Encounter mountain gorillas and experience Rwandan culture on an active journey that combines three days of trekking in Volcanoes National Park with visits with local communities in Kigali.

Activity Level: This is an Energetic Active Journey. To fully enjoy this program, travelers should be physically fit and capable of walking or hiking for several hours on and off rugged forest trails that may be wet or muddy. Travelers can expect 3 to 6 miles of hiking with significant elevation gains on trekking days, as well as a 5- to 6-mile canoeing excursion with a brief section of Class II rapids. Day-by-day activity descriptions can be found on the itinerary page at the end of each day. Read more about Active Journeys activity levels here.

This Active Journey is limited to a maximum of 12 travelers per departure.

 Gorilla in Rwanda
Gorilla in Rwanda
 Hiking through the mountains of Rwanda
Hiking through the mountains of Rwanda
 Spotting a group of gorillas in Volcanoes National Park
Spotting a group of gorillas in Volcanoes National Park
 Family of Mountain Gorillas in the jungles of Rwanda
Family of Mountain Gorillas in the jungles of Rwanda
 Mother and baby gorilla, Volcanoes National Park
Mother and baby gorilla, Volcanoes National Park
 Gorilla family, Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla family, Volcanoes National Park
 Gorilla family, Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla family, Volcanoes National Park
 Large gorilla, Volcanoes National Park
Large gorilla, Volcanoes National Park
 Golden monkey, Volcanoes National Park
Golden monkey, Volcanoes National Park
 Spotting a golden monkey in Volcanoes National Park
Spotting a golden monkey in Volcanoes National Park
 Overlooking Virunga Volcanoes
Overlooking Virunga Volcanoes

Gorillas of Rwanda: An Active Journey

With Optional Kenya Safari Extension

8 days from $8,999

Encounter mountain gorillas and experience Rwandan culture on an active journey that combines three days of trekking in Volcanoes National Park with visits with local communities in Kigali.

Activity Level: This is an Energetic Active Journey. To fully enjoy this program, travelers should be physically fit and capable of walking or hiking for several hours on and off rugged forest trails that may be wet or muddy. Travelers can expect 3 to 6 miles of hiking with significant elevation gains on trekking days, as well as a 5- to 6-mile canoeing excursion with a brief section of Class II rapids. Day-by-day activity descriptions can be found on the itinerary page at the end of each day. Read more about Active Journeys activity levels here.

This Active Journey is limited to a maximum of 12 travelers per departure.

Overview

Venture to the emerald volcanoes of Rwanda for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe mountain gorillas up close. Spend three days trekking in Volcanoes National Park with expert guides, tracking gorilla families as well as rare golden monkeys, and witnessing firsthand their fascinating behavior and social interactions. Hike to the tomb and research site of Dian Fossey, and learn about the lasting impact of her 18 years of gorilla research. Along the way, get acquainted with Rwanda’s resilient people and their culture, hearing from genocide survivors, sharing lunch and stories with the inspiring women of Kigali’s Nyamirambo neighborhood, canoeing past rural farming communities, and sampling local cuisine. Then complement your wildlife experience with a safari in Kenya on an optional extension.

Highlights Include:

  • Kigali: Discover the progress and promise of this inviting capital city, and learn about its reinvention following the atrocities of the 1990s. Hear the stories of survivors on a guided tour of the Kigali Genocide Memorial, and visit the inspiring Nyamirambo Women’s Center. Take a walking tour through a vibrant neighborhood and sit down to a traditional meal in a local home.
  • Mukungwa River Canoe Excursion: Enjoy a rare perspective on the Rwandan countryside during a leisurely paddle on the Mukungwa River, which winds through floodplains south of Volcanoes National Park. See everyday life along the riverbanks and spot abundant birdlife.
  • Volcanoes National Park: Stay in a comfortable hotel just outside the park and admire views of its five pointed volcanic peaks. Spend three days hiking in different regions of the park, including the Dian Fossey trail, which leads to the gravesite of the intrepid gorilla researcher and to her original camp.
  • Mountain Gorillas: Join a national park guide on a challenging—and rewarding—trek to find a gorilla troop in the forests of Volcanoes National Park. When you find them, enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit among these gentle giants, and witness their interactions and behavior at close range. Later, hear from a park warden about efforts to protect these endangered creatures.
  • Golden Monkeys: Set off on a guided hike along bamboo-covered slopes, keeping your eyes and ears out for endemic golden monkeys. Spend time watching their intriguing antics as they swing and squabble amid the trees.
  • Optional Kenya Safari Extension: Encounter a wide range of wildlife during seven days in Kenya’s wilderness areas. Visit a renowned elephant orphanage in Nairobi before cruising Lake Navaisha for a walking safari on Crescent Island. Hike the geothermal landscape of Hell’s Gate National Park, and spend two days on safari in the Masai Mara.

