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Rwanda Safaris

Nothing can prepare you for it. The moment you first encounter a mountain gorilla nestled in the midst of the verdant Rwandan thicket. As soon as you step foot in the legendary Virunga Mountains, there’s a palpable sense of interconnectedness, rippling from the land, to the wildlife, to the people.

Rwanda is one of Africa’s most thrilling safari destinations. Nicknamed ‘the land of a thousand hills’, it offers a tapestry landscape that winds its way from the eastern plains of Tanzania through to the central forests of the Congo Basin. Not a typical safari destination when compared to the likes of Kenya and Tanzania, a Rwanda safari offers something entirely different, whether it be tracking the mountain gorillas of the Virunga Volcanoes, searching high and low for the cheeky chimpanzees of Nyungwe Forest, or relaxing on the savannah plains of Akagera National Park.

A landlocked destination set in the heart of Africa, Rwanda has gone from strength to strength in recent years, having one of the fastest growing economies on the African continent. A Rwanda safari used to be primarily focused on a mountain gorilla safari, this has changed. The Rwandan government has invested heavily in the tourism infrastructure over the years to the extent that there is now a healthy selection of mid to high-end lodges and properties, and the safari sights and sounds do not rely wholly on the mountain gorillas. This growth is apparent as typical Rwandan safaris can include a selection of national parks with an array of wildlife highlights.

Why Natural World Safaris for your Rwanda Safari?

NWS originally started as World Primate Safaris back in 2005; when it comes to primates we are the experts with a long history of sending clients on transformative gorilla tracking expeditions. Our team of destination specialists have extensive experience tracking gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda, the Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic. Thanks to our in-depth knowledge of the gorillas and what constitutes a top-class gorilla tracking safari, we are recognised as one of the leading authorities in gorilla tourism, awarded by both Travel+Leisure and Conde Nast for our expertise in this area.

Our exclusive safaris dig a little deeper than the norm. We can include scenic helicopter transfers offering a remarkable bird’s-eye view of this endangered habitat. We also offer the opportunity to spend time with the doctors of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project learning about the incredible conservation work they do through veterinary medicine; you can choose to visit them, have them join you at your lodge for dinner, or even have a Gorilla Doctor accompany you on your trek. Working closely with conservationists, we can offer the change to join habituation safaris and more. Our exclusive network on the ground links us to all the best lodges in the region and we are often able to add that little NWS twist to your trip, transforming it into something really special.

How much does Rwanda cost?

For a 6-day safari in Rwanda, we recommend a starting price of £6000 per person. This will generally include gorilla permits, accommodation and private guides. If you are looking to stay in some of Rwanda’s most iconic and best loved lodges, you’ll need to increase the budget to £20000 per person including private helicopter transfers, multiple gorilla permits and private guides.

St Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Shutterstock Brina L Bunt

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The Rwanda Safari Experience

Staying purely within this landlocked country, a Rwandan safari can now completely cater to your needs without you needing to go further afield. A good week to ten days can afford you gorillas, chimpanzees, and savannah game, negating the need to travel further afield and keeping costs within reason. On your travels you will meet and discover one of the friendliest populations on the African continent, hospitable, generous, and forgiving. As well as exploring the vast wildlife highlights on your Rwanda safari, make sure you spend time to stop, listen, and enjoy the hospitality of the Rwandan people themselves.

You may wish to include the following in your Rwanda itinerary:

  • Gorilla Tracking - Track the world-famous mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park
  • History - Learn more about Rwanda's history with a visit to the thought-provoking Genocide Memorial.
  • Classic Safari - Enjoy a safari on the vast savannah plains of Katavi in search of hippo, elephant, lion and leopard
  • Track Chimpanzees - Search for chimpanzees in the forested foothills of the Mahale Mountains
  • Conservation - Visit the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Centre and learn about the work done to save Rwanda’s injured apes
  • Game Drives - Enjoy the thrill of wildlife interactions and see incredible game on morning and afternoon game drives
  • Night Game Drives - Discover the nocturnal side to the plains with night drives and witness the bush come alive.
  • Boat Safari - View wildlife from the water including crocodiles, hippos and a dazzling array of birds.

