7 Safari Experiences in Rwanda
Rwanda’s prime safari experience is tracking primates roaming the volcanic slopes on the northwestern augmented by stunning country landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and a happy people.
Some of the best holiday attractions on the African continent are in Rwanda. In this post, we will be probing the 7 best safari experiences in Rwanda.
1. Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park undoubtedly beats all safari experiences in Rwanda. The park is located on the far northwestern Rwandan border on the steep slopes of the Virunga Mountains. It protects the country’s most precious tourism jewels, the endangered mountain gorillas, and a rich mosaic of vegetation made of montane ecosystems, bamboo forests, open grasslands, and swamps. Volcanoes National Park is a nature lovers’ dream.
Tracking endangered mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park’s misty forest, teeming with thousands of colored butterflies, endemic birds, and golden monkeys, is one of Rwanda’s truly exceptional safari experiences.
For a gorilla experience in Volcanoes, you will have to stay a night near the park entrance and join the early morning gorilla trekking teams at the park headquarters in Kiningi. Small groups headed by local guides leave the park center, and 7:30 am and spend almost half the day in the forest. Visitors can spend only one hour with a habituated gorilla group, maintaining a 10-meter distance from the gorillas and wearing a facemask.
Permits to join the trekking guides in Volcanoes are pricey ($1500 per person) and in high demand, which means you have to book one 3-6 months (or even a year) in advance. You can use a tour operator like Encounter Africa Safaris to avoid hustle with the local logistics.
The best time to plan for a gorilla trekking safari experience in Rwanda is during the drier seasons of June to September. In the dry seasons, you shouldn’t have regular rains, which could disrupt your forest experience. It is when you have the best chance of enjoying moments with the mountain gorillas.
2. Golden Monkey Trekking in Volcanoes
Spare an extra night in Volcanoes National Park and join the early morning golden monkey trekking groups. It’s another exciting experience similar to gorilla trekking, with tiny endangered primates endemic to the Virunga region.
Golden monkey trekking is an excellent addition to the gorilla experience in the same place. Most travelers include it as one of the top safari experiences in Rwanda. The activity offers tourists another immersive experience with the wild on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi and the bamboo forest on Mount Sabyinyo.
Treks start at 07:00 at the visitor center in Kiningi and last half the day in the rainforest. Hiking through mountainous this forest will require a bit of physical strength, so don’t consider the golden monkey experience a light one.
Golden Monkey tickets cost $100 per person and include a local guide, ranger security, and an hour close to the primates. You can arrange your permit in advance with the RDB or book at the park entrance on the morning of the trek.
3. Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony
Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony is a week-long annual festival inspired by the Rwandan tradition of holding a naming ceremony for newborn babies. Kwita Izina – or “give a name” in the Kinyarwanda language – is one of the unmissable safari experiences in Rwanda. It is an incredible event, like no other, yet immersed in cultural meaning and ancient custom.
Held in September and acclaimed internationally, the event raises awareness and funds for Rwanda’s energetic sustainable program for mountain gorillas and the expansion of their habitat. The festival conservation conference workshops and includes the highlight – a naming ceremony for the gorillas born in Volcanoes National Park over the past year or so.
Here, big-name guests take to a bamboo stage and assign each gorilla with a tribal name that represents the baby’s unique social character traits. It is a Rwandan tradition that has been practiced for hundreds of years. They believe it encourages good fortune and plays a prominent role in shaping infants’ futures.
The event is a melee of festivities, including traditional music, dancing, and performances from artists, attracting thousands of conservationists, rangers and communities, international celebrities, and dignitaries. It happens near Kinigi town, at the foothills of the Virunga Mountains, and the country’s president is usually the chief guest.
The Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Festival is one of the best safari experiences in Rwanda during September. Check dates and plan your journey to include attending the festival.
4. Chimpanzee Trekking Nyungwe
Humans have had a deep fascination for watching primates since we discovered that they are much like us socially and genetically. Spending an adventurous time in Nyungwe viewing chimpanzees is one of the best safari experiences in Rwanda. So, expect to hike through the untamed wild in one of Africa’s oldest rainforests when you join the daily early morning chimpanzee trekking adventures.
Nyungwe Forest National Park has two habituated chimpanzee groups that tourists can visit from the park’s headquarters. Small groups of trekkers set out at 5:00 am and spend almost half the day in the forests with an expert guide and armed guides.
Chimp permits in Nyungwe go for $90 per person and include spending at least an hour with the chimpanzees at a close distance. The trek can be challenging on uneven, wet ground, so prepare your physical fitness before joining the safari experience.
