16 Days Rwanda birding and Wildlife tour

During this 16 day birding and wildlife tour in Rwanda you shall explore the beautiful landscapes of Rwanda and cover a variety of habitats that will provide many bird species and plenty of wildlife including several primates and big game. Rwanda, a small country of size of about 26,338 square kilometers, boasts of bird list of over 750 species of which includes a whooping 29 out of the 40+ much-sought-after Albertine Rift Endemic species and over 130 Palearctic and Intra-African migrants. The Palearctic season is from September to April

Your 16 days of birding in Rwanda will take you across all the biomes in Rwanda – Lake Victoria basin, Lake Victoria Savanna, Afro-tropical highlands and Guinea-Congo forests – covering all Rwanda’s Important Birding Areas (IBAs) and known productive birding spots in all the regions of Rwanda.

Also, on this birding trip in Rwanda you will be guided by a qualified and experienced bird guide and in addition you will also make use of local site guides in every birding destination if available.

Tour itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in Rwanda and birding in Kigali

Early arrival in Rwanda, meet your driver and bird guide and transfer to the hotel. After briefing from the Nature Trails team you will go out birding in Kigali for the rest of the day, an opportunity for your first introduction to Rwanda’s local birds. The best spot to kickstart your birding in Rwanda in Kigali is Umusambi Village, a newly established wildlife sanctuary and the first in Kigali City. It was established primarily to provide a home to the endangered Grey-crowned Cranes that have been rescued from captivity. The sanctuary which is a restored wetland with varied habitats is home to many other birds, and walking the very neat trails you will be looking out for among other species; White-collared Oliveback which is one of the specials here, Green-winged Pytilia, Lesser Honeyguide, Black-shouldered Nightjar, Spot-flanked Barbet, Purple-crested Turaco, African Firefinch, etc…

Overnight at Heaven Boutique Hotel (midrange)

**Note: You can plan to arrive a day earlier so that you will have this a full day birding in Kigali

Day 2 – Full day birding in the Nyabarongo wetlands and forest in Bugesera District

Have early breakfast and set out for a full day of birding in the wetlands, forest and woodland habitats in the southeastern district of Bugesera, just outside Kigali. Set off by dawn and go birding along the Nyabarongo River Wetlands (IBA) in Bugesera recording a number of wetland birds, and may then continue to the Gashora lakes in Ngoma where you search for among others, the Papyrus Gonolek and White-winged Swamp Warbler – both of which are endemics of the Lake Victoria Biome! After lunch your birding will cover forest and tracts of woodland and fields for the rest of the day before returning to Kigali at sunset.

Day 3 – Trip to Akagera National Park for birding and wildlife safari

After early breakfast you shall head off to the east of Rwanda for the birding and wildlife safari in Akagera National ParkAkagera National Park is special in Rwanda because it protects the only savanna habitat in a country which is mostly mountainous.  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 wetland species, and between the months of Sept and April, the park hosts many Palearctic migrants.

On the way to Akagera National Park you will drive past cultivation and villages and you will be on the lookout for birds.

On checking into the park you shall immediately starting birdwatching in Akagera National Park. You will be ushered into Akagera by the constant calls of the Little Rush Warbler. Drive through the game circuits after the park entrance and start recording birds. The area near the entrance of Akagera National Park is predominantly covered by acacia thickets, woodlands and some grassland & wetland. You will also enjoy observing some animals including Zebra, Antelopes, monkeys and probably the Rhinos which are found in this part of the park.

Later in the day you shall do a sunset boat ride on Lake Ihema which is the biggest lake in Akagera National Park. Expect sighting several water associated birds including African Jacana, Swamp Flycatcher, African Fish Eagle, and migrants such as Wood & Common Sandpiper. Several other aquatic wildlife such as hippos & crocodiles are plentiful.

Overnight at Ruzizi Tented Lodge (Upmarket)

Day 4 – Full day birding safari in the Akagera National Park

Up by 6am, have a quick breakfast and head out for a full day of birding and safari in Akagera National Park. Spend the day birding in the southern lower regions of the park whose habitat is generally dominated by dense acacia thickets and woodlands, thick wooded grasslands and lake shores and swamps. Top on the list is the Red-faced Barbet an East African endemic that is considered a special of Akagera National Park. Later in the day you will go a little further up towards the higher and rockier north and continue to tick off more birds and animals.

As night sets in you will look out for the Nightjars and other night elements before winding up the day’s birding.

Overnight at Ruzizi Tented Lodge

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

This is yet another fruitful day of birding and safari in Akagera National Park as you will head to the north of the park whose wetlands are known to offer the best chance at the rare Shoebill (still seeing it is very difficult and you should not have your hopes up) and the beautiful savannah plains will provide your best animal views in Akagera National Park. The north of the park has more savannah and grassland and most animals such as the grazers are found here and thus the predators like the lions and hyenas favor this area due to the abundant prey. The Kilala Plains in the park is the major animal viewing area of Akagera National Park. Expect to record may savannah bird species.

After birding you will spend the overnight in the north of the park overlooking the beautiful Kilala plains

Overnight at Karenge Bush Camp (Upmarket)

Day 6 – birding in Akagera and transfer to Kigali

Today you early morning game drive in Kilala Plains to tick off some more birds and also this is the best time to look out for animals such as the Lions, Giraffes, Elephant and several species of Antelope strolling the beautiful plains.

Later you shall check out and head back to Kigali.

