Many travelers visit Rwanda on a holiday to trek its famous mountain gorillas, sometimes as an add-on to a safari in Uganda, Congo, Kenya or Tanzania, stay for just three or four days and then leave, which is a shame because there is so much more to see on a Rwanda safari. This country has only three national parks, a thriving capital city, spectacular mountain landscape, unique Rwandese culture and some unexpectedly diverse wildlife, Rwanda has plenty to occupy a longer holiday and certainly deserves further exploration.

This country is located in East Africa surrounded by Uganda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. It was under the colonial rule by Belgium until 1962 and the local language used widely is Kinyarwanda with French and Kiswahili used as official languages.

Why go on Rwanda safari holidays

Today, Rwanda has one of the rapidly swelling economies in Africa. It has more women in Parliament than any other country in the world (64%) and is one of the friendliest, safest countries on the continent. Yet for most people, it prevents conjures up images of the dreadful genocide of 1994, when over a million people perished. At the same time the genocide is a massive part of its history that happened over twenty-three years ago, Rwanda has evolved into a united, proud and optimistic country that welcomes its visitors and offers a truly memorable and inspiring holiday. Volcanoes National Park in the north-west of the country is the most famous of Rwanda’s parks and is the place that most people visit on holiday because of its famous residents, the mountain gorillas i.e. Rwanda’s gorilla trekking is its biggest attraction. Less well-known safari options are Nyungwe Forest National Park in the south and Akagera National Park on its eastern border. Akagera is the only park for traditional safaris in Rwanda; it provides good wildlife opportunities, although not on the large scale of the parks in Kenya or Tanzania. But Akagera’s scenic view is beautiful and worth visiting for that alone.

It involves the largest protected and conserved wetlands in Central Africa and is home to over 8,000 animals and over 480 species of birds that include the rare shoebill stork, making Akagera an amazing destination for a bird watching safari. Since the re-introduction of black rhino in 2017, it’s now also a ‘Big 5’ park. In a firm contrast, Nyungwe is thick rainforest with amazing hiking trails, bird watching and primate spotting. National parks in Rwanda are easily accessed by road, so a tour of all three perhaps including the beautiful shore of Lake Kivu and the capital, Kigali, can make attractive and diverse holiday. Trekking the endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda is the final wildlife experience and the reason why most people visit Rwanda on a safari. This is where Dian Fossey first brought the world’s attention to the sad state of these majestic primates in the late 1960s, when they were facing a dreadful plight of poaching and only about 250 survived. The number kept increasing with more exploration and conservation extended to the Virunga ranges of Uganda and D.R. Congo as well as Bwindi impenetrable national park.

The survival of these endangered species is one of Africa’s greatest conservation success stories, and tourism has played its role in conservation. Rwanda is considered as probably the best destination for a mountain gorilla trekking safari in Africa and the world at large. Although gorilla trekking permits quite expensive, an hour granted to you with these great apes promises to be a precious encounter that will remain with you long after your safari is over. To learn more about this wonderful experience. Although mountain gorillas are the stars of the show in Rwanda, there are plenty of other primate tracking opportunities while on your safari to the land of a thousand hills. Nyungwe National Park alone is home to 13 unique primate species and among others include; chimpanzees and Rwenzori colobus monkeys, both of which are habituated and can be trekked any time of the year. Indeed, Nyungwe’s colobus monkeys can occasionally be seen in spectacular troops of several hundreds, believed to be among the largest numbers around the world. In Volcanoes National Park, the elusive golden monkeys have been habituated for visitors to trek alongside the mountain gorillas.

