16 Days Rwanda birding tour

During the 16 day Rwanda birding and adventure tour you will explore Rwanda’s beautiful landscapes and varied habitats that will provide a range of bird species and plenty of wildlife. Rwanda boasts a massive diversity of over 750 bird species which includes a remarkable 29 out of the 40+ Albertine rift endemics and over 130 migrants (Palearctic and Intra-African migrants). The Palearctic migrants’ season is from September to April.

Your Rwanda birding exploration will cut across all the biomes – Lake Victoria Basin, Lake Victoria Savanna, Afro-tropical highlands and Guinea-Congo forests – covering the Important Birding Areas (IBA) and known productive bird spots in all the regions of Rwanda as indicated in the trip itinerary description below.

On this birding trip you will have one of the most experienced of Rwandan bird guides, and you will also make use of the local guide (if available) at every birding spot

16 Days Rwanda birding tour itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in Rwanda via Kigali International Airport – afternoon Kigali City tour and birding

On arrival at the Kigali International Airport you will be received by the tour driver and bird guide and be transferred to your hotel in Kigali. After settling in at the hotel later you may set out for an afternoon tour of Kigali City and do some birdwatching around Kigali to introduce you to some of Rwanda’s local birds. You will visit the Nyarutarama Golf Lake that provides some water species and also more birds will be spotted in vegetation and the woodland in the surrounding area. The waders on the lake you will most likely see in plentiful include: White-faced Whistling Duck, Hottentot Teal, African Spoonbill, Common Moorhen, Black-headed Heron, Squacco Heron, Black Crake, etc… Many palearctic migrants are hosted here: Red-backed Shrike, European Roller, Sedge Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warblers, Common Sandpiper, Willow Warbler, etc…

Day 2 – Full day Rwanda birding in the wetlands and fields in the southern districts

Have early breakfast and set out for full day birding in the wetlands and plains in the southeastern districts of Bugesera and Ngoma. Set off by dawn, bird along the Nyabarongo River Wetlands (IBA) in Bugesera recording a number of wetland birds, and then continue to the Gashora lakes in Ngoma where you search for among others, the Papyrus Gonolek and White-winged Swamp Warbler – the endemics of the Lake Victoria Biome! After lunch your birding will cover tracts of woodland and fields for the rest of the afternoon.

Day 3 – Birding from Kigali to Akagera National Park

Up by dawn you will visit the Nyarutarama Lake in Kigali for any new species, and, by 9am set off to eastern Rwanda for birding and game watching safari in Akagera National Park. An internationally listed IBA, Akagera National Park boasts of over 525 bird species, which is 2/3 of the bird species which occur in Rwanda. Akagera will provide plenty of savanna, woodland and swamp species, and between the months of Sept and April, the park hosts a great deal of Palearctic migrants.

Setting out along the Rwamagana road to Akagera, the drive past cultivation and through villages will produce quite a number of species. As soon as you get to the park you will set out along the Giraffe circuit near the main entrance located in the south of the park. Record plenty of grassland and woodland species with several birds of prey. Enjoy observing some animals including Giraffes, Zebra, Topi and Impala. As night sets in you will look out for the Nightjars and other night elements before winding up the day’s birding and make your way to Akagera Game Lodge for the overnight.

Day 4 – Full day birding in the Akagera National Park

Up by 6am, have a quick breakfast and head out into the park. Spend the first half of the day birding in the southern lower regions, esp. along lakes Ihema and Birengero that are productive for swamp specials such as the African Jacana, Swamp Flycatcher, Long-toed Lapwing, African Fish Eagle, and migrants such as Wood Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtails, Common Sandpiper, Water Thick-knees, . After lunch you will go further up to the higher and rockier north that has more animals and will also provide many bird species. Return at nightfall for overnight at Akagera Game Lodge.

Day 5 – Another day birding and safari in Akagera National Park

This is yet another fruitful day in the Akagera as you will head to the north of the park whose wetlands are known to offer the best chance at the rare Shoebill, and will also provide plenty of animals and breathtaking scenery! After lunch you will set out for a late afternoon relaxation boat trip on Lake Ihema.

Day 6 – Akagera – Huye – Nyungwe

Have early breakfast, check out and depart for Nyungwe Forest National Park located in the southwest of Rwanda. Nyungwe Forest, another internationally listed Important Birding Area, is by far the best destination for Albertine rift endemics, hosting at least 27 species which is the highest concentration found in any park in Africa. The forest has over 310 bird species. To try and record all the Albertine rift endemics you will have three full days of birding in Nyungwe Forest during which you will cover a number of walking trails including the famous Nyungwe Forest canopy walkway. Nyungwe also has one of the highest diversity of primate species in a single location, 13 have been recorded including the Chimpanzees. Some of the primates have been habituated for tourism and will thus give you optional activities that you can do between birding such as the Chimpanzee trek. However many of the primates will be encountered along the birding trails.

