This tour is one of our most inspiring and memorable tours, not just for its incredibly unique wildlife experiences but because of Rwanda’s story from ruin to being one of the world’s safest countries and most progressive leaders in East Africa.
At the forefront of this incredible re-emergence are the women of Rwanda. Rich in colour, history, resilience, skill and community building, they are a true success story of rebuilding Remarkable Rwanda and have the largest representation in parliament in the world at 65%.
On this tour you will see the rare and magnificent Mountain Gorillas including a behind-the-scenes interaction with Dian Fossey’s Gorilla Doctors. Encounter other primates, safari animals and stunning vistas, as we get you in touch with the daily lives of Rwandans with immersive authentic experiences taking you into their daily lives, micro-entrepreneurial businesses, skills and rich culture both ancient and recent to show you the heart of this inspiring country and their incredible story in the land of a thousand hills.
Welcome to Kigali, Rwanda!
Upon arrival at Kigali Airport, (arrive before 10 am), you will be met by our representative and your driver guide. Transfer to Question Coffee Cafe by 8 am for the tour briefing with the rest of the group.
The briefing will go through introductions to your expert guide and driver, break the ice and learn about your companions for the tour, and provide a cultural orientation and basic language skills. Then we will go over the day’s schedule and activities all over a wonderful high-grade Arabica coffee grown by women’s coops in Rwanda, before beginning our first activity a Coffee MasterClass.
Rwanda has some of the world’s best coffee with perfect growing conditions and bourbon Arabica coffee beans are grown all around the country. The MasterClass will provide a crop-to-cup experience providing you with extra knowledge about your favourite cup of coffee. Areas covered are:
After this aromatic class, you will head to Hotel Des Mille Collines for lunch before heading to the Kigali Genocide Memorial for a moving and education tour.
The 1993 genocide was a tragedy of unbelievable heartbreak. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is one of several key genocide memorials set up around the country to educate people and memorialise their deaths in order to never forget and never repeat this chapter of their history. The memorial is extremely educational and explains conditions and history that led to the event. It is transparent, challenging, moving and ultimately inspiring as you see the incredible reconciliation and rebuilding that has gone on since. It’s something you will never forget.
After the memorial, you will check in to The Retreat Boutique, an upscale hotel with a focus on luxury and relaxation. (B,L,D)
Overnight The Retreat Boutique or similar.
Travel time and distances: Kigali Airport – Question Coffee Master Class Experience (approx. 5km) 15 minutes, Question Coffee – Hotel Des Mille Collines (approx. 8km) 14 minutes, Hotel Des Mille Collines – Kigali Genocide Memorial (approx. 3.4km) 7 minutes, Kigali Genocide Memorial – The Retreat (approx. 4km) 9 minutes.
After breakfast, your guide will meet you at the hotel reception at 7:00 am for a morning briefing before you leave Kigali for the far east of the country which is where Akagera National Park is located. Akagera is Africa’s 2nd oldest national park and has been regenerated back to a big 5 safari park post the 1993 genocide. It takes around a 2.5 drive going through local towns and villages. The east part of Rwanda is less hilly and opens up to Savanna once you reach Akagera.
You will arrive at the park around mid-morning for registration and then proceed for the southern sector game drive. This circuit is particularly known for its Giraffes, Zebras, Baboons, Waterbuck, and Buffalo. After this morning session, you will return to the lodge for lunch and check in.
That afternoon, around 3.00pm, you continue on a game drive of the southern sector before heading toward Lake Ihema for a special boat safari from 4.30pm.
The evening boat safari is an opportunity to get up close from a whole new perspective and see hippos, crocodiles, and many of the 423-bird species of Akagera, all whilst watching the sunset over this magical first day.
It’s only 10 minutes from the boat safari launch to your accommodation at Ruzizi Tented Lodge. This lodge is owned by the park so your contribution goes towards further conservation and regeneration of this wondrous region. The camp is right on Lake Ihema and the Hippos often visit in the morning. Don’t worry the tents are on raised platforms and Hippo’s can’t jump. (B,L,D)
Overnight stay Ruzizi Tented Lodge or similar
Travel times and distances: The Retreat – Akagera NP reception (approx. 116km) 2 hours 30 minutes. Lake Ihema Boat Safari (1 hour duration)
After breakfast, you will start your day with a nature walk around the park. The “Walk the Line Experience” is an immersive journey into the heart of nature at Akagera National Park. This unique adventure involves 2-hour guided nature walk led by a community volunteer as you follow the park’s perimeter fence. On this walk, you will see many of the park’s remarkable wildlife up close.
