Gorilla Trekking in Parc Des Volcans

Gorilla Trekking in Parc Des Volcans

“In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat, are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest – the Virungas” wrote primatologist Dian Fossey.

The Parc des Volcans is situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, protected by the steep slopes of a magnificent mountain range. The Parc is a rich mosaic of ecosystems – evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland and swamp. It is also home to the rare mountain gorilla.

An exhilarating trek through the cultivated foothills of the Virungas offers incredible views in all directions. Then, all of a sudden, the trail enters the national park, immersing you in the quiet intimacy of the rainforest, alive with birdlife and chattering monkeys, and the elusive populations of elephant and buffalo. Through gaps in the forest canopy, you can see a glimpse of the magnificent peaks which are easily reached and among the highest in Africa.

On the base of the Virungas is the bustling market town of Ruhengeri. On the outskirts of town is a natural bridge of solidified lava flow. It is a fascinating relic of the volcanic activity that has shaped this scenic area. The seldom visited but lovely Lakes Burera, Ruhondo and Karago are also within easy access.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is situated on the edge of the Parc des Volcans and is a great lodge to stay at when visiting Rwanda. Read more about Rwanda gorilla trekking and the plight of the Mountain Gorilla on our website (www.safari.co.uk).

Gorilla trekking and luxury Kenya safari itinerary

Day 1
Depart from London’s Heathrow Airport on the Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Day 2
Arrive and connect onwards to Kigali. On arrival you will be met and transferred to Kigali Serena where you stay for one night (bed and breakfast).

The Kigali Serena is located on the stylish Rue de la Revolution in central Kigali, the commercial hub of Rwanda. Guest rooms are luxuriously appointed with a 300 square metre Presidential suite, 6 luxury suites, 18 studios, 19 superior rooms and 60 deluxe rooms, including a specially designed and equipped accommodation for disabled guests.

The hotel also boasts a fully equipped fitness centre, business centre, gift shop and an outdoor swimming pool. Two restaurants and a lounge bar cater for a variety of sophisticated tastes – from the fashionable to the quietly elegant.

A tiny, landlocked republic in Equatorial Africa, Rwanda lies on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift and the watershed between Africa’s two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Often called the “land of a thousand hills”, Rwanda is a mountainous country with a moist, temperate year-round climate.

This is a sultry land of lakes, rain forests and rolling hills, offering a number of magnificent lakeside resort towns. It is famous for its mountain gorillas, which can be spotted in the country’s magnificent national parks. The Volcanoes National Park in particular, on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), currently houses the world’s largest population of mountain gorillas. The mountain gorilla is a tourist attraction unique to Rwanda and it is estimated that 350 of the 650 existing mountain gorillas are located in Rwanda and the DRC, making the Gisenyi area home to the highest concentration of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

Days 3 to 5
After breakfast you will be met and transferred to Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge where you stay for three nights (inclusive of meals, local drinks and activities).

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is situated on the edge of the Parc National des Volcans in North Western Rwanda, in an undulating area of eleven hectares with fabulous views towards the Parc National des Volcans.

All guest cottages are discreetly and privately situated in the folds of the hills and each has its own unique view. The altitude of the lodge is approximately 7,000 feet above sea level so the climate is generally cool and the volcanoes rise to a height of almost 15,000 feet.

The lodge comprises of a central building with reception, bar, dining room, library/games room and shop. Both the bar and dining room have extensive outdoor decks from which guests can enjoy the spectacular views. The accommodation comprises five cottages, two suites and a family suite and all have at least one private veranda, a sitting room, bedroom, dressing room and a large modern bathroom. The family suite has an extra bedroom and en-suite.

The lodge is constructed of local stone, finished with an ochre coloured plaster. Terracotta tiled roofs give a stylish contemporary Rwandese flavour. All guest rooms have large windows to make the best of the wonderful views. Double thickness wall maintain the warmth from the fireplaces when it is cold outside and keep the rooms cool in the warmer weather during the day. The lush gardens have been extensively landscaped.

The rainforests of the Virunga Volcanoes are the last refuge of the Mountain Gorilla. The Virungas span Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the Parc National des Volcans being the Rwandese element of this ecosystem. The lush slopes of the volcanoes provide an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is perhaps the most poignant and thrilling wildlife experience to be had anywhere – to see the Mountain Gorilla in its natural habitat. Roughly half of the world’s wild population of Mountain Gorillas are resident on the Rwandan slopes of the Virungas. Five habituated families of gorillas are visited, and these families have from seven to over thirty five individuals in each.

Day 6
In the afternoon you will be returned to the airport where you board the Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. On arrival you will be met and transferred to Macushla House where you stay for one night (bed and breakfast).

