Deeper Africa - vacations and travel

Primates Of Rwanda

Rwanda

from $4,799* per person 9 Days Year-round
Comfort accommodations Exertion level: 5
Operator: Deeper Africa 8 people max
  • Kigali, rwanda
  • Culture & Nature trips
Begin your journey in Nyungwe Forest, central Africa’s largest montane forest, renowned for its 13 species of primates. In addition to chimpanzees, you will also go in search of troops of 300+ Angola Colobus monkeys and an assortment of other primate species. Nyungwe is also the most important ornithological site in Rwanda, harboring nearly 300 species of birds.

After exploring the beautiful shoreline of Lake Kivu, track gorillas in the famous “Gorillas in the Mist” Parc' Nationales des Volcans forest. Home to eight habituated gorilla families, you will approach a different family group on two separate observation days. Close range viewing allows you a glimpse into individual personalities and group dynamics. You will watch the stately silverback, the playful young gorillas, and the grooming females.

Local trackers locate the gorilla family you’ll be observing beforehand, so that you can move directly to the family as they roam through the lush slopes of bamboo forest. Accommodations at the lovely Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel and Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, or choose to upgrade to the upscale Nyungwe Forest Lodge and Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge.

Locations visited/nearby

Rwanda

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Itinerary

Day 1    
Travel Day  
International Flight

Day 2   
Manor Hotel
Kigali   
Arrive in Kigali International Airport.   Pickup by Deeper Africa guide after clearing customs.   Your Deeper Africa guide will have a sign that has your name on it.  He will take you to the Manor Hotel and help you get checked in. 

Rwanda is about half the size of Scotland.  A green country of fertile and hilly terrain, the small republic bears the title “Land of a Thousand Hills.”  In 2008, Rwanda became the first country to elect a legislature which is a majority of women.  By law, at least a third of the parliament must be female.  Rwanda believes women will not allow the mass killings of the past to be repeated.    

Dinner and overnight at Manor Hotel.

Day 3   
Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel
Nyungwe Forest National Park   
Breakfast at Manor Hotel.   You’ll see Kigali now by day.  Having spent the past fifteen years rebuilding, Kigali is now one of the most thriving and progressive capital cities in Africa.  The city retains its feel as a garden city with an organic shape dictated by the verdant slopes over which it sprawls.  It is a beautiful city.   

Your journey begins with a five to six hour drive southwest into rural Rwanda.  You’ll stop in Nyabinsindu to visit the Rwanda Royal Palace.  The Royal Palace was the seat of Rwanda’s feudal monarchy, which dates back 500 years.  The Royal Palace is an enormous doomed structure made entirely out of traditional materials.  It has been painstakingly restored to its 19th century state and is now maintained as a museum. After stopping for lunch in Butare, continue south toward the vast Nyungwe Forest National Park.

Nyungwe Forest, which extends for over 1,000 square kilometers, is the largest montane rain forest in East & Central Africa.  It is one of Africa’s most ancient forests and dates back to before the last Ice Age.  The forest possesses incredible biodiversity being home to thirteen different primate species including chimpanzees, vervet monkeys, golden monkeys, L’hoests, Red Tails, Mangabeys, and large troops of black and white colubus.   This biodiversity is due to a combination of several ecological factors.  The Ice Age caused the drying of lower-altitude African forests as recently as 10,000 years ago.  The mountainous backbone bordering the western branch of the great African Rift serve as a moist refuge to forest plants and animals.  Nyungwe constitutes a significant portion of this lush, central core, which serves as a source for re-colonization of the central African lowland forests existing today. 

Activities at Nyungwe include:
Chimpanzee and monkey trekking;
Birding with viewing of over 300 different species;
Canopy walking adventure; and
Village walk to nearby tea estate.

Dinner and overnight at Nyungwe Top View Hotel 

Day 4   
Nyungwe Top View
Hill Hotel
Nyungwe Forest National Park   
Early breakfast at Nyungwe Top View Hotel before you begin the pre-dawn search for chimpanzees.   Tracking chimpanzees is much more challenging than tracking gorillas.  In order to support their massive brains (like the human brain), they must eat a huge variety of foods (300 recorded plants and animals compared to only a few dozen plants for gorillas).  In order to find this food they must forage over a massive home range of well over several hundred square kms (compared to only 10 to 50 for gorillas.)  With huge movements like this, tracking them is inevitably harder.  Each day the search for these agile and highly mobile primates begins in the cool early morning.  Your guide takes you into the forest and you wait, listening for the tell tale hoots and screeches that give away these noisy gangs’ location.  Part of the thrill as you walk in the thick forest tracking the chimpanzees is the scenery and sounds of birds, insects, monkeys, and other inhabitants of the forest.  It can take ¾ of an hour to get close to these extremely mobile primates, but once you stop and watch the thrill and connection between observer and subject is simply amazing.   

There are many other primates to see.  In addition to chimpanzees, you will go in search of troops of 300+ Angola Colobus monkeys and an assortment of other primate species.  The name “colobus” is derived from the Greek word for “mutilated,” because unlike other monkeys, colubus monkeys do not have thumbs.  There is a network of well maintained trails throughout the forest to various waterfalls and viewing points.  Soak up the natural pleasures from the tall old mahoganies, ebonies, and giant tree ferns towering above, whilst orchids and other epiphytes cling to every branch. 

