Rwanda National Parks | The 4 Safari Parks in Rwanda to Visit
The best Rwanda national parks: Rwanda is one of the smallest and landlocked countries located in East-Central Africa. Discover the beauty behind Rwanda and what makes it the Land of a Thousand Hills by visiting any of its National Parks. Rwanda has long transformed from its devastating genocide that took place in 1994 between Hutus and Tutsis.
A total of only 4 National Parks makes Rwanda a distinct African safari destination. The 4 Rwanda safari parks protect diversity of Rwanda wildlife species/ecosystems, tourist attractions.
They include Gishwati-Mukura National Park, Akagera National Park, Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park.
The 4 Rwanda safari parks each has something distinct for tourists to enjoy, explore and experience guaranteeing lasting memories.
National Parks of Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park
Situated in the Northwest of Rwanda- The Land of a Thousand Hills, Volcanoes National Park is amazingly one of Africa’s top visited mountain gorilla destinations. It is lying at border to Southwestern Uganda National Park- Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Congo’s Virunga National Park.
Volcanoes National Park like Virunga National Park was gazetted in 1925 making one of Africa’s oldest park and occupies only 160sq.kms of surface area. The park is positioned on higher elevation deriving its name from the Virunga volcanoes which make up the Virunga Massifs.
With 8 Virunga Volcanoes existing in Uganda, Rwanda and D.R. Congo, five volcanoes are found in Volcanoes National Park- Mount Muhabura, Mount Bisoke, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Karisimbi and Gahinga. Other features in this park include marshes, rainforest, bamboo forests and the nearby Musanze caves.
Wildlife of Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is without doubt one of the best Rwanda national parks, hosting unique and world’s most looked for species of wildlife. The park’s wildlife species to expect spotting include mountain gorillas, 200 bird species, black fronted duikers, colobus monkeys, giant forest hogs, spotted hyenas, forest elephants, buffaloes, bushbucks, golden monkeys and more.
The main activities to be part of while on Rwanda safari in Volcanoes National Park include gorilla trekking. This is done in already habituated families including Susa B/Karisimbi, Agashya/13 Group, Sabyinyo, Hirwa, Amahoro, Umubano, Kwitonda, Titus, Pablo, Bwenge and others.
These groups are trekked by maximum of 8 visitors and trekking begins early morning with briefing at Kinigi. Gorilla trekking Rwanda permits are issued by Rwanda Development Board- RDB at USD1500 per person.
Golden monkey tracking in Volcanoes NP is another lifetime and on-foot-walk adventure tourists can be part of especially if you are interested in striking your imaginations with the golden monkeys in the wild. Golden monkeys are generally beautiful and live in the Virunga Region.
Volcano hiking (Mount Karisimbi volcano hiking, Bisoke climbing, Muhabura and Gahinga volcano hiking), nature walks, birding/bird watching, cave exploration, twin lake tours and others.
Accommodation- Volcanoes National Park is incredibly a complete gorilla safari destination with a range of accommodation including Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Virunga Lodge, Da Vinci Lodge, Bisate Lodge, Muhabura Hotel, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Kinigi Guesthouse, Five Volcanoes Lodge and many more. There are many budget, midrange and luxury lodges in and around Rwanda Volcanoes NP.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Located near Rwanda border with D.R. Congo & Burundi, Nyungwe Forest National Park is truly a magical primate safari destination. Nyungwe National Park was founded in 2004 and it is located in Southwestern Rwanda. It is also the vast rain-forest park with oldest montane forest, dating back to the last ice age.
Nyungwe National Park is an evergreen forest protected area sitting on 1000sq.kms of land area. The evergreen Nyungwe Forest shelters 13 primate species (including 500 chimpanzees), silver monkeys, Angola colobus monkeys, baboons, Dent’s Mona monkeys, grey cheeked mangabeys, red tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and others.
Birds – Nyungwe Forest is a home to all 310 bird species including Albertine owlet, Rwenzori nightjar, dusky crimson wings, white tailed flycatcher, great blue turacos, red throated alethe, Kungwe apalis, Neumann’s warblers. Others include Shelley’s crimson wings, handsome francolins, Archer’s robin chat, mountain sooty boubou, red collared babbler, white tailed flycatchers and more.
Besides primates and birds, Nyungwe National Park also inhabits over 120 butterfly species, 32 amphibian species, 38 reptile species. Other mammals include mongoose, leopards, civets, striped jackals and more.
Top Rwanda safari activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Chimpanzee trekking– The largest population of chimpanzees in Rwanda live in Nyungwe Forest National Park. Over 500 chimpanzees all live this pristine forest with other varied primates. Chimpanzee tracking is Nyungwe Forest NP top activity and chimpanzee permits cost foreign non-residents USD90, foreign residents USD60 and Rwandan citizens 2500 RwF.
