About Rwanda & Uganda
Akagera National Park: Adjacent to Tanzania along Rwanda’s eastern border, the park offers game drives to see buffalo, eland, topi, Maasai giraffe, monkey, civet and hyena. It forms the largest protected wetland in central Africa. The park, however, does not have the high numbers of animals as Kenya and Tanzania. Many species including lion were hunted out during the civil strife of the 1990s but lions, black rhinos and other species are being reintroduced into the park ecosystem. The Akagera River flows along the park’s eastern boundary and into a maze of lakes, the largest of which is Lake Ihema. The scenic park encompasses several ecosystems including forest, papyrus swamp, savannah plains and rolling highlands. This variety of landscapes supports a large number of birds. Some 500 species have been identified in the park, including such rarities as shoebill and papyrus gonolek. Boat safaris can be done on Lake Ihema, which has one of the largest concentrations of hippos in East Africa and plenty of crocodiles that browse the shore line.
Kigali: Kigali, in the heart of the country, is the national capital as well as the country’s most important business center and main port of entry. It was founded in 1907 as a small colonial outpost with little connection to the outside world. To the southwest of the business district is the suburb of Nyamirambo. This part of the city was settled beginning in the 1920s by the Belgian colonial government to serve as home for civil servants and Swahili traders. The first European-style house dates to the turn of the 20th century and today serves as the Kandt House Museum of Natural History. Nyamirambo’s Green Mosque, built in the 1930s, is the oldest mosque in the city. Since the civil conflicts of the 1990s, Kigali has not only survived, it has prevailed, and grown into a modern metropolis. The city spreads across four ridges and valleys and enjoys a moderate high-altitude climate that belies its tropical location.
Lake Kivu: Kivu is the largest of Rwanda’s many freshwater lakes. Steep terraced hills lead down to the picturesque lakeshore, and three resort towns, Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu. The Rift Valley Mountains and the volcanic Virungas Mountains can be seen to the north. The lake’s inlets, peninsulas and waterfalls provide a relaxing environment.
Nyungwe Forest: Nyungwe Forest may be the most preserved forest in Africa with the most diversity in flora and fauna in Rwanda. The forest is part of a watershed between the basins of the Congo River in the west and the Nile River in the east, and feeds both rivers. The east side of the forest is also the source of one of the branches of the Nile. This remarkably pristine ecosystem supports more than 1,000 species of living things, encompassing about 300 bird species and 75 mammal species, including 13 types of primates. The park extends into Burundi. This is also a good place to track chimpanzees, however, it is important to note that, unlike some areas, these chimps are not habituated to humans and remain very elusive, so there is no promise of an encounter.
Volcanoes National Park: The park protects the montane ecosystems of evergreen and bamboo forest, grassland and swamp. Some 178-avian species survive in the park, with at least 13 species and 16 subspecies endemic. Five of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains are found here. It is also home to another group of mountain gorillas. Hiking into this tangle of wilderness is a remarkable experience. The voices of the rainforest come in the form of bird calls and monkey chatter. An encounter with gorillas in the wild makes it easy to understand the passion of Dian Fossey, who worked tirelessly to protect these magnificent creatures for 18 years before her death.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in southwest Uganda encompasses extremely dense rainforest. It supports more than 120 species of mammals, including chimpanzee, black and white colobus, bushpig, duiker, leopard, jackal and elephant, plus 350 types of birds. But the stars here are the 340 Bwindi gorillas, half the world’s population of the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The park is situated along the Democratic Republic of Congo border next to Virunga National Park on the edge of the Albertine Rift, and contains both montane and lowland forest. This UNESCO World Heritage Site forest is among the most diverse in East Africa, with more than 1,000 flowering plant species including 163 species of trees and 104 species of ferns.
Entebbe: Entebbe sits on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. The old colonial gardens and parks give Entebbe a relaxed atmosphere. The United Nations uses Entebbe as a depot and staging area for their vehicles and heavy equipment that are part of peace keeping and other missions in the central African region. The National Botanical Gardens were established in 1898, and are divided into different zones, including a rainforest zone.
Jinja: Jinja is recognized as the historic source of the Nile River, and for its adventure activities, especially for whitewater rafting on the thundering river. Kayaking, mountain and quad biking, horseback riding and bungee jumping are also possible as is a trek through nearby Mabira Forest with a birding guide. The dusty Jinja town, with vintage architecture, sits along the northern shores of Lake Victoria. There is a small monument in the area dedicated to Mahatma Ghandi. He worked in Africa for more than two decades. In 1948, he requested that upon his death, some of his ashes be released here at the source of the Nile. On Gandhi’s birthday in October every year, the local Indian community pays homage to this remarkable leader by visiting the statue and presenting flowers. The busy Jinja market in the heart of town, covers several acres with colorful shacks squeezed one to the next, selling everything from eggs and spices to pants and motor parts.
