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Many people want to know just what to expect when they are preparing to gorilla or golden monkey trek.
Depending on where you start your day can start as early as 4:30 AM with a departure from Kigali and then a two and half hour drive to the Volcanoes National Park offices. If you choose to stay overnight in the mountains you will be picked up by your driver by 6:30AM from most lodges in Musanze and driven to the Volcanoes National Park Offices. All participants are expected to reach the park office NO later then 7AM.
Once you reach the park offices you will have an opportunity to have a cup of tea or coffee, enjoy a short Intore Dance presentation and use the bathrooms. During this time your driver will meet with the other drivers and the park warden to divide all the participants into groups of eight. (Groups that arrive with eight or more will be divided) This process can take up to an hour, please be patient.
When the groups have been organized you will meet with the park ranger and the other participants that will be with you on your trek. You will have a small briefing about the family you will visit and about how to behave around the gorillas or golden monkeys. After the briefing you will return to your car and drive to the trailhead where you will begin your trek. At this point you will also have access to walking sticks and to hire porters to either carry your pack and or to help you with the trek. This is a great opportunity to give a community member a job for the day, though not required)
Your trek will usually take you through the fields of farmers and local community then over the park wall and into the park. This is when most people feel they are getting close. Though don’t be fooled. You may luck out and find the gorillas within a short period of time or you may need to trek far.
From the first sighting the park rangers will let you know that your time has begun and you will be given sixty minutes to observe, photograph and be amazed with these amazing animals in their homes. As a photographer I know the temptation to just shoot, shoot, shoot. But take some time away from the camera and just observe, it is spectacular and the images in your mind will last forever.
At the completion of your trek you will return to your car.
We hope you have a wonderful trek and this has helped you to imagine your day.
*Please note that all treks in the national park begin at an elevation of about 8-9000 feet about sea level. For some the altitude can be difficult.
By Air: Daily and direct flights into Kigali International Airport (KGL) are more available then ever. Some European routes include, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Brussels, as well as Istanbul and Dubai. Other cities you can search in Africa will connect through some of these cites Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Bujumbura (Burundi), Entebbe (Uganda), Nairobi (Kenya), Johannesburg (South Africa), Killimanjaro (Tanzania). If you would like a flight suggestion please contact us.
By Ground: Traveling from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda, there are busses that come to Kigali, Rwanda daily. These routes are often long and inexpensive, but do offer an unforgettable experience and great scenery.
Update on Visa’s to visit Rwanda. On May 7th 2015 a new policy was made by the Rwandan Government, and will go into effect by June 1 2015 and will be applicable for the next 12 months.
– National of Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States of America, shall get an entry visa and pay a $50.00 visa fee upon arrival at any entry into Rwanda without prior application. The visa is good for a total of 30 Days.
– EAC Partner states citizens will continue getting visitors visas for 6 months with no fee.
– DRC citizens will continue getting visitors visa for up to 90 days with not fee.
– Nationals of Singapore, Hong Kong, Mauritius and the Philippines are exempt from entry/tourism visa and may stay for up to 90 days.
-Nationals of African countries not exempt from the visa fee shall continue getting entry visa at Rwanda entry points.
-Nationals of countries not mentioned shall get a visa upon application before travelling and pay the prescribed fee.
For more information and the online application, please visit the Rwandan immigration page.
**Please note that Canadians do require a visa to enter Rwanda.
Please make sure when traveling to Rwanda and our region that you have with you an updated copy of your yellow WHO proof of vaccination card.
For other country reports please visit your countries websites.
April 3, 2016 – U.S. Embassy in Kigali. This announcement is not just for Americans.
Yellow Fever Vaccination Required for Entry into Rwanda
The U.S. Embassy in Kigali wishes to remind travelers to Rwanda that proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for entry. Due to a recent yellow fever outbreak in Angola, Rwandan immigration officials now require un-vaccinated air travelers over the age of one year to obtain a vaccine upon entry at the airport (cost $40 U.S. dollars). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all travelers age 9 months or older be vaccinated against yellow fever. The U.S. Embassy encourages any American citizen in Rwanda or planning to travel to Rwanda that has not been vaccinated to seek vaccination.
We remind all citizens to be vigilant in implementing anti-mosquito measures. Such measures can include: avoiding areas where there is standing water in which mosquitos can breed, avoiding being outdoors in the early morning or early evening twilight period, using mosquito repellants, and using mosquito netting.
American citizens should also be vigilant in recognizing the signs and symptoms of yellow fever, which can appear similar to those for malaria. These symptoms include sudden onset of fever, fatigue, weakness, chills, severe headache, arthralgia (joint pain) and general body pain, nausea, and vomiting. If you notice such symptoms, immediately seek diagnosis and treatment from a health-care provider.
For more information about Yellow Fever, please visit the CDC link FAQs about Yellow Fever.
For further information:
· Contact the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda, located at 2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie, Kacyiru, Kigali, at +250 252-596-400, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Fridays, except U.S. federal holidays and Rwandan holidays. After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +250 252-596-400.
· Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
For traveling abroad please make sure your passport has a minimum of 6 blank pages for entry and exit stamps. Some countries will place a full page visa into your passport eliminating a full page. It is also required that your passport expiration date is valid for at least six (6) months after your return date. If your passport does not have these things you may not be allowed in to your destination or even to board the plane.
There is only one required Vaccine for traveling into Rwanda. Please make an appointment with your travel doctor to obtain the Yellow Fever Vaccine as well as to discuss your options for Malaria medications. Many doctors may also recommend HepA and HepB and Typhoid. You may also wish to check with the CDC Website for more information. Please remember to bring with you the World Health Organization (WHO) card they give you once you have received your vaccines.
