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
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
- 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.
Start your African Adventure
Adventure in Nyungwe Forest
Nyungwe National Park lies in southwest Rwanda, partly abutting the Burundi border. This vast area of mountain rainforest is home to many species of chimpanzees, plus owl-faced and colobus monkeys. The Canopy Walkway, part of the Igishigishigi Trail, is a high suspension bridge with views over the valley and surrounding forests. A trail runs to the Kamiranzovu Marsh, with its birdlife, orchids and waterfall. “Come Fall in Love with Africa with those who Know It Better”
Gorillas Trekking, Masai Mara & Zanzibar Holiday
From tracking wild mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, to soaring over the plains of the iconic Masai Mara in a hot air balloon, and swimming with whale sharks in Zanzibar, we’re certain that this African adventure will be the most magical and memorable holiday you will ever take. Starting in Rwanda you’ll track endangered mountain gorillas, before spending three days in Kenya’s Masai Mara. This phenomenal holiday ends with four days on the exotic spice island on Zanzibar.
This incredible 7-day adventure in Rwanda offers the opportunity for once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounters. You’ll track chimpanzees and spot monkeys, baboons and other wildlife in Nyungwe National Park. Trekking deep into the forests of Parc National des Volcans, you’ll search for endangered mountain gorillas with expert local rangers. You’ll also have an opportunity to explore Kigali and its colourful markets, cross Nyungwe’s Canopy Walkway and kayak on Lake Kivu.
Virunga Primates and Mafia Island
This fantastic holiday combines Rwanda’s Parc des Volcans and Mafia Island in the Indian Ocean. You’ll spend time tracking wild mountain gorillas and endangered golden monkeys in Rwanda before flying to Tanzania's capital, Dar Es Salam. Following a night there, you will head off to laid-back Mafia Island, where you can enjoy activities such as kayaking, sailing trips with local fishermen, hiking, bird watching, diving, snorkeling, cultural tours and visits to local villages.
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.
- Black Rhino
- Mountain Gorilla
- Black rhino
- Sitatunga antelope
- Roan antelope
- Blue monkey
Infrequently Seen Animals:
- Golden monkey
- Golden cat
- Wild cat
- African civet
- Side-stripped jackal
- Giant forest hog
- Bush pig
- L’Hoest monkey
Frequently Seen Animals:
- Olive baboon
- Grey-cheeked Mangabey
- Colobus monkey
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.
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.
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.
- 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
Volcanoes National Park is known for the 300 mountain gorillas that the park protects. However, these are not the only endangered primates in the park – the golden monkey can also be tracked to its bamboo habitat within the park.
- Duiker, buffalo, spotted hyena and bushbuck
- Elephants are very rare in Volcanoes National Park
The most common animals in Nyungwe Forest are the primates. The park is home to roughly 14 species of primates, all of which can be tracked through their various habitats. Chimpanzee tracking is particularly popular.
- Leopard, golden cat, serval, wildcat, side-striped jackal, African civet, mongoose, fronted duiker, giant forest hog and bush pig
Akagera National Park has an abundance of plains game, including the Big Five, and the rare sitatunga antelope. There is a bigger variety of wildlife in this park – several antelope species, several primate species, zebra, hyena and side-stripped jackal.
Volcanoes National Park offers exceptional views from enchanted peaks, and stunning scenery from volcanic mountain slopes. The park is the Rwandan portion of the striking Virunga Volcanoes Mountains. This spectacular forested range is home to five of the eight Virunga volcanoes and is the absolute best place in Africa to track the endangered mountain gorilla.
Through sloping hilltops, forest-edged lakes, papyrus swamps and the golden savannah plains, Akagera National Park is stunning in its scenic beauty. Safari drives coupled with amazing guides ensure a wonderful wildlife experience. Taking a boat trip on Lake Ihema at sunset, or spending a day fishing on the shores of Lake Shakani will undoubtedly make your safari a uniquely wonderful adventure.
Nyungwe Forest national Park is one of the oldest and best-preserved forests in Africa. This primal forest is an absolute wonderland brought to life. Butterflies swarm the orchids, and birds chatter in the trees. The playful monkeys and elusive cats all create the perfect wilderness adventure. At one point, you’ll look around and wonder if you’ve stepped into a movie or a fairytale. With great guides, rich scents and amazing sights, you will fall in love with one of Africa’s most ancient forests.
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
- Hong Kong
Upon arrival, the following East African citizens will be issued a renewable 6 month visitor pass (no fee):
Upon arrival, the following nationals will be issued (without prior application) an entry visa valid for 30 days ($30):
- United States of America
- United Kingdom
- Republic of South Africa
- New Zealand
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:
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.