• Rwanda gorilla close up

Rwanda wildlife highlights and what to see where

Without a doubt, the prime attraction of Rwanda’s wildlife still remains the endangered mountain gorilla. A wildlife icon, hard to beat, the mountain gorilla inhabits the forested slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes in Rwanda and DRC, and the impenetrable forest of Bwindi in Uganda. Previous populations of this critically endangered species plummeted as low as 250 or so in the 1980’s, but with concerted efforts over the last 30 years, the mountain gorilla population has increased to approximately 1,060 to date over the 3 destinations. The wildlife of Rwanda does not stop here though, as over the years, alongside the protection of the mountain gorillas, we have seen a stabilization in the tracking of the elusive chimpanzees of Nyungwe Forest in the south, and healthy investment in the savannah game park of Akagera.

Mountain gorillas, Rwanda

Mountain Gorillas

In short, these guys are incredible. It is rare that you can walk on foot with wildlife, and even rarer to walk on foot with wildlife of such size and magnitude. A silverback mountain gorilla can weigh in the region of 200kgs and commands the respect of all around. Tracking these amiable primates in their natural surroundings is truly a privileged experience and one that we should continue to fight to protect. Yes, gorilla permits are expensive, yes, gorilla permits are limited in numbers, but these factors have contributed to the successful protection of one of the most vulnerable great apes in our world today. To date, gorilla tourism is one of the clearest examples of successful ‘eco-tourism’, we just now need to ensure that we do not push it beyond the tipping point.

Golden Monkey, Rwanda

Chimpanzees

Cheeky…and elusive. This is probably the best way to describe chimpanzees wherever you track them on the African continent. They are the forever mischievous great ape, moving fast and nimble through the treetops or along the forest floor. You will often hear them before you see them, their ‘pant hoots’ or excited ‘screams’ piercing the forest canopy. Persevere though and you will not be disappointed, sitting amongst these great apes is a thrilling experience, much different to that of the gorillas. These apes are our closest living relative (aside from bonobos) sharing approximately 98.8% of our DNA. Tracking these guys through the dense forest of Nyungwe in southwestern Rwanda is a truly remarkable experience. You sit on the forest floor and watch as they fight, play, groom, and chastise, behaviour similar to ours like no other.

Zebra in Akagera National Park

Savannah Game

Rwanda wildlife these days cannot be discussed without mentioning the growing national park of Akagera. A National Park that for years as been overlooked, Akagera National Park is now an integral part of the Rwanda wildlife scene. The rise of this park is partly in thanks to the amazing work of African Parks Conservation (an organization of which NWS is one of the founding travel partners), who have taken on the management of the park in recent years. Highlights now include black rhinos, lion, giraffe, zebra and more. Whilst not many years ago the majority of travellers visited Rwanda to only track the world-renowned mountain gorillas, nowadays Rwanda wildlife is much more than that. Take the time to truly explore this little-known country and you will be more than surprised to uncover a plethora of wildlife highlights

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