The Big Five (5) animals in Akagera National Park

What started out as a dream is now a reality. Rwanda is now a Big Five destination hosting all the big five animals in Akagera National Park, the country’s only savannah destination. What has famously been labeled a Mountain Gorilla destination, Rwanda will now be a Mountain Gorilla and Big Five destination. Tourists will not need to go elsewhere to see the African Big Five before visiting Rwanda for the popular gorilla trek.

Reintroduction of rhinos and lions in Akagera National Park.

The rhinos and lions had been absent from Rwanda for decades. After years of reviving the park and putting in place strong safety measures including constructing an electric fence, it was time to bring back these animals and complete the big five in Akagera National Park and Rwanda.

In 2015 lions were reintroduced back into the park, and two years later the first batch of rhinos (Black Rhinos) were brought in. Both animals are thriving and reproducing.

Status of the Big Five in Akagera National Park and the chance of ticking them off your bucket list


Akagera National Park has both the black rhino and the white rhino species. Not many parks and wildlife reserves are lucky to have both species.

The black rhinos were the first to be reintroduced in the park in 2017, numbering 15. These live in the woodland southern area of the park that has a lot of acacia woodlands and forests, the ideal habitat for black rhinos that are browsers, feeding upward on tree leaves. Chances of seeing the black rhinos are very minimal because of the habitat and small number of the rhinos.

30 white rhinos were translocated into the park in 2021. These are thriving in Akagera and a calf has been born from this group in May 2022. White rhinos are grazers feeding mostly on grass and are therefore found in the grassland northern region of the park, particularly around the Kilala plains.

There are better chances of seeing the white rhinos than the black rhinos.

Akagera park also offers a rhino tracking activity where visitors can join park rangers on their morning routine to monitor the rhinos. If you want a sure way to tick off the rhinos you can book the rhino tracking activity.


In 2015 the “king of the jungle” made a comeback into Akagera National Park when 7 lions were translocated into the park. The lions have thrived and multiplied seven times as of 2022 and chances of seeing them on a safari trip to Akagera have increased over time.

The lions have been spotted both in the south and the north of Akagera, however the best chances are in the north near the plains where plenty of antelopes and other grazers occupy the grasslands and make the perfect hunting grounds for the lions and other cats.

At the end of the long game drive from the south to the north you will likely find the lions relaxing under a tree after the morning hunt in the plains. The entrance of the park is in the south and is the base for starting safaris in Akagera National Park.


Buffaloes are the commonest member of the big five in Akagera National Park and can be seen in a variety of habitat throughout the park. About 4000 buffaloes are present in the park.

You will find large herds of buffalo in the northern plains.


A few decades ago, elephants were on the same path as the lions and rhinos of being wiped out in Rwanda. They were severely poached during the civil wars. But kudos to the government of Rwanda and African Parks organization that has been managing the park for the last 10 years whose efforts to have one of the most protected national parks in Africa has seen the elephant population steadily recovering. There are about 133 elephants in Akagera National Park according to the previous animal census in 2021.

Ten years ago it was sheer luck to find a herd of elephants let alone lone individuals during a safari in Akagera. Now you will be unlucky not to see a herd of elephants on your safari in Akagera National Park.


This is the most elusive of the African Big Five that requires some luck to see. The leopards are solitary and very stealth in their movements. The night safari drive will increase your chances to see the leopard who are more active at night. The night drive is available both in the south and in the north for the residents of Karenge Bush Camp.

Trips to Book to see the Big Five in Akagera

2 days safari trip to Akagera National Park

3 Days Akagera National Park tour with optional rhino tracking

No more covid PCR test for travelers to Rwanda, replaced with the rapid test

In the latest announcement by the government of Rwanda on covid 19 guidelines for travelers, effective 13th May 2022, people coming and departing through Kigali International airport shall be required to present negative results from a RAPID covid test done within 72 hours to the time of boarding their flight.

This is a change from the previous requirement of a PCR test. In most countries and in Rwanda the PCR test takes longer to return results. For instance, in Rwanda the results from a PCR test are supposed to come back within 24 hours, sometimes they could come back earlier, say in 8 hours, but other times they can delay taking more than 24 hours. This has been a huge inconvenience for many travelers who have already booked their flights and tours and have to experience hours of suspense waiting for results that could in the end hinder their travel plans. There are also very few facilities mandated to carry out PCR tests, for instance in Kigali City only the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) was the only center mandated to carry PCR tests for travelers.