Rwanda’s currency is the Rwandan franc. Rwanda is a cash-based economy and offers few opportunities to use a credit or debit cards. There are many Forex exchange locations in Kigali making it easy to change your currency to Rwandan Francs.
BE AWARE UNITED STATES CURRENCY MUST HAVE A PRINT DATE OF 2009 OR NEWER. OLDER BILLS MAY AT TIMES NOT BE EXCHANGED, nor will bills in denomination less the $20. You will also receive a better exchange rate for your US dollars in Rwanda when you bring either $50’s or $100’s compared to $20’s. There a few banks in which debit and credit cards are accepted to access cash if needed. Transactions are cash only with the exception of a few of the larger hotel chains. If you would like suggestions on money please feel free to contact us.
About tipping – Tipping in Rwanda is not expected in restaurants yet we believe that all good work should be rewarded. Our suggested tip for the National Parks the rangers, guides, and porters be tipped between $5-$20 each. Your driver will also be appreciative of being tipped for his GOOD service, we suggest $15 -$25 per day.
Access to medical care is best in Kigali, where there is a well-equipped private hospital. There are other smaller hospitals and clinics around the country. If you require special medications we suggest that you bring whatever you may need including an additional three – four day supply.
In case of emergency while outside of the Kigali and in Rwanda, Akagera Aviation does provide for all members of RTTA emergency helicopter evacuation to Kigali.
We advise that you drink only bottled water while in Rwanda. Brushing your teeth is safe from the tap, though many do use bottled water just as a safety precaution.
Electricity: Rwanda’s voltage is 220V. Our recommendation for those traveling with multiple rechargeable batteries such as cameras, computers, cell phones or other equipment is that you bring extra batteries. As well as you may consider a power supply with a surge protector and multiple outlets.
Communication: Rwanda is becoming the hub of East African communications. There are many local Internet cafes both in Kigali and many towns throughout the country. Most of the larger hotels provide Internet access. Sim cards and/or cell phones are readily available as well as prepaid phone cards. If you have your own cell phone it must be unlocked in order to work with a local sim card. Sim cards may be purchased in the phone shops with identification. Airtime is prepaid and can be purchased easily on the street by local vendors.
Any time of year is a good time to travel in Rwanda. Rwanda is known as eternal spring. It maintains a relatively even temperature of about 76.3°F – 82°F/ 24.6°C – 27.6 °C. The hottest time of year is August through September. Evenings are often cool and refreshing and a sweater is suggested. There are two rainy seasons, March through May and October through December. The rainy season shows itself typically with a daily downpour mixed with sunshine. The annual rainfall averages 31.5 in/ 80 cm.
Rwanda is located in the middle of Africa, just 2 degrees south off the equator. It is commonly known as eternal spring so remember clothing for cool nights. For evening wear and eating out of doors we recommend long sleeves and pants as a deterrent for mosquitoes. Repellent impregnated clothing is great.
Day-to-day: Dress code in Rwanda is mostly casual but conservative. Shorts are acceptable but not seen often on locals. Women may be more comfortable in knee length shorts or skirts. For nightlife, women may like a nicer outfit for dinner and or dancing, men may like a dress shirt with chinos, khaki’s or slacks.
Other recommendations include sun block, Flashlight, book, journal with pens or pencils, extra batteries, memory cards for camera’s and/or film and Feminine Hygiene products.
Trekking: If your expedition includes trekking gorillas and or chimps in the Volcanoes NP or Nuyngwe NP, we recommend the following.
Long pants and sleeves
Firm footwear is required, no flip-flops
Windbreaker or light raincoat
If you are visiting the lakes Kibuye or Gisenyi don’t forget your swimsuit and towel.
The Rwanda government does not allow anyone under the age of 15 years to trek the Mountain Gorilla. All trekkers are required to be at the park offices no later then 7AM. All Gorilla permit sales are final.
For some trekking Mountain Gorilla’s can be strenuous. The starting elevation is about 9000 feet above sea level, and you can can upwards of 1500 – 2000 feet. The trek at times is through dense forest at a steep incline. The national park does provide porters for your convenience should you like them to carry your pack or even be of assistance while hiking. Should you have personal health concerns please see your personal physician.
Some trekkers like to have light rain jackets, pants, or gators and garden gloves for the thicker brush.
Please inquire with Intore Expeditions should you have other questions.
For those that are photographers and are trying to keep their weight load lighter here are our suggestions for lenses.
When treking Gorilla or Golden Monkey we have shot with these lenses: 18-200, 24-70 and 150-500. The light can be tricky if the gorilla are in the thick bamboo forest because of the lack of light and their incredibly dark black fur.
For Safari a long lens is best. As we have grown in our own photography and equipment we find we still very much like our 18-200 along with our longer lenses for distance.
We also carry with us two bodies each. One for each lens so we can eliminate the need to change in highly dusty environments. This also ensures us that we will have a back up body should something happen to our primary lens.
Please make sure you have extra batteries and memory cards. It is possible to get extra cards in Rwanda but they may not be the high quality or speed cards available in the US or Europe. Having fully charged batteries at the beginning of the day is critical. Even if you think you may have enough charge with 1/2 a charge recharge. You might not have a good source of power the next night.
Don’t overlook your small camera’s or phone cameras. We have seen many people shoot only with small cameras with good luck. They also offer a great option for video captures.
As of now there is no place in Rwanda to rent lenses so you will need to bring your own.
Please check with your airlines for weight limits for carry ons. Some airlines are more lenient that others.
WHAT IS THE BEST CAMERA TO BRING?
Some say the best camera is the one you have in your hand. Come and enjoy the beauty of Rwanda with what ever camera you have.