Rwanda safaris offer exciting opportunities to enjoy stunning scenery that earns the country its nickname, ‘the land of a thousand hills’. The safaris also give visitors a chance to commune with endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Situated in east-central Africa, surrounded by Congo, Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda, Rwanda is endowed with a scenic terrain and diverse wildlife attracting over a million tourists annually. Although Rwandan tourism was destroyed by the 1994 genocide, which saw about 800,000 people killed, the sector is now back on its feet thanks to the prevailing peace in the country. Popular destinations for Rwanda Safaris include Nyungwe, Akagera and Virunga national parks, which support a rich flora and fauna – including large mammals such as elephant, buffalo and hippos.
Akagera National Park, located along the Rwanda-Tanzania border, offers rewarding game viewing opportunities thanks to its huge population of animals including buffalo, elephant and leopard. The park supports a thriving population of birds – over 500 species – making it a haven for birdwatchers.
Nyungwe Forest National Park, located in south-western Rwanda, at the border with the Congo, Burundi and Lake Kivu, is one of Africa’s biggest mountainous rainforests. It supports diverse animal and plant species including 85 mammal species, 13 primate species, 38 reptile species and 1068 plant species.
Virunga National Park, in the far north-west of Rwanda, offers a rare opportunity to see a third of the world’s remaining population of endangered mountain gorillas. Numbering less than 300 individuals, the gorillas live in the Virunga volcanoes and are guarded against poachers. Virunga is mainly regarded as a destination for gorilla safari in Rwanda, although other species of animals and birds can be seen in the park within many unique habitats. Virunga is the oldest national park in Africa, having been gazetted in 1925 to protect the primates.
Gorilla safari in Rwanda offers a rare opportunity to encounter mountain gorillas in their natural environment. The gorilla tracking safari usually begins at Ruhengeri, a small town located a 90-minute drive from the capital Kigali.
The trek takes at least an hour through the dense forest with beautiful views of volcanoes in the open areas of the forest canopy. It is an adventure that requires patience and the direction of an experience tour guide.
The stature of a mature gorilla – about three times the size of an average man – can be intimidating, but this should not bother you as the primates are not hostile or prone to be provoked by humans.
The best time to track gorillas is during the dry season, usually in June-September and December-February, when the ground is less slippery. Tracking permits should be booked four months earlier to avoid disappointment.