A gorilla & chimps combo safari in Rwanda presents an unparalleled opportunity to explore two of the country’s most remarkable wildlife experiences: gorilla trekking and chimpanzee tracking. This thrilling combo safari takes you to Rwanda’s top primate destinations, Volcanoes National Park, home to the endangered mountain gorillas, and Nyungwe National Park, renowned for its chimpanzee population and diverse primate species.
Your gorilla & chimps combo safari begins in Kigali, the capital city and main entry point to Rwanda. Before venturing into the remote countryside, you may spend a night in Kigali to explore its captivating cultural attractions. The city offers meticulously cleaned streets, showcasing Rwanda’s cultural styles, local street cuisine to taste, and opportunities to engage with the friendly locals. For a deeper understanding of Rwanda’s history, visiting the acclaimed genocide museums provides a poignant reminder of the country’s past.
From Kigali, you’ll embark on your journey to the extreme southwest, where Nyungwe Forest National Park awaits. The journey to Nyungwe is a scenic 6-hour drive on a newly surfaced road. Alternatively, you can opt for a 40-minute flight from Kigali International Airport to Nyungwe, courtesy of Rwandair.
Nyungwe Forest, often described as Rwanda’s jewel, boasts over 1000 sq km of dense Afromontane forest, bamboo forests, wetlands, and grasslands. Its significance extends beyond its natural beauty, as it pours water into two of the world’s largest rivers, the Congo and the Nile, contributing to 70% of Rwanda’s freshwater. Nyungwe is also a regional biodiversity hotspot, supporting an incredible diversity of flora and fauna, including 1,068 recorded plant species, 322 bird species, 75 known mammal species, and over a dozen primate species. The highlight of any visit to Nyungwe is chimpanzee trekking, providing an enchanting opportunity to observe these forest-dwelling cousins in their natural habitat. Additionally, Nyungwe is a paradise for birdwatchers, with around 300 recorded bird species, nearly 30 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift region.
After spending a night or two in Nyungwe, you’ll make your way north to Volcanoes National Park, covering approximately 250 kilometers. This picturesque 5-hour drive will take you along the scenic shoreline of Lake Kivu.
Volcanoes National Park, nestled in the far northwest of Rwanda, is a haven for mountain gorillas. The park’s lush vegetation comprises montane ecosystems, bamboo forests, open grasslands, swamps, and heath, offering a rich mosaic of habitats for its precious inhabitants. Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes‘ thick jungle is an unforgettable experience, where visitors can encounter over 200 species of colorful endemic birds and witness golden monkeys leaping through the forest canopy. Tracking the endangered mountain gorillas is undoubtedly one of Rwanda’s most unique and cherished experiences.
Before concluding your gorilla & chimps combo safari, you’ll spend at least a night or two in Volcanoes National Park before returning southeast to Kigali for your departure from the country.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is a prime location for observing chimpanzees up close in their natural environment, making it an ideal destination for primate safaris. Daily chimpanzee trekking excursions venture out each morning, offering an engaging and varied experience.
To participate in chimpanzee trekking, your gorilla & chimps combo safari planner will secure a chimp permit for you a few weeks in advance. This permit grants you access to a guided excursion into the dense forest, where you can spend up to one hour with the chimpanzees. The playful and human-like characteristics of these primates will captivate you throughout your encounter.
A chimpanzee permit in Nyungwe costs USD 90 per person and is available for anyone above 15 years of age. Permits can be obtained directly from the Rwanda Development Board or through licensed local operators like Trek Africa Tours.
Chimpanzee trekking can be included in your gorilla & chimps combo safari in Rwanda at any time of the year. However, it’s important to note that trekking during the rainy seasons of April-May and November can be more challenging. For the best experience, consider visiting during the drier months between December and February, as well as from June to mid-September.
It’s essential to adhere to the age limit of above 15 years for chimpanzee trekking, as it is strictly enforced. Small groups of around eight people are allowed to track a habituated chimpanzee group and spend only one hour with them. The trek’s starting point is somewhat distant from the briefing point, necessitating transportation by a 4×4 vehicle.
Volcanoes National Park is home to approximately 12 habituated gorilla groups, and there are fewer than 80 gorilla permits available per day. The popularity of gorilla trekking among travelers means that permits must be purchased months in advance of the trekking date.
To optimize your gorilla trekking experience, plan to spend a night at the base of Volcanoes National Park. This will allow you to reach the trailhead in time for the early morning briefing. From the trailhead, you’ll venture into the dense jungle in small groups of six, accompanied by two armed rangers and guided by a local expert tracker.
The duration of the gorilla trekking experience is relative and can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours to find the gorillas. Once you locate them, you’ll have an unforgettable hour to observe the mountain gorillas up close as they forage, engage in social interactions, and display their primitive behaviors. Sightings are highly successful, with nearly every visitor getting the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures.
The terrain during the trek can be steep, uneven, and occasionally slippery, especially during the rainy seasons. Expect physically demanding treks through Volcanoes National Park, but the reward of encountering these incredible animals makes it all worthwhile.
A typical gorilla & chimps combo safari in Rwanda typically spans at least six days, starting and ending in Kigali, with visits to Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Park.
Depending on your flight arrival time in Kigali, you may choose to spend the first night in the city before heading into the countryside on the following day. With an early arrival, you can opt for a 6-hour drive to Nyungwe or a 2-hour drive to Volcanoes, spending your first night in a forest lodge.
Whichever park you begin with, both activities commence early in the morning and can occupy a significant portion of the day in the rainforest. As such, it’s advisable to spend an additional night near the park before proceeding to the next destination.
During your gorilla & chimps combo safari, a 4×4 vehicle will transport you from your accommodation near the park to the trekking starting points in Nyungwe Forest National Park and Volcanoes National Park. Additionally, the distance between the briefing point and the trek start point requires car transfers.
The best time to plan your gorilla & chimp combo safari in Rwanda is during the drier seasons from June to September. These months offer minimal rainfall, ensuring an optimal gorilla trekking experience and the best chance to spot the country’s awe-inspiring highlight: the mountain gorilla.
For chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe, the rainy seasons of March to May and November are ideal, as the chimps are easier to find due to the abundance of forest fruits. Furthermore, there are fewer travelers during these wet months, providing a more intimate experience with the chimpanzees.
Rwanda’s temperatures are tropical, with warm days and cool nights, especially in the high-altitude areas of Volcanoes.
Planning a gorilla & chimps safari in Rwanda can be daunting for first-time visitors due to factors such as time difference, logistics, culture, and language. Obtaining trekking permits, in particular, requires early planning, as they are limited in number and high in demand. Therefore, it is highly recommended to seek the assistance of a local consultant.
Trek Africa Tours is your reliable tour operator for purchasing permits, booking lodges, and arranging transportation. We manage every aspect of your journey, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the experience. For expert guidance and a seamless safari planning process, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.