Wildlife Group Tour

Rwanda & DRC Group Tour - Gorillas, Conservation and Communities

A privileged insight into Fauna & Flora International's projects

11 days

from £6,895pp
  • Gain a privileged insight into Fauna & Flora International's (FFI) projects
  • Encounter Kahuzi-Biega National Park's endangered Grauer's gorillas
  • Explore this captivating, biodiverse region and meet the people who live here

Travel through the jungles, mountains and lakes of Rwanda and DRC, exploring this fascinating but vulnerable region. Venture into the forests of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, to meet the iconic Grauer’s gorilla. Encounter the critically endangered mountain gorilla in the impressive Virunga Massif.

Accompanied by an FFI representative, gain a privileged insight into the vital work taking place here. See community-focussed conservation in action and meet the local people at the forefront of pioneering initiatives, including those run by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme.

International Gorilla Conservation Programme

Begin with a visit to the IGCP headquarters in Kigali. FFI are part of this coalition of conservation organisations, working closely with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Meet the programme director, Anna Behm Masozera, and learn about the valuable work that the IGCP are doing in ensuring the survival of mountain gorillas.

Afterwards, visit the poignant Genocide Memorial in Kigali, before heading south to the forest-clad hills of Nyungwe. Here, trek in search of the region’s other famous primates, chimpanzees.

Gorilla Trekking

From Nyungwe, cross over the border into DRC and head south of Lake Kivu, towards the undulating landscape of Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Trek deep into the park, searching for its most famous inhabitants, the enormous Grauer’s gorillas. Largest of all the gorillas, these animals – also referred to as eastern lowland gorillas – are classified as endangered.

Later in the trip, trek in the Virunga Mountains, spending time with the Grauer’s gorilla’s closest relative, the mountain gorilla. Although still critically endangered, these fascinating primates have staged a remarkable recovery. They are now the focal point of Rwanda’s nascent tourism sector.

Fauna & Flora International Projects

Whilst in Kahuzi-Biega, spend a day visiting the projects that FFI has set up – all aimed at promoting conservation at a community level. Meet local tribal leader Mwami Kabare, who has been working with FFI to draft a development plan for the region – balancing environmental and developmental needs.

At the end of the trip, stop at a number of IGCP projects that are dotted around Volcanoes National Park. Initiated to aid local communities, the aim of these projects is to simultaneously reduce conflict with the park’s wildlife. Visit local beekeepers, who have moved their hives to the park edge, as well as the buffalo wall.

What is the accommodation like?

The accommodation is good throughout, with both Virunga Mountain Lodge and Nyungwe Forest Lodge amongst the best hotels in the region. In contrast, The Orchid Safari Club is relatively simple. However, it is clean and comfortable - the nicest option in Bukavu.

What will the weather be like?

The weather should be generally good, with clear skies and slightly lower-than-average temperatures. July is one of the driest months of the year; however, the region experiences year-round heat and humidity, with showers possible at any time.

Do I need to be fit?

A reasonable level of fitness is needed for both gorilla and chimpanzee trekking. This is due to the challenging terrain and the time it can take to find the animals. However, porters are available and are extremely helpful.

What wildlife will I see?

As well as gorillas and chimps, expect to see various species of small monkey. Nyungwe Forest National Park offers particular diversity, with blue monkeys and L’Hoest’s monkeys sighted alongside an array of bird species.



Departing on:
  • 8th July 2017

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

DEPART UKARRIVE UKPrice Excluding Flights (£)Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour LecturerStatus 
8th Jul 2017 18th Jul 2017 £ 6,895 £ 890 £ 1,150 Stuart Nixon Limited
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accommodation
  • Accompanied by a local English-speaking guide throughout
  • DRC visa
  • Meals as indicated
  • Tour leader
  • Transportation throughout
  • Two gorilla permits and a chimp permit

what is excluded

  • Gratuities
  • International flights
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Rwanda visa
  • Travel insurance

PLEASE NOTE THE ABOVE FLIGHT COST IS A SUGGESTED FROM PRICE. FLIGHT COSTS WILL BE CONFIRMED AT TIME OF BOOKING. ALL FLIGHTS ARE ATOL PROTECTED.

Itinerary at a glance

Collapse all
Day 1

Fly London to Amsterdam

Fly Amsterdam to Kigali


In the evening, meet the rest of the group for a welcome dinner.


