Dubbed ‘the land of a thousand hills’, Rwanda is considered the Switzerland of Africa for its towering mountains. Home to unusual wildlife, magnificent birds and endangered species, a Rwanda safari offers an underrated experience.
The country has climbed out from under the shadows of its somber history and is now offering its spectacular beauty to visitors. Besides the unique landscape and interesting fauna and flora, you will find something uncommon here: peace.
The Rwandan national parks are absent of crowds and the claustrophobia you will feel in other parks across Africa. There’s no need to race other vehicles to get the best observation spot and sightings won’t be spoiled by the background noise of engines and camera clicks. This makes Rwanda the ideal place to take your next romantic getaway or family trip to Africa.
Gorilla treks, boat safaris, endemic bird species, and unprecedented natural scenery — these are just some of the reasons why a Rwanda safari should be next on your bucket list. Read on to discover this country’s exciting parks, safari options, and gorilla trekking adventures.
The Best Spots for Rwanda Safaris
Are you eager for some bird watching, looking to chase after colorful native species? Or do you want to adventure into the depths of the jungles looking for wild gorilla families? Rwanda has a few incredible national parks and protected areas to sate your every safari desire.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Uniquely located on the ridge which divides the Congo and Nile rivers, this national park is a wonderland of rich biodiversity. It encompasses and protects East Africa’s largest area of montane forest.
The flora is remarkable and varied with bright jungle species, including 200 types of orchids. The park is also an amazing destination for birders, boasting over 300 bird species. Among these you can find all but 2 of the 29 Albertine Rift endemics.
The park is home to many interesting and unique primate species, such as the Ruwenzori colobus and L’Hoest’s monkey. As a visitor, you can track a habituated group of chimpanzees.
Don’t forget to check out the only canopy walk in East Africa while you’re on this Rwandan safari.
Nyungwe park is also close to the magnificent Lake Kivu. This enormous body of water is one of the African Great Lakes. If you have time for a day trip out of the national park, a swim in the waters of Lake Kivu is a must-add to your Rwandan safari.
Akagera National Park
This national park is a phoenix risen from the ashes. It has undergone huge changes and rehabilitation procedures to assert itself as an important big 5 safari park.
The scenery in Akagera National Park is extraordinary. Low grassy hills meet savanna grasslands, ringed by complex waterways, swamps, and lakes. This pristine nature is virtually untouched and free of the marks left behind by hordes of tourists.
Akagera National Park offers the quintessential savanna safari, without the crowds. Small numbers of black rhino and lion have only recently been introduced, completing the big 5 population. While sightings of predators might be limited due to low numbers, you’ll have the luxury of being the sole observer when you visit Rwanda on this safari.
Enjoy the best that Rwanda’s wildlife has to offer by booking an inclusive 7-day safari trip.
Volcanoes National Park
This is a protected area of the Rwandan side of the Virunga mountains and one of the most beautiful national park areas in Africa. The 1988 movie Gorilla in the Mist was filmed here and it’s a great spot to book your gorilla trekking in Rwanda expedition.
As its name suggests, the park has a total of 9 volcanoes of which 3 are still active. The steep slopes of the volcanoes are covered in dense forest vegetation. And they make for a spectacular sight.
Bordering Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC, the Virunga mountains are home to more than half of the world’s mountain gorillas. Within the Volcanoes National Park, there are 12 habituated groups of endangered mountain gorilla. This park is the perfect place to go for gorilla trekking during a Rwanda safari and experience the beauty of these gentle giants.
It’s not only gorillas you’ll see in these volcano forests, but also golden monkeys, buffalos, and elephants.
Gishwati Mukura National Park
The youngest of Rwanda’s parks, this forested area has a success story similar to Akagera National Park. The Gishwati forest and Mukura forest were shrinking dramatically due to human activities, threatening the survival of a variety of tree, bird, and primate species native to the area.
In 2015, the Rwandan government declared that the forests would be combined to form a new national park. Today, the area is flourishing and visitors on safari tours can see chimpanzees, golden monkeys, blue monkeys, and hundreds of bird species.
The park also offers activities like guided hikes, bird watching, monkey tracking, and waterfall visits.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking
Rwanda safari options are beginning to broaden to include traditional big 5 safaris. However, the country has attracted tourists from all over the world in search of the majestic mountain gorilla.
There are many guided treks through the forest to find habituated groups. This amazing experience brings you to within a couple of yards from the huge primates and is a definite bucket-list experience.
There are a number of amazing Rwanda gorilla tours that will get you up close and personal with the magical forest beasts. These safari tours are exciting and unique but require preparation and planning. Here are our tips on preparing for a Rwanda gorilla trek adventure.
Top Tips for Rwanda Gorilla Tours
- Most importantly: you need a permit. Some tours organize a gorilla trekking permit for you. However, this is something you should double-check. The cost of a permit in Volcanoes National Park is around $1,500.
- Tropical forests have unpredictable weather conditions. Be prepared for extreme heat and humidity as well as rain and chill. Layered clothing is best.
- Proper shoes are important. Boots are the best as they protect your ankles from thick mud, insects and slippery terrain.
- Pack snacks, food and plenty of water. The treks can be very long. Many tours include lunch but you should pack extra in case.
- Make sure the flash on your camera is switched off as it is strictly prohibited to take photos of gorillas with a flash.
- Volcanoes National Park has a high altitude and the hike can be tough. Know your fitness capabilities and train beforehand if necessary.
- Try to plan your trip during the dry season (December – February) as it can be miserable hiking for hours in the pouring rain.
- The Rwanda gorilla safaris will bring you to within meters of these incredible big game animals. They are not aggressive, however, you should respect their space and observe, not intrude.
Enjoy Original Adventures with a Safari in Rwanda
A Rwanda safari is unlike the usual big 5 and elephant safaris that are typically found in Africa. It is the opportunity to explore majestic natural scenery which is home to some of the world’s most interesting animals.
From volcanoes and grasslands to swampy marshlands, Rwanda is a mystical delight of landscape and wildlife. Whether you opt to head to Volcanoes National Park or any of the other spectacular spots featured above, you won’t be disappointed.
It won’t be long until Rwanda’s hidden beauty and safari opportunities are discovered. For now, it is still a wonderful under-the-radar safari destination offering unprecedented experiences without the crowds. And if you’re looking for more adventures in Africa, you can check out these all-inclusive safari vacations.