Rwanda has three national parks, which are also Important Birding Areas (IBAs) according to Birdlife international. The parks are Volcanoes National Park, Akagera National Park, and Nyungwe National Park with over 700 bird species. The other areas for birding include agricultural lands and swampy areas that are outside the protected areas. The birds are easy to see especially in Akagera national park, which is mainly Savannah and woodland. Nyungwe forest offers the best site for the Albertine endemics found nowhere else in Rwanda.

Key bird species to see on this 12 days Birding Rwanda and gorilla trekking safari

Shoebill, Great Blue and Ruwenzori Turacos, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Chestnut Owlet, Olive Woodpeckers, Little grebe, White-bellied Robin Chat, Doherty’s Bush-Shrike, Mountain Masked Apalis, Northern pintail, Handsome francoline, White-headed Black Chat, Secretary bird, Western banded eagle, African hawk eagle, black bellied bustard, Red-chested flufftail, African finfoot, Fan-tailed Widowbird and Caruther’s Cisticola, Collared Pratincole, Emerald spotted wood-dove, Klaas’s Cuckoo, African wood Owl, Broad billed Roller, Malachite Kingfisher,

Habitats

Forest, Acacia Savanna, grassland, agricultural lands, moist woodland, Papyrus Swamps, Lakes, and rivers

Optional activity

Chimpanzee Trekking

Itinerary for 12 days birding Rwanda and gorilla trekking safari

Day 1: Arrival for Birding Rwanda and Gorilla trekking safari

Today you arrive in Rwanda “the land of a thousand hills.” A representative of Kagera Safaris will be at the airport to pick you and transfer you to hotel. Depending on time of arrival you have an opportunity for a short Kigali city tour.

Meal plan – Dinner

Accommodation

  • Up market – Kigali Radisson Blu
  • Mid-range – Hotel Villa Portofino
  • Budget – Quiet haven Lodge

Day 2: Transfer to Akagera National Park – Rwanda birding tours

After breakfast at your hotel, we set off for Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda bordering with Tanzania. We will bird the marshy areas for species like cattle Egret, Hamerkop, Sacred and Hadada Ibis, Augur Buzzard, Long-crested Eagle, and Pied Crow, Village, Black-headed, and Veillots Black Weavers.

We arrive at our lodge later that evening and check in for the night.

Meal plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Accommodation

  • Up market – Ruzizi tented camp
  • Mid-range – Akagera game lodge
  • Budget – Dereva hotel

Days 3 – 4: Birding in Akagera National Park – Rwanda birding tours

grey crowned cranes in Akagera National ParkWe will spend the next two days birding Akagera national park home to about 500 bird species. In the morning we bird the Savannah and woodland areas for species such as Pearl spotted owlet, brown snake eagle, red faced barbet and shouldered robin chat etc. The afternoon we take a boat trip on Lake Ihema for African fish eagles, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Rufous-bellied Heron, Greater Swamp Warblers, Slender-billed Weavers, and Swamp Flycatcher. More species include Goliath, Black-headed, and Squacco Herons, Little Bittern, Grey Crowned Crane, African Open bill, African Darter, Black tern, African Wattled Plover, Long-toed and Senegal Lapwings, Water Thick-knee, and Giant, Pied and Malachite Kingfisher etc.

While birding Akagera national park, we may encounter herds of buffaloes, Impala, Zebras, water-bucks and Elephants.

Meal plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Day 5: Birding Nyungwe forest – Rwanda birding tours

Today we drive to Nyungwe forest national park from Akagera national park with several short stopovers of birding. In the swampy marshes and papayrus, we search for White-winged Warbler, Papyrus Canary, Papyrus Gonolek and Grauer’s Swamp Warbler before reaching our lodge.

