Visiting the gorillas in Uganda coming from Rwanda (is it NOT possible for now)

Did you know it is easier to track gorillas in Uganda coming/starting from Rwanda? Yes, you can come through Rwanda, and the drive from the airport in the capital Kigali to the gorilla parks in Uganda is 4 – 5 hours’ drive, compared to the 8 – 9 hours drive if you come through Uganda’s Entebbe international airport.

Save on the permit

Planning to visit Rwanda for a gorilla trekking tour but find the 1500USD for the gorilla permit/ticket way beyond your budget? Then you can come through Kigali city in Rwanda and drive to Uganda where the gorilla tracking is 700USD, about half of the cost in Rwanda.

Visiting Rwanda and tracking the cheaper gorillas in Uganda also frees up funds allowing you include on your tour other amazing things to in Rwanda such as chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe forest, safari trip to Akagera National Park, and golden monkey tracking in the volcanoes among others.

Which border crossing to use

The nearest border from Kigali is Gatuna/Katuna border which is about 2 hours’ drive. From the Gatuna/Katuna border to Bwindi National Park is about 1.5hours. This is the ideal border to cross into Uganda if you will be tracking in the Ruhija and Buhoma sectors of Bwindi (there are four gorilla sectors in total in Bwindi).

The other border crossing is the Cyanika border which is about 3 hours drive from Kigali. From Cyanika to Bwindi National park is about 1.5 hour. This is the ideal border to cross through if tracking in Rushaga and Nkuringo, the other two sectors of Bwindi National Park. Cyanika border is also the nearest border to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda’s second gorilla park. If you will be doing any activities in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park before your gorilla trip in Uganda, Cyanika is the only border to think about.

Therefore, the border crossing to use for a shorter drive depends on the sector (in the case of Bwindi) and park where you will be tracking in Uganda.

It is easy to combine trekking in Rwanda and Uganda

Do you wish to combine the incredible experience of tracking gorillas both in the Virunga volcanoes of Rwanda and the impenetrable Bwindi jungle of Uganda? Well, it is easy and possible by land as there is just about 1.5 hours of drive separating Rwanda’s gorilla park from Uganda’s two gorilla parks via the Cyanika border.

Borders closed for now!!

The borders were closed to tourism in 2020 under the pretext of controlling the spread of the corona virus and have remained closed as of January 2022 when I write this piece. It is therefore not possible to come through Rwanda for the gorilla trek in Uganda and vice versa until further notice. I will update this article once the borders are reopened but for now plan accordingly

Akagera national park welcomes hot air balloon safaris

Akagera National Park, Rwanda’s only savannah park has added yet another safari experience – the balloon safari – and it is the first in Rwanda. The balloon safari is provided by Royal Balloon, a reputed ballooning company from Turkey.

Akagera national park is famed for her wonderful scenery that is made of varied landscapes including extensive wetland systems & lakes running along one side, lush plains, thickets & forests in the middle and rugged mountains on another side… This scenery is hard to appreciate during the road safari through the park, and so the balloon safari will do it justice as it provides aerial views of the park.

Akagera’s animal population continues to grow and after the addition of rhinos, and lions in the recent past the park promises an amazing game experience equal to the famous game reserves in the region such as the Serengeti of Tanzania, Masai Mara of Kenya and Murchison Falls Park of Uganda. In the meantime, a lot of animals in Akagera can be missed on the drive tracks. This makes the balloon safari one of the best ways to explore Akagera enabling access to the pockets not reachable by car and help one spot more wildlife, while enjoying the magical sunrise across the lakes and breathtaking landscape.

Where the balloon safari starts in Akagera and the time and duration of the balloon safaris

The balloon safari will start in the south of the park where other safaris in Akagera start from. The south is in fact the entrance of the park. Balloon takes off from Kayitaba, a 5 minutes’ drive from the entrance gate.

