RWANDA + UGANDA + DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Trekking for mountain gorillas is understandably heralded as one of the most exhilarating bucket list pilgrimages in the world.
But did you know that you can trek for mountain gorillas, Grauer’s lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, golden monkeys and a host of other primate species in one safari encompassing the neighbouring countries of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo)?
Length: 8 days
Group Size: 1 - 6
Location: Mgahinga National Park, Uganda + Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda + Kahuzi Biega National Park, DR Congo
Departure Dates: To suit you
This thoughtfully pieced-together itinerary is for those who seek out extraordinary experiences, who usually swim upstream and who want to see around the next corner. This safari is dedicated to those who WANT something different.
This epic safari involves trekking through the forests of Mgahinga National Park (Uganda), Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe National Park (Rwanda) and Kahuzi Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo).
READ THIS personal travel diary from a client who thoroughly enjoyed this unique experience.
Our detailed itinerary below provides excellent insight into this intriguing safari that is proving to be popular with our more experienced repeat clients
Number of travellers
Cost per person sharing
Transfers to and from the airport in Kigali, Rwanda, on arrival and departure days. Accommodation on a full-board basis. All meals mentioned in the itinerary – starting with dinner on arrival day and ending with breakfast on departure day. Coffee/tea and an unlimited supply of mineral water during transfers. All trekking permits, park fees, museum entrance fees, and activities mentioned in the itinerary. All ground transportation in a 4×4 WD vehicle, with fuel provided, and the services of our English–speaking tour guide/driver. Driver and guide fees. 24/7 office support.
International or local airfare, but we can help you to book your tickets. Visas and airport departure taxes. Internet services, items of a personal nature, telephone calls, laundry, travel and medical insurance, tips, excess baggage charges, gratuities to all staff. Any activities not specified in the itinerary.
On arrival at Kigali International Airport (Rwanda), you will be met by our representative and whisked off on a short three-hour drive towards Kisoro, a small town near the magical Mgahinga National Park in southwestern Uganda. Departure from Kigali International Airport no later than 08:00. (If you wish to spend the previous night in Kigali, this can be arranged at an additional cost). On arrival, you will enjoy lunch at the welcoming Travelers Rest Hotel in Kisoro. Here you can settle in, rest and relax for a while.
In the late afternoon, you will have the chance to visit the nearby Batwa Cultural Heritage Site. The heritage site consists of a demonstration-based herbal garden, a small collection of traditional huts and a short trail that allows the Batwa to demonstrate to interested guests how they used to live, hunt, and collect honey and other resources from the forest.
Shortly after, you will return to your hotel for a shower, dinner and a well-deserved rest.
At a time of your convenience, your guide will brief you on the basics of gorilla trekking to prepare you for the following day’s adventures.
After breakfast, you will take a short drive to Mgahinga National Park’s office headquarters, where you will meet the excellent local guides and trackers leading you into the Gahinga Volcano slopes on your gorilla trekking experience. Beforehand you will be given an informative talk on tracking etiquette, and you will be assigned a mountain gorilla family group.
Before you embark on your adventure, you will be introduced to your team of rangers, porters and trail assistants. The gorilla trekking experience can take between one and six hours, depending on a variety of environmental and physical factors, and you could climb to altitudes above 7,500 feet (2,300 metres). The terrain in Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park can be steep and muddy, but your experienced leader will ensure that the group progresses at a pace that is comfortable for everyone. Stress not, for there will also be frequent stops to take in the views, hydrate, rest, take plenty of photographs, and generally just enjoy yourself :-)
All fatigue will be forgotten once the gorillas are located, and you watch in awe while these gentle giants go about their daily routine. In most instances, gorilla groups are likely to be grooming, resting, casually eating, or absorbed in some other primal social activity. Some will engage you with eye contact, and others may even approach you - follow the advice of your guides and enjoy every second.
After 60 minutes fly by, you will step away from their realm and trek back to the park’s headquarters for a shower, a change of clothes and some lunch.
Thereon, you will be driven back into Rwanda. Time allowing and dependant on when you finish your Gorilla trek, en route, you will stop to admire the serene twin crater lakes Burera and Ruhondo. After this, it will be time to head to Mountain Gorilla View Lodge in Kinigi, next door to the Volcanoes National Park, for check-in. Dinner and overnight at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the Volcanoes National Park headquarters, and this time golden monkeys are on the agenda. The golden monkey is a local subspecies of the widespread Sykes monkey, also known as the blue monkey, which is endemic to high-altitude forests in Volcanoes National Park, Virunga Mountains and Mgahinga National Park.
These monkeys are endearing; they are playful and inquisitive and often spend their time leaping between bamboo branches or frolicking on the forest floor.
The habituated group you are most likely to encounter has around 80-100 members and resides at the foot of Mount Sabyinyo. The trek to find the golden monkeys is only attempted in the cool of the mornings, and once you find them after a couple of hours, you will be allowed to observe and photograph them for about an hour.
Your driver will await your return from the trek. Lunch will be enjoyed at the Hotel Muhabura, where, if you ask, they will show you Dian Fossey's favourite room during her visits to Musanze to stock up on food and conduct her meetings.
After lunch, you will visit the Karisoke Centre in Musanze to learn about the work, life and ongoing research that Dian Fossey instigated, which today continues as a beacon of hope for the conservation of mountain gorillas.