Safaris in Rwanda are possible and easy throughout the year, but the most popular times to travel are in the long dry season that happen between June and October, and the shorter dry season around December to February. If you’re intending to travel to Rwanda, you’ll need to plan your holiday well ahead of time to secure gorilla and golden monkey permits especially around July to September when demand is high. Rwanda’s main rainy season is in the months of March to May, with shorter rains in late October through to mid-December. Getting around Rwanda is all time comfortable in every corner of the country. Roads are majorly good and very many new roads are being constructed to replace marram roads connecting different destinations. It’s not a place for self-drive, therefore you are advised to ask for the guidance of a professional local tour operator to help you with a scheduled plan throughout your safari. And at any time of year, a visit to Kigali’s Genocide Memorial is important in understanding Rwanda’s history and the events that led up to the genocide. It may seem an unlikely holiday attraction but it is in fact a beautiful, peaceful place that is a testament to Rwanda’s strength and spirit of reconciliation.

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda can be easier in comparison to other destinations however prices differs. The volcanoes national park of Rwanda that spans Uganda and Congo is a home to endangered mountain gorillas and its actually easy and accessible.  Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is 1500$, Uganda 700$ and Congo 400$ per per permit. Mountain gorillas are strictly monitored by well-trained ranger guides and each family is allocated to only 8particapants. Once they have be spotted, Participants are allowed only 1hours for viewing, photography, interacting with them and learning more about gorillas and conservation.

It’s usually recommended to book gorilla trekking permits atleast 3months in advance through a legit tour operator. A legit tour operator has daily information about permits availability and they keep you posted in case of changes like fares and so forth.

Gorilla trekking needs your fitness since you may reach at elevation of about 2000-3600mcan last for 1hour to 4hours depending on what type of food they are looking for, wealth and how peaceful they are in their family. Guest are required to assemble at park offices in kinigi for registration at 7am where participants are allocated to a family and are briefed about trekking rules and regulations.

There is always porters (support staff) who are hired on request to carry your backpack, push and pull you in the terrain, vines and bamboo shoots case of need. These porters are reformed poachers and they love assisting in conservation; ideally hiring one of them is very motivating and highly recommended.

Gorilla Families in Volcanoes National Park

Rwanda is one of the best destinations for anyone interested in gorilla trekking. In its Volcanoes National Park, there are 10 gorilla families which are grouped into those for research – Shida family and Beetsme family and these can only be accessed by scientists and researchers while others are available for gorilla trekking tours daily. Only 8 people are allowed to visit each gorilla family every day where everyone is supposed to have a gorilla trekking permit.


It’s also known as the Susa B having been split from the Susa Family (Susa A) in 2008. The family is found on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi with 16 members. This family is one of the hardest to trek with treks at times cancelled, it’s always a long trek so it needs someone in really good shape to endure


Before its split, the family has 42 members but then reduced to 28. The family also known as Susa A was split to form the Karisimbi family which is also known as Susa B. It is one of the preferred families to visit however visitors have to endure the hard-trekking circumstances involved as the family habitats high up in the mountains making it difficult to track.

Susa gorilla family has one of the oldest habituated gorillas Poppy and the two playful twins Impano and Byishimo who attract many tourists. For anyone interested in adventure and fun, this family would be good to track.


The name “Bwenge” means wisdom. This family was formed in 2007 when the dominant silverback Bwenge opted to start his own family. The family now has 11 members and may be found on the slopes of Mount Karisoke. This is one of the easiest gorilla families to trek. Some members of this family even featured in the drama “Gorillas in the Mist”.


This family has 25 members is headed by the dominant silverback Agashya. Agashya took over from Nyakarima after challenging him to a deadly fight and then taking on the entire family. Before that, the family was known as “Group 13”. The family is difficult to track since Agashya has the family flee to the top of the volcano every time he senses any trouble. The family is usually tracked on the slopes of Mount Sabinyo.


This family is habituated around the Karisimbi area with 11 members who include 2 silverbacks. Tracking this family is always hard as it keeps changing its location. This is why it was named “Ugenda” which is a Kinyarwanda word meaning “being on the move” as the family is known never to settle in a single place.


The family has 13 members with 2 silverbacks and led by the most dominant silverback known as Guhonda. Guhonda is the largest silverbacks in the park with 220kgs. The family is named after Mount Sabyinyo and one of the easiest families to trek as it’s habituated near the park headquarters.


