Rwanda, a small landlocked country in east-central Africa, is blessed with a scenic terrain and diverse wildlife that include the world famous mountain gorillas. Thought to number about 300 individuals, the endangered mountain gorillas inhabit the Virunga National Park, in the north-west of Rwanda, and are a major attraction among visitors to the country.
Rwanda gorilla safaris offer exciting opportunities to watch the primates as they go on with their daily life. The safaris usually begin in Musanze (formerly known as Ruhengeri), the fourth largest town in Rwanda. Musanze can be accessed by public and private vehicles from Kigali – about 100km away. From Musanze, you need to hire a taxi to the park boundaries at Kinigi from where you will continue the hike on foot. The trek to the gorilla’s habitat can take between one and four hours through the thick bamboo forest with stunning views of volcanoes in the open sections of the forest covering.
The trek, which offers numerous chances to view a wide range of wildlife including rare golden monkey and buffalo, requires patience and the guidance of a knowledgeable tour guide. A gorilla trekking adventure finally pays off when you spot a mature gorilla moving leisurely under the bamboo forest canopy. The gorillas look intimidating because of their gigantic stature – about three times the size of an average man. However, the primates are friendly and not easily irritated by human visitors.
Rwanda gorilla safaris are best taken during the dry season, June to September and December to February, when the ground is not slippery. During this period, the vegetation is thin enough to allow better views of the primates. A permit is required for gorilla trekking adventures. Permits can be booked at the RDB Tourism and Conservation Office. It is advisable to book your permit at least three months in advance to avoid disappointment.
In addition to gorilla trekking, wild animals are popular attractions among visitors on Rwanda safari. Akagera, Nyungwe Forest and Virunga nationals parks are some of the most popular destinations in the country. Located along Rwanda’s border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park is home to a huge population of wildlife including elephant, buffalo, hippo and crocodile as well as over 500 bird species. Nyungwe Forest in southern Rwanda is popular for its large troops of primates including chimpanzee and colobus monkey.
Virunga National Park is home to mountain gorillas, and rare golden monkeys, buffalo, elephant and leopard among other wild animals. It is easily the most popular destination for Rwanda safari. The five volcanic lakes of Rwanda namely; Kivu, Nyiragongo, Nyamulagira, Ruhondo and Bunyonyi are also a major highlight of the country. The lakes offers rewarding opportunities for water sports activities.