Neeta, one of our management team, recently had the opportunity to visit Rwanda.
Rwanda is a small East African country that draws visitors from all over the world, primarily to see its critically endangered mountain gorillas.
The capital city, Kigali, is approximately one and a half hours flight from Nairobi on Kenya Airways or Rwandair. Alternatively, buses offer overland routes between Rwanda and its neighbouring countries.
Attractions in Rwanda: Lake Kivu, Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park, Virunga volcanos National Park. One can do biking, hiking, climbing, rainforest, volcano trekking, and much more.
Our itinerary – 4 nights/5 days
1st day, we went straight to Gisenyi town bordering Democratic Republic of Congo. From Kigali airport it took approximately 3 hrs.
Stayed at Lake Kivu Serena hotel, it is a great hotel and the staff generally friendly & helpful. Relaxed at hotel.
On the 2nd day, went to track Rwanda’s famous gorillas. Tracking can be done all year round, but the optimum time to do so is during the dry season (June to September), when the going is easier and the weather is more pleasant.
Set off early morning at 5.30am to reach the Volcanoes National Park gate by 7.00am from Gisenyi town. It takes approximately one and half hours to reach the gate. Need a 4WD vehicle to enter the park.
Most visitors spend the night before the tracking at one of the lodges inside or near to Volcanoes National Park. But some of the lodges (especially inside the park) can be quite pricey.
Hotels in Volcanoes National Park are Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique hotel, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Hotel Muhabara, Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel, Virunga Lodge, Le Bambou Gorilla Village, Garr Hotel, Villa Gorilla, La Palme Hotel & Kinigi Guest House.
One can also go to see the Gorillas from Kigali which takes approx. the same time. (2hrs)
At the gate morning tea is served with a performance by traditional dancers whilst the rangers and guides form groups of eight to go on various treks to see the Gorilla families.
Each day, groups are guided to spend an hour with one of the 10 habituated families used for ecotourism in Volcanoes National Park (habituated means they are used to short visits by humans). The other eight families are studied for research purposes. The age limit for gorilla trekking is over 15 years & you have to be fit enough to walk for 3 hours.
To find the gorillas, a team of trackers are out at 6 am looking for the families, then radio their whereabouts to the guides. We tracked the Mawoza Group, which has 10 members led by one male Silverback with five wives and four children, for one and half hours. Our guide instructed us to keep a seven-meter buffer zone from the gorillas, but there is nothing stopping them from coming close to us! We spent an hour with the family.
The trek from gate to gorillas depend how gorilla families move around. One can get to them after trekking for half hour to 3 hours.
The price of a Rwanda gorilla permit is USD 1500 per person & 30% discount (USD 1050) is applicable if visiting Rwanda national parks (Akagera & Nyungwe) for 3 days & more during the low season of November to May
After seeing the Gorillas, we visited a nearby village for a first-hand look at rural life in the region.
On the 3rd day we went by road to Kigali. It took us 3 hours. Stayed at Kigali Serena a nice hotel with good ambience. Relaxed at the hotel.
On our last day went to visit Kigali’s colourful markets, art galleries and the unforgettable Genocide Memorial to learn about a tragic period in Rwanda’s past. Took a walk through Nyamirambo Township and enjoy a local lunch at the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre, which provides local women with education and vocational training.
A great destination for couples and families with children over 15 years.