This family is headed by Ubumwe who is the dominant silverback. It’s the most peaceful family hence naming it “Amahoro” which means peaceful. The family has 17 members and lives on the slopes of Mount Visoke. Tracking this family involves climbing steep slopes which makes it more adventurous and loved by visitors.


The family has 18 members and 2 silverbacks. The family is led by Kwitonda who is the dominant silverback and live around the Mount Muhabura slopes. The family originated from Congo and at times tends to move within a geographical area that is wide which makes tracking it difficult.  “Kwitonda” is a Kinyarwanda which means “humble one”.


This family was created recently when some members from the Sabyinyo family and Group 13 came together. The family is led by a dominant silverback that is very protective and found on the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo. The members in this group joined voluntarily which is very rare hence naming it “Hirwa” which means “the lucky one”. The family has 16 members of which include twins, however the family is difficult to track sometimes.


The word “Umubano” means “living together”. The family has 11 members with 6 infants and live near the Amahoro family on the slopes of Mount Visoke. Charles who is the dominant silverback heads this family and formed it after breaking away from the Amahoro family once he started undermining the leadership of the peaceful Ubumwe. The family is easy to track hence being visited by many tourists.

Rwanda Gorilla trekking rules and regulations

As you go gorilla tracking, Gorilla trekking rules and regulations has to be observed and a maximum of 8 visitors may trek to visit a group of habituated mountain gorillas per day. This minimizes behavioral disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.

  • Always wash your hands before you go gorilla trekking.
  • Please always keep your voices low. You will also be able to observe the great bird life and other wildlife in the forest.
  • DO NOT leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest on your gorilla safari should be carried back out with you.

On arrival at Park head offices you will be briefed by head ranger guide about rules, regulations guidelines and tips for a successful trekking whilst with gorillas. You will be taken to where the early morning first trackers have located Mountain Gorillas the day before. From there you will follow the gorilla’s trail. Look out for the gorillas’ nesting sites along the way!

As you approach the mountain gorillas, the guides will alert you.

  • When you are with the gorillas a 7 meter (21 feet) distance from the gorillas should be observed at all times. The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be.
  • You must stay in a tight group when you are near the gorillas.
  • Keep your voices down at all times but feel free to ask your ranger guide questions.
  • Do not smoke, drink or eat when you are near the gorillas. Eating or drinking will inevitably increase the risk of morsels of food or droplets of drink being left behind. Even the tiniest leftovers could increase the risk of transmission of disease to the gorillas.
  • Do not point or wave your arms. Move slowly and carefully.
  • Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals.
  • Occasionally the gorillas charge. Don’t panic. Follow your ranger guide’s example: crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes; wait for the animals to pass. Do not attempt to run away.
  • Your subjects are black animals in dim light so use the right camera settings. Flash photography is not permitted under any circumstances.

The maximum time you can spend with these wonderful animals is one hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide may decide to finish the visit early. This is for your safety and for the safety of the gorillas.

After the visit, you are bound to be excited! but please keep your voices down until you are 200 metres away from the

General Health Rules and Gorilla tracking safaris

Remember that mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following rules are ways to minimize the risk your visit might pose to them:

  • Always respect the limits imposed on the daily number of visitors allowed with the mountain gorillas. These limits minimize the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.
  • Bring spare batteries and an extra memory card for your digital camera. Using your camera flashlight is not permitted. If you are photographing using film, we recommend using 400-800 ASA film
  • If you are feeling ill, or you are carrying a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind. An alternate gorilla trekking opportunity will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded the cost of your gorilla permit.
  • If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.
  • Always stay 7 meters (21 feet) away from the gorillas. This is to protect them from catching human diseases.
  • Do not leave any rubbish (such as food wrappers or drink bottles) in the park; foreign items can harbour diseases or other contaminants.
  • If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the ranger guide to dig you a hole. Make sure the hole is 30 cm deep. Please ensure the hole is filled after you are finished.