You will be staying at Kigali Serena Hotel

Day 2

Visit the International Gorilla Conservation Programme Headquarters
Head to the IGCP headquarters, which are located in Kigali. This coalition of conservation bodies works to secure the survival of mountain gorillas in Rwanda, the DRC and Uganda.

At the headquarters, meet Director Anna Behm Masozera. Originally from the USA, she has headed up the coalition programme since 2013. Learn about the IGCP's work throughout the region, as well as the partner organisations that they work with.

Kigali offers a charm offensive, the people here being some of the warmest and most welcoming you could hope to meet. Aside from the laid back but surprisingly organised feel, it is a forward-thinking city - banning plastic bags, public transport that runs on bio-fuel and holds a national day of cleaning once a month. The Rwandese people rightly take pride in their capital.


Visit Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre
Opened in April 2004, on the 10th anniversary of the genocide, this centre provided a place in which the bereaved could pay respects to their families and friends. Now, over 250,000 victims of the genocide are buried at the site offering a permanent memorial to those who fell victim to the genocide.

Whilst this is an incredibly emotional experience, many Rwandans encourage people to spend time here, as a way to remember the past but to encourage people to look to the future.


You will be staying at Kigali Serena Hotel

Day 3

Drive to Nyungwe via Butare


Leave Kigali and drive south towards the city of Butare, which is around two and a half hours away.

Here, have lunch at a local restaurant and take a guided tour of the excellent National Museum. This impressive collection of ethnological and archaeological artefacts is very informative, offering an insight into Rwandan culture.

Afterwards, head west and begin to climb up into the misty cloud forest of Nyungwe Forest National Park. This beautiful road winds its way into the mountains, making for a scenic but sedate drive. The journey takes around two and a half hours.


You will be staying at Nyungwe Rain Forest Lodge

Day 4

Nyungwe Forest Chimpanzee Trek
Head out today to search for Rwanda's other famous, but less visited southern cousins, the chimpanzee, in the beautiful Nyungwe forest. After a short briefing from your guide, walk through stunning tea plantations acting as a buffer to the park, before entering the forest. Nyungwe itself is considered to be one of the most beautiful parks in Rwanda and whilst lying at a lower altitude, it can be very steep and challenging in places.

The rewards however, are well worth it, with over 13 species of monkey found here and some excellent birding, along with over 100 species of butterfly and the occasional chameleon.

With an estimated 500 chimpanzees in the forest, the chances are you will hear them long before you see them, but trekking can take anything from one to four hours. The ongoing habituation process gives you a good chance of seeing them but nothing is guaranteed. If you are lucky enough to find them, you will spend one hour watching them play, fight and eat in the atmospheric forest, before retracing your steps back to the lodge.


Have time to relax at the lodge with the option of a birding tour.


You will be staying at Nyungwe Rain Forest Lodge

Day 5

Canopy Walk
Drive into the forest, before setting out on foot towards a canopy walkway that lies amongst the trees. Led by a park guide, walk down into the valley, passing by the native flora that fills this dense forest.

En route, stop to hear about the traditional uses for some of the plants and look out for monkeys, which are commonly spotted in the treetops. Species include L'Hoest's monkey, blue monkey and colobus monkey.

After a short time, arrive at the canopy walkway, which is split into three suspended sections. The longest part crosses a small valley, affording beautiful views of the distant hills, as well as the tree canopies directly below. Look out for monkeys in the surrounding trees, as well as colourful bird species, which flit from branch to branch.

Afterwards, walk back up out of the valley, to where the vehicle is parked. Here, there is also a small, but informative visitor's centre.

Drive from Nyungwe to Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo


After leaving Nyungwe Forest, drive to the DRC border at Cyangugu, a journey of around 30-40 minutes. Here, go through visa formalities, which can take some time, before crossing into the town of Bukavu and on to your lodge.


Bukavu could well lay claim to being the most scenic town in the whole of the DRC. Built over a number of hills jutting out into Lake Kivu, the town features lakeshores dotted with faded colonial mansions, whose colourful gardens spill over into the lake itself.

Small pirogues glide across the lake, with fishermen casting their nets in the setting sun, as children play alongside mothers washing clothes in the shallows. The town itself is set back from the shores of the lake. Winding dirt roads - and occasional tarmac - are crowded with market stalls and dusty shops, with spectacular views of the lake from the hill above town.


