Rwanda Gorilla Trekking and Kayaking | Adventure Unbound

Gorilla Trekking and Kayaking

Combining paddling on the sparkling waters of Lake Kivu and an unforgettable trek to see the mountain gorillas of Virunga, this 13-day Rwanda adventure is one you’ll never forget. Begin in the capital city, Kigali, to learn about the country’s tumultuous past before discovering why it has been nicknamed the “Land of a Thousand Hills” as we journey to Nyungwe National Park, famed for its chimpanzees. Hike along the picturesque shores of Lake Kivu on the Congo Nile Trail while meeting the local farmers before paddling to one of the lake’s islands for a night under the stars. After visits to social enterprises, coffee plantations, and conservation research centers, your adventure ends hiking through the dense forests of the Virunga Volcanoes National Park to meet golden monkeys and mountain gorillas. 

Images & Videos

Gorillas in Rwanda
Mountain views in Rwanda, Africa
Happy guests kayaking in a lake in Rwanda, Africa
A group of zebras seen on a safari in Rwanda
Two local kids riding a bike in a village in Rwanda
Kayakers on a lake in Rwanda admiring the lush green environment nearby
Baby gorilla being held in its moms arms in Rwanda
Kayaking through a scenic lake in Rwanda, Africa
Community of Rwanda locals dancing
Giraffe spotting while driving through Rwanda, Africa
Happy kayakers on Lake Kivu in Rwanda
Kids in a Rwandan village waving hello
Gorillas in Rwanda
Mountain views in Rwanda, Africa
Happy guests kayaking in a lake in Rwanda, Africa
A group of zebras seen on a safari in Rwanda
Two local kids riding a bike in a village in Rwanda
Kayakers on a lake in Rwanda admiring the lush green environment nearby
Baby gorilla being held in its moms arms in Rwanda
Kayaking through a scenic lake in Rwanda, Africa
Community of Rwanda locals dancing
Giraffe spotting while driving through Rwanda, Africa
Happy kayakers on Lake Kivu in Rwanda
Kids in a Rwandan village waving hello


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Day 1

Arrival Day

Fly into Kigali and make your way into town where an orientation meeting and group dinner will be held.

ACCOMMODATION : Heaven Boutique Hotel or Similar

Day 2

Kigali Day Tour

Overcome any jet lag with a relaxed morning at the hotel, followed by a tour of Kigali. This modern capital city is undergoing a rapid transformation, despite its traumatic past. Visit the Nyamirambo Women’s Center and stroll through the surrounding neighborhood to get a glimpse into daily life and learn about some of the social enterprises working here. 

Then pay a visit to the Genocide Memorial, which is a poignant reminder of the country’s past and a reminder of how far it has come. While the exhibits can be confronting, being aware of this history is important for understanding Rwanda and the people you will connect with along your journey. 

ACCOMMODATION : Heaven Boutique Hotel or Similar
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3

Nyanza King’s Palace and Nyungwe National Park

After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll depart Kigali and drive south to the Nyanza King’s Palace to see a royal residence dating from the 19th century. Learn about the leadership of King Yuhi V Musinga, then continue to the National Ethnographic Museum in Huye to explore what is one of Africa’s finest ethnographic collections. Gifted to the country by Belgium in 1987 to celebrate 25 years of independence, the collection offers a fascinating insight into Rwandan culture, with exhibits related to geology, agriculture, music, and arts.

Refuel during lunch in Huye before continuing west to Nyungwe National Park, which is home to 13 species of primates and a population of around 500 chimpanzees. Established in 1933, the park encompasses two of Africa’s largest rivers - the Nile and Congo - and protects the largest remaining area of montane rainforest in eastern Africa. Nyungwe is a biologically rich region, with hundreds of plant and animal species recorded here, 15% of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Aside from chimpanzees, various species of colobus have also been observed within the forest, together with more than 300 bird species, 100+ butterfly species, and five different chameleons. 