Other than tracking chimpanzees, Nyungwe Forest offers different attractive safari experiences. The most famous of them is the Igishigishigi Trail. The 2.1-km forest trail leads you to majestic views over the Canopy Walkway. From here, you can view the forest canopy and feel yourself become one with the mighty rainforest with monkeys jumping between trees to inflame your reality.
5. Game Drives in Akagera National Park
It was not until recently that Rwanda could host wildlife game drives. The country’s robust wildlife conservation programs have brought back the big animals that once roamed Akagera National Park, making game drives in the park one of the best safari experiences in Rwanda.
Game driving in Akagera promises the Big Five viewing experience. It will bring you close enough almost to touch the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo roaming the park’s wetlands, woodlands, and savannah plains dotted with a dozen lakes.
Akagera is also a striking landscape popular with bird watchers and promising over 450 bird species spotting. You may also catch sight of the giraffe, zebra, and topi roaming the Kilala plain.
Akagera is a comfortable addition to the gorilla trekking experience in Volcanoes National Park or the chimpanzee trekking experience in Nyungwe. With an extra night in Kigali and driving up northeast to spend another night, you will have explored Rwanda’s safari experiences on a single trip.
6. Hiking in the Virungas
Rwanda’s northeastern region packs a distinctive variety of natural splendor. From mist-enveloped volcanoes to dense rainforests with some of the world’s renowned endangered species, including mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, and chimpanzees. Hiking in the Virunga is one of the most incredible safari experiences in Rwanda.
There are several hiking trails in the Virungas for different hikers, including the Bisoke Mountain, Mount Karisimbi, Karisimbi, Muhavura, and the hike to the first Karisoke Research Center.
The shortest hiking trail is the volcanic depression on Mount Bisoke, where Lake Ngezi, a scenic little lake, offers incredible landscape views. It’s a three-hour scenic walk with a relatively easy hike. Those who can make it to the 3,700-meter peak get the views from the crater lake at the top, and it’s a 6-10 hours round trip.
Mount Karisimbi, the highest peak in Rwanda, stands at 4,507 m and is Rwanda’s most challenging hiking experience. The hake takes about two days, with a night in the camp en route. Karimbi is also perfect for bird-watching, and fortunate hikers may meet the endangered mountain gorillas on the way.
Another scenic hike is on Mount Muhubura, which takes the whole day hiking the 4,127-meters peak. It is one of the most scenic safari experiences in Rwanda.
The pioneer gorilla conservationist, Diane Fossey, built Karisoke Research Centre in the saddle area between Mount Bisoke and Mount Karisimbi in 1967. The site is an attraction to tourists wanting to pay homage to the fallen conservationist, her work and visit her grave. Include the Karisoke hiking trail on gorilla trekking experience in Volcanoes. The hike takes about two hours plus an hour at the center.
7. Kigali Cultural Experience
Rwanda is one of the top countries in Africa that celebrates its cultural heritage. The Rwandan capital, Kigali, is where local cultures fusion with contemporary international cultures to immerse visitors with the best safari experiences in Rwanda.
Take, for example, the two fashion festivals that occur every year. For fashion travelers on the cutting edge of contemporary style, the city offers a rare opportunity to see the western and Rwandan styles fissioned by the country’s finest designers.
Come to Kigali in July and experience style during the Kigali Fashion Week, which hosts dozens of international, local, and young designers. The Rwanda Cultural Fashion Week showcases even more local and international talent every September.
Other crowd-pulling festival experiences in Kigali include the Kigali Up festival, which brings together cultural music worldwide. The Rwanda Film Festival showcases Africa and Rwanda’s movie industry. There is the Kigali Cultural Village for foodies, a traditional market space for local craftspeople and street food vendors.
The Museums and Art Galleries give visitors a historical experience with artifacts showcasing the country’s civilization history. They are an excellent experience for archeologists and historians. Museums and art galleries of interest include the King’s Palace, the Ethnographic Museum, Rwanda Art Museum, Kigali Genocide Memorial, Kandt House Museum, and Museum of the Environment — an educational center for conservation.
Booking Your Rwanda Safari Experiences
Rwanda is a small country with almost all safari activities concentrated in a small area. However, navigating the local logistics can be challenging for many tourists. That is when Encounter Africa Safaris Ltd comes to your rescue.
We organize Rwanda safari trips, giving you the latest and most accurate information to make your once-in-a-lifetime journey in Rwanda. We will book your accommodation, transport and the permits for your trip. Send us an email at email@example.com for a free quote and discussion about your safari experiences in Rwanda.