Journey time –  7 hours

Meal plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Accommodation

  • Upmarket – Nyungwe forest lodge
  • Mid-range – Nyungwe top view lodge
  • Budget – Gisakura guest house

Days 6 – 8: Albertine Rift Endemics – Rwanda Birding tours

white-eyed slaty-flycatcherNyungwe forest national park is part of the remaining large montane forests on the African continent and rich in birds especially the Albertine Rift endemics. We have three days of birding nyungwe forest and some of the species we search for include the Handsome Francolin, Great Blue and Rwenzori Turacos, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Chestnut Owlet, Olive and Elliot’s Woodpeckers. Stripe-breasted Tit, Red-collared Babbler, Archer’s Robin Chat, White-bellied Robin Chat, Doherty’s Bush-Shrike, Mountain Masked, Black-faced, and Collared Apalises, Rwenzori Batis, Neumann’s Short-tailed Warbler, White-tailed Blue-flycatcher,  and Purple-breasted and Regal Sunbirds, etc.

Optional: Chimpanzee trekking and canopy walk

Meal plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Day 9: Birding to Lake Kivu – Rwanda birding tours

Today after breakfast, we start our journey northwards to lake Kivu with several stopovers for birding in the marshes, forested areas and agricultural areas. This journey can take the whole day depending on how active the birding en route. Lake Kivu will provide the much needed rest and opportunities for birding along the shores on arrival that evening.

Journey time – 6 hours

Meal plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Accommodation

  • Up market – Lake Kivu Serena
  • Mid-range – Inzonzi lodge
  • Budget – Paradise Malahide

Day 10: To Volcanoes national park for gorilla trekking

volcanoes park rwandaThe Virunga volcanoes region shared between Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda represent one of the richest biological areas of the world. It was here that Dian Fossey began her research into Mountain Gorillas in the late 1960’s. The drive to Musanze/Kinigi from Lake Kivu in Gisenyi is about an hour but with birding along the way it can be several hours. We will have a short stop at a patch of forest for possible sightings of Narina’s Trogon after which we proceed to our lodge for overnight before gorilla trekking.

Journey time – 1 hour

Meal plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Accommodation

  • Up market – Mt Gorilla view lodge
  • Mid-range – Le Bambou gorilla lodge
  • Budget – Garden place hotel

Days 11: Volcanoes national park – Rwanda Gorilla trekking

mountain-gorilla-volcanoes-parkToday you explore the jungles of volcanoes national park in anticipation of meeting a group of mountain gorillas. We start with a briefing at the visitor’s center and later you are divided into different groups and allocated a ranger guide who will clarify in case of any questions and how to behave. The trek can last from an few minutes to several hours depending on where the gorillas nested the previous night – you need to be relatively fit to enjoy this experience. Once located, you spend one hour with these magnificent animals.

How we spend the rest of the day depends on what time we get back from our gorilla trek, but we expect to have a late lunch and then spend the rest of the afternoon ‘taking it easy’ in the lodge grounds which holds a variety of birds.

Meal plan – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Day 12: End of 12 days Rwanda Birding and gorilla trekking safari

After birding  near the lodge area – we set out on the return trip to Kigali, we shall bird along the way. On arrival in Kigali we shall proceed to the airport for your return flight home. Thank you for exploring Rwanda with us on your birding and gorilla expedition.

Meal plan – Breakfast & Lunch

Tour includes 

  • Ground transport per 4X4 vehicle
  • Park entrance fees
  • Game drives
  • Birding fees
  • Boat trip
  • Gorilla trekking permit
  • Bottled water
  • Full board accommodation
  • Service of an English-speaking bird guide
  • All mentioned activities except for the optional ones

Tour excludes

  • Extras at the accommodation i.e. drinks, telephone, laundry etc.
  • Tips to porters, site guides and driver/ guide
  • Insurance
  • Optional activities

What to bring

  • Waterproof binoculars
  • Sun hut
  • Sunscreen
  • Good camera

Gorilla trekking tips 

  • Recommended clothing is long trousers and long sleeved sweaters or shirts while in the forest to avoid insect stings.
  • Insect repellent
  • Gardening gloves
  • Waterproof hiking boots and rain gear
  • Carry your day pack with lunch or some snacks. Eating, drinking and smoking near the gorillas is forbidden – designated time and place will be communicated.
  • Photography is permitted, although you must not use flash
  • Porters are available to help you carry your day pack for a small charge.

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