your money-belt and definitely give some to close relatives and friends; make sure it includes; travelers cheque numbers and refund information, travel insurance policy details and 24-hour emergency contact number, passport number, details of relatives or friends to be contacted in an emergency, bank and credit card details, camera and lens serial numbers.
Importantly, include also email and contact information of your destination, company, organization or friends and family.
What are the recommended Vaccinations one must take before traveling to Rwanda?
The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to Rwanda. All travelers should visit either their personal physician or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before departure.
Recommended Vaccinations and Preventive Medications
|Types of Diseases||Travellers|
|Hepatitis A||Recommended for all travelers|
|Typhoid||Recommended for all travelers|
|Yellow fever||Required for all travelers greater than one year of age|
|Meningococcus||Recommended for all travelers|
|Polio||One-time booster recommended for any adult traveler who completed the childhood series but never had polio vaccine as an adult|
|Hepatitis B||Recommended for all travelers|
|Rabies||For travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, or at high risk for animal bites, or involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats|
|Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)||Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given|
|Tetanus-diphtheria||Revaccination recommended every 10 years|
How to stay healthy while on Rwanda Safari
Wash your hands often with soap and water or, if hands are not visibly soiled, use a waterless, alcohol-based hand rub to remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and help prevent disease transmission. In developing countries like Uganda, drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.
Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your health care provider for a prescription.) To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, even on beaches. Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Protect yourself from mosquito insect bites: Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats when outdoors. Use insect repellents that contain DEET (N, N-diethylmethyltoluamide). If no screening or air conditioning is available: use a pyrethroid-containing spray in living and sleeping areas during evening and night-time hours; sleep under bed nets, preferably insecticide-treated ones.
What you are supposed to do while on your Gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda.
- Do not eat food purchased from street vendors or food that is not well cooked to reduce risk of infection (i.e., hepatitis A and typhoid fever).
- Do not drink beverages with ice
- Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
- Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis.
- Do not handle animals, especially monkeys, dogs, and cats, to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague). Consider per-exposure rabies vaccination if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas.
- Do not share needles for tattoos, body piercing or injections to prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B.
- Avoid poultry farms, bird markets, and other places where live poultry is raised or kept.
Do I need Malaria Medicine?
Even though less prevalent than other African countries, Malaria does exist in Rwanda. While there is no vaccine against malaria, prophylactic drugs along with prevention will significantly reduce the risk of getting it. We recommend you consult your doctor on malaria medicine prior to traveling to Rwanda.
What kind of insurance/guarantee is there in case of any risk during safari?
We do our best to minimize or eradicate risks in all safaris organized by Africa Adventure Safaris. Nevertheless we encourage you, before commencing your safari, to seek travel insurance cover in respect to delays and unexpected cancellations; loss of baggage, etc. We advise our prospective guests to contact reliable Insurance companies such as World Nomads & Worldwide Travel Insurance for excellent coverage Some of our safaris in East Africa may require proof of vaccinations, medical coverage or evacuation coverage before we allow you to proceed with confirmation of your safari.
Which currency do i need when traveling to Rwanda?
The Rwandan franc (FRW, and possibly RF o RWF) is the Rwandan currency. It is subdivided into 100 centimes. A proposal exists to introduce a common currency, a new East African shilling, for the five member states of the East African Community. The Rwandan exchange rate was last updated on October 22, 2013 from Yahoo Finance. The RWF conversion factor has 5 significant digits. Banknotes and coins are both used as legal tender for Rwanda. You can exchange money in the several exchange bureaus in Kigali city, right from the airport. However it is advisable to exchange foreign currency outside Kigali city.
Most Banks open from 08.00 am – 8.00pm on weekdays (Monday to Friday) and on Saturday 8.00am 1.00 pm; on Sundays 10.00 am to 6.00pm. On the Umuganda Day banks in Kigali open from 2.00 to 6.00pm. Credit cards are acceptable at most supermarkets, restaurants and accommodation in Kigali. In the rural areas it is only money in Rwanda Francs that they can comfortably accept. Most banks in East Africa have difficulty accepting MasterCard. In Kigali counter service for withdrawals at Ecobank and Access Bank accept MasterCard withdrawals at a price.
Which banks in Kigali accept Visa cards?