You will be staying at The Orchids Safari Club

Day 6

Kahuzi Biega Trek
After a welcome introduction and short briefing by the rangers, head into Kahuzi Biega Park to begin your search for the eastern lowland gorillas. Taking its name from two spectacular, but extinct volcanoes that dominate the horizon, Kahuzi Biega is a UNESCO site, containing an exceptional diversity of flora and fauna and is regarded as one of the most important sites in the Rift Albertine Valley. Around 250 gorillas are known to inhabit the park, but also keep a keen eye out for Angolan black monkeys and Bosman's potto and if lucky, the incredibly rare Congo peacock.

During the one hour with the gorillas, the park rangers will be on hand to explain the family dynamics, before you retrace your steps back to the park headquarters. Here there is a short debrief and the chance to chat more with the rangers about the work they do before returning to the lodge, with afternoon activities being kept flexible, depending on the length of the trek.

Founded in 1939 and later a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, Kahuzi-Biega National Park remains the last stronghold of the eastern lowland gorillas, numbering around 250 individuals with three habituated families. Dominated by two huge extinct volcanoes (Kahuzi and Beiga) this vast area of primary tropical forest is a sprawling park of lush, rolling hills and thick jungle.

The forest trails are sometimes frequented by the elusive forest elephant and is also home to a surprisingly high number of other primates, including Bosman's potto, red tailed monkey and Angolan Black Monkeys all found here. The birding here is also excellent and surprisingly easy to spot some of the 200 resident birds, including the famous Congo peacock. For those who still have the energy, then there is also the chance to go on a shorter hike to Mt Bulugumisa, which takes you past the pretty Tshibati waterfalls before enjoying the magnificent views from the summit.


Meet the Head Warden
If possible, meet Kahuzi-Biega National Park's Chief Warden. However, as he often has to travel at short notice, a meeting with him cannot be guaranteed.


You will be staying at The Orchids Safari Club

Day 7

Visit FFI Projects in the Area
Meet with local tribe leader, Mwami Kabare, on the border of the national park, in the chiefdom of Kabare to discuss how FFI is closely supporting the work carried out in the chiefdom.

As part of the DRC government decision to devolve power towards the provinces, FFI has been supporting Mwami Kabare in the drafting of one of the first development plans in the region. This plan is an effective guide to implementing community development.

It takes into consideration the need of the local communities and planning development activities, whilst also considering the need to ensure no harm is done to the environment, tackling the drivers of climate change and to promoting biodiversity conservation.

This will also be an opportunity to visit and talk to the indigenous communities that live in the vicinity of Kahuzi-Biega National Park. See first-hand how they use the materials around them, learn their traditions and witness how their culture relates to forest resources. See what is being done to ensure these resources are used sustainably in order to promote their long lasting conservation.


You will be staying at The Orchids Safari Club

Day 8

Travel from Bukavu to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda


Leave Bukavu and take a short, 10-minute drive to the jetty on the shores of Lake Kivu. Here, board a speedboat for the transfer to Goma.

The journey across the lake takes around two or three hours and offers a fascinating glimpse into local life. There are stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers, with many smaller boats coming alongside to sell their fruit and vegetables.

From Goma, transfer to the border with Rwanda, which is around 10 minutes away. After passing through immigration, drive for around an hour to Volcanoes National Park.


The forested slopes of the Volcanoes National Park are spectacular and full of drama. A chain of free-standing volcanoes, they are home to local snake spirits, active volcanoes and the place where Dian Fossey lived - and died - for mountain gorillas. With peaks reaching nearly 4,500 metres and a network of rugged trails, this is a park that is as challenging as it is thrilling and despite its popularity, it is still the best place to see mountain gorillas.


If there is time, visit some nearby IGCP community projects.


You will be staying at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge

Day 9

Visit IGCP Community Projects around Musanze
Travel to a nearby honey collecting centre and have the opportunity to sample and buy local honey. Meet some of the local beekeepers and learn their story of moving their traditional beehives from within the park to the park edge.
The IGCP is working with various NGOs to promote apiculture around the national parks. Prior to the IGCP's intervention, beekeeping took place within the national park. However, beekeepers have now relocated their hives just outside park boundaries. In return, the IGCP recruited a technical consultant to analyse the hives and assess beekeeping techniques.
As a result of this, there has been training in modern apicultural methods and the purchase of modern beehives. Honey is not only produced hygienically and marketed professionally, but many by-products are now also being produced. These include candles, wax and mead.
Afterwards, visit the Buffalo Wall, constructed to keep buffalos from encroaching on the community's valuable crop fields. This is key, as human wildlife conflict is one of the biggest challenges faced by communities. It frustrates conservation efforts of wildlife, protected areas and also undermines community development.
Later, visit local artisans, before visiting an ex-poachers association. Here, learn more about bamboo planting.


