11 Day- Best of Rwanda: gorilla & wildlife safaris

AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK

Akagera National Park, founded in 1934, is the largest protected wetland in central Africa.  The park is 1,200 square kilometers and consists of 3 ecosystems, savannah, mountain and swamp.  Along the eastern boundary is the Kagera River, which the park takes its name from.  The park is home to many large plains game species such as Elephants, Buffalo, Topi, Zebra, Waterbuck, Roan Antelope and Eland.  Other antelopes in the park include, dulker, orbi, bohor reedbuck kilpspringer, bush-buck and impala.  Primates are in abundance as well; olive baboons, vervet monkeys, and blue monkeys, as well as bushbabies are regularly seen, especially at night.

Lions were re-introduced into the park recently; in addition there are leopards, hyena and side-striped jackal.  There are plans to introduce the black rhino shortly, which will give Akagera National Park, Big 5 status.  There are over 500 bird species in the park, as well as countless water birds that inhabit the vast wetlands.akagera-park


VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK

Virunga National Park is Africa’s most biologically diverse protected area.  The Park is 7,800 square kilometers in size and includes forest, savannas, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, active volcanoes and the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori mountains.

In addition to being the home of a quarter of the world’s Mountain Gorillas, Virunga National Park also has two other Great Ape species, the eastern lowland gorillas and chimpanzees. Another interesting inhabitant of the park is the Okapi; an endangered specie that resembles a zebra but is more closely related to the giraffe.  There are lots of hippo, forest and savanna elephants, lions and many rare bird species.

Mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei) silverback in Susa group, Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda


LAKE KIVU

Lake Kivu forms the Western boundary of Rwanda, together with a string of smaller freshwater lakes; the other side being the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The drive between the Nyungwe Forest National Park and Volcanoes National Park is best done with this route around Lake Kivu; the gorgeous views at every turn, the eucalyptus trees lining the road, and the miles of terraced hills filled with banana forests, make the journey most pleasant.  You will be greeted by visitors along the way; the 3 towns en route are roughly 3 – 4 hours apart from one another, each one offering quiet but busy encounters for the traveler.  These towns are Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu.kivu_01


 

NYUNGWE FOREST NATIONAL PARK

The Nyungwe Forest National Park, in the southwest corner of Rwanda, is a vast untouched tropical rainforest, with a high dense canopy.  Here in the park, there are huge tall old mahoganies, ebonies and giant tree ferns that tower above you; at the same time there are orchids and other epiphytes clinging to the branches.  In addition to the flora and fauna, Nyungwe Forest is renowned for the variety of primates (25% of Africa’s total) that co-exist with the over 300 brightly coloured bird species and hundreds of different butterflies everywhere. To get a real sense of the magnitude of the forest, one can walk the 50 meter metal suspension bridge that has been built above the canopy; truly an unforgettable experience.

Activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park are for the active trekkers.  There are many treks available, the most popular being the Chimpanzee Trek; but other primates are there to be sought, such as the grey-cheeked mangabey and Rwenzori colobus monkeys.  Forest hiking trails are in available; a total of 130 kilometers have been created.  The trails last from 1 to 8 hours the Igishigishigi Trail is one of the shortest, but includes East Africa’s highest canopy walk with spectacular views of Nyungwe Forest.

 Nyungwe-Forest-Canopy Walk


 ITINERARY

DAY 1:  ARRIVE KIGALI

You will be met at the Kigale International Airport by your Jewel Safari guide, taken to your hotel in Kigali and given a briefing on the next few days activities.  Time permitting, your guide can take you on a tour of Kigali city, including the Genocide Memorial Center and possibly a local market or handicraft workshop.  Kigale is a robust, vibrant city with lots of activity, including a number of new hotels, a variety of restaurants, bars and clubs.  

The city itself is very green with each district distiguished by one of the “hills” that compose the metropolitan area.  Exploring both the city center and its environs, is most interesting; Kigali is very different from other East and Central African urban areas, in that there is no pollution, traffic jams and piles of unsightly garbage on the sides of the road.  A concerted effort by the government to clean up the environment has proven to be most successful and it stands out from the rest in terms of its cleanliness and organization.

When you are ready to relax, you will be taken back to your hotel, have a little rest and enjoy dinner in your hotel.

DAY 2:  AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK; CRATER LAKE BOAT RIDE AND GAME DRIVE:

After breakfast, you will be taken by your guide to the Akagera National Park.  The ride is 2 – 4 hours, depending on how many of the optional stops you choose to make.  Your Jewel Safaris guide will enlighten you of the options that are available along the way; local handicraft workshops, villages with cultural centers and the like, are available..