On the other hand, the rapid test takes a matter of minutes. In Rwanda, you can check into a testing facility for a rapid test and leave within 30 minutes with your results. In other countries it can even take less. There are also many health centers in Kigali and across the country that have the authorization to carry out rapid tests making it very convenient.

This announcement is timely and a welcome move with the tourism peak season approaching, starting in June. Many travelers who were planning to visit Rwanda for the gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park, chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe and safari tour in Akagera National Park to see the big five can now feel more relief from the more stringent covid restrictions that made planning difficult and full of suspense.

Mandatory mask mandate dropped

The government has also dropped the mandatory mask wearing.

Here is the government circular:

How to prepare for the grueling Mount Bisoke trek

The Mount Bisoke (3711m) is the most popular destination for mountain trekking adventures in Rwanda. The mountain is part of the 5 volcanoes that make up the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda’s most popular park that is famous for the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys in Rwanda.

Bisoke volcano has a large beautiful crater lake at the summit which is the ultimate prize that everyone hiking the volcano looks forward to. The trek on Mt. Bisoke also offers a good chance of seeing the gorillas as there are many gorilla families on this mountain. The beautiful golden monkeys are seen regularly on the mountain at the start of the trek or on the final descend, in the lower elevation of the mountains where they live.

The Mount Bisoke trek is a day tour that requires travelers to go up the mountain and return in one day, a grueling hike it can be even for the experienced hikers. The challenge is to hike to the summit of the volcano in not more than 6 hours as you will be on the watch out for the abrupt change in the weather at the summit which can quickly get covered in clouds that can release a hailstorm. The weather at the summit tends to change as the day passes and chances of rains are high in the afternoon. You are therefore constantly on your feet barely affording a minute to rest till you reach the summit before the weather changes. The earlier you make it to the summit, the more time you have to enjoy picnicking at the beautiful crater lake while the weather is still good. Many who do not anticipate the challenge give up within the first 30 minutes of the trek and return to base.

However, with adequate preparation and planning you can enjoy the trek on Mount Bisoke and make it to the summit

How to prepare for the Mount Bisoke trek?


Fitness is crucial for the trek on Mount Bisoke. As you go higher up the mountain, oxygen levels drop which in turn affects the energy levels of your muscles. The fitter you are the more endurance you will have with less oxygen.

Therefore, do a lot of workouts and jogging a few weeks to your trek, especially for the non-experienced hikers. Find the highest elevations in neighborhood and practices walking or joining up in the shortest time to build endurance and power in your legs.

Acclimatization – sleep in Ruhengeri near the park

Fitness aside, the biggest effect on your trek is the change in altitude or elevation (you can call it altitude sickness). The higher you go, the less the oxygen in the atmosphere. If you are coming from a low altitude or elevation place, your body is used to using a lot of oxygen. So, with less oxygen as you go higher, your body will tire faster (compared to someone from a high altitude place).

To acclimatize your body to lower oxygen levels, you should opt to spend a day or few days in Ruhengeri district near the mountains before your trek. The area is located at a high altitude, more than 2000 meters above sea level. Your body may not adjust quickly but it will help somehow, in addition to good fitness.

Best time to trek Mount Bisoke – hiking during dry season vs rainy season

The season during which you hike Mountain Bisoke will also determine the level of difficult of your trek. Rwanda experiences two seasons, dry season and rainy season. The long dry season is from June to mid-September, and a short dry spell from December to February. Then there is the long rainy season is from March to May, and a short season from October to November.

The easier trek is definitely during the dry season when the trail is free from mud. However, note that even during the dry season the mountains experience sporadic rains and you should therefore be prepared, but it is never as bad as the rainy season.

Essential items to carry for the Bisoke trek

The following are essential for the trek

  • Hiking shoes with good traction are essential for the trek. If you will hike during the wet/rainy season, there is no compromise on this.
  • Long outdoor pants to protect the legs from scratches and bites from insects
  • Long sleeved pants to protect hands from scratches
  • A rain coat/jacket/poncho
  • Garden gloves
  • Hat/cap
  • Sunscreen

To take a porter or not to take one

Porters are available for hire at only $10 to carry your backpack and any other item. Many trekkers think they will manage their small backpacks and don’t want to part with the $10. But after thirty minutes hiking up the mountain, even the watch on your wrist will feel like 1kg tied on your hand. It is therefore advised to hire a porter even when you feel able. In addition to carrying your backpack, the porter will provide a push or pull when the going gets tough.