ACCOMMODATION : Nyungwe Top View Hotel
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4

Nyungwe National Park

Begin the day with a naturalist-led walk to see black and white Ruwenzori colobus monkeys, with Nyungwe’s troop of around 350 thought to be the largest group of arboreal primates in Africa. Watch as they swing in the trees and socialize with one another in their natural environment. 

After the morning walk, we’ll visit a nearby tea plantation to see how the leaves are processed from harvest to teacup and how the industry contributes to Rwanda’s economy. Then continue along the Igishigishigi Trail’s spectacular canopy walkway, which is situated 100-120 feet (30-40 meters) above the forest floor. Suspended between huge trees, it stretches for about 600 feet (200 meters) and offers a bird’s eye view of the surrounding forest.

In the late afternoon, we’ll return to our hotel to enjoy its picturesque grounds and forest views. 

Activity: Morning walk 1-3 miles. Afternoon 1-3 miles.

ACCOMMODATION : Nyungwe Top View Hotel
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5

Chimpanzee viewing and Lake Kivu

Rise early for a morning hike to view some of Nyungwe’s chimpanzees, with their loud calls often heard before these primates are seen. Described by Jane Goodall as the “pant-hoot”, they use these calls to identify one another through the dense forest foliage. Spend time observing and photographing these fascinating animals with which we share 95% of our DNA!

We’ll then drive for a couple of hours to the shores of Lake Kivu, which is surrounded by blue-hued mountains and verdant surrounds. It’s one of the deepest freshwater lakes in the world, with its sandy beaches and scalloped shoreline making it a popular kayaking destination. After lunch at our lodge, we’ll enjoy a walk along the Congo Nile Trail as it follows the shores of Lake Kivu, chatting with locals we meet along the way as they work in their agricultural fields. We’ll return to our lodge to rest and prepare for the following day’s kayaking. 

Activity: Morning walk 2-4 miles. Afternoon 2-3 miles. 

ACCOMMODATION : Cormoran Lodge or Similar
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6

Lake Kivu

After breakfast at the lodge, you’ll be guided through a kayaking orientation and safety talk before beginning our paddle north along the shores of Lake Kivu. We’ll stop along the way as our interests dictate, with a picnic lunch served accompanied by spectacular scenery.

Activity: Kayaking: 8 miles (this can be extended if some wish to paddle more).

ACCOMMODATION : Rwiza Village Lodge
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7

Lake Kivu’s “Bay of Islands”

Today will be spent paddling along the shores and between the islands of Lake Kivu, keeping our eyes peeled for African fish eagles, monkeys and Congo clawless otters. We’ll stop for lunch on one of the islands and embark on a short walk to its summit for panoramic views across the lake. 

In the late afternoon, we’ll arrive at our island camp, which will be prepared for our arrival and allows you to be immersed in the lake’s tranquility. A highlight of the evening will be paddling out into the lake to hear the fishermen singing, with their voices resonating across the water. 

ACCOMMODATION : Fully Catered Island Camp
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8

Paddle north to Kinuni

Begin the day with a short paddle along the shores of Lake Kivu before arriving in time for lunch at our lodge. The afternoon will be spent walking with a local guide who will introduce us to some of the nearby villages and their inhabitants to learn about life in Rwanda. 

Activity: Kayaking 5 miles (this can be extended for those wanting a longer paddle) / Walking 2-4 miles with 300-400 feet elevation gain.

ACCOMMODATION : Rushel Kivu Lodge
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9

Kayaking to the Village of Cyimbili and Coffee Plantation Tour

Begin our final day of kayaking by paddling to the small village of Cyimbili, perhaps stopping in the market village of Nkora along the way. Originally established as a planned community, Cyimbili has now become a hub for coffee plantations, with the opportunity to learn about the process on a tour of one.

