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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 Rwanda! Upon arrival at Kigali Airport, (arrive before 10am), you will be met by our representative and your driver guide. Transfer to Question Coffee Cafe by 8am 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, 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 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 2.5 hours for the transfer going through local towns and villages. The east part of Rwanda is less hilly and opens up in to Savanna once you reach Akagera.
You will enter the park, quickly register and drive to your accommodation inside the park for lunch and check in.
After lunch, you will have time for a few hours game drive in the Southern Sector. Well known for it’s Giraffes, Waterbuck, Water Buffalo , Zebra, Baboons and more. At 3:30pm, you will then head toward Lake Ihema for a special boat safari.
Akagera may not be considered one of the major safari parks in Africa but what it lacks in size it makes up for in diversity. The boat launch on Lake Ihema will give you a fabulous up close look at Hippos, Crocodiles and a many of the 432 bird species found in the park. With the sun setting on your way back in, it’s a tremendous final activity of the 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 tented camp is right on Lake Ihema and the Hippos often frequent in the morning. Don’t worry the tents are on raised platforms and Hippo’s can’t jump. (L,D)
Overnight Ruzizi Tented Lodge or similar
This morning, awaken and see if the Hippos have come to greet you at your tent. Don’t worry your tents are on a raised platform and the Hippo’s can’t reach you!
Enjoy breakfast and then head off on a full day’s game driving. Drive towards the north central park of the park, your destination being Hippo Beach for lunch. This area is also known for it’s abundance of topi’s, giraffes but also keep your eyes peeled as Leopards have been frequently spotted as well as Elephants.
Enjoy a packed lunch at Lake Miningi, which is normally perfect timing as the Hippos often congregate here at this time. There aren’t many places you can get this up close in a safe environment from land. Keep you eyes open for crocodiles as well.
After Hippo Beach, you head to the north which has a wide open Savanna. Often the big game is seen here, so keep your eyes open for Lions, Hyenas, Elephants and Giraffes. (B,L,D)
Overnight EPIC hotel or similar
Wake up to the sun setting over the beautiful Savannah of Akagera as you bid a fond farewell with a short game spotting opportunity as you make your way to the Northern Gate Exit.
On your return to Kigali, you have two wonderful and inspiring Women’s co-op’s to visit. About 2 hours from Karenge Bush Camp is the Twongere Uwasaro Coffee Co-op (TUK).
Here you will get to see the growing and processing process of the coffee you drank at Question Coffee as the co-op is one of their major suppliers. You will also get to hear their amazing story and how they have help hundreds of local women earn a living. Twongere Umusaruro (which translates as “Increase Production”) is a co-operative made up of 125 women and 10 men coffee growers from Eastern Rwanda’s Rukara Sector in the Kayonza District. The growth and success of this coop reveals the potential of Kayonza for coffee growing, a region previously known for its dry rolling hills and banana plantations.
You will go from TUK to the nearby Women’s Opportunity Centre for lunch and then a tour of WOC’s inspiring story and progress in facilitating local women and farmers in moving from subsistence farming to commercial cash crops and food production. The centre itself was built by a women’s brick making co-op and gives them a real sense of pride and ownership. The Urugo Women’s Opportunity Centre provides a safe environment and dedicated facilities where women can learn, build new skills, and operate businesses that directly contribute to the local communities. It’s one thing to have lunch but another to see where it was farmed from, so after lunch you will visit the nearby Njagama Farm.
Watch women tending the Njagama women’s organic farm adjacent to the Urugo Women’s Opportunity Centre. The women demonstrate sustainable farming techniques, which enable them to grow a broad range of crops, including cassava, cabbage, celery, bananas, tomatoes, carrots, green pepper, onion, lettuce, and spinach. Gain an appreciation for their talents and hard work after you enjoyed the bounty of their harvest at lunch.