When you arrive at your accommodation you will be served lunch..

After lunch, you will be taken on a boat ride on one of the Crater Lakes in the National Park, as well as a Game Drive through the park, in search of the many wildlife species there.  When you are ready for a rest, your guide will take you back to your accommodation.

Dinner will be served at your hotel.

DAY 3: GAME DRIVE SAFARI AND RETURN TO KIGALI

After breakfast, you will be taken on a Game Drive to the Northern sector of Akagera National Park; the best location in the park to view the big game. The park roads are not tarmacked and traveling through the park is at a slower pace; in terms of sighting the animals, this is much more appropriate, and you will not be disappointed with the variety of wildlife that you will encounter.  

Lunch will be in form of a picnic en route in the park, as traveling to a lodge or restaurant will only lessen your exposure to the game.  

In the afternoon, you will return to Kigal,  and check into your hotel.  Depending on the time you arrive, your guide will be happy to give you information on the optional activities that are available in Kigale.  You can choose to explore the city with your guide, or just relax in the hotel.

Dinner will be served at your hotel.

DAY 4:  KIGALI TOUR

After breakfast, you will be given a full-day guided tour of the Memorial and Genocide sites as well as many other attractions within the environs of Kigali;  you will have the opportunity to visit both Nyamata, about 30 kilometers from the city center and Nyamirambo, one of the oldest and most culturally mixed district of Kigali City, where the community is centered by a most innovative and active Women’s center.

Lunch will be in a typical Rwandan restaurant, either in Kigali town, or en route to Nyamata.  There will be many opportunities to visit local markets, handicraft workshops and boutiques along the journey.  Your Jewel Safaris guide will inform you of all the options as you move about.

When you are ready to relax or go for a swim, your guide will take you back to your hotel; dinner will be at your hotel

DAY 5:  VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK

After breakfast, you will be driven to the Virunga National Park. It is about a 2 hour drive, but again, your guide will keep you informed of any interesting stop you might want to make along the route.  When you reach the park, you will check in to your hotel, rest up and have some lunch.

After lunch, you will be taken on a Cultural encounter to a couple of the local villages to meet with the community and see some of the cultural offerings they have to offer; this could be in the form of a dance, with local musicians accompanying the performers as well as handicrafts and artwork that is locally produced.

Afterwards, you will be taken back to your hotel for dinner..

DAY 6:  GORILLA TREK

After breakfast, you will be taken on a Gorilla Trek to seek out the Silverbacks and thier families; depending on where the Gorillas are that morning, it will take from 3 to 8 hours.  Your Ranger guide will take you through the light mountainous forest in search of these amazing Silverbacks.  Because of the uncertainty of how long you will be roaming the forest, you will be given a packed lunch to eat during the tracking.

After you have encountered the Gorillas, and spent about an hour watching them in their daily routine, you will be taken back to your accommodation for a rest.  

Dinner will be served at your hotel.

DAY 7: LAKE KIVU

After breakfast, you take a most beautiful drive from the Virunga National Park to and around Lake Kivu. Along the way, your Jewel Safaris guide will tell you of optional detours you may choose to make, depending on your interests; there are small villages along the way, and many opportunities to meet and greet the local people.

Lunch will be en route in a traditional Rwandan restaurant, which will give you the opportunity to taste the local delights.

After lunch you will continue the safari around the lake.  When you have completed the tour, you will be taken to your accommodation, checked in, and given some time to rest up.

Dinner at your hotel.

DAY 8: NYUNGWE FOREST NATIONAL PARK

After breakfast, you will drive to the Nyungwe Forest in western Rwanda.  This will involve a couple of hours of driving.  Along the way, you will stop in Butare, the Intellectual Capital of Rwanda; a university and seminary town.  

In Butare, you will be taken to a local restaurant for some Rwandese food.  There are also opportunities both in Butare and along the way, to visit handicraft workshops and local markets to see what the local people are producing.

After lunch you will continue your drive to the Forest; check into your accommodation and rest up.

Dinner will be served at your hotel.

DAY 9:  CHIMP TRACKING SAFARI

After an early breakfast, you will be taken to the Ranger Station to begin your Chimp Tracking Safari.  This will take 2 or 3 hours in length, depending on how soon you meet up with a Chimpanzee family.

Lunch at Gisakura Guest House, next to the Tea Plantation.

After lunch there is a choice of either a forest walk or a visit to the tea plantation; if time permits, both are possible. When you have completed your afternoon activities, your guide will take you back to your accommodation for a rest.

Dinner at your hotel.

DAY 10:  RETURN TO KIGALI

After breakfast you will begin your journey back to Kigali; with a stopover in the town of Nyanza, the old capital of the Kingdom of Rwanda (1958 – 1962), and the site of the Royal Palace, now known as the Rwesoro Art Museum.  The town of Nyanza was the site of one of the largest massacres of Tutsis and Moderate Hutus.  

Your guide will take you to a local restaurant in Nyanza to taste Rwandese food.

After lunch, you will continue your journey to Kigali.  There are a number of possible stops en route; your guide will inform you of what is available, particularly in terms of handicraft workshops and local markets.  When you reach Kigali, you will be taken to your hotel; if you would like to investigate some of the attractions in the city, your guide is available to take you around; alternately, you may wish to rest or go for a swim.

Dinner at your hotel in Kigali.

DAY 11: KIGALI TOUR

After breakfast, depending on the time of your flight, you will continue your tour of Kigali.  There are many attractions available to visit, including local markets and handicraft workshops; for those people that like entertainment, Kigali is a good place for local music and cultural exhibits.  

When the time is appropriate, your guide will escort you to the airport for your return or onward flight.

ACCOMMODATION

KIGALI

KIGALI SERENA HOTEL

The Kigali Serena Hotel is centrally located in the city; the hotel has become Kigali’s natural business hub.   This is a luxury property with all modern conveniences.  There is inside and outside dining options, swimming pool and a lounge and bar that opens onto a wide sundeck with awesome views of Kigali’s many green hills.

Features:

  • Business Center
  • Air Conditioning
  • Babysitting
  • Laundry service
  • Elevator
  • Fitness center
  • Free Parking
  • Wifi
  • Satelite TV
  • Spa servicesserena hotel kigali

VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK

VIRUNGA LODGE

‘The Virunga Lodge sits on a ridge with stunning views of the Virunga Volcanoes and twin lakes Bulera and Ruhonda.  The accommodation is a number of Bandas, each with a terrace, with breathtaking views as well.  The property is powered by Solar; there are stone fireplaces, open living rooms and private terraces in all the Bandas.

Features:

  • Wifi,
  • Gift Shop
  • Complimentary Massage
  • Laundry service



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GORILLA NEST LODGE

The Gorilla Nest Lodge offers you accommodation in a magical spot, where you feel you are sharing the Mountain Gorilla’s family space.  There are breathtaking views from the lodge’s many terraces; the lodge is situated on the foothills of the Virunga Volcano Range.  The surrounding Eucalyptus forest offers extraordianry solitude.

Facilities

  • Close to Dian Fossey’s Karisoke Camp
  • Restaurant with authentic African cuisineVolcanoes-Safaris-51-1200x500

 

LAKE KIVU 

 

LAKE KIVU SERENA HOTEL

The Lake Kivu Serena Hotel is on the white sandy shores of the lake itself, the 6th largest lake in Africa.  The property has been landscaped with tropical gardens; complete with a panoramic restaurant, indoor and outdoor beachside bars, and a conference center. The hotel offers boating, swimming, volleyball, tennis, fishing, hiking and trekking.  The hotel is just outside the town of Gisenyi, 160 kilometers from Kigali, and minutes from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the city of Goma.

Facilities:

  • Swimming Pool
  • Lake View bar and terrace
  • Wifi,
  • Satelite TV
  • Health Center,
  • Business Center
  • Gift shop

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NYUNGWE FOREST NATIONAL PARK

NYUNGWE FOREST LODGE

The Nyungwe Forest Lodge fits harmoniously within its beautiful surroundings, the Nyungwe Forest.  This 5 star accommodation offers all the modern conveniences available in a most tasetful manner, incorporating the local culture throughout.  The lodge is situated in Gisakura, which is a working tea plantation on the edge of the Forest.  There are 22 rooms, situated in 6 wooden villas; each with a private deck offering views of the vast forest terrain.  The rooms are equipped with fireplaces, air conditioning, mini bars and tea and coffee makers, as well as a hair dryer

Facilities:
  • Swimming Pool
  • Restaurant & Bar
  • Jacuzzi Pool
  • Fitness Center
  • Buisiness Center
  • Tea Loungs
  • Laundry service
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair friendly

Nyungwe-Forest-Lodge-Lounge-Area