Bank of Kigali (In Town)
ATMs at bank of Kigali accept international visa cards. They offer 2 options: either Rwanda francs or Dollars. However they are inconsistent as they are on and off. Many times, one has to walk to the bank counters with a visa or MasterCard, Pin number and the passport to be helped though at a small cost.
Access Bank (Inside UTC 2nd Floor)
To withdraw money from your debit or credit card, one has to go to the counter and show a passport.
Fina Bank ATM (In downtown past the Gorilla roundabout towards Serena Hotel)
Note: – ATM withdrawals have a limit of $700 a day.
Be aware that plastic bags are strictly not allowed in Rwanda. Ensure you use paper bags for packaging.
Which airlines are operating in Kigali airport?
Kigali airport is a small but well organized airport by international standards. There are several international flights operating in this airport including:-
Daily flights from Entebbe
3 flights daily from Nairobi
2 flights a week Mon and Fri Kilimanjaro
From Bujumbura 5 flights a week Tue, Thur, Fri, Sat, Sun
Rwandair, the national carrier, has several daily flights to various African destinations, as well as Dubai in Middle East.
Ethiopian Airlines operates daily between Addis Ababa and Kigali
- Brussels 3 flights a week Tue, Thurs and Sat
- Johannesburg 3 flights a week Wed, Fri and Sun
- South African airways has daily flights between Kigali and South Africa
- Turkish Airlines begun flights to Kigali from Istanbul in May 2012
Prime Safaris and Tours can help you to book flights for you.
It is advisable to have a Yellow Fever certificate before boarding any plane to destinations such as Tanzania and South Africa. Immigration Officials at the airport will not hesitate to request for it. Some announcements are not loud enough. So as you sit in the café at the airport be very attentive as most times there are over-bookings on some airlines whereby you may end up left at the airport.
Electrical tips for Rwanda travelers
In Rwanda, the electrical sockets (outlets) used are the “Type C” Euro plug and the “Type E” and “Type F” Schuko. Often times we advise our guests to travel with plug adapters since many of our guests to Rwanda end up crossing to Uganda as well where the sockets are also different.
The Rwanda electrical sockets (outlets) supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you are to plug in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then you need an adapter.
Travel plug adapters do not change the voltage. The electric current coming through the adapter has to be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. United States of American sockets supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts, far much lower than in most of parts of the world.
What is the best month to undertake safari to Rwanda.
Rwanda is mountainous country in nature. Owing to her closeness to the Equator, Rwanda enjoys a tropical temperate climate. Her average annual temperature ranges between 16 and 20°C. In the Volcanoes national park area the temperature may at times get as low as 0°C. In the intermediary altitude (the lowland East and West), average temperatures vary between 19 and 21°C. Winds are normally around 1-3 m/s. Rainfall is quite enough despite some irregularities at times. Rainfall ranges from about 900 mm in the east and southeast to 1500 mm in the north and northwest volcanic areas of Ruhengeri.
Rainfall is generally well distributed throughout the year, with some spatial and temporal variability. Eastern and southeastern regions are the most affected by prolonged droughts while the western and northern areas receive heavy rainfall that at times culminate into soil erosion, landslides and flooding. The spatial variability is due to the complex topography and the existence of large water bodies within the Great Lakes Region.
Rwanda travel advice: safety information for travelers to Rwanda
Is Rwanda a safe country for tourists?
Rwanda is a very safe country to visit.
Although Rwanda has lived through a turbulent history, the country is safe, stable and welcoming. Rwandan’ hospitable nature is legendary! You will be warmly welcomed wherever you go by the country’s friendly residents.
If you are unsure about the safety of travel to Rwanda, please contact Prime safaris and Tours Ltd. At Prime Safaris and Tours, your safety is our absolute priority and you can be rest assured that we will always give you the best Rwanda travel advice.
Is Kigali City a safe city for tourists?
Kigali is one of the safest capital cities in (East) Africa – although, as anywhere, petty thieves may try and take advantage of people who leave phones and valuables unattended. Your driver guide will give you all the information you need to make sure your trip is safe and incident-free. Feel free to ask questions!
Tipping in Rwanda
It is customary to tip for service in restaurants and bars. A tip of 5% is very acceptable and a tip of 20% is very generous. It is also customary to tip your driver/guide at the end of a safari or hike, as well as the cook and/or porter that may accompany to you. Tipping is not at any fixed amount and may depend on personal wish.