You will be staying at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge

Day 10

Gorilla Trek in Volcanoes National Park
After waking at sunrise, there is a short drive to the park headquarters, where briefings, porters and coffee awaits before stepping into the cool forests to begin your adventure. Guides help steady the pace, with stops for water, signs of gorillas and a chance to soak up the views of the valleys below.

Trekking can take anything from 30 minutes to most of the morning so it is important you are prepared. When the gorillas are found, porters stay with your bags as you step forward, with cameras at the ready, for a truly magical wildlife experience.

You will spend one hour with the gorillas - sometimes you will move to keep up with them, other times they will remain in the same place, although the guides will always ensure you get the best views. After the hour is over, return to the porters and begin your trek back - the length of time again depends on where you are in the forest. A packed lunch (provided) is usually eaten at a scenic spot in the forest, before returning to the lodge to freshen up. Then transfer to Kigali for your flight home.


Return to the lodge with time to change and shower. Have access to the room until 3pm.

Drive from Volcanoes National Park to Kigali


Leave the Volcanoes National Park and travel back to Kigali, which is around two and a half hours away.

Fly Kigali to Amsterdam

Day 11

Fly Amsterdam to London


Arrive into London Heathrow

Accommodation

Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Kigali Serena Hotel

Kigali Serena Hotel

The former Intercontinental, the Kigali Serena Hotel sits very much in the business category of hotels, so with this comes a slick service and whole range of facilities....

View Accommodation

Nyungwe Rain Forest Lodge

Nyungwe Rain Forest Lodge

Sitting in a great location, with the thick forest on one side and expansive views across the vibrant green tea plantations on the other, this lodge is blessed with setting, service and style....

View Accommodation

Mountain Gorilla View Lodge

Mountain Gorilla View Lodge

Situated in a large plot of forest, The Mountain Gorilla View is one of the closest lodges to the park headquarters, with 36 simple, stone cottages spread out across the slopes of Mount Sabinyo in spacious gardens full of flowers....

View Accommodation

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour Lecturer

Stuart Nixon

Stuart Nixon
Stuart Nixon is a conservation biologist and renowned authority on the eastern gorilla (gorilla beringei). Passionate about nature from a young age, Stuart has dedicated much of his adult life to studying, conserving and advocating for the protection of one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates, Grauer’s gorilla. Over the past 15 years, Stuart has conducted extensive ecological and behavioural research on Grauer’s gorilla and led numerous expeditions into eastern DRC’s most remote, inaccessible and little known forests documenting gorilla and other wildlife populations and threats to their survival.

Between 2012 and 2015, working with Fauna & Flora International, Stuart led and coordinated the most comprehensive status assessment of this species ever made. Stuart’s studies have made significant contributions to a greater global understanding of the dangers faced by Grauer’s gorillas in the wild and resulted in range-wide efforts to help save them from extinction.

Stuart has also worked in several other African countries, carrying out applied research on a wide range of species including western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, okapi, African golden cat, leopard, giraffe, pangolin and the Congo peafowl. Today Stuart is responsible for the development of the African field conservation programme for Chester Zoo, one of Europe’s leading zoological institutions and advises the IUCN as an expert member of the Great Ape and Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Advisory groups.

Enquire about this Wildlife tour:

Group Size:

Min 3 / Max 7

Tour Expert:

Stuart Nixon

Departure Date (S):

  • 8th July 2017

This tour may involve longer hikes and will require a good level of fitness. The itinerary may involve long days travelling to destinations.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) acts to conserve threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and take account of human needs.

Founded in 1903, their work now spans the globe, with over 170 projects in over 50 countries. Today, FFI is regarded as the first international conservation organisation.

The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) is the coalition of conservation partners which FFI established with the help of Sir David Attenborough.

The project fosters cooperation across national borders and empowers communities to monitor, protect and benefit from maintaining a healthy population of mountain gorillas.

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