By Stehanie Parker, African Budget Safaris
While this small country might be a less common destination in East Africa, embarking on a Rwanda safari adventure should undoubtedly feature on the bucket list of every intrepid wildlife-loving traveler.
A safari in Rwanda presents truly unique animal-spotting opportunities, as well as the chance to immerse yourself in the country’s remarkable beauty.
The land of the thousand hills, as this beautiful mountainous country is known, Rwanda is a stunning, green slice of East Africa, where misty mountains meet lush rainforests to create an African tropical paradise bursting with unique biodiversity.
If you’re seeking an African safari adventure like no other, Rwanda beckons with its natural treasures and vibrant culture; just imagine trekking through these mystical terrains to share moments with some of the last mountain gorillas on earth!
And the country’s wildlife wonders don’t stop there…
After visiting the gentle gorillas, get up close with playful chimpanzees and a plethora of other primates, swinging from the trees in their natural forest habitats. Then take a game drive through savannah plains to spot some of the African continent’s famous Big 5 in another of Rwanda’s beautiful national parks.
Feeling inspired yet?!
We hope so, because here are the best places to visit on a Rwanda safari adventure to ensure you create memories that last a lifetime.
#1 Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
Yes, we’re kicking this list off with Rwanda’s big gorilla safari hitter!
The country’s most impressive wildlife draw and the reason most travelers visit here, Volcanoes National Park is definitely one of the best places to visit on a Rwanda safari adventure.
Located in northern Rwanda and renowned for its role in gorilla conservation, Volcanoes National Park is a sanctuary for critically endangered mountain gorillas, with approximately a third of the world’s (now tiny) population residing here. And visiting means you have the rare privilege to get up close with these majestic creatures, an experience that’s both humbling and awe-inspiring. As their name implies, mountain gorillas live in forests high in the mountains at an elevation of between 8,000 and 13,000 feet.
Guided by experts, you’ll venture into the misty forests to meet them, climbing hidden trails to encounter a specific family of these gentle giants in their natural environment. After an exhilarating hike through the wild forest, into their home habitat, you will feel honored to share moments with these gentle giants – a life experience that really will leave you speechless.
The landscape is incredible too.
Imagine mist-covered mountains, lush, dense forests teeming with tropical birds and, of course, the excitement of meeting mountain gorillas face-to-face too. Indeed the awe of locking eyes with a silverback and seeing the playfulness of the young family members truly is an experience that words can’t capture.
While Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is an intimate encounter that will leave you humbled, inspired and awed, it’s not just these primates you’ll see in this Rwanda national park; the reserve is also rich with golden monkeys and lively birdlife that will take your breath away even if the altitude doesn’t!
So lace up those hiking boots, grab your camera and get ready for a Rwanda safari adventure that’s full of both excitement and big bucket list ticks!
#2 Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest
If you’re up for an unforgettable safari in Rwanda, then Nyungwe Forest should be next up on your list. Another of the best places to visit on a Rwanda safari adventure, Nyungwe is one of the oldest rainforests in Africa and is home to the largest expanse of forest in the country.
At least 13 different primate species can be found in this remote rainforest, which is also a haven for birdwatchers.
And the stars of the show? It has to be the Eastern Chimpanzees!
Closely related to humans, these intelligent creatures share 98% of our DNA. Their ingenuity, social behavior and use of tools have captivated researchers for decades and, amazingly, Nyungwe offers a window into their complex communal lives, offering you a chance to observe their intimate grooming rituals and dextrous skills.
Spot them swinging through the trees, playing or simply relaxing, and you’ll quickly discover that the more you learn about these fascinating creatures, the more you’ll appreciate them.
But Nyungwe is full of way more than just chimps.
With captivating hiking trails leading to breathtaking viewpoints, incredible biodiversity and vibrant birdlife, this place is a whole adventure just waiting to be experienced.
The park even hosts the only canopy walk in East Africa – an unforgettable hike that includes traversing a 91-meter-long suspension bridge, which dangles more than 50 meters above the rainforest floor! Looking out over the treetop canopy, to the mountains in the distance, this is truly a view of the rainforest like no other!
So pack your sense of wonder, your enthusiasm and get ready to be enthralled by your Rwanda safari adventure in this magical forest.
#3 Wildlife Safari in Akagera National Park
Found at the border of Rwanda and Tanzania, Akagera National Park is the country’s largest national reserve. The park mainly comprises savannah land, and offers a more traditional African safari experience, in lovely contrast to the rainforest adventures above.
Akagera is a biodiversity hotspot, home to a mesmerizing array of wildlife including lions, elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, baboons, and blue monkeys, which freely roam against the backdrop of sweeping grasslands and shimmering lakes.
And the park’s avian population is equally awe-inspiring. Birdwatchers, get your binoculars ready because this park boasts an incredible 500 species of birds!
Boat safaris on Lake Ihema and birdwatching tours offer the best chance to absorb the park’s bountiful 2-winged wildlife.
Honestly, Akagera National Park is like a real-life wildlife documentary and certainly one of the best places to visit on a Rwanda safari adventure. Take a game drive as the sun rises or sets and get a front-row seat to nature’s spectacular show here.
#4 See the Bats in the Famous Musanze Caves
Ok so you’ve now trekked with gorillas, monkeyed about with chimps, seen the rainforest from the sky and spotted some of Africa’s iconic Big Five… so what’s next on your Rwanda safari itinerary?
Well, nestled into the foothills of the Virunga mountains, are over 32 ancient volcanic caves just waiting for your exploration.
Created millions of years ago in the volcanic eruptions that created the Virungas Volcanoes, these caves are now an underground wonder, extending for a massive 2 kilometers and home to a huge and diverse population of bats.
As you traverse the chambers, you’ll witness these fascinating creatures hanging upside down against the ancient cave backdrop and, as twilight creeps into the mouth of the cave, their nocturnal activities transform this underground world into a magical spectacle.
Located beneath lush greenery, as you ascend and descend, the cave mouths are adorned with flowers and plants creating a stunning visual journey.
These caves also hold cultural significance, as well as geological wonders, because they once provided wartime shelter during Rwanda’s genocide. Because of this, out of respect, tours of the caves are always led by a local guide, who will offer you a poignant glimpse into the nation’s past as well as load you with fascinating facts about the local wildlife.
So make sure to head to the Musanze Caves for an unforgettable underground excursion that seamlessly weaves nature, culture, history and wildlife into one important Rwanda adventure.
And the best bit? Visiting the caves is easy! Located in Volcanoes National Park, a visit to these caves can be handily combined into a single trip with your gorilla trekking safari, offering a great post-trek excursion.
Best Places to Visit in Rwanda
So, there you have it, the best places to visit on your Rwanda safari, straight from the team of travel experts at the African Budget Safaris travel agency.
Experience a truly unique African safari adventure with Rwanda’s captivating landscapes and extraordinary wildlife. Prepare for the once-in-a-lifetime meeting with wild gorillas, along with the other incredible cultural and wildlife viewing opportunities this African country has to offer.
Stephanie Parker is an award-winning travel blogger and creator of the budget travel blog Big World Small Pockets. Never one for staying still, she’s always had to travel cheap to maintain her nomadic lifestyle … even into her 30’s! Originally from the UK, Stephanie likes nothing more than adventuring around Africa on a shoestring, collecting stories she loves to share with a smile.