What to bring on your gorilla trekking safari

  • Wear comfortable hiking shoes with good traction, suitable for climbing steep muddy slopes.
  • Carry a packed lunch and plenty of drinking water.
  • The weather can be unpredictable so carry rain gear, sunscreen lotion and a hat.
  • Wear or pack insect repellent.
  • Bring binoculars – or hire a pair from the Uganda Wildlife Authority office in the park.

What to expect when Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Tea and coffee are provided from around 7.00 am for gorilla tracking visitors assembled in Kinigi. In 2018 entertainment is provided by a large TV screen showing daily experiences and happy trackers.

In Rwanda, your gorilla family will be assigned to you at the early morning briefing. The fitter (and more willing!) you are, the more likely you are to be allocated a gorilla family that involves a longer trek. The rangers assess you according to your health, general fitness, age and interests.

Gorilla tracking in Rwanda generally starts with a 45 minute walk up gently sloping farmland. The backdrop of the volcanoes is spectacular and the air is pure. As you approach the park entrance, the ground becomes steeper and thick with bamboo.

Depending on the group you are with, your total tracking time will take 30 minutes to four hours or more (in either direction). Generally, gorilla tracking is the same experience in all locations both Uganda, Rwanda and DRC

Is Rwanda Safe?

Given the turbulent history of Rwanda, one may ask, whether Rwanda is safe for travel. Rwanda’s new government embarked on securing the borders of Rwanda and its people, having immerged from the shadows of the 1994 genocide. That said, Rwanda is generally peaceful and safe to travel except for ordinal petty crimes like any other city. Caution is always advised as bag snatching and theft may occur. Several foreign embassies continuously issue travel advisories that call for normal personal precaution while in Rwanda, an indication that the country is safe for travel.

Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic, one needs to adhere to extra health precautions.

What makes Rwanda safe?

Rwanda has strict law enforcement, which makes it a generally safe country. High security vigilance is the reason for its high-ranking safety.

There is also a network of security cameras in major towns and the city to monitor crime and close the gap between the incident and authority’s reaction time.

People are generally calm and welcoming which is an assurance of safety for every tourist, even though local communities are generally conservative and may frown upon certain western behavior.

Some of the prohibited acts include photographing military installation or personnel, government buildings and divisive talk about the Rwanda genocide.

 Why is Rwanda a good tourist destination?

A single journey to Rwanda can kick start an emotional journey and attachment to the country that one would keep coming back.

There is much more to the ‘the country of a thousand hills’ than initially meets the eye. Small, compact and easy to travel around, friendly Rwanda has well and truly consigned the tragic genocide of 1994 to history. The country has reconciled and rebounded spectacularly from this tragedy and today it is one of the friendliest, safest and most welcoming countries on the continent” writes a tourist whose thirst for Rwanda was duly satisfied. Such reviews speak volumes about the experience in tourists in Rwanda.

Besides safety and friendliness, Rwanda’s unique tourist features are definitely the most outstanding attractions that make it a good travel destination. Additionally, Rwanda’s government has committed astronomical amounts of resources to ensuring that the country is a top tourist destination. There has been emphasis of getting visitors to stay longer in Rwanda through discounts for longer days.

The country also targets luxury travelers through providing high-end luxury packages and experiences. While they are costly, the guest enjoys a top-notch treatment that leaves them fully satisfied. The hot air balloon in Akagera national park is one of those luxury experiences, which gives it a competitive edge over other parks in the region. This addition will attract more clients to the park, given that it is a perfect savannah place with all the big five.

The biggest draw is the opportunity to trek gentle mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. 1 Day Gorilla Trek in volcanoes Rwanda This experience is phenomenal, as the trek leads one up the mountain through thick bamboo forests for a life time opportunity to observe mankind’s closest primate after the chimpanzees.