Another reason to hire a porter is that you are directly contributing to the community near the gorillas. Porters are from the neighboring and some are former poachers and this is one way of keeping them away from poaching again.

Do not forget to take snacks for the trek

This is a common mistake for travelers, not taking a snack (and water) for the trek. The trek can drain you that by the time you get to the summit your belly is empty. At the summit you will sit to down to enjoy snack and “recharge” before the descend.

Book a Mount Bisoke tour

2 day Mount Bisoke hiking tour

Guide to tipping in Rwanda

After finalizing all planning for the trip to Rwanda to see the gorillas in the Virunga mountains, chimpanzees in Nyungwe forest and take a safari trip to see the big five in Akagera national park, the last question asked, or topic of discussion is often about tipping.

Travelers ask questions such as; how is tipping in Rwanda, should I tip? How much should I tip, and who should I tip?

Below I shall guide on the question of tipping in Rwanda

Should I tip in Rwanda? It is not mandatory, but you should

First of all, tipping is not mandatory in Rwanda, and you will not receive an awkward look if you walk away after receiving a service. In a nutshell, the culture of tipping does not exist in Rwanda or has not picked up for most people. Tipping is there left to your discretion.

However, a tip goes a long way in uplifting an individual, as the ordinary person in Rwanda earns a small monthly wage that he or she can barely survive on. It is therefore advisable to tip, and therefore plan to have a tipping budget when you travel to Rwanda.

Next question is, who should I tip?

You have so many people along the service chain, but may be not everyone deserves the tip. The persons you interface with the most and those who visibly put in the effort to see you are satisfied with a service deserve the tip. Some of the people on your service chain include; waitresses & waiters, drivers, guides, and porters

Now the most important question is, how much should I tip?

Most travelers coming from a tipping society know that they have to tip, but their question is how much should they tip?

You can tip as much as you can afford depending on how you are satisfied with a service.

Here is a guide on how to tip for the different personnel you might have on your service chain during your trip in Rwanda.

Waiters, waitresses and other lower hotel personnel

Waiters, waitresses and other support staff at the hotel can be tipped $5

Alternatively, you can change some dollars to Rwanda Francs and a tip from 1000 – 3000 Rwanda Francs is very decent. That is less than $5 but with good value in Rwandan currency.

Guides (guides at tourist sites)

Depending on the activity, you can tip from $10 – $20.

Guides at local sites such as museums can be tipped $10.

Meanwhile activity guides such as for gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking, hiking, etc… can get the biggest tip of $20+ because of the enormous work they do and direct contribution towards conservation.

Tour drivers

Tour drivers are persons who spend with you the most time and share with you a wealth of information about different destinations. They also ensure you are safe all the time.

These can be tipped $10 – $15 per day, per each tourist in the car.

Should I also say tour drivers are one group that is used to being tipped and will be expecting a tip at the end of their service 🙂


Porters are hired at $10 when trekking to help carry your backpack and provide a push or pull were necessary. At the end of the trek you can tip them an extra $5 depending on how much more help they would have provided than just carrying the bag.

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda activity prices – fees and pricing for things to in Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is the most popular of Rwanda’s national parks because of the gorillas and the gorilla trekking experience.

The park is located in the north of Rwanda and protects a part of the Virunga Mountain range that extends in Rwanda. Volcanoes National Park has 5 of the volcano mountains of the Virungas, and these are mountains; Muhavura, Gahinga, Sabyinyo, Bisoke, and Karisimbi.

Volcanoes Park is the ultimate destination for active travelers in Rwanda as it offers great trekking opportunities on the volcano mountains.

Below are things to do in Volcanoes National Park and the pricing

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park

The most popular of activities in Volcanoes National Park is the gorilla trekking or tracking. This is also the signature tour of Rwanda as most travelers visiting Rwanda come to see the mountain gorillas as it is one of the only three countries in the world where they can be seen in their home.

To know all about cost of the gorilla tracking ticket, how to book and the terms and conditions please visit this page about Rwanda gorilla tracking permits

Also, to know about all the costs of the gorilla trip in Rwanda visit this page about cost of a gorilla tracking trip in Rwanda

Dian Fossey tomb trail hike

The Dian Fossey trail hike is one of the not so difficult treks in the park that provides a good chance of seeing more in the Virungas. The trail is located in the valley between mountains Bisoke and Karisimbi and on this trail, you can see the rare mountain plants, wildlife and a good chance to see gorillas. The Dian Fossey trail hike is often done in preparation for the gorilla trek to learn about the person who dedicated her life in leaning and protecting the gorillas and died for them.