Is it safe to take water in Rwanda?
Unfortunately, it is not recommended to drink the tap water during your time in Rwanda. It is important to stick with bottled water, even when brushing teeth.
Can i use internet in Rwanda?
Wifi is available in most hotels, free of charge. It is quite easy to find Cafés in Kigali with wifi, but it is not always guaranteed so it is best to check beforehand if you are planning on using internet. The lodges in the countryside are also equipped with wifi, however, cafés and restaurants outside of Kigali generally do not.
Rwanda Gorilla trekking Safari information
In the whole world, travellers can only trek the endangered species of the mountain gorillas (Gorilla Berengei Berengei) in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. In Rwanda, these primates can be trekked in the stunning Volcanoes National Park. Approximately 480 mountain gorillas live in the Virunga massifs and reside on the altitude range of 2,300 to 4,500 meters in the hilly areas of the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, as well as Virunga National Park (in the DRC).
In Rwanda, the Gorilla families are divided into 2; those for study or research purposes which are strictly accessed by scientists plus researchers only. Among these are Beetsme and Pablo’s Shida’s which have the highest number of gorillas. As of 2015, there are 10 Mountain gorilla groups habituated and maximum of 8 individual tourists are allowed to visit each habituated gorilla family. Among the ten habituated gorilla families that are for tourism purposes in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park include the Susa Gorilla group, Karinsimbi Gorilla group, Sabinyo family, Hirwa Gorilla Family, Amahoro Gorilla Group, Bwengye Gorilla family, Group 13 (the Agasha group) and the Kwitonda Gorilla group. Ugenda Gorilla Family, Umubano Gorilla Group. With a gorilla permit costing US $ 750 per person per trek, part of your contribution goes to conserving these mountain gorillas.
How to book Gorilla permit in Rwanda.
Gorilla permits can be booked at the RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office in person. However, booking Gorilla permit through tour operator is the best option and usually tour operators charge an extra fee between 20-50USD on top of US$750 and this happens when you only need a permit from them. The extra between 20-50USD per permit is attached to help them in administrative costs like make calls to RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office, pick the permit from RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office where the permits are sold officially and then deliver it to you. In case you involve us in the whole process of planning for your Rwanda gorilla safari, we shall not charge you the extra USD 50 because we understand that you will use our other services like guiding services, transfers among others.
The procedure is almost similar as above, except that the tour agencies tend to speed-up the process and most likely you will get you gorilla permit confirmation faster.
Contact us and let us know of the dates you want to tour Uganda with the days you want to see the gorilla permits.
Afterwards we shall let you know if the days you want for your gorilla tour are available for gorilla tracking and tentatively book them for you (but with no guarantee).
We send you our bank details for you to send the money for gorilla permits.
It takes about 16 hours for us to receive the money from your bank and pay for your permits. We shall send you acknowledgement for the money and the official RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office Receipt (by scan and email). Please ensure you pay the bank charges when authorizing the transaction.
We do not charge any fee for gorilla permits buying/booking if you are booking the rest of the tour (or a part of it) with us. In case we do charge, this is to cater for any costs like telephony, transport, etc. we incur to get you the permit.
Send us your passport details to register your gorilla permits. Usually, we only need the Full names, passport number, and nationality.
Let us help you book you Gorilla Permit and Safari (no fees on permits)
We register your names and get the gorilla permits. We send you scanned copies of your gorilla permit.
As soon as the payment has been received, the permits for gorilla tracking will be purchased. Getting a gorilla permit is not a guarantee of seeing a gorilla. However, the chances of seeing them are 98%.
Please note: You must be over 15 years of age to obtain a gorilla viewing permit.
What is the Cost for gorilla permit in Rwanda?
The cost of gorilla permit in Rwanda includes the park entry fees various according to nationality and seen below.
- USD $750 per person for non-nationals
- USD $375 for foreign residents
- 30,000 Frw for Rwandan citizens
The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) shall refund 50% of the gorilla tracking fee for any visitor showing signs of illness. Any sick visitor shall not be allowed to track the gorillas if declared unfit by the Warden in Charge. This only applies to visitors who have travelled all the way to the park.
How Much Does It Cost To See The Gorillas of Rwanda?
