This comprehensive 10-day tailor-made tour encompasses the highlights of Rwanda: Mountain gorillas, Chimpanzees, the exquisite Nyungwe Forest National Park, scenic high altitude Lake Kivu and the lakeside towns of Kibuye and Gisenyi, as well as the two main urban centres of Butare - the cultural centre in the south - and the bustling capital Kigali.
Day 1 Depart from London Heathrow on the Kenya Airways overnight flight to Nairobi.
Day 2 On arrival at Nairobi, transfer onto the Kenya Airways flight to Kigali. On arrival, you will be met by your private driver/guide and taken to the Kigali Serena to stay overnight, dinner and breakfast included. During the day, you will be taken on a guided city tour of Kigali and also have the opportunity to change money and relax by the hotel pool. Built on a hillside, Kigali is a small capital city, without many landmark buildings, the city tour takes a couple of hours and includes the old town (Nyamirambo) and Muslim quarter, the new handicraft village and other shops and the Gisozi Genocide Memorial. The memorial is very moving, but we suggest that you visit it later in your tour.
Day 3 After breakfast, travel by road to Nyungwe Forest National Park and stay two nights at the lovely Nyungwe Forest Lodge on the edge of the forest. All meals are included. On the way, you stop in Butare (2½ hours from Kigali) to see the National Museum, and for lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch you will be taken to see a performance by the astonishing Intore dancers and musicians. You may also want to see the near sacred Ankole cattle which here, are trained to respond individually to different, special tunes created for them (!). When you leave Butare, inform the driver if you wish to stop at the Murambi Genocide site on the road to Nyungwe. Otherwise, the drive from Butare to Nyungwe is 2½ hours. Extending for nearly one thousand kilometers square over the mountains of southwest Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park protects the largest single tract of montane forest remaining in Africa. This very beautiful forest is a remarkably rich centre of biodiversity: species lists include 86 mammals, 280 birds, 120 butterflies and about 100 orchids. It is the most important birding site in Rwanda and during forest walks you are sure to see a variety of Albertine Rift Endemics including Alethes, Akalats, Ant-thushes and even sought-after gems like Dusky and Shelley's crimsonwings.
Day 4 Day for guided forest walks in search of primates, birds and to enjoy the stunning scenery in the forest. The main attractions in Nyungwe are its various species of monkey and of course, the resident Chimps. Experienced guides lead you through the forest in search of these elusive apes. Rainbow Tours' specialists Chania and Derek observed the Chimps high up in the canopy during a three-hour early morning walk. Other primates seen during the same walk were Grey-cheeked mangabey and many l'Hoest's monkeys. Birding was fantastic with highlights including the enormous Great blue turacou and even a pair of Dusky crimsonwing. The national park was recently gazetted - not a moment too soon - to spare the forest from the depredations of agriculture. Fields of maize, beans and bananas are intensively cultivated right up to the forest edge. In the afternoon, you can be taken to a different spot to seek what is the largest known barrel of Rwenzori colobus, which usually allow a reasonably close approach (pictured).
Day 5 A long and very scenic drive (about 5 hours) on unmade roads to Kibuye, on the shores of Lake Kivu. Stay overnight at Cormoran Lodge. All meals are included. Longish drives on un-made roads may not appeal to everyone, but they do offer the opportunity to see life as it has been lived for centuries, virtually unchanged. This is a scenic route and provides the opportunity to see the people at work - cultivating bananas, cassava, sorghum, beans, rice, potatoes, and even coffee in their steep, tiny fields. In addition there are several massive tea plantations (pictured), villages, innumerable tiny brickworks, and surprises around every corner. Lake Kivu forms the border between Rwanda and the Congo. It's a beautiful and mysterious lake, alive with traders and fishermen in their dugout canoes.
Day 6 Today you head north-east, parallel to Lake Kivu, to Gisenyi to overnight at the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel, all meals included. This beautiful drive (3-4 hours) is largely on unmade roads and takes you through an area of intensive subsistence farming, as well as the remains of the Gishwati Forest. Gisenyi is a somewhat faded lakeside resort - and also a border crossing point into the Congo. The shoreside is lined with crumbling colonial villas. Today, it is enjoying a renaissance as it boasts its first international standard hotel - the Kivu Serena It is a pleasant hotel, right on the lakeside, with its own private pool.
Day 7 Relax at your hotel or explore some of the town of Gisenyi (pictured), before the 3 hour afternoon drive to Musanze at Parc National des Volcans. Stay two nights at Mountain Gorilla View lodge, all meals included. Gorilla Mountain View is a fairly simple lodge, although each room has en-suite facilities, and for gorilla tracking purposes, this hotel is well-located.
Day 8 Make an early start for the Parc National des Volcans, where you will make your first gorilla trek. On arrival at 07h00, you are met by staff from ORTPN Park Headquarters who brief you on conduct during gorilla tracking. The trackers then lead you into the forested slopes to seek one of the resident and habituated family groups of Mountain gorillas. Reaching the gorillas can be quick, or it can take a few hours.
Day 9 Today you can either do a second gorilla trek*, or choose one of the following activities: visiting the golden monkeys, a nature walk (birding in PNV is excellent), climbing Mt Bisoke or visiting the tomb of Dian Fossey. The latter two activities are suited for those who are reasonably fit. I n the afternoon, you will be driven to Kigali (2½ hours) to stay overnight at Kigali Serena, breakfast included. *We personally highly recommend a second gorilla trek for the following reasons: a) The experience is so intense that the hour you are permitted to spend with the Gorillas, feels like 5 minutes. b) Although chances of seeing the Gorillas exceed 90%, nature cannot ever be guaranteed. So its wise to have a backup day to avoid disappointment, rare as that may be. c) Just in case you have any communicable human illness (eg colds or flu) on your first day, you will not be allowed to visit the Gorillas since they have no resistance to human illnesses. However you may be better the following day so again, a second permit (which costs US$750) is a wise investment.
Day 10 Today you could visit to the Genocide Memorial Museum before you transfer to the airport for your flight to Nairobi, where you connect with the overnight flight to London.
Day 11 Arrive London early morning.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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