Itinerary

Days 1-2 — Depart Home / Arrive in Kigali, Rwanda

Following an overnight flight, arrive in Kigali and transfer to your hotel. Take time to get settled, then meet your fellow travelers and trip leader for an orientation and a welcome dinner. (D)

Day 3 — Kigali

After breakfast, set out to discover this cosmopolitan city and its compelling stories of rebirth. Begin with a guided visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, a haunting monument to the victims of the 1994 genocide that promotes peace and reconciliation to prevent future atrocities. Hear the inspiring stories of survivors and of the country’s unflagging efforts to rebuild. Many of the guides are genocide survivors themselves. Continue to the Nyamirambo Women’s Center which provides education and vocational training to disadvantaged women and girls. Take a walking tour with a community guide, weaving through the lively Nyamirambo neighborhood. Stop in at local businesses, such as a women’s hairdressing salon and a popular tailor's shop. Visit a family compound to try your hand at pounding cassava leaves to make a traditional stew, and admire views of Kigali’s mosques. Cap off the tour with a traditional Rwandan meal in the home of a woman from the community project. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure before dinner together this evening. (B,L,D)

Walking: 4-5 hours, museum visit and afternoon community walking tour, city streets with uneven and  variable incline.

Day 4 — Volcanoes National Park

Depart Kigali after breakfast and drive north through rippling green hills to Volcanoes National Park. The park is part of the Virunga Mountain range, home to about half of the planet’s mountain gorilla population, as well as a host of other wildlife. Upon arrival, enjoy lunch at the hotel before embarking on a canoeing adventure with a local guide on the Mukungwa River. This gentle river weaves along a flood plain between the hills, passing stands of papyrus and farming settlements and offering a unique perspective on everyday life in rural Rwanda. Nearly 40 species of birds can be found here, including kingfishers, weavers, spoonbills, painted storks, and crowned cranes. The last portion of the paddle is the liveliest, with a stretch of Class II rapids. Return to the hotel for some time at leisure before gathering for dinner. (B,L,D)

Canoeing: 5-6 miles, calm river with short section of Class II rapid.

Day 5 — Volcanoes National Park

Awaken in the early morning and head into Volcanoes National Park on a gorilla trek. Here, a chain of five conical volcanoes blanketed with dense vegetation harbor numerous mountain gorilla families, or “troops.” With designated guides from the Rwanda National Parks Authority, set out in small groups to locate one of these troops, hiking on trails left by elephants and buffalos.  Depending on where the gorillas have moved that day, trek from three to six hours and climb to altitudes up to 8,000 feet. Porters will be available to carry backpacks and offer a hand over difficult parts of the route.

Once you find the gorillas, spend an unforgettable hour sitting quietly among them, observing them as they eat, groom, and play, and learning about their daily routines and social dynamics firsthand. Hike back to the starting point and return to the hotel for lunch. In the early evening, gather on the terrace for a talk by a park warden. Take in views of the magnificient volcanoes as you hear about recent increases in the mountain gorilla population and global as well as local efforts to protect them. Dine together tonight.  (B,L,D)

Hiking: 3-6 miles (3 to 6 hours) on and off rugged forest trails that may be wet or muddy, steep ascents and descents at elevations up to 8,000 feet

Day 6 — Volcanoes National Park

Rise early again today and return to the park, riding in 4x4s to the trailhead of the Dian Fossey hike. Learn about the work and legacy of this pioneering scientist, who lived among the gorillas for over 18 years, conducting invaluable research into their behavior and social patterns. The hike will bring you along lush slopes, where you might spot forest elephants and forest hogs as well as a variety of primates and birds. Visit Fossey’s grave, where she was buried alongside her “beloved Digit,” a silverback she habituated over ten years, and continue to the original Karisoke research site. Alternatively, choose to spend the morning on a second gorilla trek (at an additional charge*). Meet up for lunch in the hotel and enjoy free time this afternoon to take a walk in the gardens or relax in the sauna or whirlpool. (B,L,D)

Hiking: 4 miles (3-4 hours) on rugged, muddy, forest trails; steep ascents and descents at elevations up to 9,000 feet.   

**Please note: If you wish to take a second gorilla trek, please advise your trip specialist once your initial reservation has been made. An additional, non-refundable deposit of $1,550 is required. Subject to availability.

Day 7 — Volcanoes National Park / Kigali

On your final morning hike in Volcanoes National Park, focus on another endemic primate: the golden monkey. Venture into thick bamboo forests with a guide, looking—and listening—for these active and curious creatures, who often chatter loudly in the treetops. You’ll have a full hour to observe their antics as they frolic, feed, and interact among the branches. Unlike the small family clans of the mountain gorilla, these habitatuated troops can number between 20 and 80 members.

After lunch, drive back to Kigali, enjoying the stunning emerald scenery of this “land of a thousand hills.”  Toast your gorilla trekking adventure at a farewell dinner of East African specialties at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Hiking: 2–3 miles, on moderate forest trails with some ascents and descents at elevations up to 8,000 feet.

Day 8 — Return Home

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home or continue your wildlife adventure on a post-tour extension to Kenya. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

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