Besides the authentic culture, the beautiful and cleanest city (Kigali) in East Africa, Rwanda is endowed with beautiful and unique wildlife. This is found in the versed landscapes and regions of national parks, game reserves, and water bodies. Due to her spectacular views of the endless rolling hills, Rwanda is usually referred to as “the land of a thousand hills.”  Rwanda is one of the three countries in Africa and the whole world with endangered mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas in Rwanda are found in Volcanoes National Park. The park is part of what is known as the Virunga massif. The Virunga massif is a chain of volcanic mountains that stride three countries. These are Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Virunga massif comprises four national parks. A combination of which hosts three-quarters of the world’s mountain gorilla population. National parks that make up the Virunga Massif are; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (found in Uganda). Virunga National Park (found in the Democratic Republic of Congo). And Volcanoes National Park (found in Rwanda). We cannot fail to talk about one of the world’s most active volcanoes – Mt. Nyiragongo whose visit can easily be combined with Rwanda wildlife and gorilla trekking safaris.

Wildlife in Rwanda and the her fast growth and development

Rwanda is one of the newest nations in Africa. Rwanda gained its independence from the Belgians and the French in 1962. The country greatly suffered from the tragic genocide in 1994, which left massive destruction of infrastructure, nature, and life! Despite all this, the country has continuously picked up and getting back on the map. Actually, Rwanda is currently one of the best tourist destinations on the African continent and the world as a whole.  Rwanda receives visitors from all corners of the world. Especially those that are passionate about wildlife safaris, hiking adventures, birding experiences, chimpanzee tracking, cultural tours, and gorilla trekking safaris.

Talking of Wildlife, Rwanda is one country that does not have many national parks compared to Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. However, Rwanda’s 4 top national parks are never short of wildlife safari experience. Doing a wildlife trip or having a safari vacation in Rwanda gives you an opportunity to explore the vast wildlife species. Think of the big 5 animals, mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, golden monkeys, and other primate species, they are all in Rwanda.

One of the things that make Rwanda safaris an outstanding adventure is the fact that they can be easily combined with other African safaris. In Rwanda, you do not have to drive long distances from one safari destination to another as the case is with Tanzania, Kenya, or Uganda. Travelers to Rwanda usually cross over to Uganda and visit places like Lake Bunyonyi, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, to mention but a few.

Birdlife in Rwanda

Bird on a Wildlife safari in Rwanda
A bird on a Wildlife safari in Rwanda

Rwanda is home to 711 bird species 26 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley such as the Rwenzori turaco and handsome spurfowl, to mention but a few. Are you passionate about seeing multiple bird species or do you want to embark on a birding safari? Rwanda should be included on your travel list. All the national parks in Rwanda offer the best birding safaris. If you are looking for forest dwellers, Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park would be the best recommendations.

If you love savannah plains species, the best-recommended park is Akagera National Park. It is important to note that some of the bird species in Rwanda’s national parks are migratory. In other words, they can only be spotted during specific seasons. Some are common during wet seasons while others can easily be spotted during the dry seasons. It is better for you to notify your tour operator before the trip so that you do not miss out on the best Rwanda birding safari experiences.

On the eastern side of Rwanda, one can encounter the black-headed gonolek, cranes, and storks which are swamp and lake associated. Other bird species that can be spotted during a Rwanda wildlife safari include; shoebill, secretary-bird, Albertine-owlet, and blue-swallow. Among the vulnerable birds, we find; lesser flamingo, maccoa duck, batter, great snipe, and African skimmer among the near threatened and white–backed vulture, Rueppels, griffon, hooded vulture, Grauer’s swamp-warbler, Madagascar pond-heron among the endangered.

Mammals in Rwanda

And on the mammal side, Rwanda boasts its mammals in mostly the diverse national parks. Volcanoes National Park is home to mountain gorillas. And Nyungwe National Park consists of 13 primate species that include the Rwenzori Colobus, chimpanzees, Angola Colobus, owl-faced monkeys, armored monkeys, and the eastern tree hyrax among others. Additionally, Nyungwe Forest National Park is currently the most bio-diverse national park. Having a wildlife safari in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park will give you an opportunity to spend time with Chimpanzees who have DNA close to that of human beings.

Where can I see wildlife in Rwanda?

Mammals of Rwanda are common in Akagera National Park, Nyungwe Forest National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and Gishwati-Mukura National Park. These have greatly been an influence on the soloists of tourists across the globe into Rwanda.

Volcanoes National Park which is found in the northwest region of the country consists of diverse wildlife species ranging from mammals, birds, and flora. The main wildlife attraction is the mountain gorillas. There are approx.   340 gorillas habituated in 10-gorilla-families. A Gorilla trekking permit costs $1,500 per person.

 Common mammal species in Rwanda
  • Mountain gorillas

Africa as a continent has three major gorilla trekking destinations and they are the only ones that offer the best gorilla safaris across the world. These destinations are Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is a high concentration of mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Other than Rwanda mountain gorillas can be spotted in Uganda’s Mgahinga gorilla and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as well as Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Every one of these national parks is an extension of the other hence forming the chain of rainforests from where three-quarters of the world’s gorilla population can be found.

