At a Glance
Dates: June 4th - June 17th, 2023
Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £7,995 pp sharing (with a £850 single supplement), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: So rarely can the magic of the bush be combined with the majesty of mountain gorillas; in Rwanda this dream becomes reality.
Rwanda is often unfairly overlooked by prospective visitors to Africa. The legacy of the 1994 genocide still clouds the perception of many when it comes to this remarkable nation. In the three decades since those unspeakable atrocities, this small landlocked nation has undergone a remarkable transformation. Economically and politically, stability has come to Rwanda. In an unprecedented move, the education system has been reformed to coincide with the adoption of English (rather than French) as the lingua franca of the country. Kigali, the capital, is now stylish and meticulously well governed, attracting businesses and tourists alike.
Ecotourism has now, in turn, arrived in Rwanda. There are three main attractions in the country for wildlife enthusiasts, all of which we will visit on this tour. Akagera National Park, in the east, is the most recent addition to Rwanda's wealth of natural wonders. The park itself has been established for many decades, at one time gaining renown for its astonishing wildlife, including hundreds of African Wild Dogs - the park was even known as the 'Parc aux Lycaons' for this very reason. However, the park fell into ruin as unrest gripped Rwanda. In recent times, under the admirable stewardship of African Parks, the park has seen a number of re-introductions and wildlife populations have boomed. Lion, Leopard and Black Rhino are now all present in the park, and seen regularly. The reserve can now claim to be a 'Big Five' park, although it has much more to offer than that - the birdlife on Lake Ihema alone is worth a visit. The park itself is beautiful, with its open grasslands and rolling hills sometimes more reminiscent of an English meadow than a game reserve.
Volcanoes NP is the gorilla-tracking hub of Rwanda. Situated near the borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this area couldn't feel further away from Akagera. Dense forest coats the mountains along these borders, sheltering the vulnerable populations of Eastern Gorilla, as well as a number of of other primate species. Ungulates are also well represented in this tough terrain, including Black-Fronted Duiker. Predators are less common here, although the highly-prized African Golden Cat is possible.
Nyungwe is home to the few habituated families of Chimpanzee in Rwanda, offering an incredible opportunity to spend time with these social primates. Two main family groups are habituated to tracking groups - one family of c.60 apes is seldom seen due to rugged terrain, whereas a smaller group of c.30 is more obliging.
Rwanda has much to offer, and this itinerary is a great way to scratch the surface of this incomparable country - we can't wait for you to join us!
On arrival into Kigali you will be met by your Pictus Safaris representative and transferred to your hotel. Should you arrive early enough, we will happily arrange a city tour of this fascinating capital. Dinner and a briefing will follow in the hotel.
Our morning begins with a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, a truly moving and humbling memorial to the victims of the devastating 1994 genocide. There will also be time to visit the nearby museum that chronicles the many efforts to halt the genocide, doomed to failure as they were.
After lunch in Kigali, our afternoon is spent a short drive away in the 'reconciliation village' of Busegera. Here, victims and perpetrators of the genocide live side by side. Whilst this can seem unfathomable to many, our chance this afternoon to engage with the villagers often leaves a huge impression on our clients, and the village is well worth a visit. We return to Kigali for dinner this evening.
This morning it is just a two-hour drive to the beautiful Akagera National Park. Arriving by mid-morning, we will be able to head out onto Akagera's centrepiece, Lake Ihema, in the early afternoon. This lake is the lifeblood of the park, attracting herds of Bush Elephant and playing host to many pods of Hippo. The birdlife around the lake is also remarkable and, with a bit of patience, we may flush out a number of interesting species.
Following our boat safari, we will head out for an afternoon game drive, focussed on the dense vegetation in the south of the park. This area is home to the small introduced population of Black Rhino in the park, as well as sometimes acting as a resting area for the active and photogenic Lions in the park. Bush Elephant and Savanna Buffalo are also likely today, often posing for great photographic opportunities with the lake or open savanna in the background.
Once we have returned to Ruzizi Tented Camp, there is the option to go out on a night drive with park authorities. This is highly recommended, as Leopard and several unusual species of Mongoose are frequently seen in Akagera in the hours of darkness.
