Rwanda Safari - Complete Travel Guide

Volcanoes, gorillas, rainforests, the Big Five and sunsets on Lake Ihema – is there anything Rwanda doesn’t have? As a safari destination, Rwanda is full of adventure and stunning beauty. From sloping mountains, to a waterfall paradise, this beautiful land is definitely worth a visit.

  • Best Time To Go

    July - September

  • Average Safari Cost

    $300-$800 pp/day

  • Highlights

    Gorilla and other primate trekking, volcano trekking, canopy walk, the Big Five, amazing hiking trails, Isumo waterfall, stunning scenery, great guides and boat trips; great birdwatching

Why Go On A Rwanda Safari?

In the shadow of the Virunga Volcanoes Mountains, 300 mountain gorillas are protected in their rainforest habitat. This is approximately half the world’s mountain gorilla population. Visiting these amazing primates is an unforgettable experience. In Volcanoes National Park you can track these gentle creatures, as well as the rare golden monkey. In Nyungwe Forest, you can track chimpanzees and 14 other primates, including the L’Hoest monkey.

Take a trip to Akagera National Park to see the Big Five, along with several species of antelope, including the sitatunga antelope, and in Nyungwe Forest, several big cats prowl the various terrains.

There are over 1,450 species of birds in Rwanda, with 29 Albertine Rift endemics. Multiple habitats and diverse terrains allow for a wide range of species whom you are likely to encounter on your safari, including the Shoebill Stork, Great-blue Turaco and Grauer’s broadbill.

Rwanda has a beautiful landscape, with multiple terrains – rolling hills, volcanic mountains, tropical rainforests, papyrus swamps and savannah plains. Watching sunsets on Lake Ihema and fishing at Lake Shakani, the hidden paradise of Isumo Waterfall and the mesmerizing view from Ngezi Crater Lake – Rwanda has so many stunning sights, that it’s difficult to pick to ones to see first.

Pros And Cons

We hope that your safari is full of great adventures and very few challenges.
  • Gorilla trekking
  • Africa's Big Five
  • Volcano trekking
  • Canopy walks through the jungle
  • Spectacular, diverse landscapes
  • Excellent government-certified guides
  • An above average safari with unique activities
  • Can be expensive
  • Quite busy from July till September
  • Heavy rains from February-April and October-November can make certain roads impassable

Best Time To Go

Wet seasons: March-May and October-November

Dry seasons: June-September and December-February

While Rwanda as two rainy seasons and two dry seasons, the temperatures generally average 71-80°F (22 - 27°C), although the humidity tend to be high in October. It is in the jungle after all.

December through to February is a short dry season. The rains slow down in December and pick up again at the end of February, although there is usually light rainfall throughout.
Between March and May there is the long wet season in Rwanda, where the rainfall is heavy and persistent. April is the wettest month of the year. It is best to try and stay clear of the parks during this time as many roads become impassable.
Months between June and September constitute the long dry season, and is the best time of the year to visit Rwanda. It is also the busiest time (high season). There is some light cloud cover with occasional light rain, but the days are mostly sunny and warm.
October and November are both rainy months and rainfall is generally high.
Start your African Adventure

Wildlife And Birds

Rwanda is home to several primate species – including mountain gorillas, the golden monkey and chimpanzees – as well as the Big Five and several large predators.

Birdwatching is spectacular in Rwanda, with many Albertine Rift endemics available, and even the rare Shoebill stork.

List Of Animals
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Leopard
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Black Rhino
  • Chimpanzee
  • Mountain Gorilla
  • Zebra
  • Crocodile

Rare Animals

  • Black rhino
  • Sitatunga antelope
  • Roan antelope
  • Blue monkey

Infrequently Seen Animals:

  • Gorilla
  • Golden monkey
  • Elephant
  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Golden cat
  • Wild cat
  • Serval
  • African civet
  • Hyena
  • Side-stripped jackal
  • Mongoose
  • Bushbaby
  • Giant forest hog
  • Bush pig
  • L’Hoest monkey
  • Zebra

Frequently Seen Animals:

  • Chimpanzee
  • Olive baboon
  • Buffalo
  • Grey-cheeked Mangabey
  • Vervet
  • Colobus monkey
  • Hippo
  • Crocodile
  • Duiker
  • Bushbuck

Best Of Wildlife

Gorilla trekking: Around $1,500 pp

Tracking these gentle primates through their rainforest habitat in Volcanoes National Park is a thrilling experience. Ensure that you have a good level of fitness, as the trek could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours, and you’ll be hiking through mountainous and jungle terrain.

Golden Monkey trekking: $100 pp

These rare primates can be found in their bamboo habitat in Volcanoes National Park. This trek is cheaper than tracking gorillas, but no less exciting.

Tracking chimpanzees ($90 pp) and other primates ($60 pp)

In Nyungwe Forest, there are 14 species of primate, and you can track them all. The chimpanzees are more popular, and thus more expensive, but L’Hoest monkey is also present. The park guides are knowledgeable, and know where to find each of the 14 species. Take your pick and enjoy the adventure.


Rwanda has quite a few large predators in its diverse habitats. While predators are generally more elusive than other animals, they can still be spotted. The most commonly seen predators are hippos, crocodiles, leopards, lions and hyenas. Other predators include several large cats and the side-stripped jackal.

