16 Day Virunga Circuit Safari

Places to Visit: Virunga Mountains | Rwanda, Congo and Uganda

Tour Overview

The Virunga Circuit Safari is developed around the Virunga Mountains which are a chain of volcanoes along the northern border of Rwanda, The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda. The mountain range is a branch of the Albertine Rift Mountains, which borders the western branch of the East African rift. They are located between Lake Edward and Lake Kivu.

The mountain range consists of eight major volcanoes. Most of them are dormant, except Mount Nyiragongo 3,462 meters (11,358 ft) and Mount Nyamuragira 3,063 meters (10,049 ft), both in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Recent eruptions occurred in 2006 and in January, 2010. Mount Karisimbi is the highest volcano at 4,507 meters (14,787 ft). The oldest mountain is Mount Sabyinyo, which rises 3,634 meters (11,923 ft.) above sea level.

Highlights:

  • Hike the Mt. Nyiragaongo in Congo
  • Exploring the cultural highlights of Rwanda and visit the Iby Iwachu Cultural Centre for cultural dancing and an informative experience about traditional local medicine
  • Golden monkey trekking in Parc National des Volcans
  • Double mountain gorilla trekking in Nkuringo and Volcanoes National Park
  • Batwa cultural experience in Buniga forest and the visit to the traditional herbalists and blacksmith
  • Chimpanzee habituation in Kibale national park
  • Spectacular launch cruise on Kazinga channel that combines lake Edward and lake George with exclusive game drives to explore queen Elizabeth national park
  • Enjoy the traditional dugout canoe ride on lake Mutanda

Specially Created for:

  • Nature lovers
  • Safari aficionados
  • Walking enthusiasts
  • Adventure travellers

The safari at a glance

  • Day 1: Pick You Up At Kigali International Airport B, L, D
  • Day 2: Kigali city tour and genocide visit – Volcanoes National Park B, L, D
  • Day 3: Karisoke Research Center for a Cultural Experience  B, L, D
  • Day 4: Gorilla tracking activity – Volcanoes National Park B, L, D
  • Day 5: Misanze to Gisenyi -Lake Kivu B, L, D
  • Day 6: Cross to DRC – Hike Mount Nyiragongo (3470m) B, L, D
  • Day 7: Mount Nyiragongo to Lake Mutanda B, L, D
  • Day 8: Proceed To Nkuringo, Bwindi Impeneratable Forest National Park B, L, D
  • Day 9: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park B, L, D
  • Day 10: Community tour, Buniga Forests (encounter with the Batwa) B, L, D
  • Day 11: Nkuringo to Buhoma sector- Queen Elizabeth National Park B, L, D
  • Day 12: Game drive in Ishasha Sector and Transfer to Kasenyi Sector B, L, D
  • Day 13: Full day Queen Elizabeth National Park B, L, D
  • Day 14: Game Drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park,Later Transfer to Kibale B, L, D
  • Day 15: Chimpanzee Habituation in Kibale National Park B, L, D
  • Day 16: Kibale National Park to Entebbe B, L, D

Safari Itinerary in Detail

Day 1: Pick You Up At Kigali International Airport 

Arrival Kigali International Airport and transfer to your accommodation, depending on time of arrival possible city tour.

  • Overnight: at Hotel Mille Collines (BB)

Day 2: Kigali city tour and genocide visit – Volcanoes National Park

After breakfast, conduct city tour and visit Rwanda’s genocide memorial for the ancient history of the tusi and the hutu people of Rwanda. The continue the journey to Musanze Volcanoes National park, visit coffee plantation and various side trips on a scenic drive through Rwandan countryside to Ruhengeri Township in the foothills of the Virunga volcanoes.

  • Overnight: at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge (FB)

Day 3: Karisoke Research Center for a Cultural Experience 

Today we have variety offers golden monkeys, visit Mt. Visoke or visit the Karisoke Research Center. This afternoon, continue exploring the cultural highlights of this area and visit the Iby Iwachu Cultural Centre for cultural dancing and an informative experience about traditional local medicine. This cultural group was formed by pygmies and ex-poachers and we shall listen to their side of the story after abandoning the illegal practice.