FNR FR RC EA Students
      N FR R EAC FR
$75 $60 RwF4000 $55 $65 RwF2000 $45 $45


Golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park

Golden monkeys are found only in the Virunga mountains. Their beautiful golden fur coats and active character make an encounter with them an exciting adventure worth adding to your trip in Rwanda.

FNR FR RC EA Students
      N FR R EAC FR
$100 $65 RwF4000 $65 $80 RwF2000 $45 $45

The stunning golden monkeys are a photography delight, and full day photography of the monkeys is available charged at USD 1800 for three consecutive days

Mount Bisoke day hike

Mount Bisoke 3711m is the most popular mountain hiking destination in Rwanda. It has a large crater lake at the summit which is prize after a 6-hour hike. The hike on Mt Bisoke also provides a good chance to see gorillas on the trail as a number of gorilla groups live on this volcano. Golden monkeys will be seen during the hike. Mountain Bisoke is can be hiked by the experienced hiker and even those who are not avid hikers but some fitness.

FNR FR RC EA Students
      N FR R EAC FR
$75 $60 RwF4000 $55 $65 RwF2000 $45 $45

Mount Muhabura day hike

Mount Muhabura or Muhavura (4127m) is the second highest of the Virunga volcano mountains. And as such, the day hike on Mt. Muhavura is mostly done by the hiking or mountain climbing experienced who want something a little more challenging in day hike than what the popular Mt. Bisoke can give. It is there not a popular mountain for day hikes. Mt. Muhavura will also reward you with a crater lake at the summit, though smaller than that of Mt. Bisoke

FNR FR RC EA Students
      N FR R EAC FR
$100 $75 RwF5000 $60 $80 RwF3000 $45 $45

Mount Gahinga day hike

Mount Gahinga (3473) is the shortest of the volcanoes in the Virunga mountains in Rwanda. It is not a popular mountain because it does not have much, no crater lake at the summit to look forward to. However, it still offers a great experience of the Virunga mountains, with great views of the mountain range and rolling landscape around. Mt Gahinga is a great option to fall back to for those who love a hike in the Virungas but do not think can take on the tougher hike on Mt. Bisoke and Muhavura.

FNR FR RC EA Students
      N FR R EAC FR
$75 $60 RwF4000 $55 $65 RwF2000 $45 $45

Mount Karisimbi 2-day hike

Mount Karisimbi (4507) is the highest mountain in the Virungas and experience seasonal snow at the summit. Unlike other volcanoes which that are hiked in one day, Mt. Karisimbi requires a 2-day / 1night hike with the overnight spent camping on the mountains. Mt. Karisimbi is suitable for those who would love a mountain climbing experience in the Virunga mountains.

FNR FR RC EA Students
      N FR R EAC FR
$400 (1 person) & 300 (group) $250 (1 person) & 200 (group) RWF30,000 (1 person) & RWF25,000 (group) $200 (1 person) & $160 (group) $300 (1 person) & 250 (group) RWF15,000 (1 person) & RWF12,500 (group) $180 (1 person) & $150 (group) $180 (1 person) & $150 (group)

Note the above pricing does not include camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag) and meals. There is only a camping site for you to establish your tent.

Muhabura – Gahinga 2 day / 1 night hike

This is a brilliant alternative to the Mt. Karisimbi 2-day hike for those who want overnight in the Virunga mountains.

FNR FR RC EA Students
      N FR R EAC FR
$200 $160 RwF20,000 $130 $165 RwF10,000 $100 $100

Note the above pricing does not include camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag) and meals. There is only a camping site for you to establish your tent.

Nature Walk in Volcanoes National Park

For those who can not take on any of the above hikes and treks but want to explore the Virunga mountains a little bit, a trail along the edge of the forest in the base of the mountains is available that you can take to look at some of the wildlife, enjoy views, and by chance could bump into the mountain gorillas. This is a good option planning a birding trip in Volcanoes as there is not established birding activity in the park. The nature walk is 1 hour long.

FNR FR RC EA Students
      N FR R EAC FR
$55 $40 RwF3500 $35 $45 RwF2000 $35 $35

Planning a trip to the Volcanoes National Park, below are trips you can look at with some of the above activities: