Savvy travelers and primate enthusiasts have been visiting Rwanda for years to see the spectacular gorilla habitats, but many of them leave immediately without fully appreciating everything that the nation has to offer. Although Rwanda’s tourism department has worked hard to modernize its destinations and make them more accessible to visitors, there remains a lot of untapped potential. The natural landscape of this hidden African gem is safe, beautiful, and exciting.
Consider these highlights of Rwanda:
Undoubtedly the largest draw to Rwanda is the endangered mountain gorillas. Travelers who wish to encounter these apes must obtain viewing permits that must be booked in advance and are limited in number. With only 700 mountain gorillas in the world, Rwanda’s protected northwest forests are a prime location to observe these majestic animals.
Rwanda is home to 7 gorilla families available for tourist viewing. These are all located within Volcanoes National Park:
- Susa Group – This family of more than 28 members often migrates to higher altitudes in the park, making them one of the most difficult to track and observe. Travelers hoping to see this group need to be prepared to for a difficult and potentially long hike.
- Sabyinyo Group – With only 12 members, this family is one of the smallest gorilla groups in Rwanda. However, they are also one of the easiest to reach, living on the gentle slopes between Mount Sabyinyo and Gahinga.
- Amahoro Group – Explorers must overcome a steep climb up Mt. Visoke in order to view this gentle group of 18 gorillas.
- Agashya Group – One of the largest groups, the 25 members of this family can often be found near the Sabyinyo Group, although it sometimes migrates further up the mountains.
- Umubano Group – Overlapping its former family, the Amahoro Group, this gamly of 12 is found on Mt. Visoke too.
- Kwitonda Group – Inhabiting the lower slopes of Mt. Muhabura, this family of 21 gorillas is very difficult to track.
- Hirwa Group – The newest family of gorillas, the 16 members of this group are usually fount in the foothills of Mt. Sabyinyo.
Chimpanzee and Golden Monkey Tracking
Most of Rwanda’s chimpanzee population lives in Nyungwe Forest National Park. Guided tours through this nature reserve typically yield a 30-40 percent chance of viewing these primates, and there is an additional opportunity to see black and white colobus monkeys that also inhabit the area. Since colobus monkeys tend to travel in groups of more than 300 primates, walking paths through this park typically lead to at least one sighting. Golden monkeys, a nimble and quick-footed species, live near the mountain gorillas. Almost as rare, these monkeys are brightly colored and inhabit the trees of Volcanoes National Park.
Walking and Hiking
Rwanda offers many opportunities for hiking enthusiasts. Visitors to Volcanoes National Park can hike the Karisimbi Volcanoes or the Bisoke Volcanoes. These chains of peaks offer varying degrees of difficulty, as well opportunities to travel through a bamboo forest, view nearly 100 different forest plant species, and observe the beautiful local crater lakes. Visitors to this national park can also enjoy a guided tour of the lakes and caves of the area, featuring nearly 200 species of birds, several bat colonies, and relics of lava from previous eruptions.
Home to one of the largest hippo populations in East Africa as well as a significant elephant colony, Akagera National Park is easily accessible by paved roads. Safari trips through this reserve are both beautiful and worthwhile, providing sightings of many native African species.