The travel packages and itinerary are always tailor-made to suit travel needs of the guest such that they can get the best out of their stay in Rwanda. Such admirable techniques do attract luxury travelers.

Perhaps and most importantly is that every traveler who visits any place in Rwanda contributes to the social transformation of its people as tourism eclipsed coffee as the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner. Transparency of the government ensures that host communities directly benefit from the sacrifices they make to ensure that wildlife thrives. Many times, their farmlands are reclaimed for protection of wildlife.

Top Things to do in Rwanda

There is a lot to explore and do while in Rwanda given the fact that it’s a small land-locked County in Africa but with diverse touristic attractions. This country is known as the land of a thousand hills due to the different and beautiful hills surrounding the county hence appealing to view. This is one of the East African countries surrounded by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and DR Congo. Also, Rwanda is known for its beautiful people, the mountain gorillas, Lake Kivu beaches and the recent genocide history.

Rwanda, therefore, has a lot to explore while on your African or Rwanda safari and these, therefore, range from water bodies, wildlife, hospitable and welcoming people, physical features like the endless hills and Volcano mountains and much more. Therefore, there are manmade and natural attractions that you can enjoy while in Rwanda and therefore, you take part in the following activities such as;

The mighty Kigali genocide memorial centre is also known as the Rwanda genocide memorial grounds. Every tourist would love to visit this genocide museum which holds over thousands of people who were brutally murdered by the Hutu extremists before heading to the beautiful national parks. Learn more about the political history of Rwanda in the past, during and after the 1994 genocide. Also, watch the short videos about this sad historical event and this will be the saddest moment. For those who are short-hearted, you cannot fail to cry.

Gorilla trekking adventure which is done in only Volcanoes National Park located in the Virunga massif. Gorilla trekking is the most sought activity while on Rwanda safari and this takes about 2 to 6 hours while in the jungle but always an hour is granted to you in the presence of the gorillas having a great photographic moment as you witness their behaviours and movements. There is a lot to explore while on this experience such as the plant species, bird species the rugged terrain and much more.

Local dance performances or entertainment is mostly organized by most hotels in Kigali city or visiting the Iby’iwacu cultural village. Near Volcanoes national park or Intore dance troupe. The dancers who are the Banyarwanda dance with a lot of eagerness, and energy, while smiling at the guests showing happiness and excitement to receive you in their country. This is normally interrupted by storytelling, folk stories and much more. Visitors are encouraged to join the dance since it’s experiential activity on your safari but it’s not a must to participate in the dance. While on your Rwanda gorilla safari, don’t miss out to add the traditional dances in your package to taste the real African culture.

Golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park suits primate lovers. There are rare species among the 20 primate species in the world. They get their name from the golden punches they have on their body and they can only be found in the bamboo forests of Virunga massif (Virunga Conservation Area). Trekking a Troup of golden monkeys is not limited to any number and what you can do is book your trekking permit with us and sit back to get the best golden monkey trekking experience.

Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe forest national park where you come to encounter our close relatives for an hour in their presence. Watch over them and discover as you learn about these apes. While in Nyungwe National Park, you will encounter the famous canopy walk where you have a chance to be on a bridge suspended on top of a forest as you watch over the different primates and bird species.

Visit Akagera National Park and take part in the drive, boat cruise and hot air ballooning this will introduce you to the watch-over wildlife including the big five animals. Each activity takes about 2 to 3 hours but will be of great experience while enjoying the wildlife in the Savannahs of the only national park in Rwanda.

Other things to do in Rwanda are visiting the local markets like Kimironko market, hiking Mount Kigali, visiting the palace museum of the former president, visiting Dian Fossey’s tomb, bird watching, visiting the tea plantation, relaxing at the shores of Lake Kivu, visit the Nyamata church, visit the twin lakes which are Burera and Ruhondo, visit the gorilla guardian village and much more.

5 Best Rwanda Safari Destinations

Rwanda is a country of immense beauty and anyone seeking an East African Safari often considers Rwanda as a top destination. The country has numerous places to visit and here is a countdown of the top five places to Visit in Rwanda.

