Rwanda

Rwanda is rapidly outshining its dark past. Immortalised by Hollywood, its history is a foremost thought at the mention of this jungle nation, but much has changed in three decades & its warm hospitality, verdant mountains & primate residents are making Rwanda a favourite destination for all who visit.

                                                         

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activities & experiences

One of the last remaining fragile bastions of the mountain gorilla, Rwanda is an exceptional place to witness these magnificent creatures, one of our closest living relatives. This renown is often the sole purpose of many travelers’ visit and is, admittedly, absolutely unmissable. However, they are far from the only reason.

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Two national parks account for much of Rwanda’s conservation efforts and tourist drawcards. Nyungwe to the south west and Volcanoes National Park to the north west. It is here that one can enjoy spectacular primate experiences as you trek through the dense hillside jungles. While the chimps and gorillas gain much of the attention, Nyungwe alone is home to numerous primate species. A more conventional safari is also highly achievable to the nation’s eastern borders.

  • First and foremost, the gorilla of Volcanoes National Park are unmissable
  • Visit our closest relatives, the chimpanzees and bonobos of Nyungwe
  • Wander the lowland forests, and tea and coffee plantations
  • Venture Akagera National Park – the last remaining refuge for savannah-adapted species in Rwanda – home of the Big 5 and much more
  • Enjoy the bustling artisanal and gastronomic culture of the capital, Kigali
  • Take to the water and kayak the placid Lake Kivu
  • Walk with the rangers of the national parks, fearless men and women who have made Rwanda’s ecological rehabilitation possible

*It is worth noting that Rwanda’s painful past is still very recent. Anyone over the age of 30 will recall the civil war and genocide that took place. Visiting Kigali’s memorial museum brings this history into focus. However, the warmth and resilience of the Rwandan people is ubiquitous and by visiting orphanages and the various parks and reserves, you will discover a nation that is extensively reversing the tragedy of its darker days.

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destinations

The jungle regions of Rwanda are certainly its greatest drawcard, but they are not all this verdant nation has to offer. To the east, Akagera provides a more conventional safari opportunity, while the moist airs of the west are perfect for tea and coffee growing. The jungle canopy offers much more than wildlife viewing, and adventures through the treetops provide a whole new perspective.

Time in the more developed areas is also advised, and a visit to the nation’s capital of Kigale is a wonderful way to gain a deeper understanding of Rwanda’s recent history and ancient culture alike.

Volcanoes National Park


The Dian Fossey Research Camp, profoundly captured in the movie, ‘Gorillas in the Mist’, is a fascinating way to commence your Volcanoes National Park visit. Several accommodations in the region provide the perfect base camp for your day of trekking, varying from rustic to luxurious. A typical trek will take anywhere between three and eight hours. Between the altitude, humidity and rough terrain, participants need to be relatively fit, though people of all ages regularly take the excursion. It isn’t a short stroll, but the overwhelming experience of witnessing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is far beyond worthy of every step. The Gorilla Guardians Village is also an essential stop. The home of reformed gorilla poachers, it is now a place of peace and protection, offering a wonderful cultural experience for visitors.

Nyungwe National Park


Similar to Volcanoes National Park, there is a primary reason visitors come to Nyungwe: chimpanzees. Home to over 500 chimps, Nyungwe also offers jungle treks to see the family groups in the wild. The walk isn’t as taxing as that of Volcanoes, but a healthy level of fitness is still required. Nyungwe is also home to over ten other varieties of primates, including baboons, bonobos and vervet monkeys, and your guides are experts in both locating and identifying the various species. For the more daring, a 90-minute elevated canopy walk is a stunning way to view Nyungwe as the chimps do: from 200 feet up. Hiking boots and clothing, and a raincoat are essential, as they are in Volcanoes National Park.