After a village lunch, we’ll return to the lake for a motorboat transfer to the northern end of Lake Kivu. Here we’ll base ourselves in the lovely fishing village of Rubona, a satellite settlement of bustling Gisenyi, which has become a popular resort area. Enjoy an evening stroll around the village, with the opportunity to mingle with the locals in one of the breweries. 

Activity: Kayaking 7.5 miles / Walking 1 mile.

ACCOMMODATION : Paradise Malahide Lodge
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10

Musanze and Dian Fossey’s Karisoke Research Center

We’ll depart our beach resort in the morning for the 1.5-hour drive to Musanze, Rwanda’s third-largest city and the gateway to Volcanoes National Park. Situated at 6,000 feet (1,850 meters), it features a dramatic, mountainous backdrop and a pleasant climate. We’ll visit an inspiring weaving project called Handspun Hope where marginalized women have found employment producing woven art, then refuel over lunch. 

In the afternoon, we’ll visit the Karisoke Research Center to learn about the work of Dian Fossey, as well as ongoing gorilla conservation and research. See manuscripts and diaries from her early days spent researching the gorillas, then learn about the lives of gorillas and their biology during a special presentation. 

ACCOMMODATION : Ingagi Park View Lodge or similar
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11

Morning walk to see golden monkeys and afternoon hike at Lake Ruhondo

Rise early and prepare for our morning trek to see golden monkeys, an endangered species that is native to Africa. Witness these agile forest dwellers swinging through the forest canopy and perhaps even walking right by us along the ground.

Around noon, we’ll return to our lodge for lunch before embarking on a short walk around the shores of Lake Ruhondo. Watch the fishermen on the lake and spot birdlife while chatting with locals along the way. Once you’ve had enough, a motorboat will pick the group up for a late afternoon cruise to soak up the scenery, which includes views of all five Virunga volcanoes. 

Activity: 2-4 miles walking for golden monkey trek. Walking 3-5 miles at Lake Ruhondo

ACCOMMODATION : Ingagi Park View Lodge or similar
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12

Tracking mountain gorillas and return to Kigali

Our day begins early at the headquarters of Virunga Volcanoes National Park where we’ll start our trek to see Rwanda’s mountain gorillas. Numbering around 1,000 individuals in total, there are approximately 500 living in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and 500 in the Virunga Volcanoes area, which straddles the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These peaceful primates spend much of their day on the forest floor and trackers will radio ahead to notify our guides of their approximate location. 

You’ll spend an unforgettable hour with the gorillas, with time limits imposed to protect the troupes from habituation with humans. Mountain gorilla tourism provides a vital role in their conservation, however, as without the funds it generates, there may not be any of these primates left in the world. 

Upon our return to the park headquarters, we may visit a community project called the Gorilla Guardians Village before returning to Kigali for a farewell dinner. 

ACCOMMODATION : Heaven Boutique Hotel or Similar
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13

Free day in Kigali  

After breakfast at the hotel, it’s time to transfer to the Kigali International Airport for your flight home or onward travel. 

Dates & Rates

DatesAdult (USD)Child (USD) 
Nov 07, 2023 to Nov 19, 2023 $8,285£0€0$0$0$8,285£0€0$0$0

Supplementary Information

*Custom dates for 2+ people available year around, please inquire with an Adventure Consultant for additional details. 

Tier Pricing:

  • 4-5 guests $8,950/person
  • 6-13 guests $8,285/person

Single Supplement:

  • $750/person


  • Private transfers with a knowledgeable English-speaking driver guide
  • Qualified, experienced, English speaking and government-registered activity leaders in various locations
  • All accommodation 
  • All meals except as indicated  
  • National Park entrance fees and National Park guides 
  • Single kayaks for the duration of the activity
  • Qualified, experienced, English speaking paddlesport leaders
  • Camping equipment for the one-night camp on the island, including three-person tents (sleeping two), sleeping pads, camping pillows and (optionally) sleeping bags
  • Helicopter emergency medical evacuation service insurance policy within Rwanda (compulsory) 
  • All drinking water from reusable containers* (Except where unavoidable, single use plastic bottles will not be used, so all group members must carry at least two 1-litre reusable or filter water bottles. A filter water bottle works especially well whilst kayaking as the water in Lake Kivu is safe to drink after filtering or treating. Filter suggestions will be provided.)
  • All Local taxes