You will make a stopover in Huye town for a lunch break and visit to the ethnographic museum.

Overnight at Gisakura Guest House

Day 6 – Birding in Nyungwe: Gisakura – Karamba – Kamiranzovu Marsh

At dawn report to the Gisakura ranger post and start off the birding adventure into Nyungwe Forest. You will visit Kamiranzovu Marsh that is ve productive for the Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, and the exploration of the birding trails and tracks in the area around Gisakura will reward with plenty of Nyungwe Forest specials including Albertine Rift endemics birds and monkey species.

Day 7 – Birding in Nyungwe: Uwinka – Mt. Bigugu trail – canopy walkway

You will set out on a full day hike along the Bigugu trail that leads to the highest point of the park, Mt. Bigugu (2950m). The trail is known to produce many Albertine Rift endemics and some of those often recorded on this trek include: Neumann’s Warbler, Rwenzori Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Red-faced woodland Warbler, Rwenzori Turaco, Strip-breasted Tit, Blue-headed Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, and Regal Sunbird. Other specials to look out include: Olive woodpecker, Mountain Buzzard. You will also have the option take on the Uwinka trail canopy walkway which offers access to good views of birds and some primates in the canopy that otherwise are not easy to spot from the ground.

Day 8 – Cyamudongo Forest Chimp trek and birding

At 5am you will transfer to Cyamudongo Forest, a small tract of forest detached from the Nyungwe Forest near the DR Congo border. The forest has a small population of Chimps which are however easier to find than the population in Nyungwe forest. Getting there as early as possible enables you to catch them before they de-nest (wake up), as they are harder to track down when already on the move! Spend an hour with the Chimps and return to the lodge. After lunch you will do some birding along the road and edge of the Nyungwe. This could also be the alternative time to go for the canopy walk.

Day 9 – Nyungwe – Congo Nile trail – Musanze

Have early breakfast, check out and leave for Musanze – northern Rwanda. You will travel along the Congo – Nile trail that simmers along Lake Kivu, and will offer wonderful views of the verdant countryside, rolling landscape, and Lake Kivu. Along the way are beautiful attractions such as wetlands and forest which will provide for some birding stopovers.

Overnight at Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge

Day 10 – Rwanda Golden Monkeys trekking in the morning and afternoon birding in Buhanga Forest

Be up by 6.30am for breakfast and transfer to the park offices in Kinigi to meet the rangers and set out for golden monkey trek in the Volcanoes National Park. The trek to find a habituated troop of more than 100 Golden Monkeys is through bamboo forest at the base of the Mt. Sabinyo Volcano that could provide a few bird species. It is a relatively light and short trek to find the monkeys which you will spend around not more than one hour. They are very photogenic! After the Golden monkey trek make your way back through the village while looking out for birds and the common garden species of Ruhengeri include Baglafecht’s Weaver, Bronz Sunbird, Grey-headed Sparrow, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Red-billed Firefinch, Speckled Mousebird, Common Bulbul, Spot-flanked Barbet, African Thrush, Black-crowned Waxbill, Grey-capped Warble. Other than the Golden Monkey trek, there are is a host of other tours to do in the Volcanoes Park such as the Mountain Gorilla trek, and mountain hikes.

In the afternoon you will visit Buhanga Eco Park located about 8km outside Musanze. This small patch of forest can impress with many bird species and some of those to look out for include: Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Red-headed Bluebill

Day 11 – Birding along the twin Lake Bulera, Rusumo Falls and Rugezi Swamp (IBA)

Up by 6.30am you will travel down to the twin lake Bulera near the border with Uganda. Enjoy captivating views of the Lake Bulera against the Mt. Buhabura backdrop.  The cultivations, the lake shores and marsh habitats will provide plenty of birds.

Day 12 – Musanze – Lake Kivu – South Gisenyi

Head back to Buhanga Forest at 7am for any possibility of recording the rare African Pitta which is an intra African migrant and any other new bird species. After breakfast transfer to Gisenyi located at the shores of Lake Kivu. Lake Kivu produces plenty Palearctic migrants during the migrants’ season from September to May.

Settle in at Paradis Maladhide hotel and spend a relaxing afternoon at the shores. Enjoy the activity of several water birds and capture excellent photos!

Day 13 – Birding at Lake Kivu

Wake up to early coffee and tea and then off at 6.30am to the hill across the bay from the Paradis Malahide hotel. This walk will probably provide you with the best views of the colorful Southern Red Bishops. After walking up the hill and down to the other side of the hill you will catch a boat ride to the nearby Akeza Island which hosts big colonies of water species. Back to the hotel.

Day 14 – Lake Kivu – Kigali

After breakfast check out and transfer to Kigali to prepare for your flight back home.

Day 16 – Transfer to Kigali International Airport for your flight back home.

Transfer to the Kigali International Airport for your flight back home.

View/download Rwanda Bird list with particular birding places and their birds

Download (RWANDA-Bird-list.xlsx, XLSX, 404KB)

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