How to plan a winter Holiday safari to Rwanda
How to plan a winter holiday safari to Rwanda. Rwanda is one of the best and most affordable countries where tourists come to get away from the cold weather in their countries. December to February are some of the best months to organize your safari to Rwanda because it is a dry season, and many activities can be carried out during this time, including gorilla trekking, game drives, cultural visits, chimpanzee trekking, boat cruises, and bird watching among others.
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The first step in organizing a winter holiday safari is to keep all communication lines open with your tour operator about what is needed and any changes that might come up in the itinerary when planning the safari. You will also need to determine if any restrictions or changes have been made and what to expect from your destination. All this can be gotten from your tour planner so that you have a well-organized safari.
There are a few steps that you can use to plan for your safari easily. These include deciding exactly when to go (the travel dates and length of your safari), choosing your safari destination, deciding on the tour operator to use (you have to read and carry out extensive research on the company to avoid scammers), the packing list and read more about the destination.
What you need to know before traveling to Rwanda for a winter Holiday safari
How to get around Rwanda on your safari
Safari vehicles: If you have booked through a tour operator, your transport has already been arranged, and 4×4 safari vehicles are used. These are well-maintained vehicles that are prepared and booked after confirmation of payment. Although it is sometimes expensive, it is the best way to go for a safari in Rwanda, offering you privacy.
Matatus: These are yellow minibusses or green that locals use to travel to different parts of the country. Rwanda has a good transportation system, leading to even the most remote areas in the country. Matatus in Rwanda are well-maintained and can be hired from Kigali if you are traveling in large groups. Every 30 minutes, several buses are plowing the different routes connecting Kigali to the rest of the country.
Taxis: These are very common and can be found at the different taxi stands in the provinces around Rwanda and Kigali. Taxis are the most expensive way of traveling around the country and can either be called or ask the hotel where you are staying to reach a recommended driver.
Rwanda’s currency is the Rwandan Franc (RWF), and tourists are advised to have local currency on their safari for easy transactions. Come with dollars or Euros in cash, and you can exchange them at the airport, banks, or forex bureaus. Cash advances can be offered at the Banque de Kigali, and some upscale facilities accept credit cards. There are ATMs all over the country, especially in Kigali. Banking services in Rwanda are unavailable on Sunday and the last Saturday of the month when the Umuganda is carried out (till 11:00 am).
Local currency helps when tipping, shopping, and other things while on the safari. Note that tipping is customary and a way to show appreciation for the services rendered. You need to tip your driver guides, potters, and servers at restaurants and hotels,
The language in Rwanda
Kinyarwanda is the primary language used in communication by the locals. French is also widespread and the official language used in offices. English has also been adopted in the country and is now taught in schools, and Swahili is also widely used across the country.
All tourists wishing to travel to Rwanda must purchase visas and possess a valid passport. However, Rwanda recently removed Visas for citizens of all African countries, and all you will need is a passport and National ID for East African citizens. Tourists can apply for the visa online, or you can still get it upon arrival. However, we advise clients to book the visa at least three months before your intended travel date. An East African tourist visa has also been introduced, and you can use this to access Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda.
The food in Rwanda
Rwanda might not be the food basket, but a variety of food is prepared in the country, including both local and international cuisines. The food in Rwanda is mainly starchy, including cassava, beans, and fresh fruits, including papayas, avocados, mangoes, watermelons, pineapples, and many more. Isombe is a local dish prepared from spinach, cassava leaves, eggplants, Mizuzu (plantain), and many other traditional dishes.
The culture and people of Rwanda
Getting to know the culture and how the people of Rwanda are before travel is one of the best ways to easily integrate into the community when you arrive for a safari. Rwandan citizens are welcoming and hospitable, but as you pack, ensure your clothes are not provocative because this is not allowed in the country. Polythene bags are also not permitted in the country to keep the cities clean.
Safari destinations in Rwanda
As you plan your winter holiday safari, there are different safari destinations you can visit, and below is a list of the safari destinations we recommend you check out while on your holiday. You do not necessarily need to visit all of them, but this is to help you plan early for the safari.
Volcanoes National Park is the top safari destination in Rwanda, with many tourists visiting to carry out gorilla trekking. Mountain gorillas can only be trekked in three countries: Rwanda, Uganda, and DRC. Rwanda has almost 400 gorillas and ten habituated gorillas. Gorilla trekking is the main activity carried out in Volcanoes National Park. Still, other activities include bird watching, guided nature walks, hiking up the Volcanoes mountains in the park, enjoying the Batwa trail, participating in the Kwita Izina ceremony where baby gorillas are given names, golden monkey trekking, and cultural visits, among others. You need to purchase a gorilla trekking permit (6 months before) to participate in gorilla trekking in Volcanoes. These need to be booked early because they are always in high demand.
