One of the best places in Africa to hang out with Mountain Gorillas in the world is Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. This safari will take you for the experience of a lifetime trekking the Mountain Gorillas through lush jungles of the Virunga Mountains in Volcanoes National Park, north of Rwanda. A great add-on to the Gorilla tour is tracking the striking Golden Monkeys that inhabit the bamboo along the lower slopes of the Mountains towards the base of the volcanoes and have overcome their initial shyness to accept their daily visit by researchers and tourists.
Rwanda is one of the gorilla safari destinations in Africa alongside Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Besides Gorilla and Golden monkey tracking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda offers chimpanzee trekking and other Primates found in Nyungwe Forest National Park and Wildlife game drives in Akagera National Park, hiking Mount Karisimbi and Bisoke, cultural tours and Kigali city tours.
My experience with Rwanda Gorilla Safaris lived up to all the realistic reviews. Gorilla Safaris in Rwanda offers a magical encounter that transcends any other wildlife. I was picked up by my safari guide Baker, at the Kigali airport late in the morning and headed immediately to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, which is heartbreaking but a must-see. Drove 2 hours that afternoon up toward Volcanoes National Park, and I got lessons on everything from history and culture to the natural environment of the country.
I stayed in a budget hotel, which turned out to be Dian Fossey’s old home, simple but more than sufficient for my needs and had a great restaurant/bar. Did a medium trek to the Isabukuru gorilla family on Day 2 (took about 3 hours each way since one of our group members was recovering from illness and they didn’t want us trekking too far apart). I travel a lot and this was by far and away one of the top experiences of my entire life. Our gorilla family had a lot of babies and seeing them beat their chests and chase each other around was incredible with memorable pictures and videos. Most of my trekking group was pretty close to speechless the entire hour we were with the gorillas. Felt I was in very good hands with the rangers and the porters, who frequently pulled me out of the mud.
I visited a cultural village in the afternoon which was very teaching and fun and informative nevertheless; appreciated the opportunity to support a community which has dropped poaching in favor of tourism.
Day 3 was a golden monkey trek much easier than the gorilla trek (maybe an hour tops on much flatter terrain), and a very different experience, bigger trekking groups, and the monkeys are easier to find but harder to photograph as they dart through the bamboo forest. Beware of the safari ants either tuck your pants into long socks or bring gaiters.
Drove back to Kigali after the trek and had a bit of time left before my flight check-in, so Emma suggested the Presidential Palace Museum near the airport. Was really glad we added this it seems underdeveloped given its significance to Rwandan history, but was fascinating. This was where the genocide was planned, and where the president’s plane was shot down in 1994. The secret passageways, security measures, and interrogation room paint a picture of a president who was seriously paranoid (and rightly so, as it turns out). Overall, Rwanda far exceeded my expectations, one of the cleanest and safest countries I’ve been to. Planning the trip with Jackie via email was super easy; I had a great experience with this company and will definitely give them a call when I head to Uganda in the future.