Akagera National Park


In noticeable contrast to the mountainous western parks, Akagera presents wide expanses of grassy plains and sporadic hills. Benefiting from Rwanda’s damper climate, the wetlands are lush and abundant year-round. One of Africa’s youngest parks at little over a decade old, until recently it was inundated with cattle, but the combined efforts of African Parks and the Rwanda Development Board have removed the cattle and tripled wildlife numbers in just 10 years. Resident animals include the Big 5, giraffe, zebra, hippo and a wide variety of antelope and birdlife.

Rwanda’s Museums


A tribute to some 250,000 souls lost to the genocide of 1994, the Genocide Museum is a heartbreaking, though fascinating way to begin to understand the wonderful rebirth the nation is now embracing. Seven other national museums of Rwanda include the Ethnographic Museum, highlight its pre-colonial culture, and the King’s Palace Museum, a recreation of the 15th-century royal abode and plays home to the sacred inyambo – large-horned cattle that were milked exclusively for the king’s consumption. Singers serenade the cattle into a tranquil calm with traditional songs and poems.

Lake Kivu


This tranquil lake, Rwanda’s largest body of water, provides food and livelihood for many. Its surrounding townships and lakeside retreats reflect the serenity of Kivu and provide a wonderful destination to unwind after your days of mountainous trekking. Kayak or sail across the calm waters and take in the wonderful landscapes and relaxed atmosphere.

accommodations

Rwanda’s star attractions have given rise to a welcome influx of premium accommodation. Previously, staying in Rwanda, particularly in the mountainous jungle regions, was distinctly rustic, but several of the larger names in luxury safaris have since established themselves as superb venues. Fortunately, all have done so with their familiar care and consciousness, providing support for local communities and economy to continue conservation efforts.

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Many visitors to both Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Parks do so as a full-day excursion from Kigali or with a brief overnight stay at a functional yet comfortable base camp. However, a small selection of luxury venues now provide exquisite locations to not simply stay for the night, but enjoy a lengthier visit to the parks at your leisure. One&Only’s Nyungwe House offers the utmost luxury in the foothills of the forested mountains.

Kigali is home to several hotels of exceptional standard, and it’s worth considering the nation’s capital more than simply a fleeting transit point. 

Akagera offers a more familiar bush camp experience, with luxury tented camps nestling onto the shores of the park’s Lake ​​Rwanyakazinga. As with so much in Rwanda, accommodation is transitioning through contemporary change in spectacular fashion, rising from the ashes to become a leading and absolutely inimitable luxury safari experience, with premier accommodations rising to expectations superbly.

Oo Nyungwehouse Wellness Spa Reception Window Wide 1215 Master

RWANDA ESSENTIALS

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BEST TIME:  Jun – Sept and Dec-Jan, though some rainfall occurs year-round.

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CLIMATE: LOW: 61-83ºF (16-29ºC) year-round, though humidity varies greatly.

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SEASONS: DRY: Jun – Sept & Dec-Jan / WET: Feb – May & Oct – Nov

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BEST FOR: A once-in-a-lifetime gorilla and chimpanzee experience.

There is no denying that the primates of Rwanda are its greatest appeal, and for very good reason. While you could visit Rwanda and not visit the Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Parks, they are the unmissable primary reason for going. However, many people have this as their sole reason for venturing to Rwanda, and we recommend taking advantage of the country’s many more wonderful attractions while there.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

HOW LONG SHOULD I SPEND IN RWANDA?

If you are wishing only to see gorillas or chimpanzees as part of a larger, Africa-wide itinerary, four days provides enough time to do one or the other, though certainly not both. To enjoy Rwanda to the fullest, ten days is recommended, possibly up to 14 days depending on your list of wishes.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?

While the year-round temperatures barely vary at all, the humidity created by increased rains can make it feel vastly different. Being rainforest jungles, Nyungwe and Volcanoes are both damp regions, and light showers can occur all year round. However, by avoiding the particularly wet months of February to May, October and November, you will remain drier. Humidity reduces further from July to September, and these are the optimal months for travel.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM ACCOMMODATION IN RWANDA?