After the nature walk, you will be driven to Karenge Bush Camp for lunch and check-in.
Later In the afternoon, we will proceed onto an afternoon game drive in the northern circuit to search for animals you may have missed out on in the previous game drive. This afternoon you will visit the Savannah region of Akagera’s northern sector, where you’ll want to keep your eyes open for some of the park’s top predators, as well as Giraffes and Elephants.
You will finish the day with dinner at Karenge Bush Camp in the evening. (B,L,D)
2 nights at Karenge Bush Camp or similar
Travel time and distances: Ruzizi Tented Lodge – Walk the Line Experience (approx. 5km) 10 minutes
Walking/Trekking Time: approximately 2 hours (7km)
After breakfast, you will embark on a full-day game drive, traversing from the southern reaches of Akagera National Park to its northern sector.
Along the way, we will make a stop at Hippo’s Beach viewpoint, where you can enjoy your packed lunch while observing hippos sunbathing on the beach.
In the afternoon we will continue our journey to the northern sector of the park. Here, the landscape opens up into expansive savannahs, keep an eye out for big game here like lions and rhinoceros. Lions were introduced to the park about seven years ago, and their population is thriving. Additionally, the park recently welcomed rhinos recently, making it an exciting opportunity to spot these magnificent creatures.
The vast savannah terrain is punctuated by numerous lakes, providing additional opportunities to observe a variety of bird species and the presence of hippos. As the day comes to a close, we make our way back to our camp for dinner and an overnight stay. (B,L,D)
After an early breakfast, we will head to a new area in the northeastern area of Akagera National Park.
During this 2-3 hour drive, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of rural Rwandan landscapes, where you can immerse yourself in the authentic local life and picturesque farmlands of the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills.’ This route is relatively untouched by tourism, offering a unique and unspoiled experience. We’ll make a stopover in Byumba for a refreshing cold drink before continuing our journey to Volcanoes National Park.
We will check in to your accommodation and have lunch before making our way to visit the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Fund.
This new campus serves as an initiative to foster a lasting connection between a passion for Wildlife Conservation and the revered legacy of Dian Fossey. This state-of-the-art centre has provided a permanent home for the Dian Fossey Fund, facilitating the expansion of education and research in Mountain Gorilla Conservation. Its impact promises to be enduring, benefiting both the communities of Volcanoes National Park and the future of Mountain Gorillas.
After your visit, we’ll head back to your lodge for a special presentation by the Gorilla Doctors. This offers valuable insight into the dedicated work of veterinarians and their assistants responsible for the health of Mountain Gorillas, especially in light of their small population. Their relentless efforts have been instrumental in the remarkable growth of gorilla numbers since 1986. (B,L,D)
2 nights Amarembo Gorilla View Lodge or similar
Travel time and distances: Karenge Bush Camp – Amarembo Gorilla View Lodge (approx. 191km) 5 hours, Amarembo Gorilla View Lodge – Ellen DeGeneres Campus (600m) 1 minute.
Today you have a unique and privileged experience of tracking, and hopefully meeting, the rare Mountain Gorilla. There are only around 880 of these magnificent creatures left in the world with around a third of those in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.
After an early breakfast, you leave the lodge at 6:30 am and drive the 30 minutes to the Volcanoes National Park Headquarters.
At the park headquarters, there will be a cup of tea or coffee available and traditional dancers to welcome you. The park rangers will organise trekkers into groups of like fitness and assign you a trek leader. The leaders will brief you on the trek details and gorilla behaviour before we make a short drive to the trek starting point in the farmlands at the foothills of the Volcanoes.
The trek ventures up the mountain and through thick forest. It can last anywhere between 2-6 hours depending on which group you are with and how nomadic the gorilla group is. If you wish, there is the option to hire a porter to help you carry your backpack or bag and can give you a hand during hiking.