The most important fee is USD750 which is the actual cost of a gorilla permit per person per trek. Besides that, you have to spend on transport and accommodation. We do not encourage you to do it yourself because it can turn to become expensive safari and hence you can contact us to organize for you each and every thing at affordable price.
Gorilla Trekking Guidelines in Rwanda
- i) To minimize possible transmission of human diseases, visitors are asked to maintain a distance of 7m (about 22 feet) from the gorillas. If you are sick with a cold, flu or other contagious illness, please do not visit the gorillas.
- ii) Viewing time is limited to one hour.
iii) Maximum 8 visitors per group.
- iv) Spitting in the park is strictly prohibited.
- v) Should you need to cough, cover your mouth and turn away from the gorillas?
- vi) When with the gorillas, keep your voice low.
vii) Try not to make rapid movements that may frighten the gorillas.
viii) If a gorilla should charge or vocalize at you, do not be alarmed, stand still, look away from the gorilla and follow your guide’s directions.
- ix) Do not litter.
To enhance your enjoyment:
- The security of our visitors is our highest priorities. There is no need for concern about personal security.
- The climate in Musanze is changeable and you can generally expect both sun and rainfall during the day.
- Musanze, at 1,700m above sea level, is generally quite cold, particularly in the evening, so warm clothing is advised.
- Recommended clothing is long trousers and shirts when in the forest to avoid nettle stings.
- Study walking shoes or hiking boots are essential. You may find raingear useful.
- Bring a water bottle and a small snack although eating, drinking and smoking near the gorillas is forbidden.
- Photography is permitted, although you may not use flash.
- Porters are available to help you carry your day pack for a small charge.
- Mountain gorillas live at high altitude and this may cause difficulties for some visitors. You should pace yourself, walk slowly and drink plenty of water. No one should feel deterred from making this trip.
What is the best time to track gorillas in Rwanda?
While Mountain gorilla trekking can be done throughout the year in Rwanda the land of thousand hills, many tourists under taking gorilla trekking safaris to Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park often prefer encountering the mountain gorillas during the high season in the months of June to September and then December, January and February.
In Rwanda, the first rains start coming in late February through March, April and May and hence various travellers tend to avoid undertaking gorilla safaris to Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park for fear of getting muddy and all wet while tracking the gorillas. However, during these months, because of the rains there’s plenty of gorilla food down slope and it’s much colder on the upper slopes. So the mountain gorillas keep on the lower slopes where they find it warmer and get food easily. So if you track the gorillas during these months, most likely your trek won’t be a long one – many trackers find the gorillas after 2 hours hike and by 2:00pm local time they are back to their respective lodges.
The seasonality of the tourists on Rwanda gorilla trekking safaris also depends on the general weather back in the tourism generating areas. For instance during summers season in Europe, the number of gorilla trekking safaris to Rwanda increase and then in winter season, it safaris greatly lower or decrease.
Weather / Climate in Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park
The climate in the Volcanoes national park is typically damp, with daytime temperatures averaging 50°F (10°C).
Dry Season: June to September and January and February are the driest months and best for gorilla trekking, but be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at any time.
Rainy Season: The long rains are from mid-march to mid-May, when many roads become impassible. It also usually rains in October and November.
What to Wear to Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda
When planning for your gorilla trekking safaris to Rwanda to encounter the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat of Volcanoes national park, we advise you to come with a few things that are useful for you to attain your longa waited ultimate experience that involves trekking mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s mountainous Volcanoes national park.
Have a small backpack as it is useful to help you carry your water, packed lunch, camera and binoculars.
You need light weight hiking boots for this activity/strong waterproof walking boots due to nature and altitude of the forest. So get shoes that come above the ankle bone.
Take a light jumper and lightweight breathable waterproof jacket/trousers as temperature is variable and weather conditions can change any time in Volcanoes national park.
Lightweight long wool socks which are comfortable for a mountain tropical forest
A few long-sleeved shirts/trousers. Please ensure that you trek in your long sleeved trousers/shirts to avoid insects such as safari ants entering your trousers.
Sweater for cool evenings and chilly mornings due to nature and altitude of the place
Bush hat with a brim for sun protection. Please carry a hat to protect you from the strong sun rays if it is hot.