Where to stay in Rwanda?

Accommodation in Rwanda forms part of your experience, and standards between the various options can differ according to location. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is in enviable close proximity to the Parc National des Volcans, whilst Volcanoes Virunga Lodge is an eco-friendly option in one of the most stunning locations in the continent. Mountain Gorilla View Lodge also offers a mid-range choice with close proximity to the park. Throughout the rest of Rwanda, accommodation varies with the majority of investment having been made around the gorilla park. Read more on where to stay.

When to go to Rwanda?

The best time to visit Rwanda is from mid-May to mid-October, this is the long dry season and has perfect conditions for tracking gorillas. There are four seasons to consider when planning your Rwanda safari, however the weather is fairly temperate and favours travel year round. You can track gorillas year-round in Rwanda, however, you will want to bear in mind that the rainier months will make tracking more difficult with muddy conditions. Read more about when to go to Rwanda.

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Rwanda Safaris FAQs

Is it safe to go on safari in Rwanda?

Rwanda is generally considered a safe destination to travel to, known for its friendly atmosphere and significant strides in security and stability. The country's efforts to enhance visitor safety have made it a popular choice, especially for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. While crime rates are relatively low, travelers should adhere to common-sense safety precautions, respect local customs, and stay informed about any travel advisories.

Does accommodation have mosquito nets?

Not all camps and lodges in Rwanda have mosquito nets. It all depends on their individual location, e.g. the altitude, distance from open water and so on. Much of the accommodations are tented camps which are sealed tightly and zipped up, avoiding the need for mosquito netting.

In the lodges, while you enjoy your dinner, house-keeping will complete a turn-down service and spray the rooms with mosquito repellent.

Regardless of mosquito netting, you should always bring insect repellent with DEET, trousers/slacks, sports/long sleeved shirts and/or blouse and dress/skirt for ladies. Keeping your skin covered will reduce your risk of being bitten.

What should I wear on a gorilla safari?

For a gorilla safari, the basics include lightweight and moisture-wicking clothing that allows ease of movement, including long-sleeved shirts and trousers to protect against insects and vegetation. Sturdy, waterproof walking boots are crucial, and consider tucking trousers into socks to prevent insects from entering. A lightweight waterproof jacket and fleece/sweater provide warmth and protection from rain.

More information on what to wear on a gorilla safari.

How far are lodges from the gorilla tracking HQ?

When tracking the gorillas you will be located within easy access of the park headquarters, but the distance will depend on which accommodation you opt for. The distance to the headquarters will vary from a minute walk to an hours drive.

In Rwanda, the mid-range lodges of Gorilla’s Nest and Mountain Gorilla View Lodge are a 10 minute drive while the luxury Sabinyio Silverback Lodge is situated 3 kilometres from the main entrance to the park, strategically located to offer spectacular views. From here, you will have to walk a tough 15 minutes to the park headquarters. The eco-lodge comfort of Virunga Lodge is a 45 minute drive to the park headquarters.

Discover where to stay in Rwanda.

What money should I bring?

The local currency in Rwanda is the Rwandan franc and money can easily be changed in Kigali before you head off into the mountains.

The economy is quite cash based, though some big hotel chains may accept credit cards or debit cards. If you are exchanging from US dollar, you must ensure that the date on the notes is 2006 or newer. Older bills won’t be accepted. The higher the value of the note, the better the rate you will receive. For example, you will get a much better rate for exchanging $100 notes compared to $20’s.

In restaurants you are not expected to tip, however it is nice to show your appreciation with a tip if the service was good. For guides, rangers and porters in National Parks we recommend between $5 and $20 per day, for drivers we recommend $15 to $25 per day.

Is it safe to drink tap water?

Unfortunately, no. We do not recommend you drink tap water during your time in Rwanda. Always ensure you drink bottled water, even when brushing your teeth (this is just a safety precaution).

You must also make sure that the ice in your drinks is made from bottled or purified water.