Self-drive Kigali takes you to Rwanda, a landlocked country situated in central Africa. Also known as the ‘land of a thousand hills’. One of the largest cities in Rwanda, Musanze is a bustling city hosting almost all tourists visiting the world famous mountain gorilla visits and cradled against a stunning backdrop of Karisimbi, Bisoke, Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes. The city cultural tourism opportunities, caving, birding and fishing on the nearby lakes. The city is also only a 45 minute drive away from Gisenyi and the stunning Lake Kivu.
Rwanda is proudly famous for its gorilla trekking opportunities in the Virunga Mountains. This is where Dian Fossey researched and habituated mountain gorillas in the 1960s. Although gorilla trekking is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the country has a lot more to offer.
In fact, if gorilla trekking is beyond your budget, Rwanda is still worth visiting as an up-and-coming destination offering primate walks, volcano hikes and bird watching in Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe National Park, plus boat trips on Lake Kivu in the Rift Valley and classic safaris in search of the Big Five in low-key Akagera National Park.
You can visit Volcanoes National Park on a self-drive safari tour in Rwanda and trek the might endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. The Volcanoes National Park was first gazetted in 1925, a small area bounded by Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno Volcanoes, intended to protect the gorillas from poaching. It was the very first national park to be created in Africa.
In order for you to trek mountain gorillas, you have to first purchase a permit ahead of time online, or apparently just show up at Park Headquarters around 7am the day you want to hike, and buy one then. I can only speak to doing it ahead of time, though you’ll still have to check in and whatnot when you show up anyway.
The headquarters offer coffee and tea, and there are bathrooms, but then none once you head off (in the vehicle in which you arrived to headquarters) towards the trek, you’re out of luck on the bathroom front.
The guides and trackers are professional and helpful, always offering guidance on where to go to get the best vantage points, etc. They seem to actually want you to all have the best experience possible, and see a family of gorillas or may be many monkeys or at least in the best places as possible.
Besides mountain gorillas, you can choose to stay on in the park for another day and visit the golden monkeys. The experience here is similar to the standard viewing offered at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, but being in Rwanda, it’s maybe a little more polished and the walking is easier and often shorter than in Uganda. There are two habituated troops. The larger, and most frequently visited troop, is Sabyinyo. This group consists of about 80 to 100 monkeys.
Self-drive Kigali gives you another chance to enjoy many activities in Volcanoes National Park apart from gorilla and golden monkey trekking. Volcanoes National Park is home to numerous caves, a number of cultural and community tourist initiates as well as being an excellent location for bird watching.
Dian Fossey tomb trail is another activity not to be missed on your self-drive tour in Volcanoes National Park. The mountain gorillas survive thanks to Dian Fossey, a researcher who was buried at her research center alongside these mountain gorillas to which she dedicated her life. The trail leading to her tomb and Karisoke Research Center is a beautiful yet challenging 1 hour 45-minute hike up steep slopes where orchids, birdlife and even occasional mountain gorillas can be seen.
We also have mount Bisoke Crater Lake Hike as another activity in Volcanoes National Park. Bisoke Volcano, 3711m above sea level is located on the DRC and Rwanda border. An eruption in 1957 formed two small cones on the north flank of the volcano, 11km from the summit which supports a beautiful crater lake, Lake Ngezi.
Hiking to the Crater Lake requires four hours up a steep trail from the Bisoke departure point to reach the summit. The walk around the Crater Lake rim is highly recommended. Allow seven hours for the entire trip. Lake Ngezi is a small, shallow Crater Lake, is the easiest hike in the park, it takes only three to four hours round trip from the Bisoke departure point.
Karisimbi Volcano hike. The Karisimbi mountain name in Kinyarwanda means ‘white shell’, which refers to the white-capped summit which is often seen. Karisimbi is the fifth highest mountain of Africa. This is a strenuous 2 day hike. The climb will start early in the morning and takes 6 hours. You will climb further via the Bisoke side, before reaching the first stopping place at an altitude of 3.700m for overnight camping.
The Twin lakes; Burera and Ruhondo close to the gorilla tracking center of Musanze are often neglected gems. People living around Rwanda’s many lakes try to make a living out of what these lakes have to offer. You can visit an island where you will get a boat or dugout canoe ride to the respective island in lakes Ruhondo and Burera. Enjoy the nice scenery and excellent birding opportunities. Bring a packed lunch and have a picnic on the island. Discover nature in traditional canoes, enjoy the breathtaking landscape, wetland habitat and water birds.
Kinigi – Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village offers a number of activities and the opportunity to experience Rwandan traditional living and what makes it authentic. Grind millet and sorghum on the local grinding stone to make food, cycle a wooden bicycle around the village, shoot arrows with the Batwa people, listen to village elders explain their tradition and practices and so much more. There is even the opportunity to enjoy the traditional Intore dancers.
The Musanze cave is 2km long and the most frequently visited cave. It is on the Innes University grounds and lies in the volcanic region dating back 65 million years where the lava flow layers contributed to creating the Albertine Rift Valley. Musanze cave has 31 entrances, most of these being roof collapses. This cave is part of the from lava basaltic layers from the Bisoke and Sabyinyo volcanoes.
The cave entrance is vast, exceeding 10km and it is well proportionate with several side passages leading off from the main cave. Bat roots are feature of the cave and the collapses create an incredible array of coloured shafts of light shining into the cave. All this can be done through booking with self-drive Kigali.