Kibale National Forest: Uganda’s Kibale National Park has one of the highest concentrations and diversity of primates in Africa. It is home to large numbers of endangered chimpanzees, as well as the red colobus monkey. The park is boasts more than 325 species of birds, 13 species of primates and more than 250 tree species. The predominant ecosystem in Kibale is evergreen and semi-deciduous forest. Much of the forest was logged during its time as a forest reserve, and exotic species of trees such as pine and eucalyptus were planted, but since the forest became a national park, many of the introduced trees have been removed and logging has ended.
Lake Mburo National Park:Five lakes within the park host hippos, crocodiles and a variety of water birds, while swamps on the fringe support sitatunga antelope and red, black and yellow papyrus gonalek. The park is just 260 sq. km/100 sq. mi, making it one of Uganda’s smaller national parks, but it is noted for its rich biodiversity and a variety of animals such as zebra, impala, eland, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck, leopard, hippo, hyena, topi and reedbuck as well as 300 types of birds.
Queen Elizabeth National Park: The park sits between Rwenzori Mountains to the east and Lake Edward to the west. Conservation efforts have restored much of the game that had been lost to poaching. In Kyambura Gorge, chimpanzees can be heard in the treetops, but they are elusive and always unpredictable. Kasinga Channel contains the world’s largest concentration of hippos. The Queen Elizabeth National Park spreads over an area in the western arm of the Great East African Rift Valley, and hosts a variety of wildlife including elephant, lion, hippo, leopard, buffalo and Uganda kob. The remote Southern Ishasha sector of the park on the Ntungwe River is a stunning retreat into the wilderness. Elephants bathe in the river, buffalo graze and resident troops of black-and-white colobus and vervet monkeys are frequently seen. The Ishasha Sector is probably most noted for its tree-climbing lions and the striking topis. Three prides of lions here are known to climb and sleep in trees. Only one other location in Tanzania is this behavior known to exist in lions. The beautiful and unusual topi antelopes, with their elongated heads, are found nowhere else in Uganda.
Best Time to Go
January to March and June to September are the dry seasons; April to May is the season of long rains; and the short rains last from October through December. Temperatures average 27ºC/80°F during the day. During the rainy seasons many roads are impassible. Gorilla tracking can be done year round, although rainy season is more difficult.
Special note: *Gorilla tracking permits are limited. Advance planning is critical. A permit does not guarantee gorilla sightings. One or two gorilla permits are included per itinerary. More can be purchased subject to availability.
Day 1: Kigali, Rwanda
Rwanda’s capital was founded in 1907 as a small colonial outpost with little connection to the outside world. Situated near the geographic center of the nation, it is today the economic and cultural hub.
Day 2: Kigali / Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
The park is home to rare mountain gorillas and a rich mosaic of montane ecosystems - evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.
Day 3: Volcanoes National Park – Gorilla Tracking
An encounter with a family of mountain gorillas in their natural environment is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Day 4: Volcanoes National Park
Park activities include tracking golden monkeys, hiking to Lake Ngezi, and climbing Mt Visoke.
Day 5: Volcanoes National Park / Kigali / Depart
Day 1: Entebbe, Uganda
Entebbe sits on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake.
Days 2/3: Entebbe / Queen Elizabeth National Park
The park supports some 95 species of mammals and more than 610 bird species.
Day 4: Queen Elizabeth National Park / Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
This UNESCO World Heritage Site supports just over half of the remaining mountain gorillas on earth.
Days 5/6: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – Gorilla Tracking
In tracking gorillas in one of the richest ecosystems in Africa, hikers may also encounter some of the 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds and 220 species of butterflies.
Day 7: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest / Entebbe / Depart
Akagera National Park (3 days)
Adjacent to Tanzania on Rwanda’s eastern border, the landscapes host some 500 species of birds, and Lake Ihema is home to one of the largest concentrations of hippos in East Africa.
Lake Kivu (3 days)
This magical setting has inlets, peninsulas and waterfalls, and provides a pleasant spot to resting place.
Nyungwe Forest (3 days)
The forest supports an incredible diversity of flora and fauna – more than 1,000 species. This is a good site to track chimpanzees. but unlike some areas, these chimps are not as yet habituated to humans and remain elusive.
Jinja (3-4 days)
Jinja is recognized as the source of the Nile River, and it is also recognized for its adventure activities, especially for whitewater rafting on the thundering river.
Kibale Forest National Park (4 days)
Kibale has one of the highest concentrations and greatest diversity of primates in Africa, including the endangered chimpanzee.
Queen Elizabeth National Park with Ishasha (5 days)
This park is a gem high on the biodiversity scale, with almost 100 types of mammals and some 606 species of birds. In the southern sector of the park, Ishasha is known for its tree-climbing lions.
$ 750-$3000 per person, per day. Land only, double occupancy.