Car Rental with a Guide: Discover Rwanda & Uganda

I with my friends booked on the 21 day Rwanda/Uganda car rental with a guide trip in December 2022. It was probably one of the best tours I have ever done with Self-Drive Kigali – Rwanda. Together with three friends, we visited Murchison Falls, Kibale, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi and Volcanoes National Parks, the latter two for gorilla tracking and golden monkey tracking.

07 Seater Safari Land Cruisers

Not only did the program have a very good selection of locations/activities/accommodation, our trip was also made all the better by our knowledgeable and friendly guide and driver Emma, who made sure we got everywhere on time, that we were correctly dressed, had enough water to drink and answered all our questions. I’m interested in bird watching and so he also organized a separate bird guide during two days.

We had booked our trip through Self-Drive Kigali, but I would for sure recommend the company to anyone and let it be my first choice for the next safari trip.

My guide Emma was professional, knowledgeable, thoughtful and informative. An all-round lovely guy, great company with an infectious giggle. In fact I called him my lucky charm as all my experiences were outstanding. I did the chimpanzee tracking, as well as gorilla trekking in both Uganda and Rwanda. Each time I know Emma was working away quietly in the background to make sure my experience was the best possible. Emma was also an excellent animal and bird spotter.

Emma made some of the long driving days so very interesting, talking about the history and politics of Uganda as well as describing and explaining the way of life for all the hardworking Ugandans we saw as we traveled.

The whole time I was in Uganda I felt safe and welcome. The itinerary was well thought out and interesting. All accommodation was great, food wholesome, healthy and tasty with plenty of water supplied for the long hot dusty drives.

We began our epic journey at 8:30 am in Kampala and drove to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary where we saw a number, including a mother and her very young baby, of the 34 Southern White Rhinos they have worked so hard to recover. We then traveled to Murchison Falls, and had 2 nights at Pakuba Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park.

On safari we saw many giraffes, elephants, Cape Horn buffalo, different types of antelope (impala, kob, heartbeats, Oribi, kudu), a pride of 6 lions feeding on an Oribi, and a hyena. Murchison National Park is a beautiful green savannah ecosystem with lots and lots of animals. We then traveled to the Bigodi community near the Kibale National Park and stayed at Isunga lodge just 1 night (I would have loved to have stayed there longer).

I was in heaven at the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary with our guides who were so knowledgeable about the plants, their traditional uses, and the bird life, followed by a community tour where we learned from different community members about traditional healing, basket/textile making, organic shade grown coffee processing, and how their banana based gin and beer is made.

The next day we tracked chimpanzees in Kibale National Park (permits required) and encountered a large group of 30-40 chimps. It was so amazing to see so many. Then we traveled the long distance to Queen Elizabeth National Park and stayed 1 night at Engiri Game Lodge. We chose to skip the boat trip planned for that afternoon/evening because we were pooped from the traveling. The view from the lodge was expansive and gorgeous.

That is another place I would like to have stayed another night. From there we did a game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park, were hoping to see Lions in trees but did not as the weather had turned. We did see a leopard in a tree though! So beautiful. Then we drove to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park located in the far south west corner of Uganda bordering the DR of Congo.

We stayed at Rushaga Gorilla Camp 2 nights in this higher elevation rain forest area. The weather was cooler there. We woke the next day very early to trek to see the endangered Mountain Gorillas (a highlight of the trip). We drove to the starting point and met our guides and porters to trek to find Gorillas. We were told that there was a family not too far that the trackers and guides would take us too(also requires permits in advance). After about 5.5 miles of trekking up and down steep and muddy terrain with lots of vines, and one creek crossing we came to the Bweza group of Mountain Gorillas.

These are one of 8 groups within that sector and it is the most visited and famous sector. There are 4 different sectors of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which have habituated family groups of Gorillas that are adapted to being around humans. We wore face masks to protect from transmitting any viruses. We saw almost all of Gorillas in this group, a mother and her baby, a pregnant females, old silver back, a desiring to take the spot of the silver back, and many younger ones.

The lead guide was intimately familiar with each of them and answered my many questions at the end of the experience. My wonderful female porter took care of me ensuring I didn’t fall. This was a highlight of this tour and my life. Since the experience I have been reading everything I can about these incredible beings that share 98+ % of our DNA.

We then crossed to Rwanda for Golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park. We had a great experience with the Golden Monkeys. We did the guided golden monkey trek. It was a short walk, maybe 30 minutes, between some local farms to get to the edge of the park. The walk was beautiful, with flowers, farm animals, views of surrounding volcanoes, and local children waving as we went by.

The day we visited the monkeys were just a few minutes into the park. At this time of the year, start of the rainy season, the bamboo shoots were starting to come up, so the monkeys were very busy pulling and eating the shoots. Nice ground level angles for the pictures. Beautiful animals, and very nice to see them in their own habitat. Face masks are required to be worn while near the monkeys to help prevent spread of disease.

After the experience we visited the IbyI’wacu Cultural Village. What an absolutely amazing place and how tourism should be done! Money goes to the community and you can honestly just relax, learn, smile and take it all in.  If you’re blessed enough to have Therese, she’s an amazing young woman and one of the most passionate guides I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

I got married there (in a traditional ceremony- not real!) and had an absolute blast. A total hands on learning experience and A must do if you’re in Rwanda. From there, we drove to Kigali for our flight back home.

I was lucky enough to meet the whole some team of Self-drive Kigali in Uganda. All were warm and welcoming and I was especially pleased to be able to personally thank the long suffering Jackie for her endless patience and prompt responses when I was going through the booking and planning stage. I know I wasn’t easy but Jackie never showed any sign of frustration which she must have been because I would have been with me. Thank you to all the team for a wonderful trip and for your patience Jackie.

I highly recommend Self-Drive Kigali as a company to book with for experiences of a lifetime and car rental services.