Shortly after lunch, you will depart for the shores of Lake Kivu (Kibuye), which is a 2.5-hour drive.
Dinner and overnight at Cormoran Lodge.
It is an early start today to catch the morning cruise to Bonaparte Island to see hundreds of fruit-eating bats returning from the forests of Congo and Rwanda after their nightly feast on pollen and nectar - quite a sight! Upon return to the hotel, grab some breakfast and perhaps some time to enjoy lake activities of kayaking, cycling, or swimming. You will take a slow drive to Cyangugu town for lunch at Emeraude Kivu Resort before transferring to Bukavu town (DR Congo).
Your guide will assist with the border crossing proceedings and hand you over to your DRC driver/guide.
Once in DRC, you will be transferred to the Orchids Hotel in Bukavu Town. Here you spend the remainder of your day at your leisure. Late in the afternoon, it might be fun to walk to Lake Kivu’s edge and watch and listen to the fishermen returning in the setting sun with their catch.
Dinner and Overnight at Orchids Hotel
After breakfast and a short drive to the Kahuzi-Biega National Park headquarters, you will meet the rangers and trail guides leading the day’s expedition in search of one of Africa’s rarest apes – the Grauer’s lowland gorilla. The Grauer’s gorilla is only found in eastern DRC, and it is protected in several dwindling locations.
Grauer’s gorilla is the largest of all gorilla subspecies, with males in the wild reaching weights of 250kg and heights of 2m when standing upright. Females are considerably smaller, with a maximum weight of 110kg and a height of 140cm.
You can typically expect to make your way through the dense vegetation of Kahuzi-Biega for up to two hours. During this time, there is also the possibility of coming across another primate “megas” like the enchanting owl-faced guenon. The colourful Ruwenzori turaco abounds in this area, and if Lady Luck is looking down on you, you may just find yourself stepping into the footprints of a roaming forest elephant.
However, nothing will compete with the moment when you first notice a Grauer’s gorilla’s eyes peering inquisitively at you. A quick scan will most likely reveal the rest of the group, their beady eyes staring at you from deep in the bamboo.
The next hour is spent in the company of these dignified creatures, watching them feed, play, rest, groom, teach and discover. Soon enough, you may even find yourself recognizing the different facial expressions and personalities of each family member.
If you are lucky enough to track down Chimanuka’s family, you will meet the four sets of twins this troop is raising. This is a unique phenomenon that has baffled and excited the world’s primatologists.
Once your hour-long encounter ends, you will return to the headquarters, where a picnic lunch waits. Shortly after lunch, you will be transferred to the Bukavu border, where you cross over into Rwanda and again meet your Rwandan driver. You are then transferred to Emeraude Kivu Resort overlooking Lake Kivu.
Dinner and Overnight at Emeraude Kivu Resort
Thanks to its 13 species of primates and 300 species of birds (including 25 Albertine Rift endemics), Nyungwe Forest is a hotspot for anyone passionate about birding and primates. Hiking and trail walking enthusiasts are blessed with 130 kilometres of extraordinarily well-maintained trails that allow visitors to explore its riches.
Starting very early in the morning, you will have the chance to trek and meet Nyungwe’s chimpanzees. As with other primate trekking in the region, you will be adequately briefed and prepared for your meeting. Reaching them can be strenuous due to Nyungwe’s topography. However, their engaging playfulness and human-like characteristics make for a remarkable experience.
After lunch, you will head out again into the forest and take a leisurely walk to the Kamiranzovu Waterfall, a beautiful sight and easy walk with stunning stretches of gushing streams, lush riverine vegetation, moss-cloaked forests and a lovely waterfall.
In the early evening, you return to Emeraude Kivu Resort for a well-deserved scrumptious dinner and rest.
Dinner and Overnight at Emeraude Kivu Resort
After breakfast, with bags packed, you check out from Emeraude Kivu Resort, bidding farewell to lake Kivu as you are driven back to Nyungwe. Once there you will set off on foot with your appointed rangers in search of one of Africa’s largest primate troops - the Rwenzori pied colobus monkeys. With more than 400 individuals, this promises to be a primate watcher’s dream as the troops also provide safety to a myriad of other primate species, such as the grey-cheeked mangabey, L’Hoest’s, Grivet’s, Syke’s, silver, blue, red-tailed monkeys, and olive baboon - to mention some.
After spending some time with them, you will return to your vehicle via Nyungwe’s famous canopy walkway. This is East Africa’s highest canopy walkway - some 50m above the forest floor. From that lofty height, you will have the chance to admire Nyungwe’s birds, epiphytic plant life and primate diversity. The sprawling views of Nyungwe Forest – Africa’s largest tract of afro-montane forest – are simply unforgettable.
Once lunch at Ibis hotel in Butare/Huye town, you will be transferred to Kigali, where you have the option of visiting the Genocide Memorial Museum. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the genocide against the Tutsi people. It honours the memory of the more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994 by focusing on education and peace-building.
After this thought-provoking outing, you will be transferred to Flame Tree Village. A festive farewell dinner has been organized, at Hotel Chez Lando, in the evening.
Overnight at Flame Tree Village.
After a leisurely breakfast, you will check out from Flame Tree Village to start your morning Kigali city tour. The Kigali City Tour offers an in-depth view of Kigali, past and present, assuring that one feels the genuine heartbeat of the city.
Lunch will be held at Flame Tree Village, after which you will be transferred to Kigali International Airport for your homebound flight.
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