The balloon safari experience will start very early in the morning at 5am before the official opening time of 7am for the other safaris in the park. The early start has been made an exception for and exclusive to the balloon safari experience, this provides a wonderful opportunity to catch the elusive nocturnal wildlife.

The balloon flight lasts about 45 minutes, but entire experience takes 2 – 3 hours.

After the balloon safari you can continue with the road safari through the park, either exploring the southern game tracks or drive through to the northern Kilala plains and exit the park heading back to Kigali.

There is only one flight per day.

Only 10 slots are available, hence book early. Minimum 2 people are required for flight to take place.

Cost of the Balloon safari in Akagera National Park

Rwandan nationals: 250USD

Foreign residents: 350USD

Foreigners: 450USD

Other activities in Akagera National Park

Game drive

Boat cruise on Lake Ihema

Walk the line

Night safari

Book from our safaris to Akagera National Park and do a balloon safari

2 day safari trip to Akagera National Park

3 days Akagera tour

Akagera National Park pricing for 2022 – park fees

Visiting Rwanda for business, or are in Rwanda, and have a day or weekend off? Plan a trip to Akagera National Park home to many animals such as buffaloes, elephants, giraffes, lions, antelopes, hippos, crocodiles, etc…

Akagera National Park is just 2 hours drive from Kigali and can be visited in one day and you are back to Kigali, if you just want to see animals on the drive trail. However, the park offers several activities and spending at one night and more enables you do more activities and give you a better bush experience… And the good news is, the second night is half price for entry and no entry fees after 3 nights for up to a week!

Below are the Akagera national park entry and activity fees for year 2022.

IMPORTANT: The rates are set by African Parks that manages the park

Tourist entry fees (per person)

Entry fee / self-drive permit 1 Day/Night 2 Nights 3 Nights
USD RWF USD RWF USD RWF
Rwandan/EAC Citizen ~16 15,000 ~24 22,500 ~32 30,000
Rwandan/EAC Resident 50 75 100
International Visitor 100 150 200
Rwandan/EAC Citizen children 6-12 ~11 10,000 ~16 15,000 ~21 20,000
Rwanda/EAC Resident children 6 – 2 30 45 60
International Visitor children 6 – 12 50 75 100

Children 5 or below do not pay entry fees

Entry fees are not charged beyond 3 nights for up to one week

Visitors who stay outside the park are considered day visitors and have to pay each time they enter the park. Plan your Akagera safari with staying inside at Akagera Game Lodge and Ruzizi Tented Lodge (in the south), Karenge Bush Camp and Magashi Camp (in the north). Camping grounds & facilities are also available in the park.

Vehicle entry fees

 

Details USD
Vehicle / Minibus (Rwandan/EAC registered) 10
Omnibus / bus / overlander (Rwa/EAC reg.) 20
Vehicle / Minibus (Foreign registered) 40
Omnibus / bus / overlander (Foreign reg.) 100

Hiring a park guide for game drive in the park (if you want one, not mandatory)

Duration USD
Per guide / ½ day 25
Per guide / full day 40

Guides picked up from the reception before 9am and returned to the same reception within 5 hours will be considered as ½ day activity. Guides picked up from reception after 9am will be charged for a full day, unless the guide is returned before 12 midday. Guides picked up after midday will be charged ½ day.

Guides picked up at the reception and travelling with guests through the park, exiting from the north, will be charged for a full day, regardless of the time taken. If you wish to exit from the north with a guide, please drop the guide off at Kayonza, they will then catch public transport back to the park (transport fees will be covered by the park for park guides). If you cannot drop the guide at Kayonza, please cover their transport fee from the north gate to Kayonza, this does not exceed 5,000 RWF. If a guide is requested to accompany a visitor to Karenge Bush Camp overnight, an additional fee of 20,000 RWF is applied for the guides accommodation and food at Karenge.