 Not Included: 

  • International travel insurance (compulsory),
  • International flights
  • Visa fees ($50 fee payable on arrival at the Kigali airport).
  • Drinks beyond water such as soda, beer, or other alcoholic drinks
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, miscellaneous tips when you are on your own,
  • Memorial photography fees, medical evacuation or treatment costs apart from helicopter evacuation to Kigali, international calls, any hotel mini bar and Wi-Fi charges applicable. 
  • Permit fees for the gorilla trek 
  • Permit fee for golden monkey trek 


  • Gorilla Trek Permit - $1500
  • Golden Monkey Permit - $100

FAQ & More

What’s the best time of year to visit Rwanda?

Rwanda is near the equator, so temperatures stay fairly consistent year round and can be considered pleasantly warm.  Generally they range from 80-81 F during the day and 52-55 F at night.  In the mountains, particularly in Volcanoes National Park, it is cooler while it can be warmer in the far west due to lower elevation.

There are also seasonal rainy and dry seasons in Rwanda. There is a short dry season from December to February.  This is followed by a rainy season through May.  Then June to mid-September is a longer dry season.  This is followed by a rainy season in October and November. 

Bear in mind there is no perfect science here and also that even during the rainy season the rains typically don’t last long and are often in the afternoon.  To learn more visit:

What do I need to pack?

You can refer to the packing list under 'Packing and Trip Details tab to the left of this page. 

What is the currency of Rwanda?

The official currency is the Rwandan Franc.

Is English spoken?

English is the second language in Rwanda and many people in the cities and tourism enterprises speak English.  In small villages it is much less common.

What are the chances of seeing gorillas?

On the gorilla trek or gorilla safari that we do, there is an almost certain opportunity to see gorillas.  In Volcanoes National Park there are currently 10 habituated groups (family units that have become accustomed to being around humans).  They can be within a half hour walk of the Park Headquarters, or 2-3 hours away.  Usually we walk somewhere between 1-2 hours to reach our assigned family group.  However, as the gorillas do move, it could be longer. The Park tries to send groups of people that are more fit to the troops that are farther away, and groups desiring less walking or hiking to those closer.

How does the mountain gorilla trek operate?

The opportunity to see the gorillas is managed by the Rwandan National Park system. Permits are limited and purchased in advance. The permit allows for one hour of actual viewing time with the gorillas. This is in addition to the time required to hike to and from the gorilla troop. The day starts early at Park headquarters where we are assigned a guide and are divided into groups of no more than 8 people. After a short orientation meeting we drive to whatever location is closest to the gorillas.  Then we walk between a half hour and 2-3 hours to reach the gorillas. Once we arrive at the location of the gorillas, the one-hour clock begins. The guides instruct us where to move and stand as we observe these impressive animals. There is plenty of opportunity to take photographs.

Are the mountain gorillas dangerous?

Gorillas are wild animals and thus to a certain degree, are unpredictable.  However, the Park rangers spend several years habituating each troop to be used to human visitors.  Some of the groups have been habituated for over 10-15 years.  Young gorillas born into a habituated troop are immediately habituated as they observe their troop interact with humans.  It is critical to follow the instructions and directions given by the guides and do as they say when we are near the gorillas (and other times as well).

What are the golden monkey and other primate walks like?

The other primates we observe on this trip (chimpanzees, golden monkeys, black and white colobus and others) are wild animals that move freely in their forest environment.  In each case we have to walk or hike to their location.  In some cases, they are on the move and we may not get very close.  In general, they are much more active and mobile than the gorillas.  Local Park guides do their best to provide the best possible viewing.