After WOC, it’s a further 90 minutes back to your Kigali accommodation for the night at The Retreat. After safaris and local coop visits it’s time to enjoy a bit of high end comfort before your next authentic experiences. (B,L,D)
Overnight The Retreat or similar
Nyamirambo Women’s Centre (NWC) is a success story of rebuilding and Nyamirambo is one of the oldest working class suburbs of Kigali where many migrants first come to try and find work. Post genocide, it was a hard life for the women in this area and many had to resort to desperate measures to get by. Then the co-op was started, giving the women the opportunity to make and sell clothes and crafts and year on year it has grown and grown and now they run several tours.
This popular tour begins at the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre with a traditional snack, a quick Kinyarwanda language lesson, and an introduction to the Centre and its activities. It then weaves through Nyamirambo, one of Kigali’s oldest neighbourhoods. Along the way, guides lead participants into a women’s hairdressing salon where the adventurous type can get a free braid; enter into a family compound to pound cassava leaves; head by two mosques and a lookout view over Kigali; and into a tailor shop to feel the fabrics you’ll otherwise see styled on the streets. The tour concludes with a traditional lunch made and served in the home of Aminatha, NWC’s best cook.
After lunch, you will head to the Kigali Genocide Memorial for a moving and educational 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 what the conditions and history was that led to the event, is very transparent and 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 Heaven Boutique Hotel. It’s the original 3 star sister accommodation to The Retreat and is part of the story of successful development on this tour. The Heaven Restaurant was the original successful project of an American female entrepreneur who call Rwanda home. The restaurant and hotel have been responsible for employing, qualifying and developing thousands of young Rwandan’s in to the hospitality industry. If the owner is available we will ask her to stop by and address the tour group. (B,L,D)
Overnight Heaven Boutique Hotel or similar
Take it easy this morning as we will checkout around 10am.
You will then head west from Kigali to Gitarama and Muhanga districts to experience the lives of a typical rural Rwandan farmer and then stay overnight in a typical 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 lands.
On arrival you will partake in your authentic rural activity of choice (chosen on day 1 during the briefing):
In the afternoon, you will make a short transfer to a truly authentic experience where you will get to participate in the life of a rural artisan and her family. 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, enclosed pit latrine and bathing outhouse, animal stalls and family work space. Most host families have about four children at home. In Rwandan culture, guests are considered a blessing!
You will meet your host family and see your room, and then it’s off to help with preparations for the evening. You might help out in the kitchen or collect wood for the bonfire.
After a bit of an explore around the village, its back home to light the fire and hear some traditional tales. Then you’ll share a simple local meal with your host family, with plenty of time to chat and learn about each other’s lives. After this and the embers of the fire die away, then it’s time to start preparing for bed which will be a bed of banana leaves (covered by a sheet) on the floor of one of the huts rooms, usually with other guests. (B,L,D)
Overnight homestay or similar
As the new day dawns, you will rise and shine and get ready for the day. Then you will share a simple breakfast with your hosts before heading back to the Azizi Life office boutique. Here you will have the chance to think back over the highlights of your night away. You can also browse through some of the beautiful crafts made by the Azizi Life artisans (including your hosts) and do a little fair trade shopping.
Today you transfer from the central west of the country to the south west corner of Nyungwe Forest and Lake Kivu with a couple of very unique cultural stopovers along the way.
An hour south of Azizi Life, Gitarama is 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. The impressive museum, which has been restored to its 19th-century state, 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.
You will then head south to Butare a further 45 minutes for lunch before visiting the Ethnographic Museum of Rwanda.
A further 45 minutes south is the Ethnographic Museum is one of the six museums that make up the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda. This Museum was built in 1987, and now houses one of Africa’s finest ethnographic collections. Its seven galleries display historical, ethnographic, artistic and archaeological artefacts accompanied by visual aids, giving visitors a rich insight into the culture of Rwandans.
The museum is also home to a fine traditional dance troupe and we have organised a beautiful and energetic display especially for this tour .
