Rwanda - Gorillas



clickGorilla tracking - 2010


From 2010 onwards, Summit Ventures will be offering regular trips to visit the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda. These tours will be organized in partnership with Rove Africa (one of the largest and most experienced tour operators on the African continent), and will include many of Rwanda’s unique sightseeing venues: lakes, highland volcanoes and forests, as well as visits to other primate sites.

The dates selected for 2010 are during the Soccer World Cup – not a bad idea to be out of the country during this period! However, we will be ‘home’ to witness the opening ceremonies, and of course, the ‘finals’.  

Depart: Saturday, 19th June 2010
Return: Sunday, 27th June 2010 (8 days inclusive)

For detailed Itinerary, see page to follow.

June is in fact a good month for visiting the Mountain Gorillas - after the 'long rains', and before the northern hemisphere summer holidays commence.

Costs (for 10 people traveling together): 
Flights (ex Johannesburg) = R 6,575.00 p/p (including taxes).
Tour package
a. with ‘budget' accommodation (economy) = US$ 1985 p/p                   
$ 1985 at ZAR 7.85 / US$ 1 = R 15,582.25
Total (with airfare) = R 22,157.25
b. with 'superior' accommodation = $ 3005 p/p
$ 3005 at ZAR 7.85 / US$ 1 = R 23,589.25
Total (with airfare) = R 30,164.25

The prices quoted include all entry fees and activities, private transport in two vehicles throughout, accommodation, all meals, special levies and admin costs.  

    Gorilla permit = US$ 500 / R 3,925.00
    Optional extra tours and hikes
         i. Golden Monkeys = $ 100 per person
         ii. Bisoke climb = $ 75 per person
         iii. Karisoke centre = $ 75 per person
         iv. Boat on Lake Kivu = $ 690 to be shared by number of participants. 

Age restriction: no one under the age of 15 years is permitted to visit the Gorillas. 

Difficulty? The tourist association of Rwanda warns that the jungle climbs are fairly strenuous - on long, steep, muddy trails. A fair degree of strength and fitness are required!  


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clickItinerary - 2010


Day 1 - Kigali - Huye (Butare) - Nyungwe Forest NP

Arrival KQ 476 ETA 08h10. After completing arrival formalities depart for Huye (Butare), the intellectual capital of Rwanda with a university and several academic and research institutions.

After Lunch at either Hotel Le Faucon or at Hotel Ibis we’ll visit the National Museum - probably the finest ethnographic museum in East Africa and a fascinating source of information on the cultural history of Rwanda and the region.

Leave Butare and drive toward Nyungwe Forest National Park where we will spend the next two days.

Distance & driving times: Kigali-Butare: 135 km - 3h30 including the visits. Butare-Gisakura: 158 km - 2h30 - Good roads.

Accommodation: Nyungwe Hill Top Lodge // Gisakura guesthouse (L-D)

Extending for 1,000 square kilometres across the majestic hills of southeast Rwanda, Nyungwe National Park is the largest block of montane forest in East or Central Africa, and one of the most ancient, dating back to before the last Ice Age. Its rich biodiversity is un-paralleled in Africa. It is home to 13 Types of Primate, over 275 species of birds (of which 25 are endemic), more than 250 different types of tree and shrubs and a myriad of flowering plants including the other-worldly giant lobelia and a host of colourful orchids.

Nyungwe is most alluring for its primates: 13 species in all, including humankind’s closest living relative the chimpanzee, as well as the handsome L’Hoest’s monkey and hundred-strong troops of the delightfully acrobatic Angola colobus. The avian highlight of Nyungwe is the great blue turaco - an outlandish blue, red and green bird which stream from tree to tree like a procession of streamlined psychedelic turkeys.

An extensive network of well-maintained walking trails leads through the forest to various waterfalls and viewing points.


Day 2 - Nyungwe Forest NP

Nyungwe Forest NP is a paradise for hikers. The terrain is rugged and steep, and you will be at relatively high elevation - so bring warm clothing. Wear good hiking shoes, for the trails are steep and slippery!

Your day will start with an early breakfast and a briefing at Uwinka tourist information centre. Then depart with your guide for a morning walk through the forest to track the Colubus Monkeys. In the afternoon take the 4 km, 3 hour Kamiranzovu Trail which leads to a quite different ecosystem, a relatively low-lying marshy area rich in orchids (particularly during the rainy season) and localized swamp-associated bird species.

Distance & Driving times: Gisakura Guest House is 40 min and Nyungwe Hill Top Lodge about an hour from the headquarters of Nyungwe NP.