Primate/colobus monkey tracking- over 400 colobus monkeys live within Nyungwe Forest National Park. Primate tracking in Nyungwe costs foreign non-residents USD60, foreign residents USD40.
Birding- There are 310 bird species all inhabited within Nyungwe Forest. They include Grauer’s warblers, Kungwe apalis, Ruwenzori batis, mountain sooty boubou, white tailed flycatchers, great blue turacos, red throated alethe, barred long tailed cuckoo, regal sunbird, Shelley’s crimson wings, Dusky crimson wing, red collared babblers to mention but a few.
Canopy walk- This is still a unique and the most rewarding experience you should consider participating while in Nyungwe Forest National Park. You get to explore Nyungwe forest canopy, primates and birds while on a suspended canopy walkway. The canopy walk way is 90m long, 50m high and begins from morning at 8:00am-10:00am and from 3:00pm.
Accommodation- Nyungwe Forest National Park has all categories of lodges for visitor overnight stay- budget to luxury. They include Nyungwe Top View Lodge (Moderate), Nyungwe Forest Lodge/One&Only Nyungwe House (Luxury), Gisakura Guesthouse.
Akagera National Park
Established in 1934, Akagera National Park is Rwanda’s only savanna park to visit for you to see the big five game. The park spans on 1122sq.kms of land area close to Rwanda border with Tanzania and it is endowed with a range of habitats from montane forests, woodland, savanna and swamps.
Akagera National Park features beautiful water bodies such as Kagera River, Lake Ihema, Lake Shakani and others. The park is endowed with a range of wildlife including all the big five buffaloes, lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, zebras, hippos, impalas, elands, bushbucks, impalas, crocodiles, hyenas, oribis.
Birds – Akagera National Park a home to 520 bird species is an incredible birding tour destination. The park’s 520 birds include among others the grey crowned cranes, papyrus gonoleks, giant kingfishers, African wattled plover, Senegal lapwings, hadada ibis, African open bill stork, shoebill stork, long crested eagle, fish eagles, fan tailed widow bird, grey backed fiscals, black headed weavers and more.
Best Rwanda Safari Activities in Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is the leading and only savanna that attracts natures who come to enjoy a game drive. A game drive at Akagera is all about viewing the big five and other wildlife including rhinos, leopards, lions, buffaloes, elephants, zebras, giraffes, birds and a lot more. These are perfectly viewed in 4×4 safari vehicle 2-3 hours less or more.
Launch/boat cruise in the morning or afternoon offers the best of wildlife sightings especially water birds, hippos and crocodiles. In Akagera National Park, a boat cruise is best done on Lake Ihema.
Birding in Akagera NP provides birders with bird sights such as shoebill storks, kingfishers, papyrus gonoleks, weavers, Senegal lapwings, Augur buzzard, fish eagles, fish eagles, grey backed fiscals, African darters, squacco herons and ibis.
Gishwati-Mukura National Park
Gishwati-Mukura National Park is one of Rwanda’s best chimpanzee tracking destinations, founded in 2015. The new park combines two beautiful forest reserves of Gishwati and Mukura Forest, covering 34sq.kms of land area.
Gishwati-Mukura National Park protects a range of primate species including L’Hoest monkeys, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys. There are also several other species including bush vipers, hyrax, red river hogs, 60 tree species.
Birds- Gishwati-Mukura hosts 232 bird species including martial eagles, purple breasted sunbirds, strange weaver, stripe breasted tit, Rwenzori turacos, red throated alethe, mountain yellow warblers and more.
Top activities in Gishwati-Mukura National Park
Chimpanzee tracking- Gishwati-Mukura NP is a newly established park offering unique chimpanzee tracking experiences. A chimp trek in Gishwati-Mukura takes visitors through in-depth learning on how chimps behave, grooming habits, feeding habits and more.
Birding- 232 bird species all thrive within the rain-forest of Gishwati-Mukura NP making it one of the best birding destinations in Rwanda. The birds to look for on Rwanda safari in Gishwati-Mukura include weaver birds, grey crowned cranes, wood hoopoes, mountain yellow warblers, martial eagles.
Best time to visit Rwanda National Parks
Rwanda safari parks are open to travelers all year round. However, the dry season is the best time to travel to Nyungwe Forest National Park, Gishwati-Mukura National Park, Volcanoes National Park and Akagera National Park. The dry months of the year; June, July, August to September and December, January, February.
Essentials to carry for Rwanda safari
The important things to carry on Rwanda safari include insect repellents, camera, long sleeved shirts, sweater, binoculars, first aid kit, bottled water, daypack, good waterproof hiking boots and more.