A 5 Day Safari Tracking the Gorillas of Rwanda and Spending Time at the Mountain gorilla Veterinary Project, Getting an Insight into Behind the Scenes Conservation – From £3,955 Per Person, Excluding International Flights
Today you arrive in Rwanda where you are met by your private driver/guide and vehicle at the Kigali International Airport. This morning you take a city tour of Kigali, and for those who wish to, there is the opportunity to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The Centre in Kigali was created by a joint partnership of the Kigali City Council and the UK-based Aegis Trust. It contains a permanent and extremely moving exhibition of the Rwandan genocide and an exhibition of other genocides around the world. After lunch, you travel north to Ruhengeri and the Volcanoes National Park. This two hour drive undulates over Rwanda’s extremely hilly and picturesque countryside, and as you near the end of your journey, you will (weather permitting!) begin to catch glimpses of the Virungas – a chain of 5 impossibly steep and lofty volcanoes straddling the western branch of the Rift Valley from east to west.
Each mountain possesses its own unique character and silhouette, but together they form one of the most isolated and visually dramatic ecosystems in the world. A ‘true island in the sky’, the Virunga National Park (established in 1925) was Africa’s first, and it was granted status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The park is home to some of the worlds few remaining Mountain Gorilla, which were first studied here in 1959 by George Schaller, and through the 1960’s by Dian Fossey and her colleagues.
Overnight: Virunga Lodge – consists of eight bandas set on a stunning hillside with a panoramic view of the Virunga volcanoes and the lakes Ruhondo and Bulera. The Lodge is situated 45mins from the Park Headquarters (D)
Days 2, 3
The activities for the next two days may be amongst the most exciting and challenging you have undertaken. The Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda are part of a worldwide population of just 780 individuals. The gorillas we are allowed to track belong to either one of seven habituated family groups. For up to five years each, these groups have undergone an extremely delicate process that has gradually brought them to tolerate the presence of humans for a brief period every day and allowed a few privileged visitors to interact with them in the wild. An early breakfast and you’re off to the park headquarters at Kinigi to register and be allocated your gorilla family for today. Once this is done, you set out by vehicle to the start of on your gorilla safari.
The gorillas are by no means tame, and are completely wild animals. However, experienced guides will accompany you on your gorilla tracking, many of who have been involved in the habituation process themselves. The guides will use their knowledge of the gorillas’ habits and information from the previous day to locate the group’s whereabouts. Because of this, the time taken to track the gorillas varies enormously, from as little as half an hour to as much as 9 hours before one returns to camp. Once the gorillas are located, your group will be allowed a maximum of one hour with them. This is one of the world’s truly memorable experiences – a look into one of these magnificent creatures’ eyes brings home the bond that exists between them and us. It also brings home the poignant fact that they are on the edge of extinction, and that your presence here contributes to ensuring their continued survival. The hour is often over all too quickly, and you slowly make your way back to your lodge to recount the day’s adventures. On one of the afternoons there may be an opportunity to visit the local communities and the bustling market town of Ruhengeri or take a drive out to the scenic Lakes Bulera and Ruhondo. Return to the lodge later in the afternoon to relax, have a hot shower and reflect on the days activities.
Overnight: Virunga Lodge (B/L/D)
After breakfast you will journey to the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project headquarters in Ruhengeri. It is here, to ensure their healthy future, that a huge amount of time and effort is put into caring for these critically endangered primates. You will spend time with the staff learning about how the gorillas are monitored, how life-saving medical care is provided; how health studies are conducted and how veterinary medicine and ecosystem health is taught. You will tour around centre with one of the doctors and watch a presentation about gorilla conservation. In the afternoon, you will visit the Iby’ Iwacu Cultural Village. Here, the local communities have embraced the eco and cultural tourism concept by stopping poaching to raise their income levels through a participative approach as an incentive for conservation. You will spend your time meeting the traditional healer, find out how the local produce is grown and have hands on experience with the local musicians. You finally depart the beautiful surroundings of the Volcanoes National Park and make your way back to the capital city and the comforts of the Kigali Serena.
Overnight: Kigali Serena – is ideally located on one of Kigali’s most charming boulevards and is just 10kms from Kigali International Airport. This relaxed, yet elegant hotel, centres on the executive lounge and bar, which opens onto a wide sundeck overlooking the newly refurbished swimming pool (B/L/D)
After breakfast, the day is yours at leisure. You are finally driven to the Kigali International Airport for your international flight back home (B)