Rhino tracking in Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park has introduced a new activity, rhino tracking, which gives visitors to Akagera a chance to walk in the bush and see the rhinos up-close.

The visitors will join the park’s Rhino trackers who go out each morning to track down the rhinos on foot to monitor them for their security, and gather information about the rhinos such as about their health.

The rhino tracking in Akagera National Park happens in the vast Kilala plains in the north of the park where 30 rhinos of the white rhino species that were introduced into Akagera park at the end of last year of 2021 call home.

White rhinos are grazers, that is, feed downward on grass, and the grassy Kilala plains is the ideal environment for them. On the other hand, the black rhinos are browsers, feeding upward on leaves of tree branches. Little wonder the black rhinos in Akagera are found in the south of the park that is dominated by acacia woodland and forests.

The rhino walk in the company of the rhino monitors will give you a chance to learn about the rhinos and other wildlife you encounter. The walk also gives you a chance to discover and see wildlife that is far from the drive tracks and would be difficult to see if you are driving.

How does one plan to do the Rhino tracking/trekking in Akagera?

Please note the rhino tracking is only available to guests who stay at the Karenge Bush Camp, a seasonal tented lodging found in the north of Akagera National Park overlooking the beautiful Kilala plains. If you therefore plan on including the rhino tracking in your safari trip to Akagera National Park, you have to plan to stay at Karenge Bush Camp.

Karenge Bush Camp does not operate whole year, but for 9.5 months, closing in April and November to mid-December.

Seeing that the white rhinos are in the north of the park, while trips into Akagera start through the south of the park which has the entrance, the ideal itinerary would be two night/three day Akagera tour itinerary. The first night spent in the south of the park, at either Akagera Game Lodge or Ruzizi Tented Lodge, and then go spend the second night at Karenge Bush Camp in the north and exit through the exit gate in the north.

What is the cost of rhino tracking in Akagera national Park?

The rhino tracking costs USD75 per person, taking a minimum of two people and maximum of four people.

Is rhino tracking safe?

You may be concerned about how safe it is to approach the rhinos on foot? The white rhinos are not aggressive and will tolerate your presence as long as you do not approach too close. This is in contrast to the black rhinos that are known to be very aggressive and dangerous. The rhino trackers will guide on the safe distance from the rhinos and how to behave when near the rhinos.

How about the danger of encountering other wild animals such as lions, elephants, buffaloes, etc…? The trackers are knowledgeable about the possible other wildlife to encounter and plan a trail that is safe. The team will also include armed personnel that can fire in the air to scare away an errant animal. However this is very unlikely.

Planning to visit Akagera and want to include the rhino tracking, how about you book this 3 day safari tour to Akagera National Park

New covid update for Uganda – no testing for fully vaccinated travelers going to and coming from Uganda

Uganda has announced a major update for travelling to Uganda, fully vaccinated travelers do not have to present a negative covid-19 test certificate.

Previous guidelines for travelers required that everyone coming to Uganda was supposed to present a negative test certificate of a PCR test done within 72 hours from the time of arrival in Uganda. This has been suspended for all fully vaccinated travelers.

However, all arriving travelers will have to show proof of full Covid-19 vaccination, except for children aged 5 years and below.

At the same time, fully vaccinated travelers departing from Uganda do not have show a negative covid-19 PCR test certificate before leaving Uganda. Travelers will only carry the negative result if their destination requires it.

Again, all departing travelers have to show proof of full vacation, except for children 5 years and below.

What about partially vaccinated or unvaccinated travelers coming or leaving Uganda?

Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated travelers will still follow the previous guideline of presenting a negative covid-19 test result taken within 72hr from time of departure or arrival.

Children aged 5 years and below are NOT required to present any test result

The decision to relax the restrictions is informed by the much reduced covid-19 infections across the globe and within Uganda.

Planning a safari trip to Uganda?

This is perhaps the best news if you have planned a trip to Uganda for the gorilla trekking and chimpanzee trekking adventures in the coming months as the PCR test result has been a requirement for the online Uganda visa application and was such an inconvenience!

Rwanda beyond gorillas – what can one do in Rwanda apart from gorilla tracking?

Rwanda is famous for the gorillas, and many if not most tourists visiting the land of a thousand hills have only the gorilla trekking as the only thing to do in Rwanda. Many tourists do not know that Rwanda offers many more interesting activities that can be done in addition to the gorilla tours and in this article, I shall highlight many of them.

There are also many travelers who plan on visiting Rwanda and are not willing to spend the hefty $1500 for the Rwanda gorilla tracking permit pass or ticket, but would like to explore Rwanda. This article will give you great alternatives to the gorillas that you can do memorable experiences in Rwanda.

Big five safari in Akagera National Park

Did you know you can see the famous big five (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Buffalo, Elephant) in Rwanda? Yes, Rwanda has the big five in Akagera National Park. So, you do not have to fly first to the Serengeti or Masai Mara to combine the big five safari with the gorillas in Rwanda. You can see both the big five and gorillas in Rwanda. And Rwanda being a small country, you can do a safari trip to Akagera park and see the big five in one day and the following day travel to see the gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.