Akagera National Park is the largest national park in Rwanda, and despite facing challenges after the genocide when the animals migrated, others were poached. Refugees encroached on it when they got back. It has since been rejuvenated by re-introducing some of the extinct animals, like lions and rhinos, and at the moment, Akagera is home to wildlife species, including lions, antelopes, elephants, bush duikers, hippos, crocodiles, black rhinos introduced in 2017, zebras, buffalos, Hyenas although rare and giraffes among others. It is also home to over 408 bird species. Activities you can engage in while on your safari include bird watching, game drives, and guided nature walks.
Lake Kivu is found along the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and is one of the safari destinations for your winter holiday safari in Rwanda. The small Lake in the Great Rift Valley is surrounded by villages where you can learn about the Kinyarwanda culture. Some activities you can engage in here include boat rides along Lake Kivu, cycling along the banks, bird watching, and guided cultural and nature walks.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is the best destination in Rwanda for the chimpanzee trekking and the chimpanzee habituation process. The national park is home to numerous primates, some of which include vervet monkeys, olive baboons, Mangabeys, black and white colobus monkeys, and red-tailed monkeys, among others. The park can be visited all year round for chimpanzee trekking, and if you want to learn more about the chimpanzees, this is your best option. There are other activities you can engage in while on a safari to Nyungwe: the canopy walk, bird watching, nature walks, and cycling, to mention a few.
The Genocide Memorial Centers found in different locations of the country are a reminder of what happened to the country during the 1994 genocide, and they are also a way of remembering those who lost their lives and learning about the history and culture of Rwanda. The different genocides to check out include the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center, Nyamata Memorial Site, Murambi genocide memorial Center, Ntarama Memorial Center, Murambi genocide memorial site, and the Gisozi Memorial Site.
The hot springs in Rwanda, Bugarama hot springs, and Nyamyumba hot springs located in Cyangugu district and Rubavu district, respectively, are some of the most visited in the country. Gisovu hot springs around Lake Kivu are also a must, with water boiling to 100 degrees Celsius, and one can easily boil an egg in it. Locals believe that water has a healing power to cure almost all diseases.
What to pack for your winter holiday safari
You need to know the right things to pack for your safari to have the best safari in Rwanda. A packing list has been generated to help you efficiently pack for your holiday. These include strong hike boots, neutral-colored clothes, long-sleeved shirts, and trousers (if you plan on trekking, avoid jeans), insect repellent, gadgets like binoculars and cameras (including camera equipment), refillable water bottle, waterproof backpack, sunscreen, snacks (note that all meals will be provided at your accommodation facility but you can still pack favorite snacks), garden gloves, sandals, sneakers, waterproof rain jacket, warm sweater, medical first aid kit, and personal toiletries.
Safari lodges in Rwanda
Rwanda is known to be a luxury safari destination, but there are accommodation facilities that fit your budget you can use spread across the different safari destinations. The accommodation has improved, ranging from luxury to mid-range and basic facilities. The accommodations in the country offer comfort to the tourists as they carry out their activities, and below is a list of the total you can choose from while on a safari to Rwanda.
Akagera national park: Rusizi Tented camp and Akagera Game Lodge
Volcanoes National Park: Go, Lux Lodge, Sabinyo Silver Back Lodge, Villa Gorilla, Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, Hotel Muhabura, Wilderness Bisate Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, One & Only Gorilla’sGorilla’s Nest, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge and Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel among others.
Gisenyi Town: Galaxy Kivu Hotel, Lake Kivu Serena Hotel Gisenyi, Hill View Hotel, Hakuna Matata, Paradis Malahide, Wind Land Hotel, The Palm Beach Resort Lake Kivu, Kivu Paradis Resort, and Umbwe Hotel, among others.
Nyungwe Forest National Park: Guest House Igishigishi, One&Only Nyungwe House, Ken Barham Guest House, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel, Chimpanzee Lodge, and Nyungwe Nziza Eco Lodge.
Kigali Hotels: Five to Five Hotel, Kigali Serena Hotel, Onomo Hotel, Hotel De Mille Collines, 3000 Hotel, Heaven Retreat Hotel Kigali, Flame Tree Village Hotel, Marriot Hotel, Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre Kigali, Iris Guest House, heaven Retreat Hotel Kigali, The Manor Hotel and Lebanon Hotel Kigali.
Kibuye: Rwiza Village, Comoran Lodge, Hotel Golf Eden, Moriah Hill Resort, and Bethany Hotel.
When should you book for the winter holiday safari in Rwanda?
December to February is a peak season in the country’s tourism sector, making it one of the busiest due to the dry season and Christmas holidays. We always tell our clients to book at least 4 to 6 months before the winter season starts to get the best safari deals and avoid last-minute bookings, which might come with an extra cost.
Once you have all the necessary information, it is time to start organizing your holiday safari to Rwanda. Start preparing your winter Holiday safari with a trusted licensed tour operator like us, and we will ensure that you have the best safari in the country with first-hand information about what to expect during your trip. Planning for a safari involves the best destinations, accommodation, booking permits where necessary, and ensuring that all the requirements meet what you need.
Contact us for more information.