Tailor-Made Holiday

Rwanda & The DRC - Primates and Volcanoes

12 days

from £5,500pp (excluding flights)

The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo has long been considered one of the most volatile in the world, both politically and geologically, but with changing times, this pioneering adventure, explores two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, home to great apes, active volcanoes and the world's largest lava lake.

  • Visit eastern lowland and mountain gorillas, plus chimpanzees in the D.R.C.
  • Spend a night on Nyiragongo Volcano, home to the worlds largest lava lake
  • Visit Senkwekwe Mountain Gorilla Orphan Sanctuary
  • Explore the colourful town of Bukavu and the black volcanic streets of Goma

Starting in Kahuzi Biega National Park, the last remaining habitat for eastern lowland gorillas, you will base yourself in the colourful town of Bukavu, considered one of the most scenic in the country, where faded colonial mansions sit on the lakeside peninsula, bougainvillea flowing down across the gardens to the shores of Lake Kivu. A drive to the gorillas takes you past traditional fisherman on the shores of the lake and on into the lush forests, which are also home to elusive forest elephants and the Congo peacock.

Continuing north across the lake itself by boat, you then arrive in the city of Goma, a town built on a lava flow, before entering Virunga National Park, Africa's oldest ,containing half of all the biodiversity in sub-saharan Africa and three groups of mountain gorillas. Trekking the mountain gorillas here though is only the start of the adventure. From chimpanzees, to the world's only mountain gorilla orphanage, spending time with Virunga Park rangers and their tracker hounds before spending a night on the top of Nyiragongo volcano for a spectacular display of the world's largest lava lake, this is a thrilling journey through one of Africa's wildest regions.

Price includes two gorilla permits and one Nyiragongo permit.

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

Price Excluding Flights £Flight cost from 
£ 5500 £ 750

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Fly London to Nairobi overnight

Day 2

Fly Nairobi to Kigali


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.


Drive from Kigali to Nyungwe Forest
On arrival in Kigali, you are met and then drive south to Nyungwe Forest. The drive can take around 4-5 hours on roads that vary in quality, but is a wonderful trip travelling from the buzz of Kigali through the lower lying countryside and bright green tea plantations of Rwanda. Traditional villages and rolling hills form the backdrop of this drive and as you enter Nyungwe Forest, the scenery changes again as you enter what many consider to be one of the most beautiful forests in the country and the largest single tract of montane forest remaining anywhere in East or Central Africa.

With over 13 different species of primates found here, including L'Hoest's monkey and vervet monkey, it is still the chimpanzees who take the starring role. The birding here is also superb, with over 300 species and 26 endemics, along with 120 species of butterfly and the occasional, ever-changing chameleon hiding in the bushes. The forest is also home to Rwenzori colobus monkeys including a four hundred-strong semi-habituated group thought to be the largest troop of arboreal primates in Africa. On arrival, the remainder of the day is at leisure.


You will be staying at Nyungwe Rain Forest Lodge, Bed & Breakfast

Day 3

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.

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, Bed & Breakfast

Day 4

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.


You will be staying at The Orchids Safari Club, Bed & Breakfast

Day 5

Travel from Lake Kivu to Goma (Boat Journey)


Goma is the gateway to Virunga National Park and the history of the town is as dramatic as the setting. Whilst it is an important post for many NGO staff in the area - a result of the region's turbulent past, it is most famous for being a victim of Mount Nyiragongo's eruption in 2002. This destroyed much of the town centre and the effects can still be seen today.

Not surprisingly, the town is built from the black volcanic rock which surrounds the area, offering a startling contrast with the lush green hillsides, fed by the rich volcanic soil, and the distant volcanoes. Sitting on Lake Kivu itself and with Nyiragongo looming over it to the north, the town has a feel and atmosphere all of its own.

Look closely and you will see some of the older single-storey buildings are in fact the top level of what were once two-storey houses - the bottom storeys are buried under the lava flow which cut through town. The people are, of course, the most colourful aspect of the town - perhaps unsurprisingly full of defiant energy.


You will be staying at Ihusi Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 6

Drive from Goma to Virunga National Park


The 1 hour drive from Goma to Virunga National Park takes you through some of the most fertile landscapes in the region. Colourful traditional villages are surrounded by patchwork fields of sorghum, wheat and maize that cling to hillsides overlooking rainforest valleys with volcanoes smoking in the distance.


Virunga National Park is Africa's oldest national park and one of the most exciting. The park's 7800 square kilometres (3000 square miles) includes forests, savannahs, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, active volcanoes and the glacial peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains. It is also the only park in the world to have populations of three great ape species - the chimpanzee, the lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla, but wandering through the shadowy forests can be found the Okapi, both forest and savannah elephants, large colonies of hippo's, numerous rare birds and even lion. Added to this, half of all the biodiversity in sub-Saharan Africa can be found in Virunga. It is perhaps no wonder that this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most exciting places to explore in the Democratic Republic of Congo, perhaps in all of Africa.


