An insider’s overview from the experts at Steppes Travel
wanda is still, without a doubt, the best place in the world to go mountain gorilla trekking. Walking in the Virunga Mountains in the shadow of giant, prehistoric plants as the mists clear to reveal a family of gorillas is incomparable.
Gorillas aside, Akagera Park and Nyungwe Forest offer excellent safari experiences and the people are some of the warmest and welcoming you could hope to meet.
There is a riot of colour around every corner, stylish lodges with views to die for, and the country is very progressive: plastic bags are banned, public transport runs on biofuel and there’s even a national day of cleaning every month. It’s no reason its people are rightly proud.
- Half of the wild mountain gorillas are found in the Volcanoes National Park, with ten habituated families.
- Most treks last half a day, but can take longer.
- Trekking takes place year-round, although it is generally easier outside the rainy seasons, April, May and November.
Volcanoes National Park
- Besides the mountain gorillas, the park offers a wide variety of primates, birdlife and even rare forest elephants.
- Dramatic scenery, with peaks reaching nearly 4,500 metres and views over volcanic lakes.
- Pay your respects at Karisoke, the final resting place of Dian Fossey.
- Spend an extra day or so at one of the lodges, exploring the rural villages, witnessing traditional Intore dancing, and visiting the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
- Set up by the famous conservationist Dian Fossey, the Fund ensures the continued survival of mountain gorillas in Rwanda and supports projects outside Rwanda, conducting scientific research and training the next generation of conservationists.
- Visit the Fund at its Karisoke Research Centre and learn about the history of Dian Fossey, see current research and learn about protection practices.
- Under the management of African Parks, lions and other wildlife have been reintroduced, making this a genuine ‘big game’ park.
- Akagera offers sharp relief to the dramatic, cultivated hills elsewhere in the country, with open savannah and rolling hills, lakes and marshes.
- Excellent birding, as with the rest of the country.
- There are very few tourists here, and some new lodge accommodation, so it’s a perfect place to extend your stay for a wildlife experience.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
- The largest single track of montane forest in all East and Central Africa and a truly beautiful place to visit.
- Exceptional birding, with over 300 species and 26 endemics.
- Walk through forests of colour, home to orchids, 120 species of butterflies, and chameleons.
- 13 different species of primates here, including blue monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, Rwenzori colobus and even chimpanzees.
- Get a bird’s-eye view of the forest canopy from the 70m-high walkway.
- Small, charming and surprisingly buoyant, Kigali is a colourful city, clean and welcoming, making it a great place to start and end a journey.
- Explore the lively Nyamirambo district with its many bars and cafes.
- Visit the moving Genocide Memorial, experience views across the city at the State House and Natural History Museum, and visit the local handicraft cooperative at Capalki for some colourful souvenirs.
- Relax on the shores of this enormous freshwater lake; an ideal place to unwind after a few days’ trekking.
- Visit the lively markets at Gisenyi and pick up a bargain.
- Visit the Imbabazi Foundation for a unique cultural experience.
- Look out for the lava flow from the distant Nyiragongo volcano at night.
Beyond the ordinary
- Cycle through the idyllic Rwandan countryside, the backdrop to the iconic Tour du Rwanda.
- Take a helicopter safari to take in the dramatic scenery from a different perspective.