Overnight Nyungwe Hill Top Lodge // Gisakura guesthouse (B-L-D)


Day 3 - Nyungwe Forest NP

Another early start today as we must be at Park Headquarters by 06h00 to meet our guide for this morning’s Chimpanzee Trek. Unlike most other primates, chimpanzees don’t live in troops, but instead form extended communities of up to a hundred individuals, which roam the forest in small socially mobile sub groups that often revolve around a few close family mem-bers such as brothers or a mother and daughter. Male chimps normally spend their entire life within the community into which they were born, where as females they are likely to migrate into a neighbouring community at some point after reaching adolescence.

In the afternoon we take the Waterfall Trail. This superb trail takes between three and six hours to cover as a round trip, depending on how often you stop! The first part of the trail passes through the rolling tea plantations and then descends into the forest proper, following flat contour paths through a succession of tree-fern-covered ravines, and crossing several streams, before a sharp descent to the base of the pretty but small waterfall. Monkeys are often seen along the way and this trail can be very rewarding for true forest interior birds, with a good chance of spotting of Albertine Rift endemics such as Ruwenzori turaco and yellow-eyed black flycatcher.

Distance & Driving times: Gisakura Guest House is 40 min and Nyungwe Hill Top Lodge about an hour from the headquarters of Nyungwe NP.

Accommodation: Overnight Nyungwe Hill Top Lodge // Gisakura guesthouse (B-L-D)


Day 4 - Nyungwe Forest NP - Kibuye

After breakfast we depart for the drive to Kibuye, probably the most attractive of the 3 major towns on the shores of Lake Kivu, arriving in time for Lunch. After all of the walking at Nyungwe, some relaxing moments on the shores of Lake Kivu are bound to be appreciated! This lake is the deepest fresh water lake in Africa and has beautiful beaches, peninsulas and an archipelago of beautiful islands. Afternoon at leisure and maybe a swim - Lake Kivu is Bilharzia free! (B-L-D).

Distance & Driving times: 4h30 hours - bad roads.

Accommodation: Moriah Hill Resort // Hotel Centre Bethanie.


Day 5 - Kibuye – Ruhengeri - Kinigi

After breakfast, drive along one of the finest (but difficult) roads of Rwanda with superb views over the lake and its hundreds of islands. Take your time to stop in villages, at road side markets, tea plantations, etc…. Lunch en route.

Distance & Driving time: Kibuye – Ruhengeri – Kinigi: 6 to 8 hours at a leisurely pace, including the stops.

For those who would prefer a more leisurely transfer by boat this can be arranged at extra cost. The boat trip from Kibuye to Gisenyi, takes around 4 hours and includes several stops along the shores of Lake Kivu. This is followed by a road transfer from Gisenyi to Kinigi: 1h15 - good road.

Accommodation: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge // Kinigi Guesthouse or Hotel Muhabura in Ruhengeri (B-L-D)


Day 6 - Gorilla Trekking

After breakfast you will report at the ORTPN headquarters where your driver-guide will assist you with the necessary formalities. You will meet your ranger guide(s) for a briefing about the greatest animal experience ever. We will drive you to the slopes of one of the Virunga volcanoes for your trekking. Tracking mountain gorillas in the Virungas is a peerless wildlife experience, and one of Africa’s indisputable travel highlights. It is difficult to describe the simple exhilaration attached to first setting eyes on a wild mountain gorilla. These are enormous animals: The silverback weigh about three times as much as the average man, and their bulk is exaggerated by a shaggily luxuriant coat. And yet despite their fearsome size and appearance, gorillas are remarkably peaceful creatures (certainly by comparison with most other primates) and nearly everyone who visits the gorillas experiences an almost mystical sense of recognition.

The hike up to the mountain gorillas’ preferred habitat of bamboo forest involves a combination of steep slopes, dense vegetation, slippery underfoot conditions after rain and high altitude, but, in the magical hour with the gorillas the financial and physical expense are completely forgotten.

After the trekking return to your hotel for a warm shower and some lunch. In the afternoon, if time allows, we will take a drive to explore the two beautiful lakes close by - Lake Bulera & Ruhondo where, on a clear day, there will also be an excellent view of the complete Virunga chain of Volcanoes.

Accommodation: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge // Kinigi Guesthouse or Hotel Muhabura in Ruhengeri (B-L-D)


Day 7 - Second gorilla trekking or another activity - or Departure after Breakfast

This day is available for a second Gorilla trek or a variety of other activities, all at extra cost. Chose from a visit to the endangered Golden Monkeys, a climb of the Bisoke volcano, or a trek to Dian Fossey's grave and the site of her original research station at Karisoke. The standard Itinerary will depart Kinigi after breakfast and drive back to Kigali with a visit to the Iby'Iwacu traditional village (a community based tourism project where the local community displays the traditional ways of living) en route. Lunch will be in Kigali, followed by a city tour including a visit to the Genocide Memorial.

Distance & driving time: Kinigi - Kigali: 2h30.