You will be staying at Bukima Camp, Bed & Breakfast

Day 7

Virunga Gorilla Trek
Today you trek gorillas in Virunga National Park, the oldest and most spectacular park in Africa. The park offices are only a minutes' walk from Bukima, so after breakfast and a short briefing, you meet your porters and head out. A spectacular 20 minute walk in the shadow of Mt Mikeno brings you to the entrance of the park, where you step into the dark forest to begin your adventure. Walking through thick vegetation on overgrown paths can be slow going, the route you take depending on which of the four habituated mountain gorilla families you are looking for. Humba (eight individuals), Rugendo (eight individuals), Mapua (21 individuals) and Nyakamwe (nine individuals) all offer their own challenges, but with regular stops along the way, the chances of sightings are good and given the excellent work by the ranges, increasing all the time. Once the gorillas have been found, you spend one hour in their company, with your guides on hand to answer any questions and ensure you keep a safe distance. Once the hour is up, you then retrace your steps back to the offices for a short debrief before returning back to camp for a well-deserved shower. Afternoons are kept flexible depending on the length of the trek.


Transfer to Mikeno Lodge.


You will be staying at Mikeno Lodge, Full board

Day 8

Activities at Mikeno Lodge
Whilst at Mikeno, you can meet the canine anti-poaching unit, where the rangers use highly trained bloodhounds to track, apprehend and arrest poachers. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet the fearless rangers and their dogs, working hard to protect this threatened part of the world and find out about the vital - and dangerous - work they do each day.

After returning to the lodge you can visit the nearby Senkwekwe Gorilla Centre - the only facility of its kind in the world. Each gorilla has suffered as a result of poaching and loss of habitat, but now caretakers look after the gorillas in a large forested enclosure. Whilst contact with the gorillas themselves is forbidden, between 09:00 and 15:00 each day you can view the gorillas in the care of their guardians and gain an insight into the conservation work taking place here.

There may also be the chance to look for chimpanzees whilst at Mikeno, but this is a morning activity and sightings are very erratic so can never be guaranteed.


You will be staying at Mikeno Lodge, Full board

Day 9

Climb Nyirangongo
Set off to climb Nyiragongo, an almost perfectly conical active volcano that rises to 3,470 metres and named after a local woman whose spirit is said to haunt the region. After a briefing from the head ranger, you start the ascent midway through the morning, at around 2,000 metres slowly climbing towards the rim, where the summit camp is positioned. The trek should not be undertaken lightly, with climbing time heavily dependent on fitness, but it typically takes between four and six hours, including plenty of stops.

The first part of the climb passes through the volcano's forested lower slopes, which are home to a variety of animals, including chimpanzees and numerous birds - all of which are slowly returning after previous eruptions. Then continue up to the higher reaches, devoid of vegetation, which offer a stark, beautiful landscape, before finally, ascend to the rim itself, to peer down into the world's largest lava lake. On a clear day, the views from the summit are spectacular, with the verdant plains below extending into the distance. A night spent at the top allows for views of a very different kind. From the crater rim, look down into the heart of the volcano; watch as the fiery lava glows and boils in the darkness, a full moon adding drama to the vast plains below, reflected in Lake Kivu. This is not for the faint hearted, but the spectacular night-time show and stunning summit views justifies every step of the climb.


You will be staying at Nyiragongo Summit Shelter, Full board

Day 10

Descend Nyiragongo and transfer to Tchegera Island


You will be staying at Tchegera Island Lodge, Bed & Breakfast

Day 11

Travel from Tchegera Island to Goma (Boat Journey)

Drive from Goma to Kigali (Road Journey)

Fly Kigali to Nairobi

Fly Nairobi to London overnight

Day 12

Arrive London

Accommodation

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

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....

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Bukima Camp

Bukima Camp

Virunga National Park is currently closed for security reasons....

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Tchegera Island Lodge

Tchegera Island Lodge

Virunga National Park is currently closed for security reasons....

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Mikeno Lodge

Mikeno Lodge

Virunga National Park is currently closed for security reasons....

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Nyiragongo Summit Shelter

Nyiragongo Summit Shelter

Virunga National Park is currently closed for security reasons....

View Accommodation

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

Destination Experts

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Bridget Cohen, Travel Expert

"Bridget had a great knowledge of the areas being looked at and given I have spent time in both countries, it required someone who completely understood the type of camps preferred."

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Chris Johnston, Travel Expert

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"Excellent advice and information on our very first Steppes holiday. Chris was exceptionally helpful and patient and he treated us as individuals instead of tourists, by taking time find out what we wanted from our trip."

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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.

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