What other wildlife will we see?

There are many birds in Rwanda, some of which are endemic to the area, and we see a number of these during our trip. Outside of the National Parks there are few wild animals. Classic African animals can be found at Akagera National Park. (see below)

Can I see the Big Five in Rwanda?

Yes! We offer an extension to our main tour to visit Akagera National Park in the east of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania.  The Big Five live here!  Thus you can see lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard.  You typically see giraffe, zebra and antelopes as these are all abundant.  In terms of the variety of antelope, there are Klipspringer, eland, impala, Defass waterbuck, common duiker, bushbuck and sitatunga.  In the lakes there are hippos and crocodiles.  There are also baboons, monkeys and warthogs. Other species can only be seen at night and include genets, civets, aardvark, porcupine, bushbabies, elephant shrew and others.

Why should I travel with Adventure Unbound in Rwanda?

We personally research all our destinations with a goal to design unique itineraries you won’t find anywhere else.  Our Paddling & Primates trip is the only trip that combines primate viewing, a gorilla safari and kayaking on Lake Kivu.  We choose locally-run, unique accommodations and eat in interesting, locally-operated restaurants.  We know our guides and drivers personally and they in turn know our guest expectations.  We do not use high-end accommodations, so our tour is an excellent value for those focused on having an authentic, wildlife-rich active vacation.

Can I do a private trip in Rwanda?

Yes, we are happy to accommodate groups as small as 1 and as large as you may wish to travel to Rwanda.  If our itinerary isn’t what you are looking for we can custom design any tour you might wish.

Can I combine gorilla watching in Rwanda with other gorilla destinations?

Mountain gorillas are found in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  A number of operators offer tours that combine Rwanda and Uganda and we too are happy to design a custom tour, or an extension to our tour, should you wish to visit the gorillas in other countries.

Is it possible to see the eastern lowland gorillas?

Eastern lowland gorillas are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park near the south end of Lake Kivu.  We are happy to arrange custom tours to see these gorillas, which are the largest species of gorilla in the world.  We have personally experienced this and highly recommend it for the adventurous traveler.

What is the food like in Rwanda?

The food on our trips is locally prepared and delicious. In Kigali there are some very innovative restaurants while those in the countryside and smaller cities are more basic. Meals consist of various ingredients including fish, meat, vegetables, nuts and tropical fruits.  Typical items on menus include beans, bananas, fried plantains, sweet potatoes and cassava.  There is also Umutsima which is a dish of cassava and corn, and isombe (cassava leaves with eggplant and spinach). Brochettes of lamb, goat and fish are common.  A delicacy from Lake Kivu are tiny fish called Sambaza that are deep-fried.

Is there malaria in Rwanda?

There are some regions in Rwanda where mosquitoes that carry malaria are present.  Check with your personal physician and the CDC website for details on any precautions you may want to take. It’s always wise to wear long sleeves, long pants and socks in the late afternoon/evening when mosquitoes are most likely to be active.

Is Ebola a concern?

In 2018-19 another Ebola outbreak occurred in the DRC.  A very few cases have crossed the border into either Uganda or Rwanda.  A successful vaccine has been developed and is now in use which is changing the situation dramatically.  Traveling to this area of the world is a personal choice based on your own risk tolerance.

Can I drink tap water in Rwanda?

We recommend that you drink only filtered water.  We ask you to bring a water bottle and we provide clean drinking water dispensed from large containers. Of course, there are many other beverages available including soft drinks, tea, coffee, beer and wine.

What are good souvenirs from Rwanda?

You will find a wide variety of handmade souvenirs and crafts are available.  On our tour we visit a couple of women’s foundations that make and sell crafts including woven items, textiles and art.

Should I bring gifts for the local people I meet?