Macushla is approximately twenty-five minutes from Nairobi City only thirty minutes from Wilson domestic airport and forty-five minutes from the international airport. A low rambling property with an attractive garden that is surrounded by indigenous forest, Macushla accommodates a maximum of ten guests in delightful large and airy rooms with open beamed ceilings. The sitting room area has lovely log fires and the standard of cuisine is superb.

There is also a small cottage set apart from the main area which consists of two rooms and is ideal for families.

Within walking distance of Macushla is the Giraffe Centre, which is well worth a visit. The owner of the lodge, Carry Henken, will happily arrange for you to visit other points of interest in and around Nairobi.

To cool off there is an attractive terrace and small swimming pool. Warm hospitality is a hallmark of Macushla House.

Days 7 to 9
In the morning you will be met and transferred to Nairobi’s Wilson Airport where you board a scheduled light aircraft flight departing to the Masai Mara. On arrival you will be met and transferred to Sala’s Camp where you stay for three nights (inclusive of meals, local drinks and laundry service).

Sala’s Camp is situated on the banks of the Sand River, a secluded and private corner of the Mara, offering spectacular views across the plains towards Tanzania.

The Carr-Hartley safari tradition of adventure and elegance under canvas with personalised service continues to be Sala’s Camp trademark. The camp accommodates a maximum of 14 guests in six spacious double tents and one honeymoon tent. These en-suite tents are comfortable and romantic, offering running hot and cold water, lighting and flushing toilets. The mess tent provides access to charging points for cameras and other electronic equipment.

Guests have the opportunity to witness one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles, a natural wonder of the world – the Great Wildebeest Migration and voted in November 2006 a new natural wonder of the world. Each year the promise of rain and green grass brings more than 1.3 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebra. These numerous migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by a block of hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena. Sala’s Camp is located at the heart of the migration.

This secluded spot is nestled on the convergence of two rivers and offers tranquillity and tremendous views along the Sand River towards Tanzania and the Serengeti. From your tent you will be able to enjoy at abundance of birdlife and wildlife. Activities are complemented by the personal approach of the knowledgeable team and include morning and afternoon game drives, bush breakfast and lunches, sundowners and shared fire-side experiences. Other activities include Balloon safaris and visits to Masai villages which can be arranged by the Sala’s Camp team.

Days 10 to 12
After your morning activity you will be returned to the airstrip where you board a scheduled light aircraft flight departing to Ukunda. On arrival you will be met and transferred by road and boat to Funzi Keys where you stay for three nights in a beach front cottage.

Funzi Keys is probably the most luxurious beach hideaway in Africa. Situated on a private island fifteen minutes by light aircraft from the Kenya Coast, the island accommodates guests in a choice of thatched cottages inspired by typical Omani architecture. There are nine seafront cottages offered on a full board basis and each with a vast ‘bedroom’ with four-poster bed, a jacuzzi bath with a view, Omani furnishings and an open-fronted lounge with sofas and low tables.

The lodge has recently expanded to include eight garden cottages which are available on a half board rate and although slightly smaller than the seafront, and without a jacuzzi bath or sea view, these are furnished to an equally high standard and only minutes from the main lodge and seafront.

The owners, Alessandro Torriani and his wife Claudia, are usually there and they charmingly and unobtrusively keep in touch with each guest to discuss what they would like to do each day and what you would like to eat and drink – there are no menus.

Funzi Keys has an enormous pool and a wide range of water sports. Guest can enjoy inclusive activities ranging from snorkelling, trips to the sand bank, sailing, canoeing, creek fishing, wind surfing, dhow and boat trips in the bay and to the Ramisi River and sundowner dhow cruises. Guests may also enjoy a complimentary massage, pedicure and manicure.

Other activities available at extra cost include scuba diving and deep-sea fishing in the nearby Pemba Channel where the enormous catches attract sports fishermen from all over the world.

Guests often like to simply explore the island with its pretty creeks, spectacular bird life. Snorkelers and divers will want to visit the owner’s private islands to the south where there are marvellous reefs and hundreds of species of fish. There is a small beach in front of the lodge and a superb private white sandy beach a few hundred yards away by boat.

The atmosphere is private and relaxed with superb cuisine and dinner can be prepared to order and enjoyed by your own campfire on the beach outside your lodge, in the dining room or on board a dhow moored just offshore. The dhow can also be used for dreamy sunset cruises around the islands.

Day 13
In the afternoon you will be returned by road and boat to Mombasa where you board the Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. On arrival connect onwards to London’s Heathrow Airport.

Day 14
Arrive into London Heathrow.

(Photo Credit Michael Poliza)

Janie Harmsen is a dedicated specialist in luxury gorilla safaris.