You may also need to carry some Sunglasses too with neck strap
Sun cream is also necessary
Video/photo camera, extra lenses and Reserve batteries. Photography is an important component of your safari and make sure that you have your camera ready, charge your batteries very well and if necessary, carry extra batteries as you will need to take many photographs in the one hour you will have with the gorillas.
Films and torch-LED models are light weight and have a good battery life
Insect repellents to protect you from Mosquito bites as volcanoes national park has mountains and a tropical forest so many insects are accommodated there in.
Garden gloves that will protect you from germs and other items that may scratch your hands.
Binoculars. Don’t forget that you are on safari and you want to have clear views of everything so during your trek in search for the rare mountain gorillas, you will have a chance to spot some other wildlife species like birds, primates and large mammals
A glove to grip vegetation and it’s also best to have different layers of clothes since the temperatures tend to change.
Energy Giving snacks. Gorilla trekking can take from 30 minutes to eight or so hours and that’s why a certain level of fitness is required. To add on that, we advise that you carry some energy giving snacks as supplements and lots of drinking water as you never know when you will return.
Hiring a Porter for your gorilla safari is a top tip -You will need a porter to give you a push on the way to the gorillas as trekking/hiking can take some time. You will pay some fee to a porter but it is worth it.
What to Expect during the Gorilla Trekking (Actual Day)
After finalizing everything with your tour operator / agent and now your gorilla permit is ready, and you packed all the necessary gear like gloves, trekking boots, long sleeved wear, rain jackets, snacks and packed lunch, walking stick (if necessary), among others, this is what you expect on the trekking day.
Carry your passport with you as you head to the park headquarters for an early morning pre-tracking briefing by park officials. Your gorilla permits will be crosschecked with your passports to verify that you are the right owner of the permit. At this moment, you are expected to be ready with your packed lunch since no one is certain about the time you will take to see these gorillas.
A cup of tea/ coffee is served as you are being entertained by the local traditional dancers to give you a good start of a strenuous yet exciting day, before the ranger guide gives you tips on how to conduct yourself on this trek. After a quick briefing on safety measures and what to expect during the day, you will be grouped in groups of 8 people maximum and each group is assigned one gorilla family to trek. Rwanda has 10 gorilla families, hence 10 groups of 8 people each are the ones allowed to track on a particular day.
Assigning of the groups to trek highly depends on the fitness and age of the visitor. For example, those above 45 years and the ones with less fitness are assigned the ‘easy to find’ gorilla families which do not wander far away from the trail heads. However, even those with special interests about specific groups may inform their guides to help them negotiate with rangers before assigning the groups such that they may be assigned those specific groups too.
Being wild animals in their natural habitat, what may be regarded as easy to find may not necessarily be, as animals may wander far as they search for food and therefore, it is not a guarantee that they must be near or easy to find. Even those which are allocated to the physically fit and energetic tourists, that are always regarded as strenuous to track, may be easily tracked on a particular day which makes the total experience interesting and un predictable.
Each gorilla tracking group consists of a main guide and two scouts who carry AK-47 guns, one walking in front and another behind the group. The reason for armed scouts is for protection in the forest against wild elephants or angry, wild gorillas. The scouts are trained to fire shots into the air first in order to scare away the animals but this is only done on rarest occasions when all other options like hiding away from such dangerous animals have been done. However, we have never heard of any case where such animals attacked the tourists and the scouts had to fire bullets though on many occasions, they advise to hide or remain still until the animals go away. However the policy of the National Park is to be safe rather than sorry.
Your group will also have a pair of trackers who will have been sent out in the early morning (prior to your arrival in the park) to find the location of your specific gorilla family and to assess where they may be headed. Trackers communicate the gorilla’s movements to the guide so that he can decide on the best approach to meet the gorilla family. If you do not trust your fitness, please endeavor to let your guide know such that he may help you to hire a porter at the park gate. A porter is hired between $15 to $20 depending on what he is going to carry.
How easy it to Find the Gorillas
The length of your overall experience and the amount of time it will take to actually meet your gorilla family is said to vary widely. It may take as little as 30 minutes to find your gorilla family and as long as 2-8 hours.
The forest is verdant, humid and somehow light and there are no discernible trekking paths. The terrain is full of hills and steep volcano slopes where you will be required to pull yourself up steep grades by grasping onto branches, plant roots, bushes and more. Follow the lead of the guide as to the best path and form to take. If you need a break, let your guide know. It is also advisable that you carry with you some energy giving snacks and bottled mineral water to quench your thirst and give you more energy.
