On this exciting discovery of Rwanda you’ll trek through beautiful national parks that are home to both mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. You’ll see the country from Lake Kivu, a mountain ringed inland sea, the Mukungwa River and wonder at the Virunga Volcanoes from the mountain bike trails of Musanze. Read our exciting Rwanda Blog to find out more about this extraordinary trip.
Discovering Rwanda Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Kigali (B,L,D)
You will be met at the airport by your guide and transferred to your hotel in Kigali. Depending on your arrival time you may want to relax or opt to start your adventure with a tour of Kigali. Take a guided walking city tour of Kigali to familiarize yourself with the area. The tour includes a visit to a busy local market and the sampling of some local produce. You will also have the opportunity to relax in a local milk bar, the Rwandan equivalent to a coffee shop!
An afternoon visit to the Genocide Memorial Museum is also possible. While this is a tough experience it provides an opportunity to both understand the history of this tragic event and also to pay your respects at the memorial. Furthermore it outlines the current efforts being made to create a brighter future for all Rwandans.
Overnight Heaven Boutique Hotel or similar.
Day 2: Kigali to Muhanga (B,L,D)
Today you will have a genuine experience of local life that also provides valuable assistance to local people. After breakfast depart by road for the village of Muhanga, the drive takes approximately 1½ hours from Kigali. When you arrive in Muhanga you will be introduced to your family or community group. This is an opportunity to learn about the daily lives of the local Rwandans. You will spend the morning assisting them with some of their daily tasks, such as working in the fields, and then have a traditional lunch with the group while learning more about their culture. After lunch you will spend time with your group working together on traditional local crafts, such as making baskets.
Share an evening meal with your hosts before retiring for the night. Accommodation will be provided in a local lodge, but if you prefer you can choose to experience a home stay. (Please note that the home stay experience generally provides accommodation in one large room and although the accommodation and facilities will be basic efforts will be made by your host family to make your stay comfortable).
Overnight in Muhanga Splendid (or community home stay option).
Day 3: Muhanga to Nyungwe
After an early breakfast set off for a morning drive of approximately 3 hours towards Nyungwe. Your next stop is the Kitabi Eco Centre (KEC). The Centre is located on Mount Kitabi, and 2 km from the eastern entrance to Nyungwe National Forest. From the Kitabi Eco Centre you will get the chance to see spectacular panoramic views of the nearby green tea plantations that frequent this region and also the dark green trees of Nyungwe Forest. You will be served a traditional lunch before heading out for an afternoon guided trail walk of the area. After your trail walk you can relax and enjoy a traditional evening meal before retiring for the night.
Overnight in the Kitabi Eco Centre.
Day 4: Nyungwe National Park (B,L,D)
Today you will visit Nyungwe National Park. A beautifully preserved forest that covers an area of over 1000sq km Nyungwe National Park is home to over 300 bird species, many butterflies, orchids, and 75 mammal species including 13 primates.
With your personal input your guide will arrange a hike that is the right option for you; there are several options for different abilities so everyone can experience the trekking in the park. You can choose to walk the Canopy Trail, approximately a 2 hour trail through the forest that includes the “canopy walk”. This refers to a foot bridge located 50m high, and around 90m long, high above the forest. Not for the faint hearted but worth it for the views! In the afternoon check in at your hotel.
Overnight Top View Hotel or similar.
Day 5: Nyungwe to Karongi (B,L,D)
An early start (around 5am) for your chimpanzee tracking experience! Drive to Cyamudongo Forest, a reserve located approximately an 1½ hours from Nyungwe which has an habituated population of chimpanzees. After meeting up with your tracker you will head out to into the forest in search of the chimpanzees and then spend an hour observing them in the forest. As our closest living relative, chimpanzees share 98.7% DNA, it’s an exhilarating experience to observe them in the wild. Chimpanzees communicate with pant hoots, screams, and by hitting the tree buttress so you may hear them before you actually see them!
The length of the walk and the time taken to find the group will vary, so prepare for a long walk through the forest. The chimpanzees can be seen as they move through the tree canopy, or as they travel along the forest floor. After your time with the chimpanzees you will drive on towards Lake Kivu for a late lunch. Your arrival time depends on the length of the mornings activities but you may have an opportunity to enjoy a sunset kayak on the lake and perhaps see the fishermen in their boats as they head out for the night.