Chimpanzee trekking/tracking in Nyungwe national park

The chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is one of the most exciting wildlife adventures after the gorilla trek. The chimpanzees are man’s closest relatives sharing more than 98% DNA, so an encounter with them in their natural environment is very revealing as you will observe their unique characters, their community organizations, classes, and leadership structures. There is a lot of similarities between chimp and human society organization.

Canopy walk and monkey tracking in Nyungwe national park

The canopy walkway in Nyungwe forest national park has become one of the iconic attractions of Rwanda that features a lot in promotional magazines and tv adverts. It has also been rated as the best walkway in Africa. The walkway gives you incredible views across an ancient forest, and a chance to see monkeys and birds at eye-level as you walk in the canopy of trees. The canopy walk is a short tour of about 2 hours and is often done as an add-on to the chimpanzee tracking or monkey tracking and nature walks in Nyungwe national park.

Golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park

If you cannot afford the expensive gorilla trek, the golden monkeys trekking is a good excuse for you to explore the incredible Virunga mountains in Rwanda. The strikingly beautiful monkeys live in the lower areas of the volcanoes and a troupe of more than 100 monkeys is habituated for an amazing tracking experience. The monkeys are very attractive and exciting to watch and photograph.

The monkey trek is also a great addition to the gorilla trek

Birding in Rwanda

Rwanda has been off the birdwatching grid for a long time, but birders are now discovering what a gem it is. This small country boasts more than 700 bird species meaning you can tick off as many birds in the shortest time possible. The mountain forests in the Albertine rift valley, that run through the western part of the country, host many endemics of the Albertine rift and are the biggest pull for birders to Rwanda. These are supplemented by several other biomes and rich diverse habitats in Rwanda.

Hiking in the volcanoes

Rwanda does not have high mountains for mountaineering and multi day hiking, but it has a share of 5 of the 7 major volcano mountains of the Virunga Mountain range which sprawl along the borders with Uganda and the D.R. Congo. The volcanoes provide some of the best day hiking you will ever do. The most popular of the volcanoes is the Mount Bisoke (3711m) which has a large beautiful crater lake at the summit. You can make an early transfer from Kigali to the park for a one-day hike in the Virunga mountains and get back to Kigali on the same day.

Water sports and activities

If you love water, Rwanda has many rivers and lakes in some of the best settings.

One of the best ways to explore Rwanda’s breathtaking landscape and lush countryside is by taking a boat/canoe trip down a stream on River Mukungwa in the foothills of the Virunga mountains. The canoe trip is a great addition to any tour to Volcanoes National Park, such as to the gorilla trekking, hiking, and golden monkey trekking.

For those who yearn for a vacation with many activities and water adventures, Lake Kivu, Rwanda’s biggest lake offers a kayaking, paddleboarding, boat rides, fishing, farm experiences, hiking, etc…

Biking along the Congo Nile trail

If you love biking, Rwanda is one of the best places for biking/cycling experiences. The amazing rolling landscape, cool weather, nice tar roads, a safe countryside, strict speed rules for motorists, many beautiful viewpoints and many interesting activities do and places to see along the way.

The most popular biking/cycling trail is the Congo – Nile trail in the mountainous western part of Rwanda that runs from Nyungwe Forest National Park in the south, going along the Lake Kivu and winding up in the foothills of the Virunga mountains in the north. You can also safely bike in the well-organized capital City Kigali.

Community & Cultural experiences

Rwandan have a rich culture with many traditions. You can experience these traditions by visiting an organized local community in the countryside. You learn about their folklore, traditional dances, farming, artisanry and month others. You can also visit several museums in the different parts of country that display and tell the history and culture of the Rwandan people. Such a museum if the Kings Palace museum on the way to Nyungwe forest National Park that you can make stopover at on the for the chimpanzee trekking tour.

Genocide museum tours – reconciliation village

Rwanda and the genocide feature in the same sentence a lot of times. It is almost impossible to separate the two because this infamous phase in the history of Rwanda is what it is most known about it. As a visitor to Rwanda you almost obligated to learn about the tragic events of the genocide in order to appreciate the strides Rwanda has made in the last two decades. There are several genocide museum tours you can add to your visit to Rwanda, one of them is the Kigali Genocide Museum. You can also visit the Reconciliation Village outside Kigali where genocide perpetrators and survivors live side by side, learn their story of the road to reconciliation and see the projects that carry out together to uplift their community.

Tea & coffee plantation tours

Are you a tea person? Or a coffee person? Rwanda is a major producer of these two crops. You can visit a tea or coffee plantation & processing factory for an experience of plant to cup. You see and take part in the tea or coffee growing, harvesting and processing and finish up with a cup of tea or coffee of your own harvested plant.

The tea and coffee tours can be added in your chimpanzee trekking and gorilla trekking trips.

Why is the gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda so expensive?

