Rwanda has approximately 735 bird species including 44 Albertine Rift endemics plus 4 pure endemics; the avitourism potential has been overshadowed by the gorilla tourism dominance and lack of publicity, awareness about birding products and good birding guides. However, considering the size of the country, Rwanda has the highest concentration of bird species in Africa.
Nyungwe National Park has approximately 283 bird species with 27 endemics “The highest concentration of Albertine Rift endemics of anywhere in the world!” and Volcanoes National Park has approximately 90 species with 13 endemics.
This, besides tracking the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park and an opportunity for chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park.
10 Days Rwanda endemics birding and primate trekking in Nyungwe Forest and Volcanoes Park
During this 10 day birding and primates tour in Rwanda you will explore the Afromontane forest habitats and beautiful mountainous landscapes of the Albertine rift region that cuts across the western half of Rwanda. The Albertine is a belt of exceptional endemism, and out of the 44 endemic birds, 29 have been recorded in Rwanda. The forests are renowned for the big volume and diversity of primates many of which are endemic to the region including the famous Mountain Gorillas. Many primates will be encountered on the birding trails.
The primary destinations of this birding and primate adventure tour are Nyungwe Forest National Park located in the south, and Volcanoes National Park in North.
You will have one of the most experienced of Rwandan bird guides on your trip, and, at almost every birding spot you will make use of the local guide if available.
Rwanda Albertine rift birding and primates trekking Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrival and afternoon city tour
Arrival at Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport, meet the tour driver and be transferred to your hotel in Kigali City. After some rest at the hotel you will set out for an afternoon tour of Kigali City which will impress you with her impeccable cleanliness, orderliness and beautiful greenery! Visit the Genocide Memorial, and later the City Park where you will do some birdwatching around the Nyarutarama Golf Lake that will provide some local species and a host of palearctic migrants during the period from September to April.
Day 2 – travel to Nyungwe forest, afternoon canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest
After you have early breakfast by 6.30am check out the Kigali City Park once again for more birds, before setting off to Nyungwe Forest National Park in southwestern Rwanda. Nyungwe Forest is the prime destination for Albertine Rift endemic birds providing at least 27 of the 44 species. The park also boasts of the one the highest variety of volume of primates that includes 13 species of primates many of which you abound to see along the birding trails.
You will make a stopover in Butare for early lunch. After you settle in at the lodge you will head out for the afternoon canopy walk tour in Nyungwe Forest. The walk way hangs through the forest canopy 50 meters above the ground and 200 meters long. The walkway provides breathtaking views over Nyungwe, and also eye-level sightings of canopy wildlife such as elusive birds and monkeys. The Nyungwe canopy walk is the only one in East Africa and thus one not to miss out on when you visit Nyungwe Forest Park. Dinner and overnight!
Day 3 – Birding in Nyungwe
After an early cup of coffee and tea head out for birding in Nyungwe Forest, covering birding trails from the area around Gisakura, Karamba, and Karmiranzovu. The visit to Karmiranzovu provides a good chance at the Grauer’s Swamp Warbler. This area has plenty of Angolan Colobus Monkeys among other monkey species.
Day 4 –Birding in Nyungwe Forest ( Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher bird species)
Today will be spent on the higher altitudes further into the park. You will take on a full day on the Bigugu trail and will hike to the Mt. Bigugu (2950m) the highest point in the park. Bigugu trail is very product for Albertine endemics including the much sought-after Red-collared Mountain-babbler. Mt. Bigugu hike will also expose you to exhilarating views of the Nyungwe Forest.
Day 5 – Nyungwe – Chimpanzee trekking in Cyamudongo Forest
Up by 4.30am, report to the Uwinka park office to meet the ranger guide and then travel to Cyamudongo Forest, a 40 minutes drive, for the Chimpanzee tracking. Cyamudongo is a small forest detached from the larger Nyungwe Forest near the D.R. Congo border. It hosts a small population of Chimps, and offers a thrilling Chimp trekking adventure. The aim for the early start is to find the Chimps before they de-nest and witness how they start their day.
Day 6 – travel to Kibuye
It will be an early set off to Kibuye, the beach city of Karongi. The 4 hour journey will provide some interesting stopovers for birdwatching. This particular route is also a section of the Congo – Nile adventure trail and will offer spectacular scenery and nice view points of Lake Kivu.
Day 7 – Kibuye – Mukura Forest – Musanze
Have an early coffee and tea, check out and set off via Muhanga to Musanze. After an hour’s drive from Kibuye we will come to Mukura Forest, a protected reserve and soon to be gazette a park, which will provide a major birding stopover. This is small patch of forest about 12 square kilometers and was once part of a continuous mountain forest range that ran from Nyungwe to Volcanoes. Mukura boasts of at least 17 Albertine Rift endemics. We will spend the first of the day here before continuing the journey to Musanze.
Day 8 – hiking and birding in Volcanoes National Park
Set out for a hike in Volcanoes National Park, preferably the least arduous and that will the Lake Ngezi trail on Mount Bisoke. The hike will provide a number of birds and exhilarating views of the surrounding Virunga volcanoes and lush countryside. An alternative hiking trail is the Dian Fossey tomb trail.
Day 9 – Gorilla trek
On this day you will set out for the most popular trek in Volcanoes National to visit the Mountain Gorillas. Transfer to the park office at Kinigi by 7am, meet the ranger guides and drive to the start of trek at the edge of the park where you also find some porters. After spending an unforgettable 1 hour with the gentle giants return to the lodge.
Day 10 – Golden Monkey trek, departure
You will set out for the trek in Volcanoes National Park to watch a troop of habituated Golden Monkeys in the bamboo forest along the lower zones of the Sabinyo Volcano. This is an easy trek as the monkeys keep in the lower areas. You will return for early lunch after which you shall transfer to Kigali for your evening flight or overnight.