Overnight Rwiza Village Lodge
Day 6: Karongi to Lake Kivu (B,L,D)
Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s largest lake and the sixth largest in Africa. After breakfast you will have a safety briefing on kayaking guidelines and procedures before heading out in your kayak. Lake Kivu naturally has no hippos, or crocodiles, making it a safe area for kayaking. It is also beautiful being surrounded by hills with very little obvious development. After a couple of hours of kayaking you will arrive at a small uninhabited island where fruit bats nest, sometimes they can be seen circling above the island. Take a leisurely lunch before you continue kayaking on to another uninhabited island where you will camp for the night. The crew of your support boat will have set up your tents and they will prepare your meal whilst you relax on the lakeshore.
Overnight at camp.
Day 7: Lake Kivu to Gisenyi (B,L,D)
After breakfast at your camp site there is another opportunity for kayaking on the lake towards Rushel Kivu Lodge (approximately a distance of 2 hours). At the lodge you will transfer your bags from your support boat to your vehicle and then continue on to Cyimbili by motor boat for lunch. This afternoon you can choose to either walk a section of the Congo Nile Trail OR take a tour of the coffee fields and production plant (option to be decided in advance).
Coffee production is an important source of income for the local economy. Continue your journey by motor boat towards Gisenyi and arrive in time to see the town fisherman heading out for the evening, and as they do so hear them sing. The fishermen spend the night on the water, their 3 vessels linked together with poles and nets to catch the fish, and hearing them singing as they paddled out for the night is a surprisingly moving experience. Gisenyi (renamed Rubavu in 2006) is a popular resort town with both Rwandans and visitors. (NB: The fishermen’s schedule is subject to change due to their schedule and the weather).
Overnight Paradise Malahide Hotel or similar.
Day 8: Gisenyi to Musanze (B,L,D)
After breakfast you will travel to Musanze by road, approximately a 2 hour drive. Musanze is the third largest town in Rwanda, and as the closest town to the Volcanoes National Park it’s a convenient base from which to track the mountain gorillas. Set at a fairly high altitude (1850m) you will see the horizontal line along the volcanoes distinguishing where the farm land ends and the forest begins.
Meet with you mountain bike trail guide and familiarise yourself with your bike before heading out on a ride that will last approximately 1½ – 2 hours. Your guided route will take you through settlements and past fields. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with the landscape and say hello to the locals! Eco-bikes are available for the tour if preferred (please request in advance). After a local lunch you will have the afternoon at leisure. You can spend time relaxing at your hotel, exploring the town, or visiting the Karisoke exhibit to learn about Dian Fossey’s work in the area. Enjoy an evening meal at your hotel.
Overnight La Locanda.
Day 9: Musanze
Morning at leisure, after the tour your guide will arrange a local traditional buffet lunch. In the afternoon you will transfer to the Mukungwa River, approximately an hours drive away from town, for your canoe trip. On arrival there will be a safety briefing by your specialist guide who will then assist you into your canoes and head out with you down river.
The Mukungwa River banks are abundant with birds, over 40 species have been recorded, and it’s a great way to observe the countryside at a relaxing pace and see Rwanda from a different perspective.
Overnight La Locanda.
Day 10: Volcanoes National Park to Kigali
An early start today as you will track mountain gorillas! Take an early morning short drive to Kinigi, where the Volcanoes National Park headquarters are located, you need to be there by 7am or you risk invalidating your precious permits! You will then be introduced to your park guide who will take time to explain where exactly you will be trekking, which gorilla group you have been assigned to track and the guidelines you needed to follow when in the mountain gorilla’s presence.
Around 8am you will start trekking through the fields and farm land surrounding the park until you reach the border of the Volcanoes National Park.
Trekking is at elevations of 2500-3000m, so at times breathing can become a conscious effort as you move through the thick vegetation towards the gorillas. The distance you walk is entirely dependent on the mountain gorilla group movements. Excitement mounts as you approach the group and finally get to enjoy your time in their presence. Your guide will reassure and calmed the gorillas with deep grunts, and you will be encouraged to do the same. After an hour with the Mountain gorillas you will trek back to Kinigi. After your trek you will enjoy a well earned lunch before making the return journey to Kigali. The transfer time to Kigali is approximately a 3 hours.
Overnight Heaven Boutique
Day 11: Kigali
End of your incredible trip. Today your guide will transfer you to Kigali airport in time for your flight home.