Kigali – Volcanoes National Park
When people talk of “bucket list experiences”, we’re almost positive that trekking in the Virunga Mountains in Volcanoes National Park in search of rare mountain gorillas was one of the things they had in mind. Rwanda is the land of a thousand hills and home to this true African bucket list experience, one of the most unique wildlife adventures the continent has to offer. A humbling and even emotional encounter, it’s bound to be one not soon forgotten.
Encounter with the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park
Upon arrival at Kigali Airport in Rwanda, you will be met by a local representative who will assist with your transfer to your Kigali hotel for an overnight stay. The fascinating city is yours to explore at your leisure for the remainder of the day.
Kigali is a great place to begin or end any Rwanda journey owing mainly to its convenient location in the geographic centre of the country. The city is not only clean and safe, but boasts extremely friendly people who are warm and welcoming. There are a plethora of excellent and interesting cultural activities and sights, including award-winning museums, a burgeoning music scene and some of East Africa's most memorable dining experiences. This is Kigali and it’s waiting to be discovered.
Following breakfast on Day 2 you will be collected from your hotel by your driver/guide for a morning city tour which will include a visit to the Genocide Museum. Later, you’ll depart on a scenic drive headed north-west through the beautiful terraced hillsides that display Rwanda's gorgeous landscape (the drive is approximately 2.5 hours). Arrive at Ruhengeri (Musanze), the base for gorilla trekking at the Parc National des Volcans (Volcanoes National Park). The town itself, located just 25km from the Uganda border, is a small and friendly city that offers great views of the surrounding volcanoes. The most famous destination in Rwanda, the park has become synonymous with mountain gorilla tracking safaris - no visit to the country would be complete without viewing these incredible primates.
You’ll depart early on Day 3 (06h30am) and drive to Volcanoes National Park Headquarters for registration. Here, the park staff then determines which group of gorillas you will visit – there are roughly 740 still remaining in their natural habitat. They will also discuss your fitness level with you, as well as advising you on trekking times and conditions. There are a total of 80 gorilla permits available each day with a maximum of eight trekkers per group (so as to minimise any disturbance of the gentle creatures). It’s important to book well in advance to secure a permit.
Once you’ve been assigned to a group, the lead guide will brief you on the trekking procedures as well as the ''do's and don'ts'' while in the presence of the gorillas. Be sure to listen carefully as this is all very important information. You’ll then return to your respective vehicles for the drive up the mountain to the start point. Porters may be hired (at an additional cost) for during the trek to help carry your backpack and any gear - we advise that you utilise this service.
Trekking can take anywhere from two to six (or more) hours if the gorillas move before the park rangers have managed to locate them. The guides stop frequently to allow trekkers a chance to rest and take photos along the way. At the end of your trek, you will be transferred back to the lodge for lunch after which the afternoon can be spent at your leisure. You may choose to visit the twin lakes of Bulera and Runhondo, or visit the local markets.
Please note that only children of 15 years of age and older are allowed into the park for the trek.
Leaving from the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes, you’ll drive south past coffee, tea and banana plantations on a breathtaking scenic drive to Kigali (drive is approximately 2 hours). The endless green hills will make it abundantly clear why Rwanda truly is called the land of a thousand hills.
THE BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR THIS TRIP
Excellent – January, February, March, July, August, September, October
Fair – June, November
Poor – April, May