Gorilla trekking is one of the most popular tours in Africa. The gorilla trek gives tourists a once in a lifetime chance to see the gorillas in their habitat.

Rwanda has been the most popular destination for the gorilla trekking tours. The other destinations where gorilla trekking is done are Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These three countries are the only places where mountain gorillas are found in the whole world.

Of the three countries, the gorilla trek in Rwanda is the most expensive with a gorilla trekking permit ticket costing $1500 (one thousand five hundred US dollars or fifteen hundred dollars). Tourists are always surprised by the expensive permit and the next question asked is why the permit costs so much?

Below I explain why the Rwanda gorilla trekking permit costs 1500 and why it is a worthy price

More funds to the community

As a policy in Rwanda, 10% off each gorilla permit sold is channeled directly back into the communities around Volcanoes National Park where the gorillas live. This money is used in developing the communities through construction of schools and hospital, improving infrastructure, financing income generating activities, etc… Therefore, the higher the cost of the permit the more money goes to the community.

When the communities see the direct benefits from the gorillas, they appreciate their existence and participate in protecting them and their habitat instead of poaching as previously was the case.

More funds for gorilla conservation activities

The high cost of the gorilla permit means more funds are being generated for the conservation activities toward the protection of the gorillas and their habitat. A few decades ago, the mountain gorillas were critically endangered and were on the verge of extinction. By then less than 800 gorillas were left. But with the introduction of gorilla tourism which raised awareness about the mountain gorillas and generated funds the trend was reversed and currently there are more than 1000 mountain gorillas.

With the gorilla population on a steady increase, the gorillas will need more space. Rwanda is therefore taking a very ambitious project to expand the boundaries of the park to accommodate more gorillas. Therefore, the high cost of gorilla tracking in Rwanda will help expand the home of the gorillas.

Rwanda targeting fewer tourists to protect the habitat of the gorillas

Still on the side of conservation, the high cost of the gorilla trek will limit the number of tourists tracking the gorillas, thereby protecting the gorilla habitat from mass tourism.

Making the Rwanda gorilla trek a more exclusive experience

The high cost of the Rwanda gorilla permit means tourist are fewer per gorilla family. This makes the experience more exclusive and more enjoyable for tourist. This is in contrast to the cheaper gorilla destinations where the gorilla groups are full and tourists jostle to see the gorillas.

Making Rwanda a high-end destination

The high cost of the gorilla tracking permit is in line with government ambition of turning Rwanda into a high end destination.

Rwanda gorilla trekking permit – 2022 price, how to buy the permits, terms and conditions

To participate in the gorilla trekking tour in Rwanda you require a gorilla tracking permit, or call it a ticket or pass. The gorilla permit or ticket or pass is the most important item of your gorilla tour in Rwanda because without it you cannot visit the gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.

Cost of the Rwanda gorilla trekking permit ticket in 2022

Below are rates for 2022

Category Price (USD)
International tourist 1500
Foreign residents in East Africa 500
Rwandans & Nationals, East Africa Community (EAC) 200

Note the following:

Foreign Residents in Rwanda and East Africa Community countries must have a minimum of four consecutive months’ residency status / work permit in their passport or diplomatic card to qualify for the foreign resident offer

A Diplomat who has a Residence visa can be allowed to use the applicable rates for his spouse and legally accepted children even the spouse and legally accepted children do not have resident visas (live outside Rwanda)

East African residents/citizens need to provide EAC ID Cards or Passports

A tourist with one Rwandan parent and a tourist with a Rwandan spouse will be considered as Rwandan as long as Immigration and Emigration Director General confirms it

Why is the Rwanda gorilla permit so expensive?

The expensive Rwanda gorilla permit pass means more revenue going into the community as 10% off each permit is channeled towards direct developments in the communities neighboring the gorillas. Schools, hospitals, and income generating projects, have been set up from this revenue. In the process, after seeing the direct benefits from the gorillas the local communities happily protect the park and the gorillas which they would previously poach.

Also, the expensive permit has increased revenue toward conservation efforts for the gorillas and the park. Already there is an ambitious project to expand the boundaries of the park, as the conservation efforts are paying off and gorilla population increasing the park is becoming smaller…

How to buy/book the gorilla permit in Rwanda

You buy/book a gorilla permit through a local tour operator in Rwanda. You can send us an email to help you buy your gorilla permit ticket (info@eastafricantrails.com)

When can I buy the Rwanda gorilla permit?

As only 8 people can track a habituated gorilla permit per day, and there are 12 habituated gorilla families in Rwanda, hence a maximum of 96 permits are issued per day, you need to book your permit well in advance. Months of June, July, August and September are high tourism season and permits sell out well in advance so you need to book several months before.

Can I get a refund after purchasing the gorilla permit but I am unable to travel to Rwanda for the gorilla trek?

No refund is given for cancellation of the trip for any reason

Can I be refunded if I miss the gorillas during the trek?

Yes, tourists who track the gorillas and fail to see them will be refunded 75% of the gorilla tracking fee.

However, there are very few chances of missing the gorillas.