Rwanda is working tirelessly across all sectors to elevate its position as a high-quality vacation destination while maintaining stringent conservation policies, using tourism as a way to accelerate its rehabilitation and bolster ecological protection. Due to this, accommodations have a tendency to be humble or exceptional, with little in between. Rothschild Safaris has partnered with a selection of impeccable venues, and contemporary luxury is available almost wherever you go, with Akagera National Park providing an exceptional standard of classically colonial tented camp accommodation.

OTHER DETAILS:

Visas are required for most visitors and can be paid for upon arrival, and inoculations are recommended, in addition to a course of anti-malaria medication. We suggest you contact your travel designer or a travel medicine specialist for advice.

International flights will arrive at Kigali Airport primarily through European gateways. Domestic travel is most frequently by car as Rwanda’s small size and mountainous terrain make domestic flights both challenging and irrelevant.

English is predominantly spoken throughout Rwanda with some Swahili and French also spoken. Guides are fluent in English and of an excellent standard. The nation has a history of gorilla poaching. Fortunately, these poachers have been re-educated, provided jobs and shown that gorilla and chimpanzee eco-tourism is more sustainable, lucrative and beneficial.

Gorilla trekking permits are currently $1,500 per trek, which can last from 3-8 hours. Chimpanzee trekking permits are currently $100 per trek and are typically booked for up to 4 hours. Permit fees can change at any time, though will, of course, be booked in advance on your behalf, and all proceeds go towards the continued protection and conservation of these wonderful animals. This also makes each trek wonderfully personal, with only very small groups allowed at any one time. Participants must be over 16 years of age for both experiences.

RWANDA SAFARIS

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY

Wow, wow, wow!! We are back in LA now, recovering from jet lag and still in shock and awe regarding our experience. From the moment we landed in South Africa to the moment we touched down in LA, our experience was seamless and amazing. 

- Amy Lundberg

We were thrilled with the trip. It was as good as or better than described at every turn. The prep, attention to detail, willingness to make changes and ensure we were ready and prepared was outstanding. Our Travel Designer was awesome! 

- Betsy Robertson

Choosing a safari expert is never easy given the choice and lists upon lists of "top suppliers"....but we made the BEST choice for us....why....because above all, Rothschild listened ....really listened to what we wanted to experience.

- Dawn Jacobs

It was a well organized trip. It was easy to get around since we were guided through all of our itinerary. Everyone was pleasant and very helpful. This is an excellent way to travel. Rothschild Safari did very well and brought a fantastic African experience to us.

- George Kowalski

My trip was beyond AMAZING! I truly enjoyed every moment. The itinerary allowed me to experience a variety of different activities all of which I enjoyed! When I originally thought of going to Africa I was just thinking of safaris. This trip opened my eyes (and my family/friend's) to so much more Africa has to offer.

- Jackie Smith

Trip was PERFECT!! Every single detail was planned out and the accommodations and people were wonderful. This trip exceeded all of our wildest expectations. Every place we stayed was just lovely and each each camp had a different vibe, which was really neat. Everyone we worked with was outstanding. 

Jamie Scarlett

On behalf of the Moravec’s and the Stone’s……thank you for arranging a trip of a lifetime. Every detail was accounted for and all the recommendations were perfect. It honestly could not have gone any better.

Joe Moravec

Meggan Woody and Kim Killick were extraordinary at crafting THE PERFECT safari for our family of 8. They both listened (actually 'read' my email) to EXACTLY what we wanted, within the budget that we needed, and miraculously pulled off miracles in obtaining the properties that we wanted! 

Kim Mather

Every aspect of my trip went according to plan and the plan Rothschild's help me to orchestrate was magnificent! I loved every lodge that I was blessed to be in! They were all very different yet all high end and very accommodating.

Lisa Anderson

It was the most exciting, scenic, inspiring trip we've ever taken. To say it was a trip of a lifetime doesn't begin to capture our experience. Pam Langhoff and the Rothschild team did an outstanding job of helping us plan this trip.

Mary & Rob Johannigman (& family)