Other animals

Akagera National Park has the widest range of wildlife out of the three main Rwandan parks. The park boasts several antelope species – topi, impala, roan, sitatunga, waterbuck, duiker, reedbuck, oribi, eland, klipspringer and bushbuck – as well as several primates – olive baboons, vervets, blue monkeys and bushbabies. Other animals include zebra, elephant and buffalo.

When To See More Animals
The dry months of July – September are the best to view wildlife. These months are also the best time for primate tracking, particularly in Volcanoes and Nyungwe Forest, as they are rainforests and the drier months will be more pleasant.

Rwanda has excellent birdwatching, with over 1,450 species available, 29 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift. With such a diverse landscape – rainforests, papyrus swamps, savannahs and mountain terrains – there is a large variety of birds that can be seen throughout the year. Notable birds include: Shoebill stork, Papyrus gonolek, Shelley’s crimson-wing and the Eurasian Peregrine falcon.

Endangered Birds

  • African White-backed Vulture
  • African Grey Parrot
  • African Skimmer
  • Albertine Owlet
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Black-winged Pranticole
  • Congo Bay-owl
  • Denham’s Bustard
  • Dwarf Honeyguide
  • Eurasian Curlew
  • Eurasian Peregrine Falcon
  • Grauer’s Swamp Warbler
  • Kivu Ground-thrush
  • Kungwe Apalis
  • Lagden’s Bush-shrike
  • Lappet-faced Vulture
  • Lesser Flamingo
  • Lesser Kestrel
  • Madagascar Pond-heron
  • Pallid Harrier
  • Papyrus Gonolek
  • Papyrus Yellow Warbler
  • Red-collared Mountain-warbler
  • Red-faced Barbet
  • Ring-necked Francolin
  • Rueppell’s Vulture
  • Semi-collared Flycarcher
  • Shelley’s Crimson-wing
  • Shoebill Stork
  • White-headed Vulture

Albertine Rift Endemic Birds

  • Handsome Francolin
  • Ruwenzori Turaco
  • Congo Bay Owl
  • Albertine Owlet
  • Ruwenzori Nightjar
  • Dwarf Honeyguide
  • Ruwenzori Batis
  • Willard’s Sooty Boubou
  • Stripe-breasted Tit
  • Grauer’s Warbler
  • Neumann’s Warbler
  • Red-faced Wooland Warbler
  • Grauer’s Swamp Warbler
  • Ruwenzori Apalis
  • Mountain Masked Apalis
  • Kungwe Apalis
  • Red-collared Babbler
  • Kivi Ground Thrush
  • Yellow-eyed Black Flycatche
  • Archer’s Ground Robin
  • Red-throated Alethe
  • Blue-headed Sunbird
  • Purple-breasted Sunbird
  • Ruwenzori Double-collared Sunbird
  • Regal Sunbird
  • Rockefeller’s Sunbird
  • Strange Weaver
  • Dusky Crimsonwing
  • Shelley’s Crimsonwing

Getting There And Safety

Please take the time to read the following information before visiting Rwanda.

Kigali International Airport is the main point of entry in to Rwanda and is located 10km (6miles) from the capital, Kigali. Although Kigali Airport's site doesn't look modern, the airport was ranked second best airport in Africa in 2017 for its services.

From the airport, you can travel by road or air to the different parks.

If you have booked an organized safari, your local operator will likely arrange for all transportation for the duration of your visit.


For the flights to Rwanda, it is advised to check Skyscanner (for multiple destination flights), to see which airlines can take you there and compare various ticket prices.

If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Rwanda.

If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Rwanda.


All foreign visitors are required to have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months.

*Nationals of the following countries can visit Rwanda without a visa for up to 90 days:

  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • Mauritius
  • Philippines

Upon arrival, the following East African citizens will be issued a renewable 6 month visitor pass (no fee):

  • Burundi
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda

Upon arrival, the following nationals will be issued (without prior application) an entry visa valid for 30 days ($30):

Those who wish to stay longer can pre-apply for a tourist visa which is valid for 90 days with multiple entry, or they can obtain another 30 day visa.

Upon arrival, all other African nationals (not listed above) are issued with an entry visa ($30, no pre-apply needed).

All countries not listed above are required to apply for a Tourist Visa (T2), which costs US$50, and is valid for 90 days (for multiple entry).

If you would prefer, you could apply for an East African Tourist Visa (US$100), which allows entry into Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda, and is valid for 90 days. Applications can be made at any Rwandan Embassy or online (although online is faster). If you have applied online, your visa will be waiting for collection at Kigali International Airport.

*UPDATE: From 1st Jan 2018, Nationals of all countries receive visa on arrival at Kigali International Airport and all land borders. Although it is not entirely clear whether this refers only to visa-exempt countries, please check the link above for more detailed information.


A yellow fever vaccination is required for Rwanda as there has been an outbreak in parts of the country. Your doctor or travel clinic should be able to give you more information on vaccinations needed for Rwanda.

Check your local travel health authority for more information:

There is some risk of malaria in Rwanda and it is advised to take preventative measures. Speak to your healthcare provider regarding preventative medication for malaria. Bring a good insect repellent (30% DEET or more) for your trip to Rwanda, and once there, keep your arms and legs covered as often as possible, especially at night. The highest risk is during the rainy seasons – February-April and October-November.
Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Rwanda. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check the World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of the safari trip cover.

What To Pack
For more details about what to take with you on a safari see our Safari Packing List.
Drinking Water
The tap water in Rwanda is generally unsafe for drinking. You can buy bottled water in of the stores in the country, and they are generally cheap. Try to avoid swallowing water in the shower, and don’t use ice blocks.