Once you happen upon your gorilla group all tiredness will go away and you get to spend an hour with a troop of these fabled creatures. You will marvel at their interactions, displays, playing, eating and sleeping. There is so much to recognise in our own human behaviour. The encounter is considered one of the great wild animal encounters on the planet.
After that, it’s time to leave the mountain gorillas to live their life and head back down the mountain. There are plenty of stunning views to enjoy on the way down where your driver and guide will be waiting to hear all about your exciting adventure before driving back to your accommodation for lunch.
After lunch, the next activity will be to go on the Mukungwa River Canoe.
The Mukungwa River takes you around the farms, fields and communities at the base of the Volcanoes National Park. Your guides are well trained and the water is a gentle flow. You will see bird life, handmade bridges, views of the hills and mountains and children who are very happy to see you. The duration of the trip is around 2-3 hours.
After a big day of activities, it’s time to come back to the lodge for dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Travel time and distances: Amarembo Gorilla View Lodge – start of Gorilla Tracking (approx. 13km) 21. Amarembo Gorilla View Lodge – Mukungwa River Canoe (approx. 30km) 45 minutes.
After breakfast, you will head to the Muhanga districts to experience the lives of a typical rural Rwandan farmer and then stay overnight in a mud hut to get a real sense of living as a local. Whilst Rwanda is a small country it is densely populated and most of its citizens earn a livelihood and living from owning and working small plots of land.
On arrival, you will partake in your authentic rural activity of choice (chosen on day 1 during the briefing):
In the afternoon, your Azizi Life Musical Adventure kicks off with a captivating performance by a talented troupe of traditional artists and storytellers as the sun sets.
Whether you’re naturally rhythmic or not, our experienced instructors ensure that everyone can relish the experience of mastering the art of traditional drumming and dancing.
Following that, it’s your moment to shine as you don a traditional costume and delve into the world of Rwandan dance. You’re in for a joyful time as the dancers guide you through the fundamental dance steps while sharing intriguing insights into the history of Rwandan dance.
Accommodation will be a local homestay. Home Stay hostesses live in homes made of mud brick, which usually have one larger front room for receiving visitors and a few smaller bedrooms for the family. In the enclosed area behind the house, there is an outdoor kitchen, an enclosed pit latrine and bathing outhouse, animal stalls and a family workspace. Most host families have about four children at home. In Rwandan culture, guests are considered a blessing! (B,L,D)
Overnight homestay or farm hut
Travel time & Distances: Amarembo Gorilla View Lodge – Muhanga District (approx. 133km) 2 hr and 49 minutes
As the new day dawns, you will share a wonderful breakfast with your host family and say farewell before heading to our next destination for lunch and to spend a relaxing afternoon at Kivu Lodge.
This idyllic lakeside haven is a blend of modern comfort and rustic charm. Whether you’re savouring delicious Rwandan cuisine, taking a refreshing dip in the inviting pool, or simply relaxing on the terrace while gazing at the serene waters of Lake Kivu, every moment at Kivu Lodge is designed to provide a sense of relaxation and rejuvenation. Surrounded by the region’s rolling hills and the majestic Virunga Mountains, this lodge offers a peaceful escape from everyday life.
Lake Kivu shares a border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It stretches 89 kilometres in length, 48 kilometres in width, and reaches a depth of 240 meters. Along its shores, you’ll find charming small towns and bustling cities, all set against the backdrop of the region’s iconic rolling hills and towering volcanoes.
The real magic begins at the end of the day. Each evening, a mesmerizing Rwandan tradition unfolds along the picturesque shores of Lake Kivu. As the sun gracefully dips below the horizon, local fishermen fill the air with songs and whistles, embarking on their journey to the heart of the lake. This captivating experience provides a unique opportunity to witness the age-old fishing techniques of Lake Kivu, as skilled fishermen navigate the waters in their traditional boats equipped with hooks and nets. Adventurous participants can even try their hand at this authentic fishing method, immersing themselves in the local way of life.