Then you have a final three hour afternoon transfer further south as you cross Africa’s largest temperate Rainforest called Nyungwe Forest National Park. Keep your eyes open as there’s often cheeky monkeys sitting on the side of the road. You finish crossing Nyungwe Forest and go on to the picturesque Lake Kivu where you will watch the sunset over the lake, have dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Overnight Emeraude Kivu Resort or similar
This morning you will take a short 30-40 minute drive to Cyangugu Forest Reserve which is part of and administered by Nyungwe Forest. It is home to around 125 Chimpanzees and you are going to trek them this morning.
Leave Lake Kivu at around 6:30am. After about 15 minutes, head off the main road and start driving through the bumpy roads that wind through the tea plantations and eucalyptus trees of the region. There will be hundreds of people walking to walk as they start early to beat the heat of the afternoon.
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 in to the jungle. The trek can last between 2-5 hours depending on the movements of the Chimpanzees and often you will have to follow them as they move. It’s amazing to watch these creatures which our our closest animal relative sharing nearly 96% of our DNA. They are very agile and quite a bit larger than you will expect.
After the trek, you will head back to your accommodation to freshen up and have lunch.
After lunch, check out of your accommodation and drive to the heart of Nyungwe Forest National Park for a second primate adventure. This time the very unique black and white Colobus Monkeys. They are usually not as nomadic as the Chimpanzees and usually and easier trek (but no guarantees with nature).
After the Colobus Monkey trek, leave the ancient Nyungwe Forest and head along scenic Lake Kivu to Kivu Lodge which takes around 2 hours. The last 30 minutes of the drive is off the main road and whilst very bumpy and rustic as you drive through several small traditional villages, farmlands and fishing canoes before arriving at the very scenic Kivu Lodge on a peninsula overlooking the headlands of Lake Kivu. Kivu Lodge has a wonderful swimming pool with great views if you wish to treat your weary bones (from trekking and off-roading) to a soothing break before dinner and overnight.
In the late afternoon, we have organised a houseboat sundowner on Lake Kivu. Watching the sun set over this still large lake as the fisherman ply their trade and you look across the the mountains of Congo is a very nice way to finish the evening before returning to the lodge for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Overnight Kivu Lodge or similar
A late checkout of Kivu Lodge has been organised this morning, so enjoy the natural surrounds or take a morning dip in the pool.
You will leave around 10am and take the 2 hour drive to Ruhengeri and have lunch at a local hotel. Here you will also meet your guides for the next activities called “Dancing Pots”.
At Ruhengeri, you will have lunch and meet with representatives of the Batwa who are hosting our next experience. Here this small statured minority group will explain their story and what to expect in our afternoon activity. You will then depart for the short drive to their village.
The Batwa where the original forest dwellers of the region but have seen been displaced and are now integrated in to Rwanda society. Some have etched a living from their pottery skills and the Dancing Pots is a tour of their enthusiasm and hand crafted pottery.
After the Dancing Pots, leave the Batwa and head inland an hour to Musanze at the foothills of Volcanoes National Park, the home of the famous Mountain Gorillas.
Your overnight stay is in a humble local hotel called Muhabura, but we have good reason. Muhavura is of historical significance because this is where Dian Fossey used to stay before embarking on her missions in to the mountains. In fact one of your tour group will be booked in her room, which is an amazing experience (I’m sure they will let others visit). If the owner is available, we will introduce her to the tour. As a young girl she used to know and speak with Dian frequently at the hotel. (B,L,D)
Overnight Hotel Muhabura or similar
After several early mornings, take your time this morning as we will checkout at 9am before heading to Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village.
Iby’Iwacu is a fantastic destination to learn and explore what life was like pre-colonial times. It’s also known as the “Ex-poachers Village” or “Gorilla Guardians” as many of the people working here used to survive by poaching but have now been successfully re-integrated back in to Rwandan society as positive contributors. Hearing their stories of transitioning from the corrupt world into society is fascinating.
After Iby’Iwacu, you will head off to the nearby Ingagi Parkview Eco-Lodge for lunch and check in. If the weather cooperates, there are stunning views of many of the Volcano Peaks from the main lodge.
In the afternoon, we have arranged for some local artisans to visit and show you how to make traditional Rwandan arts. These are becoming more and more hot items to use as decor in homes around the world and this is how to do it straight from the source.