Rwanda is one of Africa’s top birding countries with 670 different bird species within an area the size of Wales or Belgium.  Nyungwe alone harbors 300 species of birds.  The avian highlight of Nyungwe is the great blue turaco –  outlandishly colored blue, red, and green birds which stream from tree to tree like a procession of streamlined psychedelic turkeys. 

Dinner and overnight at Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel. 

Day 5   
Kivu Serena Hotel
Lake Kivu   
Breakfast at Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel.  Today you’ll experience a spectacular speed boat ride the length and breadth of the beautiful shoreline of Lake Kivu, the largest lake in Rwanda, and the sixth largest lake in Africa. Lake Kivu lies along the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and is enclosed by steep, green terraced hills.  The lake bed sits on the Albertine Rift that is slowly being pulled apart, causing volcanic activity in the area.   This makes it particularly deep – the eighteenth deepest lake on the planet.    

Lake Kivu is off the beaten path and offers visitors rewarding glimpses into ancient African lifestyles.  Here, fishermen ply the water in dugout canoes unchanged in design for centuries, while colorfully dressed ladies smoke traditional wooden pipes, and troubadours strum sweetly on stringed iningire (traditional guitars).  Your boat ride includes visits to remote villages and islands and opportunities to see pelicans sailing across the open water, majestic crowned cranes preening their golden crests in the swamp areas, and jewel-like malachite kingfishers hovering above the shore.   

Dinner and overnight at Kivu Serena Hotel.

Day 6
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
Parc National des Volcans  
 Early breakfast at Kivu Serena Hotel. From the floor of the Albertine rift it is a one to two hour drive into the foothills of Rwanda’s Virunga Mountain range.

Parc National des Volcans takes its name from a string of free-standing volcanoes that stretch across the Rwanda section of the Virunga Mountains.  This area was part of the first national park in Africa, created in 1925.   The park boundaries and this “Land of a Thousand Hills” include six of the Virunga Volcanoes. These are great, ancient old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet nearly covered by rich, green rainforest.  Parc National is the area where Diane Fossey did her groundbreaking gorilla research. She is buried at Karisoke, in the saddle between Bisoke and Karisimbi Volcanoes.   The film “Gorillas in the Mist” was filmed in Parc National des Volcans.  

The Virungas were once uniformly covered with forest, but demographic pressures in recent centuries have led to intensive deforestation – a process that accelerated to unsustainable levels in the 20th century.  The region around the Virungas is one of the remnants of that original vast forestland.  When tourism proved to be a boost to the local economy and a source of hard currency, the steady shrinking of the park’s area stopped.  

Morning briefing with park staff prior to golden monkey trekking. The golden monkeys roam in the bamboo zone of the forest, and the viewing generally requires less trekking than when you are searching for gorillas.  Golden monkeys are extremely attractive, playful, and agile primates that thrive in the Volcans.  Its attractive pelt has placed it on the endangered list published by the IUCN.  Golden monkeys are a subspecies of the blue money found only in the bamboo forests of the volcanic chain that forms a part of the boundary between Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC.   

Dinner and overnight at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge.

Day 7
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
Parc National des Volcans   
Breakfast at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge.  After breakfast you’ll meet up with your Rwandan Park rangers from the Office Rwandaise du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN).  You’ll attend an introductory session at the park headquarters to learn about forest and gorilla trekking etiquette.  ORTPN guides will be taking you into the rain forest and there will be guides in your party who work daily with the gorillas in Parc National.  You’ll hike to the point where the gorillas were seen the day before and track from that point.  Trekking can range from 1 to 5 hours as you move into the gorilla’s home range.  The park service employs about 80 people as guides, trackers, and anti-poaching officers, and they speak both English and French.  Trek and climb through the shady bamboo forests on the lush forested slopes that are home to eight habituated gorilla groups.   The gorillas are remarkably tolerant of their human visitors.  No more than eight guests are allowed to view each of the three habituated gorilla families at any one time.

•    You should maintain a distance of at least 7 meters from the gorillas.  Do not touch the gorillas or try to make contact.  The gorillas will break the rules occasionally.  In such cases, don’t increase the distance between you and them, but drop back as soon as you can without disturbing them.
•    Do not use flash cameras.
•    Do not eat or smoke.
•    Do not do anything that may cause the gorillas stress or exhibit any behavior that they may see as a challenge.  Respect their space, speak very quietly, and avoid unnecessary movement. 
•    Keep in a small group and never surround the gorillas.
•    Leave nothing behind but footprints.    

Recent DNA research has shown that there are sufficient genetic differences between the Virunga and Bwindi Forest gorillas in Uganda to suggest that the populations breed in isolation, even though mid-altitude forests linked the two mountain ranges until 500 years ago. Picnic lunch while trekking.  Late afternoon departure from Parc National for the drive to Kigali.  We anticipate being in Kigali no earlier than 5:30 pm. 
   
Dinner and overnight at Manor Hotel.

Day 8
Transit through Kigali   
Breakfast at Manor Hotel.  If your international connections permit, you can spend the morning or day at the Gisozi Genocide Museum built with funds from the Belgium, Swedish, and US based Clinton Foundation. 

Lunch and transport to the Kigali International Airport for your international flight.  You will arrive at the airport two hours prior to your international departure. 

Day 9    
Travel Day   
International Flight


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