Activities

Activity Adult (13+ years) Children (6 – 12 years)
USD USD
Night drive (operated by AMC) pp/2.5hrs / vehicle, driver, guide/min. 2/max. 7 40 25
Fishing Pp per day (own equipment) 25 15
Boat trip – scheduled morning/day Price pp / 1 hrs / max. 11 pax 35 20
Boat trip – scheduled sunset trip Price pp / 1 hrs / max. 11 pax 45 30
Boat trip – private, non-scheduled Per boat / 1 hrs / max. 11 pax 180
Camping Price pp / night 25 15
Behind the scenes tour Price pp / min 4 pax / 1.5 hrs 25 15
Group rate for 8+ pax / 1.5 hrs 180
Game drive day (AMC operated) ½ day max. 5hrs/vehicle, driver, guide/max. 7 180
Full day / vehicle, driver, guide / max. 7 pax 280
Walk the Line 7km walk along the fence / min. 3 approx. 2 hrs 30 20
Community Cultural Experiences Various activities offered / half day / min. 3 pax 30 20

Night drives are operated by the park (Akagera Management Company) and they provide a car, driver and spotlights. The Night drives begin at 5.30pm and end around 8 – 8.30pm. You are picked and dropped at your lodge, and only in the south of the park.

Boat trips are scheduled at the following times:

  • 7:30 – 8:30am
  • 9:00 – 10:00am
  • 3:00 – 4:00pm
  • 4:30 – 6:00pm (sunset trip)

Private boat trips can be organized and are charged at a flat rate for the boat, not per person. These should be booked at non-scheduled times starting between 10.30am – 1.30pm.

Other park fees

Item   USD
Tent hire Per 6-man (3m x 3m) canvas tent (south sites) 20
Recovery fee Breakdown or assistance from the park 70
Recovery fee coasters Breakdown or assistance from the park 150
Fines For breaking any park rules & regulations 150
Landing fee Per landing within Akagera 50
Research fee Contact the management prior to any research 200
Ranger assistance fee For researchers / per day / conditions apply* 25
Commercial filming / photography Per day. Contact the park for all filming 300

Annual pass

USD RWF
Rwandan/EAC Citizen Single pass 95,000
Rwandan/EAC Citizens Couples pass 150,000
Rwandan/EAC Citizens Family pass 205,000
Rwandan/EAC Resident Single pass 300
Rwandan/EAC Residents Couples pass 500
Rwandan/EAC Residents Family pass 700

Annual fees do NOT include park fees and only a 10% discount is offered on activities. But you have unlimited tourist entry for a period of one year.

Book a tour to Akagera National Park

Have just day a day, look for our 1 day trip to Akagera with prices on this list of 1 day trips from Kigali that we provide

Otherwise you want to spend at least a night you can book:

2 day safari trip to Akagera National Park

3 day Akagera national park tour

Top 5 things a tourist should not do in Uganda

Uganda is one of the most liberal countries with the some of the friendliest people in Africa and the world. There is not so much to worry about what you may do and cause you trouble with the locals. The Ugandan people are very kind and accommodative of foreigners, that even when a foreigner is in the wrong, he or she shall be handled with kindness most of the times. They understand the foreigner is not aware of much of the traditions and norms of the community.

Planning for your gorilla trip in Uganda or a long safari vacation in Uganda? Below are some of the things to avoid doing when visiting Uganda to avoid raising eyebrows and keep from you trouble:

Taking pictures of locals without their consent

Children are excited to have their pictures taken and will even invite you to take them. It is however different with adults. Most people do not want their pictures taken by a stranger. If you notice an individual with a colorful dress or engaged in an activity you find interesting and want to take a picture, please approach them and ask for their permission.

However if the face is not very visible from your angle you can “steal” a shot without their knowledge.

Taking pictures of security

This is perhaps a standard everywhere, taking pictures of the country’s security personnel and security installations is prohibited. Once caught the repercussions can be dire. Large bridges over water are normally protected by military which may not be in view so before taking a picture of a bridge establish if there is security, or simply avoid taking pictures of bridges (especially over the River Nile).