In the early evening, some senior staff from the Gorilla Doctors will come to the lodge for a special behind the scenes presentation.
The Gorillas Doctors are a group of International vets and local experts and carers who play an extremely important part in conservation and growing the populations of the rare mountain gorillas. Think about it, if your total population was only around 1000 and someone got injured, sick or carried a transmittable disease then this could have devastating effects on the survival of your species. These experts have played a crucial part in the growth of Mountain Gorillas numbers from only several hundred at the turn of the century to over 1200 currently and growing. They will also teach you about Gorillas language and behaviour which will add great value to your trek tomorrow. (B,L,D)
Overnight Ingagi Parkview Eco-Lodge or similar
Today you have a unique and privileged experience to trek and meet at close quarters the rare Mountain Gorilla. There are only around 880 of these magnificent creatures left in the world with around 1/3 of those in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.
After an early breakfast, you leave the lodge at 6:30am 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 in to groups of like fitness and assign you your 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.
After walking through the farmlands and crossing the park stone wall the trek starts in earnest as you venture up the mountain and through the thick forest. The treks can go for between 2-6 hours depending on which group you are with and how nomadic the gorilla group is.
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 spending an hour it’s time to leave the mountain gorillas to live their life and head back down the mountain. There’s 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 it’s time treat those weary muscles and dirty hands to some rejuvenation. We have organised massages, pedicures and manicures which is a real treat whilst enjoying the views of Volcanoes National Park.
The rest of the afternoon is yours to relax or enjoy as you like before dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Overnight Ingagi Park View Lodge or similar
Your final day gives you one last great activity and memory of Volcanoes National Park.
You have three activities to chose from depending on your fitness level and likes. You can decide on which activity after the Mountain Gorilla trek, yesterday giving us enough time to book.
OPTION 1 – DIAN FOSSEY TOMB TREK (Hardest)
(Rating when dry – Moderate. Rating when wet – Difficult. 5 hour mountain trek)
This morning after breakfast, leave your accommodation at 7am to walk in the footsteps of the deeply committed and inspiring Dian Fossey, who put the famous Mountain Gorillas on the map. This courageous and dedicated pioneer was an amazing researcher and you will visit her research camp, gravesite and the Gorilla graveyard where here beloved “Digit” and other Gorillas lie side by side.
The trek begins by walking through the traditional farmlands and then up in to the Volcanoes Mountain. The ascent is quite beautiful and full of interesting forest flora and views to neighbouring mountain peaks. After an ascent of around 3 hours, you will come across the remains of Dian’s research camp. The ranger will show you around the different ruins and explain their significance before you arrive at the gorilla graveyard and Dian’s tomb. It’s a very touching and moving honour to pay respects to Dian buried next to her beloved Gorillas.
The descent takes you back down through the forest and flora, with tremendous views before the final stretch through the farmlands where your driver and guide will be waiting.
OPTION 2 – GOLDEN MONKEY TREK (Easier)
(Rating – Moderate. 2-3 hour mountain trek)
These unique, beautiful and playful monkeys are very rare and there is nowhere else in Africa where they are as accessible as Volcanoes National Park. After trekking in to the mountains once more, you will get to spend an hour watching, following and photographing the Golden Monkeys. This trek is normally easier than a Mountain Gorilla Trek, but these are nomadic wild animals so sometimes the trek is longer.
OPTION 3 – MUKUNGWA RIVER CANOEING NEAR THE VOLCANOES. (Easiest)
(Rating – Easy. 2.5-3 hours on the water. 4 hours with transfers and briefing)
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, hand made bridges, views of the hills and mountains and children who are very happy to see you.
After the activities, head back to Kigali on a 2.5 hour transfer through the land of a thousand hills.
On arrival, we have arranged for a shower and room to change before we head out for a farewell dinner full of great memories and reminiscing.
After dinner, we transfer you to Kigali Airport (or your overnight accommodation) and wish you safe onward travels with memories that move you long after you return home. (B,L,D)
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 2 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.
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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.