Overnight at Heaven Boutique Hotel

Day 7 – Transfer to Musanze in the north of Rwanda and birding in Buhanga Forest

After breakfast, check out and leave for the mountainous north and home to the famous Virunga mountains that make up Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

It is a short drive of about 2 hours. Upon arrival you shall go for birding in Buhanga forest in Musanze to kickstart your forest birding. The forest does not have any Albertine rift endemics so you shall be looking out for other forest species.

Overnight at Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge (midrange)

Day 8 – birding in rugezi swamp (IBA)

Today you shall spend the day birding in Rugezi Swamp, another of Rwanda’s Important Birding Areas. The wetland great is for wetland specials. Rugezi Swamp harbors one Albertine rift endemic, the Grauer’s Swamp Warbler which shall be the number one target on this day. The surrounding gardens and bush communities will complement your bird list from Rugezi Swamp

Day 9 – volcano trekking and birding in volcanoes in Volcanoes National Park (IBA)

Today you shall conquer the magnificent Virunga Mountains. After breakfast you shall transfer to Volcanoes National Park for birding. Volcanoes National Park has about 200 species recorded there which include up to 15 Albertine rift endemics and several mountain specials. You will trek through the forest habitat ranging from bamboo to hagenia along the mountains and look for high altitude birds as you also observe rare mountain life. You will trek along the trail to Lake Ngezi on Mount Bisoke and you will be rewarded with sighting of several Albertine rift endemic birds and several mountain specials and Lake Ngezi may provide some water species too.

Optional activities:

Today you can go for the gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park

Day 10 – Golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park transfer to lake kivu

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. 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 and exciting to watch as they are very active primates!

After the golden monkey trek you shall depart for Lake Kivu town of Gisenyi.

You may do some birding on Lake Kivu or the shore and pick some birds. The colorful Southern Red Bishop is a common sighting along the shores of Lake Kivu.

Overnight at Paradise Kivu (midrange)

Day 11 – Transfer to Gishwati – Mukura National Park and full day birding in Gishwati forest

You will check out by 6.30am and drive to Gishwati forest of Gishwati – Mukura National Park, the newest park in Rwanda and is about 1.5hrs drive from Gisenyi.

Gishwati – Mukura national park has 17 confirmed Albertine rift endemic birds. It does well to kickstart the Albertine rift endemics party before taking on Nyungwe forest where the real feast is enjoyed!!

You will spend the day birding in Gishwati forest and you shall overnight at Forest of Hope Guest House Gishwati.

Day 12 – transfer to Nyungwe National Park and canopy walk tour

After early breakfast depart for Nyungwe Forest National Park located in the southwest of Rwanda. Nyungwe National Park, another internationally listed Important Birding Area (IBA) in Rwanda has about 310 bird species. Nyungwe however is most popular for its many Albertine Rift endemics and it is arguably the best destination for Albertine rift endemics hosting at least 27 species out of the about 40 Albertine endemics. This is the highest number of Albertine endemics for any park which in Africa which lies within the Albertine Rift Valley.

To try and record all the Albertine rift endemics you will have at least three full days of birding in Nyungwe Forest during which you will cover a number of walking trails (But if you can afford more time we can add 1 or more days in Nyungwe and on the trip).

Nyungwe National Park also has one of the highest diversity of primate species in a single location, 13 have been recorded including the Chimpanzees. The some troops of chimpanzees and monkeys have been habituated for tourism and will thus give you optional activities that you can do between birding. The most popular adventure in Nyungwe is the Chimpanzee trekking. Also, several species of monkeys will be encountered along the birding trails such as monkey.

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 the beautiful Lake Kivu.

You will get to the park by about noon and you set out for the Nyungwe canopy walk adventure which departs from the park head office Uwinka. This is a 2 hour adventure and one of the highlights of a Nyungwe national park tour. The canopy walkway offers incredible views across the mountain forest. You will also have access into the forest canopy and could sight some birds and monkeys.

Overnight at Nyungwe Top View Hill Lodge (midrange)

Day 13 – Birding in Nyungwe: Gisakura – Karamba – Kamiranzovu Marsh

After early breakfast you shall report to the Gisakura ranger post and start off the birding adventure into Nyungwe Forest. You will visit Kamiranzovu Marsh that is may produce the elusive Grauer’s Swamp Warbler  an Albertine rift endemic, and the exploration of the birding trails and tracks in the area around Gisakura will provide plenty of Nyungwe Forest specials including Albertine Rift endemics birds and several monkey sightings.

Day 14 – Birding in Nyungwe: Mt. Bigugu trail

Today you shall set out for another full day of birding in Nyungwe National Park. You will take on a different trail in another part of the Nyungwe. A day hike along the Bigugu trail that leads to the highest point of the park, Mt. Bigugu (2950m) 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.

Day 15 – Optional chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park

Today you have an option of doing the chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park. The chimpanzee tour starts at 5am and departs from Gisakura area of Nyungwe. You would track the chimps in Cyamudongo forest which is a small tract of forest detached from the larger Nyungwe forest but it is part of the Nyungwe nation park. The chimpanzee tour ends by noon and later in the day can continue with the birding.

Otherwise if you do not wish to the chimpanzee trek you shall do another full day of birding in Nyungwe and explore more trails as there are still a lot more to cover.

Day 16 – transfer to Kigali for your flight

Today you shall transfer back to Kigali to catch your flight

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