Accommodation: Laico Hotel (ex-Novotel) // Chez Lando Pavillon (B-L-D)


Day 8 - Departure

Two options:
    a.) For those who need to continue to Cape Town or Durban (on arrival in Johannesburg), the flights could be - Kigali to Nairobi KQ 479 04h00 >06h30 (wake-up call 2 am!) / Nairobi to Johannesburg KQ 762 09h10>12h20 (mid-day arrival in Johannesburg).
    b.) For those who would prefer to spend an extra hour or two in bed! - Kigali to Nairobi KQ 473 13h45 >16h15 Nairobi to Johannesburg KQ 764 20h40>23h50 (midnight arrival in JNB.)   


clickGorilla tracking in Rwanda


Just 90 minutes drive from Kigali, Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans (PNV) consists of 125 Km2 of mountain forest and is home to the six Virunga Volcanoes and the world famous mountain gorillas.

Protected within the PNV, the lushly forested slopes of the mountains form an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is arguably the most poignant and memorable wildlife experience in the world: gorilla tracking. The exhilarating climb to the gorilla’s natural habitat of shady bamboo forest offers fantastic views in all directions, before the trackers are immersed in the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest, alive with the calls of colourful birds and the chattering of rare golden monkey.

Gorillas are the largest living primates on Earth. There are three kinds of gorillas:

  •   Eastern Lowland Gorillas, which reside in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  •   Western Lowland Gorillas which live only in West Africa, and  
  •   Mountain Gorillas, which are only found in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Gorillas are listed as one of the top 10 most endangered species on Earth. There are approximately 355 gorillas in the Volcano and Virunga Mountains of Rwanda and Congo and another separate group of 300 in Uganda’s Impenetrable Forest. There are no Mountain Gorillas living outside of their native mountain forest home. Gorillas are protected by international law. Capturing or killing gorillas and other endangered species is illegal.

    Nothing can prepare one for the impact of encountering a fully-grown silverback gorilla, up to three times the size of an average man, yet remarkably peaceable and tolerant of human visitors.

    Parc National des Volcans is managed and protected by the Rwandan Office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN). Access begins in the lively town of Ruhengeri, situated at the base of the entrance of the park. Ruhengeri has long been the base point for gorilla visits and entertains a stunning backdrop of Karisimbi, Visoke, Mikeno, Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes. Ruhengeri is also only a 45-minute drive away from Gisenyi and the stunning Lake Kivu.

    A gorilla visit can entail anything from a 1 to 4-hour trek through the forest, led by experienced trackers who have spent their entire lives living in or close to the forest. Your trek will be enchanting as you weave through overhanging vines, moss-covered Hagenia trees and giant Lobelias that thrive in the tropical climate. You may spot golden monkeys or see buffalo, bush duiker and a wide variety of bird life. But the high point, of course, one of the greatest wildlife experiences on earth, will be spending an hour with the gentle giant gorillas as they go about their daily life, feeding, playing, resting, raising their young. At the end of your visit you will understand what kept conservationist Dian Fossey living in this same forest for 18 years protecting these wonderful animals.

    On the day of you are scheduled to trek you must present yourself at the ORTPN offices situated at the prefecture offices in Ruhengeri at 7:30 AM. ORTPN currently has a team of 80 trackers and anti-poachers, many of whom speak French or English. Eight permits per day are issued for each group of gorillas, so the maximum number of permits can range from eight to 40, depend-ing on how many families are visible on a given day. Only ORTPN can assign the group for your visit.

    Gorilla Guidelines:

    • To minimize possible transmission of human diseases, visitors are asked to maintain a distance of 7m (about 22 feet) from the gorillas. If you are sick with a cold, flu or other contagious illness, please do not visit the gorillas.
    • Viewing time is limited to one hour.
    • Maximum 8 visitors per group.
    • Spitting in the park is strictly prohibited.
    • Should you need to cough, cover your mouth and turn away from the gorillas.
    • When with the gorillas, keep your voice low.
    • Try not to make rapid movements that may frighten the gorillas.
    • If a gorilla should charge or vocalize at you, do not be alarmed, stand still, look away from the gorilla and follow your guide’s directions.
    • Do not litter.
    • Age limit for Gorilla trekking is 15 yrs.

    To enhance your enjoyment:

    • The climate in Ruhengeri is changeable and you can generally expect both sun and rainfall during the day.
    • Ruhengeri, at 1,700m above sea level, is generally quite cold, particularly in the evening, so warm clothing is advised.
    • Recommended clothing is long trousers and shirts when in the forest to avoid nettle stings.
    • Sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots are essential. You may find raingear useful.
    • Bring a water bottle and a small snack although eating, drinking and smoking near the gorillas is forbidden.
    • Photography is permitted, although you may not use flash
    • Porters are available to help you carry your daypack for a small charge.
    • Mountain gorillas live at high altitude and this may cause difficulties for some visitors. You should pace yourself, walk slowly and drink plenty of water. No one should feel deterred from making this trip.


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