Rwanda is a poor country and gifts are much appreciated.  While we include incidental tips on our tours, tipping hospitality servers and providers is always welcome and an effective way to help people.  Items from your home town such as postcards, or a small picture-book of your home region can be a good conversation-starter and fun gift to connect with people.  Memory sticks are always appreciated.  T-shirts make for good gifts.  Please do not bring cheap plastic things, or things that would require batteries as these are expensive for people.

What type of outlets are in Rwanda?

In Rwanda you find two associated plug types, types C and J. Plug type C is the plug which has two round pins as in Europe and plug type J is the plug which has three round pins. Rwanda operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz. A few hotels also have US outlets.

Do I need any vaccinations to visit Rwanda?

Please speak to your travel clinic and look at the CDC (Center for Disease Control)  website, for advice on tropical diseases that are found in Rwanda.

Important note about Yellow Fever:

Yellow Fever is possible in Rwanda so to prevent it becoming re-established, proof of having been vaccinated is mandatory for travellers coming from any country at risk of Yellow Fever (or after visiting a neighboring country on the same trip). Thus whilst visitors arriving directly from Europe, USA and Canada may not need to show a Yellow Fever certificate on arrival, you must have a Yellow Fever certificate if you visit a neighboring country on the same trip.

When kayaking on Lake Kivu, which is fresh water, there could be, in theory, a parasite that can cause schistosomiasis. There is no vaccine or prophylaxis for this. We consider the risk to be low, and the main precaution is to not swim in the shallow water near shore. 

Should you become unwell after your visit to Rwanda, explain to your doctor where you have travelled and the activities you have taken part in so that they can advise the correct treatment. The treatment for schistosomiasis is a short course of a tablet called Praziquantel, which the World Health Organisations describes as “effective, safe, and low-cost”

How can I give back to the local community there?

During your visit to Rwanda you will come across many amazing people and places. It is an incredible country. We visit a couple of non-profit cooperatives along the way, and buying things from their gift store is a great way to give back and support them. Or you can simply offer a donation.  

Other great organizations are Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam, both of which work in Rwanda. It is much better to give to an organization that understands the needs of community and has long-term goals, so we ask you not bring or give gifts of money or any other items to local people except as noted above. Especially do not give things to children.

Should I tip guides and drivers?

You will have a main driver/guide with you during the day, at all times during the trip except when kayaking. During those days, you will have a kayak guide.  There will be many other staff that come and go along the way.  On the primate treks there are “trackers” that go out early in the morning to find the animals. They then communicate this information to the “Park Guide” and/or “Rangers” who will be hiking with you.  At some point, usually at the end of the trek, this entire group of people will be present to say good-bye.  This is the time to offer them a gratuity as outlined below.  The “Park Guide” will return with you to the start of the trek and can be tipped when you say good-bye to them.  While this may seem a bit like “nickle and diming” we have no other good way to coordinate this.  Tipping is totally at your discretion.  However, remember that the animals in the forest are surviving because tourism has created an economic benefit that exceeds poaching, hunting for bushmeat, clear-cutting the forest, etc.  

During the gorilla trek, there are men who offer to carry your daypack. Even if it is small and light, we recommend that each couple hire one of these to support the local community.  The normal gratuity for them is around $10-15.

  • Activity guides (kayak guides )$5-10 per person per day
  • National park guide: $5-8 per person, per trek
  • Ranger: $2-3 per person per ranger
  • Trackers: $2-3 per person per tracker
  • Hotel/lodge staff: $5 per person per day – more at more upscale places as you see fit
  • Driver/guide: $5-10 per person per day (Tipped on return to Kigali at end)

Note that when you go to Akagera National Park you will have a new guide/driver from the Lodge, so will be saying good-bye to your main guide/driver at the point you leave Kigali for the National Park.

What are your Terms and Conditions?

Please see our full Terms & Conditions HERE.

Custom or Private

You love this itinerary but want to change it a bit to make it perfect for you?  Or, are you wanting to simply make it private?  Either way, we can do it!

Fill out this quick form to begin a custom or private adventure of a lifetime:

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