I've always wanted to visit Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas. Here's some tips on how to see these magnificent creatures up close in the wild.
Mountain gorilla spotting trips have long been the main attraction that enticed adventurous travelers to go on Rwanda safaris, but these wonderful primates are hardly the only highlights that make a trip to the wilderness in and around Rwanda a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The region not only is home to some of the world's rarest primates and other animals that live only here, but it also offers the opportunity to go on hiking and trekking trips to some of the world's most beautiful mountains and forests.
Here are just some of the must-see places in and around Africa's smallest, but certainly most exciting country.
Rwanda Volcanoes National Park
Situated in the northwestern part of the country, at a two-hour drive from the Kigali international airport, the national park covers over 13,000 hectares in the Virunga Conservation Region – land that offers amazing trekking trails and is home to 10 gorilla families that number over 350 individuals. The landscape is varied, with volcanoes, bamboo and evergreen forests, swamps and grassland. The rainforests guarantee frequent spotting not only of gorillas, but also buffalos and elephants, making safaris to the area not only physically challenging for the visitor, but also exciting. The vegetation in the area is not very dense, providing perfect lighting conditions for absolutely stunning photos.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Technically located in Uganda, but bordering the Virungas, the Bwindi Impenetrable forest is a key attraction for adventurers who go on Rwanda safaris. This is another gorilla sanctuary with over 500 individuals and the habitat for over 100 species of mammals, 350 species of birds, over 200 species of butterflies and around 1,000 flowering plant species. The ancient rainforest survived the Ice Age and has been thriving for over ten thousand years, having become one of the world's most diverse and most complex ecosystems. Today, the area is a UNESCO world heritage site that will surely astonish you with its richness and beauty.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Another national park in the Virungas and contiguous with the Volcanoes National Park, Mgahinga is a small, high-altitude area with three out of the eight inactive volcanoes in the region. Besides gorillas, the park is densely populated by buffalos, forest elephants, numerous monkey species, and over 90 species of birds that live nowhere else in the world.
A Few Useful Tips Before You Go
Tourists planning to go on Rwanda safaris and nearby areas populated by gorillas are required to obtain a gorilla permit and to provide a yellow fever vaccination card as well. A visa to the Democratic Republic of Congo is also necessary for safaris during which the participants cross the Congolese border (many of them do, even if only briefly). The trips vary in duration as well as in terms of the level of fitness required – the top-rated tour operators in the area such as Wild Rwanda Safaris offer fully customizable tours, from short, 1-day trips to 10-day long safaris that take you to the most exciting destinations in all three countries in the region. Safaris have something for everyone – tourists into nature photography and avid hikers will enjoy spectacular views and unique landscapes, those interested in wildlife will love spotting gorillas and other fascinating animals, while those interested in the region's special flora will have the time of their life, too.
James is an avid traveller and always love adventurous trips. He mostly likes to visit wild safaris. This time he is exploring Rwanda and found it amazing.