After the Singing Fishermen Experience, you will return to the lodge for dinner (B,L,D)
Overnight at Kivu Lodge or similar
Travel time & distances: Muhanga – Kivu Lodge (approx. 108km) 3 hours, Singing Fishermen Experience on Lake Kivu (2 hours)
After a relaxing breakfast, you will have a lazy start to the day with a 10 am checkout. We will then depart along the bumpy but scenic road from Lake Kivu to Nyungwe Forest National Park, Africa’s largest temperate Rainforest.
Along the way, you’ll be treated to views of terraced farmlands, vibrant green tea plantations, and dense forests that carpet the hillsides. Keep your eyes open as there are often cheeky monkeys sitting on the side of the road along the way.
Upon reaching Nyungwe National Park, you’ll have a packed lunch before exploring the renowned Canopy Walkway, a suspended bridge that takes you on an exhilarating journey high above the forest floor. The 160-meter-long walkway offers an up-close encounter with the forest’s treetop canopy, providing stunning vistas and potential wildlife sightings. (B,L, D)
2 nights Mantis Kivu Marina Bay Hotel or similar
Travel time and distances: Kivu Lodge – Nyungwe NP (approx. 93km) 2 hours 12 minutes, Canopy Walkway – Mantis Kivu Marina Bay Hotel (approx. 54km) 1 hour.
Walking/Trekking Time: Canopy Walkway (2 hours)
This morning will be an early start, waking up at 5.00 am and eating our packed breakfast on the way to the starting point of your Chimpanzee Trek.
On arrival, the park rangers will give you a briefing on the trek rules and Chimpanzee behaviours, then you head off with walking sticks in hand into the jungle. With approximately 500 chimpanzees in this Rwandan region, it plays a crucial role in conserving this rapidly declining species. Depending on the trackers’ information, you may encounter larger troops of around 60 or more intimate groups of 20-30. Regardless, chimpanzees are typically more active than mountain gorillas, showcasing their remarkable intelligence, confidence, and characteristics, thanks to their 98.7% genetic similarity to humans.
After the experience, return to your accommodation for lunch and a freshen-up.
In the afternoon, we proceed to the nearby lake shores for the Nkombo Island Boat tour excursion.
Nkombo Island is nestled on Lake Kivu, between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. It stands as one of Rwanda’s well-kept secrets, with an expansive area of 22 square kilometres, it is the largest island in Rwanda and home to nearly 20,000 inhabitants and serves as a natural bird sanctuary, enveloped by Ishwa and Bweramata Islands on the Rwandan side of Lake Kivu.
Once we arrive at the island, you’ll do a steep climb to a community that speaks a mix of Rwandan and Congolese languages. You’re sure to receive a warm welcome with traditional dances and an opportunity to admire their traditional crafted baskets.
Afterwards, you’ll return to your accommodation for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Travel time and distances: Mantis Kivu Marina Bay Hotel – Chimpanzee Trek trailhead (approx. 22km) 1 hr, Lake Kivu Boat Excursion – Nkombo Island experience 3 hours.
Walking/Trekking Time: approximately 3 hours
It’s the final day of the tour and after check out we will make our way to Gitarama, the Kings Palace Museum. Located in Nyanza, south of Kigali City, King’s Palace Museum Rwanda was the original residence of King Mutara III Rudahigwa.
Arriving around lunch, you will eat at the café before exploring the museum, which has been restored to its 19th-century state and offers insight into Rwandan traditions. After a recent reintroduction, the property is now home to long-horned traditional cows, which are an integral part of the Rwandan culture. On the neighbouring hill of Mwima, you can visit the burial grounds of King Mutara III and his wife, Queen Rosalie Gicanda.
After the Palace, we will head back to Kigali to have dinner at Kigali’s Repub Lounge and from there we transfer you to Kigali Airport (or your overnight accommodation) and wish you a safe onward journey with memories that move you long after you return home. (B,L,D)
Travel time & distances: Mantis Kivu Marina Bay Hotel – Kings Palace Museum (approx. 146km) 3.5 hrs, Kings Palace Museum – Kigali (approx. 100km) 2.5 hours.
Download this tour’s PDF brochure and start your planning offline!
**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 4 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person plus the cost of your Gorilla Permit is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.