VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK (PNV)
Volcanoes National Park (PNV) is the Rwanda section of the great Virunga Volcanoes, a rainforest range of 8 volcanic mountains including the still active Nyiragongo and Nyakagezi in DR Congo, which sits on the borders triangle between Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. They are home to the rare and critically endangered Mountain Gorillas (gorilla beringei beringei) of which only approx. 800 members remain in the world! Volcanoes National Park encompasses 5 of the 8 volcanoes including Sabyinyo, Muhabura, Gahinga, Bisoke and Karisimbi.
Mountain Gorillas inspire great curiosity and interest in humans due to their being such massive and powerful wild animals that genetically, socially and physically so closely resemble humans. Gorillas can weigh up to 250kgs, grow twice as big as a man and be 8 times as powerful. They are also very rare (with only approx. 800 of them remaining in their wild world in the Virunga Mountains and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in central Africa) and listed in the IUCN red-list of critically endangered species. They are therefore a huge tourist attraction.
Gorillas live in families of few to 40 members headed by a dominant male, a silverback, often with several females and their young of different ages. To facilitate visits by tourists, selected whole families are taken through a controlled scientific training process called habituation after which they can tolerate the presence of humans in their vicinity for short controlled periods of time. There are 10 habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park each residing in a different section of the various volcanoes. Each gorilla family can be visited by a maximum of 8 persons per day, accompanied by a specialist Gorilla tracking guide and an armed ranger.
Gorilla tracking involves an exhilarating hike up and down ridges and valleys in a mountain forest sometimes in wet, muddy and rainy conditions which can be difficult however no one should feel deterred from doing it; an average level of fitness normally sufficient for the excursion and assistance is always available from porters and cooperative. Once we come to the gorillas, visitors are requested to maintain a distance of 7m (25feet) from the gorillas and allowed the magical chance of staying with them for one hour as they go about their daily life; it is an unforgettable and potentially life changing experience.
NB: Although the gorillas are habituated, they are still wild animals – please be sure to follow your guide’s instructions at all times.
NYUNGWE RAINFOREST NATIONAL PARK
Nyungwe rainforest National Park is a nature lover’s paradise. Chimpanzee tracking, the only Canopy Walk in east and central Africa, track habituated families of Angola Colobus Monkeys, Bird Walks, regular guided Forest Hikes down the valleys to waterfalls below, visit the reputed furthest source of River Nile (only possible from Kibuye on the other side of the park) or enjoy a Cultural Interaction visiting one of the local tea plantations where you meet and mingle with the local people.
AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
It is amazingly scenic big game country barely 2.5hrs from Kigali – Elephants, Buffaloes, Antelopes, Nile crocodiles and Hippos as well as boat rides on Lake Ihema; and the icing on the cake is: lions have just been re-introduced!!
GISENYI, KIBUYE & CYANGUGU
Enjoy beach-time on the resort towns of Gisenyi, Kibuye or Cyangugu sitting on the shores of the incredibly beautiful Lake Kivu – one of the African great lakes and the sixth largest lake in Africa. The former two towns are on the border with DR Congo – Rwandan towns are so well organized, spotless cleaned, and enjoying excellent weather. Enjoy cultural tours, guided town tours on foot or by car, visit historical sites and meet.mingle with local Rwandans. You can even swim in Lake Kivu – no bilharzia.
Kigali is Rwanda’s stunning capital city and the main gateway into the country as well as her tourism hub. It is reputedly the cleanest and safest city in East and Central Africa and is home to many world class hotels including Kigali Serena Hotel and the famed Hotel des Mille Collines. Join your guide on a sightseeing tour around her wide boulevards, samples the many specialty restaurants and tour the Kigali Memorial Centre for a perspective on the recent history but the recovery has been utterly phenomenal – a true testament to humankind’s resilience.
In Rwanda, every last Saturday of the month from 08.30am to 12.00 pm is Umuganda; a time when all Rwandans of all walks of life step away from their personal daily chores and come together within their neighborhoods to participate/work together in the traditional community service. Activities normally include sweeping the roads, clearing sidewalks/bushes, unblocking drains, clearing new fallow ground, repairing or building neighborhood schools and hospitals, visiting and assisting the needy, and so on. Whilst participation is now mandatory, people have over time developed a voluntary desire to be part of this activity that has made Rwanda one of the cleanest, best organized, and most beautiful countries in the region and earned them so much global adulation and respected. Traffic is restricted during this period and although most common tourist activities like gorilla tracking, game viewing drives, rain-forest hikes, chimpanzee tracking, etc, continue unhindered, certain other more public activities/places like museums, memorial centers, public libraries, shops, malls, businesses, remain closed. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
Rwanda is one of the first countries in Africa to effectively ban the use of low grade plastic bags as defined by the united Nations Environment Program. Visitors arriving at the airport with plastic bags carriers may have them confiscated and be issued with alternative higher grade plastic or khaki bags. We support this cause and encourage other governments around the world to adopt because it is best for the global environment as well as cleanliness.
KWITIZINA GORILLA NAMING CEREMONY
Kwita-Izina, the wildly popular Gorilla Naming Ceremony is held every year around June and focuses on the conservation of mountain gorillas as well as overall environmental conservation and consciousness.