Wearing skimpy especially in rural areas

A large part of the country is still very traditional that revealing of skin (especially for women) is considered immoral. A lady tourist putting on small shorts will draw excitement (close to sexual harassment) from the young men and scorn from the adults.

However, on the contrary, in parts of north eastern Uganda among the Karimojong people, nudity is in fact part of tradition that you will be surprised to find adult people who simply cover their reproductive organs and leave the rest of the body uncovered. Other young men can move completely naked!

Public show of affection e.g. kissing

Public show of affection such as kissing is considered immoral for the traditional and religious Ugandan society. The traditional way of showing affection publicly is by hugging and handshake. If you want to kiss on the lips it is best to find somewhere private such as in a hotel or where there won’t be any onlookers.

Taking a random boda-boda motorcycle taxi

Jumping on a motorcycle taxi (locally called boda-boda) looks enticing when you want to get somewhere quick in the chaotic Kampala City, but you are one second away from getting crippled or even death. The motorcycle taxis are famous for being the most reckless modes of transport and are one of the biggest threats to safety in the cities. This and more are covered in our blog where we discuss the top safety concerns for tourists in Uganda and how to tourists can keep safe. Please check it out for.

Nyungwe Forest National Park to be a World Heritage site

Nyungwe Forest National Park is to be declared a UNESCO world heritage site, a special status that elevates this crucial forest park to a place of global conservation importance. Nyungwe an ancient forest that has existed since the ice age protects an incredible biodiversity that accumulated over thousands of years past. It is one of the last few forests in Africa of this kind. It is the largest protected mountain rainforest in Africa covering 1000 square kilometers and reaching elevations between 1600 – 2000m.

Nyungwe is popular for primates especially the chimpanzees and monkeys, plus there are many other hard to see mammals and thousands of little-known creatures that dwell under the soil and crawl the surfaces. Till today new plant and animal species continue to be discovered in Nyungwe. Many species discovered in Nyungwe are found to be unique to the place, and others are regional endemics of the Albertine rift eco region in which the mountain forest is located, and this including a whooping 27 Albertine rift endemic birds.

Nyungwe is also a very important water catchment for the region and continent contributing water to two notable rivers, the River Nile (has the farthest known source of the Nile) and Congo River. It also provides 70% of the fresh water in Rwanda.

Why is it important to have Nyungwe National Park on the list of world heritage sites?

Given the alarming rate at which ecosystems are being depleted on the planet earth thereby causing the extinction of species including those yet to be discovered, special places like Nyungwe where biodiversity thrives cannot be taken as any other forest cover but deserves special status that enhances protection and research. The park was nominated by UNESCO for addition to the world heritage list, to which the government of Rwanda agreed and will soon be confirmed and added. The park will attract more funding for conservation as a world heritage site.

Visit Nyungwe Forest National Park and contribute to its conservation

Tourism revenue goes a long way in supporting conservation efforts of destinations and supporting the local communities. Nyungwe National Park offers a range of activities for tours that you can include on your trip in Rwanda. The most popular activity is the chimpanzee trekking adventure that gives tourists a chance to see chimps in their habitat. The canopy walk activity is another must do adventure for a thrilling experience of this mountain rainforest. The canopy walkway hangs high up in the forest canopy giving tourists an eye level view of wildlife in the canopy and incredible views of the forest.

For birders planning birding trips to Rwanda, Nyungwe National Park is a birding heaven, arguably the best destination for Albertine rift endemic birds such as the Rwenzori Turaco that is on top of wish lists of many birders visiting Rwanda. For the nature lovers that want to see plants and wildlife up close, the park has several trails for you to hike and explore this pristine jungle and watch monkeys, birds, trees, orchids, waterfalls, butterflies, etc…