7 days big five, chimps and gorillas in Rwanda

This seven-day tour will take you through Rwanda’s most enchanting destinations, offering you the opportunity to see the African Big Five in Akagera National Park, trek chimpanzees in the lush Nyungwe Forest National Park, and also have an encounter with the world-famous mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park..

>>Airport pick-up and return
>>Fully escorted by a Mutanda Gorilla Tours guide
>>Travel within Rwanda
>>6 nights accommodation
>>Daily breakfast, lunches and dinners

Day 1: Welcome to Rwanda!

When you arrive at Kigali International Airport, you will be picked up by our guide/driver who will transfer you to your hotel where you’ll spend the night.

Distance from airport to hotel: 15 minutes

Hotel options: Kigali Serena Hotel | Hotel des Mille Collins | Lemigo Hotel

Day 2: Game drive in the Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park is now arguably one of the best national parks to visit in eastern Africa, owing to the recent reintroduction of the black rhinos and lions to its wild.

Perched on the eastern edge of Rwanda on the border with Tanzania, Akagera is only a three-hour drive from the capital Kigali. Today you will wake up early and begin your journey to the park, making sure to be there by 8 am for the morning game drive.

Spanning over 1,085 km², the country’s largest national park is home to over 80 animal species, including the African Big Five (lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos and buffalos) – in addition to more than 500 species of birds.

Some of the animals you’ll catch a glimpse of here include lions, buffalos, elephants, bushpigs, cheetahs, monkeys, zebras, rhinos, hyenas, crocodiles, giraffes, hippos, warthogs, leopards, baboons and a range of antelope species.

Game viewing aside, you will also be fascinated by Akagera’s staggeringly scenic landscapes, which feature 11 freshwater lakes and beautiful rolling hills.
After the morning game drive, you will check into Rusizi Tented Camp, where you’ll have lunch and a bit of relaxation before heading out for the afternoon game drive.

Later in the evening you’ll return to your lodge for dinner and overnight.

Day 3: Boat ride & transfer to Nyungwe Forest National Park

After breakfast in the morning, you will head out for a boat ride on Lake Ihema, the second-largest and one of the most scenic in Rwanda, where you will get a chance to catch a glimpse of some waterbirds that are resident in this area of the park, including fish eagles, papyrus gonolek, cormorans, African jacana and kingfishers among others.

Elephants, crocodiles and hippos are some of the animals that frequent this area and you cannot miss them during the boat ride on the lake.

After the boat ride you’ll head back to the lodge for relaxation and lunch before continuing your journey southwestwards to the lush Nyungwe Forest National Park, the largest remaining tract of montane rainforest in the region.

Upon arrival in the park, you will check into Nyungwe Forest Lodge, which is by far one of the most luxurious lodges in the country. Your hike to the forest will begin from here tomorrow morning.

Day 4: Chimpanzee Trekking, bird watching & canopy walk

Today you will have an early breakfast and then head out to the forest to track chimpanzees, human’s closest relatives. A few minutes into the hike, you will hear the chimps from a distance – hooting excitedly, one chimp at first before others join in to create a frenzied crescendo.

When you finally meet them, you will only be allowed to stay with them for one hour to avoid stressing them. Still, this is one of the most fascinating and humbling experiences you’ll have on this seven-day trip.

Chimps aside, he park plays host to 310 bird species, more than 1,000 species of plants, 38 reptile species, 120 butterfly species as 32 amphibian species. The park is also home to 86 different animal species, 13 of which are primates (chimpanzees, Columbus monkeys, olive baboon, blue monkeys, mangabeys, and the dend’s monkey, among others.

For birding enthusiasts, some of the bird species you should expect to catch a glimpse of here include Albertine Rift endemics such as the Albertine owlet, Rockefeller’s sunbird and the red-collared babbler the great blue turaco and flycatcher.

But Nyungwe’s most famous residents are the chimpanzees and Columbus monkeys, which have always been the main snare for tourists to the park.
After about 2-3 hours of scouring the forest, you will head back to the lodge for relaxation and lunch ahead of your final Nyungwe National Park expedition: the canopy walkway.

In the afternoon after lunch, you take a walk on a metallic walkway suspended above some giant trees, approximately 40 metres above the ground. Lasting about 1 ½ hours, this afternoon hike offers you a chance to see blue monkeys and other rare species of birds that reside here.

From the canopy walkway, you will head back to the lodge for dinner and overnight.

Day 5: Transfer to Rubavu

After breakfast in the morning, you will be driven to Rubavu, Rwanda’s beach town that is located on the shores of Lake Kivu, the country’s biggest lake.

Rubavu is a pristine town that is contingent with Goma – the famous Congolese city across the border – a 5-6-hour drive from Nyungwe Forest National Park.

When you arrive in Rubavu, you will have a plethora of activities to choose from – activities such as visiting nearby islands, kayaking on Lake Kivu, hiking Mount Rubavu or simply lazing around one of the pristine beaches here.

Once you’re done with Rubavu, you will be driven to Musanze in northern Rwanda, home to the rare mountain gorillas. When you arrive in Musanze, you will check into the Le Bamboo Lodge, which is perched next to the Volcanoes National Park, home to the rare mountain gorillas. This will be your abode for tonight.

Day 6: Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park

Today is the highlight of your seven-day trip to Rwanda, gifting you with the most spectacular travel experience the African continent has to offer – mountain gorilla trekking.

You will begin your day as early as 6 am with a short trip to the Volcanoes National Park, home to the Rwandan bunch of the endangered mountain gorillas.

Once you arrive at the park headquarters in Kinigi, the head ranger will divide you and other trekkers into groups of 10. The more physically fit will be allocated gorillas families that are located at higher elevations while the less physically fit will trek gorillas that are located at lower elevations.

As you scour the bamboo forest, your guide will be on hand to help you notice signs of previous gorilla activity such as chewed bamboo shoots, dung and some nests where they spend last night.

Under normal circumstances, it takes between 1 to 7 hours to locate the gorillas but somewhere along the way you will get a chance to see other forest residents, including a few of the over 180 bird species – many of them Albertine Rift endemics – such as the Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, collared apalis, francolin, Rwenzori turaco, strange weaver, Rwenzori batis, Archer’s ground robin, dusky cromson wing and the red-faced woodland warbler.

When you finally meet the gorillas, you will be allowed to be with them for only one hour to avoid stressing them. And, as giant and physically intimidating as they are, mountain gorillas are not aggressive; they’ll only stare, peacefully. In fact, coming face-to-face with these majestic species is a humbling, once-in-a-lifetime experience!

After gorilla trekking, you will be driven back to your lodge for lunch and relaxation. Time allowing, you will tour Musanze town and browse local hangouts and art galleries and maybe even buy a souvenir to take back home with you tomorrow.

Day 7: Return to Kigali & departure

Today marks the end of your seven-day tour of Rwanda with Mutanda Gorilla Tours. After breakfast in the morning, you will be driven back to Kigali, where you will check out the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre to honour the more than one million people who perished in the 1994 genocide.

From here you will be driven to Kigali International Airport to catch your flight back home.

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