What happens when i encounter Mountain Gorillas?
Once your group finds the gorilla family the clock starts ticking. You are advised to stay quiet, move slowly and avoid sudden movements in order not to irritate the gorillas. Instead sit down and avoid looking directly into the eyes of the gorillas as this may also irritate them thinking that you want to fight them.
It’s not a problem to look a gorilla in the eye, but if he begins charging at you, hold your ground but lower your eyes to indicate that you do not want a confrontation but rather you are submissive. Prepare your cameras and get ready to take as many photos as you want but please remember to remove the flash lights and sounds.
The gorillas may be feeding from the ground resting, moving around or up in the trees playing about in the branches. Try to get yourself the best view for photographs and learn all their behavior. Follow them in case they are moving but at a recommended distance which should be not shorter than 7 meters. The most important thing is you staying near your guide and following his instructions always.
The trackers will often clear the brush with their machete so you can get a clearer and closer look at the gorillas. It is incredible how graceful and peaceful these animals are, especially considering their incredible size. You’ll be amazed when you see the silverbacks (mature males) get up and move around showing control over the territory.
Habituated Mountain Gorilla Groups in Rwanda
In Rwanda, the Gorilla families are divided into 2; those for study or research purposes which are strictly accessed by scientists plus researchers only. Among these are Beetsme and Pablo’s Shida’s which have the highest number of gorillas.
There are also ten habituated gorilla families that are for tourism purposes, so these are available for trekkers to visit. At most 8 people are allowed to visit each of the habituated gorilla groups every day and you may spend at most one magical hour. Among these gorilla groups are these include:
Susa Gorilla Group –
this is the gorilla group that was researched by the American conservationist Dian Fossey. The group named after River Susa which flows in the habitat range of this gorilla group. The family is the most challenging but highly rewarding to trek since it normally stays up in the higher ranges of the mountains however the experienced guides in the park will know in time the movements of the group before the next trackers. Sometimes tourists have been barred from tracking the group because of its distant location. This group is very impressive with a family size of 28 gorilla individuals with three Silverbacks. This was the biggest gorilla group prior to separating into two. The group had 42 individuals and when visited trekkers would watch so many gorillas scattered in the entire area. This group is famous for its infant twins; Byishimo and Impano which are pretty playful. It as well has one of Rwanda’s oldest habituated gorillas like Poppy who was born in 1976. Poppy is thought to be among the gorillas which were in the initial gorilla group that Dian Fossey’s conducted her research.
Karisimbi Family (Susa-B)-
This family separated from the initial Susa (Susa-A) family and today it is referred to as Susa-B or the Karisimbi Group. It has 15 individuals and normally found on the slopes of Mt Karisimbi Volcano (4507Meters) the highest peak of Rwanda. Karisimbi Group is better appropriate for serious hikers. It seems that they have formed their home in the higher mountain slopes of Karisimbi caldera. So visiting this group may take a full day hike. The group at times moves to higher altitude making the tracking pretty challenging. But, RDB tourism plus conservation guides will be a aware of the location of the gorilla group the previous day. Tracking the gorilla family at times can be stopped due to its faraway location.
Sabyinyo Gorilla Group-
Sabyinyo can easily be reached and it is led by a strong silverback Guhonda. This is the biggest silverback of all the gorilla groups, since it is very massive in physical appearance. Actually Guhonda has maintained his main competitor, Ryango, from his group as a solitary silverback. In comparison to other gorilla families, Sabyinyo has fewer members although it is similarly impressive. This particular group derived its name from Sabyinyo volcano and it actually means an “old man’s teeth”. The Sabyinyo is among the groups found nearest to the border of the park with 8 individuals that include one Silverback which is the biggest in the entire park and the other three Adult females, a youthful female, two Juveniles as well as a Baby gorilla.
Amahoro Gorilla Group-
Amahoro which means “peaceful group” is the most calm gorilla groups. This group has seventeen individuals with one Silverback, two Black-backs as well as five Adult females plus 2 Sub-adult males, 2 Juveniles and 5 Babies. Ubumwe, the silverback of this group is peaceful, really easy going as well as serene; he has sadly lost some group members to the Umubano group led by Charles.
