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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Rwanda

Mountain Gorillas and Endemics of the Albertine Rift

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Rwanda. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document that will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING RWANDA: Rwanda requires of U.S citizens a passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry and with at least two blank pages for entry stamps. A valid yellow fever certificate of immunization is required for those 9 months of age and older. 

Effective November 1, 2014 USA nationals as well as nationals of Australia, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom now require a visa to enter Rwanda. 

Travellers may obtain the latest information on visas as well as any additional details regarding entry requirements from Rwanda’s Directorate of Immigration and/or the Embassy of Rwanda, located at 1714 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20009, telephone 202-232-2882, fax 202-232-4544. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Rwandan Embassy or Consulate. 

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information for Rwanda here: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/rwanda.html , and the CIA World Factbook background notes here: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rw.html 

PACE OF TOUR AND DAILY ROUTINE: There are no strenuous walks on this tour other than possibly on the Gorilla trek (see below). Most walking is done around the grounds of the lodges were we stay, or along trails. 

We will try to make the most of the first few hours of daylight whenever we can so expect some early starts, although some of these will be for optional pre-breakfast excursions. There might be one or two night excursions to look for night birds but most of the time our day will end at around 18.00-19.00 and we will always try to allow one hour between returning to our lodge and meeting for dinner and completing our checklists.  

Rwanda is not a big country so there should not be any really long drives. However, while driving around the National parks, we may not be able to get out of the vehicle other than at designated sites.  The vehicles have roof hatches allowing you to stand and look out of the top. 

Gorilla Trekking:  We will arrive at the park headquarters before 7:00 a.m. to complete paperwork and receive a short introduction by our tracker/guide about the Gorilla group we will be visiting and the precautions we need to take. The trek to find can be quite short if our gorilla group is close but on most days an hour or two of rough hiking each way is necessary and it is best to be prepared for a long hike. 

The climb begins through the lush terraced farmland of the lower volcanic slopes but is likely to become steeper and rockier as we progress.  Some of the paths may be muddy and slippery too so wearing good walking boots are recommended. You may also find a walking stick or pole useful. In places we may be walking through dense vegetation, following paths cut by our guide. 

One problem around here is the presence of a type of stinging nettle that is particularly vicious. It has the ability to sting through normal lightweight trousers (so no shorts on the trek).  Please consider wearing either trousers made from a thicker material or wearing two layers.  A waterproof pair of over-trousers may be very useful for this. You might also like to take a pair of old gardening gloves to allow you to grab hold of vegetation as you walk.  You will need a small rucksack to carry some water and a lightweight waterproof jacket. 

Each visit is by permit and limited to one hour with the Gorillas, with a professional gorilla tracker in charge who will coach you in the safety rules and body language required when you come close to the Gorilla troops.  

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. 

Yellow Fever:  The CDC recommends a vaccination for anyone nine months of age or older. 

Malaria: The CDC recommends a malaria prophylaxis. Please consult your physician for which medicine is right for you. 

Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s  Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/rwanda

Altitude: Kigali sits at around 5,000 feet; Akagera National Park lies below 600 feet, Nyungwe National Park and Volcanoes National Park lie between 5,600 feet and 11,000 feet, although we will spend our time at the lower altitudes range. Note that we may find ourselves above 8,000 feet on the Gorilla trek. 

Miscellaneous:  

            Insects: Biting insects are not that common, bur some may be encountered during the daytime, especially in Akagera where tsetse flies (small horse flies) can be numerous, and of course mosquitoes may be present at night in lowland areas.  If using insect repellents with a high concentration of DEET, care must be taken to avoid getting repellent on optical equipment, as DEET dissolves rubber and plastic and can damage coated lenses. Camping supply stores carry some reasonably effective alternatives that contain natural products and aren’t corrosive. 

            Water:  We shall provide bottled water for all excursions, and will always have a supply on the bus when travelling. There will be some opportunities to purchase bottled water from supermarkets etc. where it will be cheaper. Soda water, soft drinks and beer are ubiquitous and safe to drink. 

            Intestinal Disorders:  Mild stomach upsets can be difficult to avoid and we strongly suggest bringing an adequate supply of a diarrhoea treatment such as Imodium or Arret.  Several sachets of re-hydrate powder can also be very useful as they replace the sugars and salts lost during bouts of diarrhoea.  

Finally, be sure to bring adequate supplies of all personal medication, as it may be impossible to obtain them during the tour. 

CLIMATE: Despite its proximity to the equator, much of Rwanda feels anything but tropical, and many people are not prepared for how chilly it can be.  Much of the tour is at elevations over 5,000 feet and highland days can be quite cool if there is cloud cover.  Lowland areas will be warm to hot (90°F) at midday.  Humidity is low, except at the coast.  Some rain is possible at any point of the tour but it should not be disruptive. 

ACCOMMODATION:  Accommodation is good throughout the tour. 

Akagera Game Lodge is more of a hotel than a traditional safari lodge. It has fantastic views over Lake Ihema, with a large swimming pool perched on the edge of the savannah. The lodge offers 58 en-suite rooms.  

Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotelis a new lodge perched high on a hilltop with truly spectacular views overlooking Lake Kivu to the West, Nyungwe Forest to the East, and on a clear day the Virunga Volcanoes can be seen way to the north. There are twelve simple but clean and comfortable villas each with en-suite bathrooms and a sitting room with log fireplace. 

Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is located in a rural setting one kilometre west of the Kinigi Park Headquarters. There is no electricity so the lodge operates a generator which is switched off at night. The lodge has 30 spacious individual cottages with basic amenities and en-suite facilities. 

FOOD: WINGS tours are all-inclusive, and no refunds can be issued for any tour meals participants choose to skip. 

Drinks: Bottled water, a soft drink or a beer is provided at lunch and dinner as is coffee or tea. Bottled water is provided in the vehicle during the day. All other drinks or ‘personal’ drinking water for use in your room and during the day is the responsibility of the individual. 

TRANSPORT: Transportation is in 4-wheel drive Toyota Landcruisers or Land Rovers with roof hatches for window-free viewing and photography.  Our drivers are professionals, skilled at finding birds and mammals, and at maintaining vehicles.  Some of the driving is on unmade roads and while most of these are in reasonable condition there are some bad sections.  In most National Parks leaving the vehicles is prohibited.  Each person will have a window seat and the roof hatches are helpful, but come prepared to spend an unusual amount of time in the vehicles.  

Please note that there isn’t very much space inside the vehicles for equipment so daypacks should be kept as small as possible and large photographic backpacks cannot be accommodated.  

Updated: 17 April 2015