  • Overnight: at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge (FB)

Day 4: Gorilla tracking activity – Volcanoes National Park

With an early breakfast, drive to the park headquarters for gorilla briefing. When venturing into this gigantic forest, a packed lunch, comfortable clothes, shoes and a walking stick is a must before gorilla tracking. The time spent gorilla tracking is unpredictable, It varies from 2-8 hours before an encounter with the family of these gentle creatures. The location of each gorilla family depends on temperature, their feeding range and movement of the previous day.

Enjoy this1 hour (only time allowed in the company of each gorilla family a day) watch and capture this memorable experience as they go about their day to day activities; the young ones playing around the old ones, feeding each other and eating foliage. The sight of these outstanding creatures is the climax of this entire safari. Later retire for an overnight at the lodge.

  • Overnight at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge (B-L-D)

Day 5: Misanze to Gisenyi -Lake Kivu 

After breakfast, you will transfer to Gisenyi town which is located on the shores of Lake Kivu. On arrival, you will go for relaxing activities like swimming, sport fishing and boat cruise. The cruise will provide you with a spectacular view of the Kibuye and Gisenyi towns.

  • Overnight at Lake Kivu Serena Hotel (FB)

Day 6: Cross to DRC – Hike Mount Nyiragongo (3470m)

Depart Gisenyi early morning to cross the DRC border, clearing with customs to then proceed directly to Kibati Patrol post the start post for the Nyiragongo volcano climb. Its approximately 30minutes drive from Goma to Kibati. Today is the real adventure when you spend a day hiking the live volcano Nyiragongo. The 4-5 hour hike through lush rainforest takes you to the spot where the volcano erupted in 2002.

  • Overnight at Cabanas at the top of the volcano.

Day 7: Mount Nyiragongo to Lake Mutanda

After breakfast start the descent of Mt. Nyriangongo to arrive at the head of the trail and meet your vehicle to proceed across the border to Uganda, meet up with your guide and transfer to the shores of Lake Mutanda and conduct a canoe excursion for 2 hrs to overnight on the shores of the Lake at Chameleon hill conducting amazing views of the Virunga Volcanoes.

  • Overnight at Chameleon Hill Lodge

Day 8: Proceed To Nkuringo, Bwindi Impeneratable Forest National Park 

After breakfast with the Nkuringo Walking Safari guide, conduct 9km walk in the rural communities on the village path, giving you a great perspective in the lives of the local people and great photographic opportunities as long the way, the walk takes 3 hours and  then you rendezvous with your vehicle and transfer to Nkuringo to relax and prepare for the Gorilla tracking the next day.

  • Overnight at Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla lodge (FB)

Day 9: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park 

Following a briefing, visitors embark on a forest trek lasting from a few hours up to a full day, depending on the location of the gorillas as they range freely in the impenetrable forest, which family ranges the Kashasha river valley below the Nteko ridge. On completion of this once in a lifetime opportunity you will return to Nkuringo to relax and reflect back on the day’s experience

  • Overnight at Nkuringo Gorilla lodge (FB)

Day 10:  Community tour, Buniga Forests (encounter with the Batwa)

This morning after a hearty breakfast, enjoy birding in Nombe Pocket Forest – it was part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and it is still quite impenetrable, however it was cut off from it as people needed more land to live on and cultivate. It can be reached on foot (approx. 1 hour to go and 2 hours to come back) or by vehicle and the visit lasts approx. 2 hours, depending on the interest of guests.

Lunch at the lodge at 2.00 pm departure to Buniga Forest Trail Walk, an informative project run by USAID and the local Batwa community. The Batwa tribe was forced to leave their home in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in 1991 when it was declared a UNESCO Heritage site for gorillas only. They had been living in the forest as nomadic hunter-gatherers for millennia, in perfect balance with the flora and fauna around. Moving out and suddenly living in communities with a completely different way of life has proven to be a huge challenge. They now survive as best as they can and earn a living explaining their previous life in the forest and their rich heritage.