Which means “neighborliness”, the Umubano family comprises of 11 gorilla members with a Silverback; a Sub-adult male as well as three Adult females and six Babies. Umubano were initially members of Amahoro group however separated following Ubumwe the then dominant silverback being overpowered by Charles who is the current leader of Umubano. As Charles grew into an adult silverback just as Ubumwe, he couldn’t stand taking orders around so he decided to fight and eventually challenged Ubumwe. This fight went on for some weeks and nearly months. Eventually, Charles was able to take a couple of females from Ubumwe hence forming a group; the Umubano. From that time, he commands a lot of respect and appreciated by Ubumwe. On a number of occasions interactions between these two silverbacks have been witnessed, however, no fights have been witnessed since that big fight.
13 Group (the Agasha Group)-
During its first time of habituation, the group had 13 members hence its name. Today the group has nearly 25 members with one Silverback; twelve Adult females; two Sub adult female; three Juvenile as well as seven Babies. Previously this group was led by Nyakarima who was overpowered by Agashya whose name means “the news”. In fact Agashya made headlines by first observing and estimating the strengths of Nyakarima and finally challenged him to a brutal fight taking away his entire group. This greatly shocked Nyakarima and was an extraordinary event in witnessed gorilla history. Then Agashya shifted up the volcano to safe guard his group and ensure that Nyakarima didn’t find them. Since then, Agashya has increased the number of members in his group by snatching some from other groups and incorporating other solitary gorillas, speedily the group expanded from 12 up to 25 individuals. Agashya is also known, at any first sign of danger, to take his entire group to the peak of the volcano. One time, while some tourists had gone to observe the Group 13 this identical scenario occurred. Agashya imagined that there was an opponent silverback which was about to fight him. In reaction, he led his group to the volcano.
This group has 18 members and it is led by Kwitonda the silverback whose name means the “humble one” it also has 2 silverbacks plus a blackback. It moved from the DRC, and normally stays far away which makes it challenging to trek. This along with the Susa B is some of the most challenging groups to find
which means “lucky one” became renowned on 17th June 2006 after trackers witnessed its creation when some members from 2 separate families the Group 13 and the Sabyinyo group joined to form a smaller group at the time. Fortunately some other gorillas also joined this group and today the Hirwa group has nine individuals: one Silverback; three Adult females; two Sub adult females as well as 3 Babies. Although it is the newest gorilla group and hence the easiest to trek. Hirwa shows strength and well safeguards its members
This family has 11 members with a Silverback. It is majorly seen in the Slopes of Karisoke Volcano. Bwenge is the silverback that leads the group which was established in 2007 after he left his birth group and was joined by other females coming from other gorilla groups. The group has faced some challenging times; which included the death of six infants. Today this group is becoming strong with two successful births in the past couple years as well as a strong silverback leader. This trek to visit the group is challenging and includes an ascent of nearly 3 hours. The trails at times are muddy and pretty steep. It seems this is the group which featured in the legendary movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist’.
This Group lives in Rwanda’s Karisimbi area. It consists of 11 gorillas including 2 silverbacks. The name the group acquired means “being on the move” since the family was constantly moving from one place to another. Because it is constant moving, tracking it is normally challenging and involves prolonged movement in search for them.
Do I have to be fit to take part in tracking the gorillas?
Mountain Gorillas stay up in the montane forest therefore trekking them is done on the higher altitude that offers a diversified vegetation and landscape. You’ll need a good fitness level as well as the will to climb the slippery slopes through the dense undergrowth.
Is there guarantee that I will always see the gorilla?
It is not 100% guaranteed seeing mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national Park but also important to note is that, we have never had cases where visitors on Rwanda gorilla trekking Safaris to Volcanoes national Park fail to see the Mountain gorillas during their trek. To make sure that you see them, trackers leave at day break to establish their location, movement and then they radio the gorilla’s GPS co-ordinates to the park head offices such that by the time you set off the guide has an idea of where the gorillas are. These trackers follow the gorillas even as they move.
What is the minimum and maximum age for trekking gorillas?
The minimum age for gorilla trekking is 16 years and this is the standard limit. It applies in Uganda as well as Rwanda and it is strongly enforced in all the National Parks. However there isn’t a maximum age for trekking but what matters are you able to physically fit to walk or hike the hills.