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda starts with a briefing for about 30 minutes and takes between 2 and 8 hours including the one hour that you are given to spend in the presence of the gorillas upon encountering them. The activity can easily be combined with hiking Mount Bisoke as well as visiting the Dian Fossey grave. Dian Fossey was a researcher who spent 18 years In the Volcanoes National Park conserving and studying mountain gorillas. She is famous for having many quotes about conservation and mountain gorillas to be specific. One of her famous mountain gorillas states “The more you learn about the dignity of the gorilla, the more you want to avoid people.”

  • Chimpanzees
Wildlife in Rwanda
Wildlife in Rwanda

Other than mountain gorillas, Rwanda’s other most sought-after tourist attraction is the human-like chimpanzee. These dwell within the forests of Nyungwe National Park. The park’s bigger portion is made of a rain forest which has been in existence for hundreds of years. The forest is responsible for the rains that feed the park’s diverse species and the waters draw into River Nile (the longest river in the world). This implies that the swamps and the forests of Nyungwe National Park make it a water catchment area.

Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the best safari activities carried out in Rwanda. The activity gives travelers the chance to spend an hour in the presence of chimpanzees upon encountering them. Like human beings, chimpanzees are social animals and live an easy life. A chimpanzee does not attack unless it is provoked. It is good that you follow the chimpanzee tracking rules and regulations as provided by park rangers and guides. That is when your Chimpanzee tracking safari in Rwanda can become the best safari expedition.

Visit Rwanda and enjoy the amazing chimpanzee habituation experience. It is so amazing.

  • Golden Monkeys

Most travelers come to Rwanda when they are curious about gorillas and chimpanzees. All of a sudden, they get surprised by the beautiful and playful golden monkeys. Dressed in golden fur, golden monkeys are one of the best attractions found in Rwanda, especially in Volcanoes national park. Golden monkeys can easily be spotted in the lower areas of the park, unlike mountain gorillas which dwell in the mountainous areas. This implies that even travelers who are not that physically fit to embark on a gorilla trekking activity can consider golden monkey tracking as an option. This is why we say that Rwanda is small in size but never in experience.

  • The Big Five animals

The big five animals i.e. lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhinoceros are somehow common in many African countries. For instance, in the Okavango Delta (Botswana), Murchison Falls National Park (Uganda), Tsavo National Park (Kenya), Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), Masai Mara National Park (Kenya), etc. However, seeing them at one destination is not easy. You find most of the parks having the big 4 or the big 3 animals. Rwanda in its small size is one of the few destinations from where tourists can have a glance at all the big 5 animals. in Africa, the big five animals can be found in places other than Rwanda; Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve in South Africa, Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and Masai Mara in Kenya, and South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.

Are you planning an African safari and perhaps interested in seeing the Big 5 animals? It is high time you considered visiting Rwanda’s Akagera National Park and making your Big 5 animals’ dream come true.

  • Other animals

A safari in Africa is always incomplete until you have seen multiple animal species to the point where you cannot remember them all. Rwanda’s animal sightings are not restricted to mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, the Big Five animals, and the golden monkeys. The country has got more to offer. Other than those mentioned above, a safari to Rwanda will introduce you to zebra, warthog, giraffe, antelope. This is in addition to topi, impala, bushbuck, defassa waterbuck, hyena, wild dog, baboon, Thomson’s gazelle, etc.

The National Parks – Explore wildlife in Rwanda national parks

Akagera National Park consists of savannah tropical mammals such as giraffes, elephants, lions, antelopes, buffalos, eland, and impalas. The park also consists of 530 bird species that include; raptors, papyrus-gonolek, shoebill-stock, lesser kestrel, great-snipe, suaza-shrike, and arnot chat, among others.

On the other hand, Nyungwe National Park is a prime destination for primate viewing. The primates in this park include but are not limited to; chimpanzees, silver monkeys, golden monkeys, owl-faced Mangabeys. Additionally, there’re grey–cheeked Mangabeys. The park also has over 310 bird species. 25 of these are Albertine Rift species, 11 are Guinea-Congo forest biome and 71 are biome of Afro-tropical highlands.

Volcanoes National Park is famous for the mountain gorillas in Rwanda as well as golden monkeys. It is one of the most visited national parks in Rwanda.

Lastly, the newly established Gishwati-Mukura National Park has also gained fame lately. The park is also one of the best wildlife destinations in Rwanda as it hosts quite a number of animal, tree, and bird species.

The Protected Area Sizes 

Over the past decades, Rwanda’s government and other international organizations have been working around the clock to ensure that Rwanda’s tourism booms. This is why some areas have been set aside for nature conservation.  Some of these areas have been declared and recognized as national parks while others are still in the making.

Volcanoes National Park covers an area of 16000 ha, Nyungwe National Park covers an area of 101900 ha, and Akagera National Park is 108500 ha. In addition, the forest reserves also consist of wildlife such as fauna and flora. For example, the Buhanga forest reserve covers an area of 160 ha, Busaga covers an area of 150 ha, Mukura covers an area worth 1600 ha, and Gishwati covers an area worth 700 ha.

Are you planning a wildlife safari to Rwanda in the forthcoming season, Book with Love Uganda Safaris and Tours Ltd and explore this amazing land of a thousand hills. We can’t wait to see you!

Love Uganda Safaris is your trusted operator in East Africa. Reach out to us today for a safari in Rwanda and neighboring countries.

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