Kigali City

Kigali city is the capital of Rwanda as well as being the commercial center. The meticulously maintained city ranks as the cleanest city on the African continent. It is a true reflection of Rwanda’s transformation over the last 27 years after a turbulent history of civil conflicts. The beauty of its streets alone and modern architecture are worth the admiration they attract. Modern structures like the Kigali International Convention Center is an iconic master piece of modern architecture. The dome like structure gets lit up in colors that will inspire you, every time the night falls on Kigali.

The Genocide memorial center is another highlight of Kigali City. Here, 250,000 remains of victims of the 100 days 1994 genocide are interred. The horrific terror that was unleashed unpon civilians is retold through sculptures, weapons, and pictures of the genocide. There is children’s room dedicated to the youngest victims of the genocide, whose stories are told by over size pictures and videos from survivors. The memorial   is a place to reflect on what Rwanda has been through, yet a picture of hope and the resilience of the people who overcame this tragedy.

Akagera National Park Safari

The Akagera National Park is a true reflection of Rwanda’s story of recovery. The park land had been invaded by Rwandans seeking land for cultivation as they escaped the effects of the genocide. More than 10,000 herds of cattle were grazed on much of the parkland leading to human conflict with park animals. As a result, lions were hunted; buffalos and elephants were hunted to extinction in the park.

The recovery of the park started with the new government, lions were reintroduced in 2015, rhinos and giraffes followed subsequently.

The park now boosts of all the big five, and a vast swamp and marshland where birding thrives like no other. Atleast 520 bird species inhabit the Akagera National Park.

A boat cruise on the Akagera river unveils the true beauty of vast shores infested with colorful birds and savannah lands as viewed from the waters.

The hot air balloon gives the tourist bird’s eye view of the wide savannah grassland, dotted with zebras, giraffes, antelopes, and buffaloes. The alternative is a game drive, but whichever way you choose to experience Akagera, the safari is a reward of extra ordinary measures.

Volcanoes National Park

The volcanoes National Park is a magical preamble to the Virunga massif that spreads into Uganda and DR. Congo. Gorilla trekking is the, most popular adventure in the park. At least 380 mountain gorillas spread between 17 families that are fully habituated inhabit the park. The one hours’ opportunity to live in the realm of the gentle giants, in a close and intimate observation their nature is an absolute satisfaction.

Other sightings in the park include, the numerous black and white colobus monkeys, bird species like the African marsh harrier, common moorhen, long-crested eagle, grey-throated tit, fly catcher and many more. The forest elephants are a rare sight however when fortunate meets adventure, one can catch a glimpse of the gentle giant. However, the more common animals are the black fronted duiker, bushbucks, forest buffaloes, and the bush pig.

Nyungwe Forest Canopy walk

Whereas bridges over Rivers are common, those over forests remain a distant dream. However, in Rwanda, dreams of adventure come alive! A guided Igishigishi trail in the ancient Nyungwe Forest National Park leads one to the 70-meter high and 160-meter-long suspension bridge. The only bridge of such amusement in East Africa. The walk of nature high above the forest reveals breath-taking scenes of uneven canopies of the ancient forest. Moments of glory descend upon those who walk along this bridge as every view from a 360ᵒ is of astonishing beauty. Singing birds are a complimentary item on the walk.

Lake Kivu

Rwanda’s largest fresh water lake is another popular travel destination, attracting tourist from across the entire globe to sail upon the 2,700 square kilometer lake. The lake is located in the north western region of Rwanda and crosses in to Democratic republic of Congo. The lake empties its waters into River Rusizi, which flows into Lake Tanganyika.

An evening boat cruise on the lake reveals stunning sunset views in a colorful horizon, while in a distance, fishermen cast their nets. The experience brings one closer to the local angler communities, to live in their realm, hustle and bustled life on the waters. The view of Goma town in Congo while on the lake, are equally fascinating.