Our accommodation at Ruzizi Tented Camp is a delightful tented camp set in a remote area of Akagera. The solitude and peacefulness of this camp is second to none and, when combined with the superb hospitality of the camp staff, must rank as one of the very finest camps in East Africa.
Days Four to Five
Most visitors to Akagera visit for the day, or perhaps spend one night - in our opinion, this does the park a disservice. Despite the great strides made in recent years by the management of African Parks, much of the wildlife in Akagera remains elusive and shy. Three full days allows us to explore Akagera fully, and gives us a good chance of encountering its most famous residents, including Lion, Leopard and Black Rhino.
Each day will be structured around two game-viewing activities, namely game drives, walking safaris or boat safaris. Night drives will also be available each evening.
After a final morning game drive in Akagera today, we return to Kigali, with your afternoon at leisure.
Our day will start with an incredibly scenic drive through the hills and along the shores of Lake Kivu, before arriving at our next accommodation by nightfall. En route, we will make brief stops for photographic opportunities, as well as to visit the ethnographic museum of Rwanda, where we can learn about the ancient kingdoms in this part of Africa. We reach our lodge, just outside Nyungwe, in time for dinner.
Today begins with one of the most rewarding and enthralling experiences of the entire trip - chimpanzee tracking. There are several large habituated groups of chimpanzee present in Nyungwe, and our aim early this morning is to intercept one of these families as they descend to the forest floor from their nocturnal roosts. Once we locate a group, we will have a magical hour to spend with these gentle great apes as they feed, play and, occasionally, squabble - what a great way to spend a morning.
Our afternoon will see us shift focus to Nyungwe's smaller primates. The park is home to a quarter of all Africa's primate species, although spotting them all is very tricky. Our afternoon will be spent slowly walking trails and the canopy walkway in order to locate species including grey-cheeked mangabey and red-tailed monkey, before returning to the lodge for dinner.
Our full day is dedicated to seeking out the rarer primates in Nyungwe. In particular, we will make a special effort to locate the extremely elusive owl-faced monkey. Nyungwe is the only place outside of the DRC where this odd primate can be seen, although sightings are very rare indeed.
After a few hours birding at a nearby swamp at sunrise, much of today is spent on the road, allowing us to reach our lodge just outside Volcanoes NP by nightfall.
Our first morning in Volcanoes will be spent with a bit of a pilgrimage. For many naturalists and conservationists, Dian Fossey is a bit of a hero as the result of her seminal primate research, and today we will visit her final resting place. En route, keep your eyes and ears open for sign of mountain gorilla, although we are more likely to see them in a day or so's time. Fossey's grave is near to the burial site of several of her study subjects, including the famous gorilla 'digit' - this visit is often a hugely moving experience.
Our afternoon is spent birding on the low level trails in the park ahead of a busy few days to come.
This morning we will return to Volcanoes NP to track and photograph the always-entertaining Golden Monkeys living in the park. Agile and nimble, getting a good photo of these creatures is about as challenging as it gets, but clients are often surprised by how their hearts are stolen by these adorable primates.
Our afternoon is spent birding in the stunning 'twin lakes' area, deep within the park. As with all forest birding, success in locating species depends on patience and a keen ear, but we are sure some wonderful sightings will be enjoyed before returning to our lodge for dinner.
At first light we will head into Volcanoes NP to meet up with park rangers and begin our trek into the mountains in search of Eastern Mountain Gorillas. Depending on which family we have been allocated, our trek may take anything from a few minutes to the full day. Once we have located the Gorillas, we will be able to spend a magical hour in their company, watching them feed and play. This is always a highlight of this tour and a truly humbling experience.
Provided we complete the trek in good time, we will head back to our accommodation for lunch, before enjoying some relaxed birding this afternoon.
We transfer to the airport today for your homeward flights.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in June 2023, aiming to take advantage of the dry season when gorilla and chimpanzee tracking is easiest. The tour will run from June 4th to June 17th.
The cost of this trip is £7,995 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. All drinks are included. We regret that there is a £850 single supplement for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £3,200 must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Kigali at the end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost.
British nationals do require a visa to enter Rwanda. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Visas are freely available at Kigali Airport for UK nationals.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Rwanda in June is mild and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 16 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.
Safety and Security
This itinerary does not visit any areas where there are currently security concerns.
To secure a booking on this fantastic holiday, please fill out the details below.