Continuation of the walk through the community to visit the traditional herbalist and the black smith

  • Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge (FB)

Day 11: Nkuringo to Buhoma sector- Queen Elizabeth National Park

With an early breakfast, proceed to the park headquarters for a nature walk from Nkuringo to Buhoma. Enjoy a 15km walk from Nkuringo following the Kashasha River and Ivy River trails. This is a full day walk where there would be an opportunity of visiting the Munyaga River falls in the forest. The emphasis of this activity is for your walking guide to share his knowledge of the forest that you come into contact with and not simply an A to B.

On reaching Buhoma with your vehicle, and guide transfer to Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, lying 1978 sq. km west of Uganda. It harbours a diverse eco-system with a lovely savannah, fertile wetlands making it home for the big game, 10 primate species and a large number of bird species. Enjoy game drive in the Ishasha sector in search of the tree climbing lions and overnight by the River Ishasha in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

  • Overnight – Ishasha Wilderness Camp (FB)

Day 12:Game drive in Ishasha Sector and Transfer to Kasenyi Sector

Early Morning game drive in the Ishasha Sector in search of tree climbing lions and return to the Lodge for breakfast,  after checking out of the camp, continue on game drive as you drive into the Kasenyi sector.  In the afternoon conduct game drive in the Queen Elizabeth National Park the tracks through Kasenyi, the North Kazinga Plains offer virtually guaranteed buffalo, antelope and elephant sightings, along with warthogs and baboons. Taking an experienced guide in the early morning or at dusk is the most successful way to track down a pride of lions, and maybe even the odd leopard.

  • Overnight: Kasenyi Safari  Lodge (FB)

Day 13: Full day Queen Elizabeth National Park

With an early breakfast, procced to a spectacular game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park in the morning and after lunch; we will drive down to the Kazinga Channel and take a boat ride along the river. The launch trip along the Kazinga Channel is one of the most popular activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park. It provides an amazing chance to sit back, relax and enjoy the fresh river breeze whilst observing a large selection of animals. Those species commonly seen along the riverbank are elephants, buffalo, waterbuck and Ugandan Kob. Large breeding pods of hippos are also seen on a daily basis. On occasion visitors will also see giant forest hog, leopard and lion. The water birds in the area are plentiful; in particular, water thick knee, yellow‐billed stork, various plovers, white pink‐backed Pelicans and white‐bellied cormorants.

  • Accommodation: Kasenyi Safari Lodge 

Day 14: Game Drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park,Later Transfer to Kibale

Have an early breakfast, enjoy another game drive. View more game as you catch them from their hunt expeditions before driving to Kibale. Enjoy the land scape as you set off to Kibale Forest National Park found in Fort Portal, a town at the south-western side of Uganda. The park bares homage to a very large number of primates.

  • Overnight: at Primate Lodge (FB)

Day 15: Chimpanzee Habituation in Kibale National Park 

Full day chimpanzee tracking activity at Kanyanchu, clients to report at 6:30am for full day chimpanzee habituation experience where the clients will spend time with the Chimpanzees from nest to nest. Kanyanchu’s chimps have been tracked since 1993 and the chances of locating them are excellent

  • Overnight at Primate Lodge (FB)

Day 16: Kibale National Park to Entebbe 

Morning visit of the Bigodi swamp walk, then proceed with your driver for 6hour drive to Entebbe, various stops en route for photographic opportunities and visiting local markets along the road. Transfer to Papyrus Guesthouse to freshen up and then transfer to Entebbe International Airport – outbound flight.

            END OF VIRUNGA CIRCUIT SAFARI 

Interested? Ready to go or want to know more? Let us know, below. Or email info@nkuringowalkingsafaris.com.