Mountain Gorilla Trek in Rwanda
|February 26||Overnight in Nairobi after the Kenya extension||Southern Sun Mayfair in Nairobi||Not included|
|February 27||Fly from Nairobi to Kigali||Mountain Gorilla View Lodge||B, L, D|
|February 28||Gorilla treks||B, L, D|
|March 1||Gorilla treks||Kigali Serena Hotel||B, L, D|
|March 2||Fly back to Nairobi to connect to flights homeward||Not included||B|
|March 3||Arrive home||Not included||Not included|
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February 26, Tuesday Overnight in Nairobi
Following the Kenya extension, you will spend the night at the Southern Sun Mayfair in Nairobi (the cost is included in this extension). Dinner is on your own.
Lodging: Southern Sun Mayfair in Nairobi
February 27, Wednesday Fly from Nairobi to Kigali
Following breakfast at the Southern Sun Mayfair in Nairobi, meet the Origins Safaris representative at the hotel for a transfer to the Nairobi airport for your flight to Kigali. The flight is included in your cost and is arranged by Origin Safaris. You will gain one hour from Nairobi time, two hours ahead of GMT.
Another Origins Safaris representative will meet you at the airport in Kigali and take you to lunch at the Kigali Umubano Hotel. Afterwards, take a city tour and visit the genocide memorial that explains Rwanda's promise for the future: "Such atrocities will never happen again". Then drive about 90 minutes to Musanze and the Virungas in a spacious Landcruiser, arriving at the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge in time for dinner. Enjoy a good night's sleep in preparation for the excitement tomorrow during your Mountain Gorilla visit.
Lodging: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
February 28, Thursday: Gorilla Trek
After breakfast drive to the Virunga National Park Headquarters. There will be plenty of porters available for hire eager to help you carry your photo equipment and water. Most of the ranger-guides speak French as their second language and learned enough English to answer questions from the many English-speaking visitors.
This is one of the most exhilarating and moving wildlife experiences you can have. Normally you get very close to these giant primates, observing them observing you. Their almost human movements, innate dignity and social interaction make a unique connection for everyone fortunate enough to have this experience.
Mount Visoke (also called Mount Bisoke), like all of the peaks in the Virunga Mountain Range, is a volcano created by rift action along the Great Rift Valley. The mountain reached a height of 3,711 meters (12,175 feet) before becoming extinct. It is covered with wonderful native forest where the gorillas reside.
This is one of the most exhilarating and moving wildlife experiences you will have. Normally you get very close to these giant primates, observing them observing you. They exhibit almost human movements, innate dignity, and social interactions that make a unique connection for everyone fortunate enough to have this experience.
At present only thirty people a day can spend just one hour with these gorillas. The maximum number of tourists visiting any habituated group is eight people. The trek to find gorillas can be quite short, but on most days an hour or two or three of rough hiking each way is necessary. Each visit is by permit and limited to one hour with a professional Gorilla guide in charge who will coach you in the safety rules and body language required to come close to the Gorilla troops. This is the dry season and the best time of year for clear skies. Dress warmly, as the weather is cool at this altitude. Do wear comfortable boots, gloves to avoid nettles and sturdy pants to protect your legs.
From park headquarters, drive to the entrance of the forest on Mount Visoke to start your trek. The guides already scouted where the troop is located. The average time to reach the troop is about sixty minutes, but can be as little as ten minutes or up to three hours or more and can be relatively steep climbing through dense vegetation. You may climb through several vegetation zones, bamboo, luxuriant hagenia and hypericum forest, with twisted gnarled trees covered in soft emerald mosses, lichens and epiphytes. You and the guides will stay on the trails until close to the troop, then the guides will cut trail to get close. As you near the troop, the guides will point out signs that lead them straight to the gorillas. Keep an eye out for wild celery or some giant blackberries that the gorillas love. The guides will definitely show you the different species of stinging nettles to avoid but that the gorillas eat.
One of the troops is the "Amahoro group," named after the dominant silverback. A silverback is a Gorilla that has reached maturity, generally between the ages of 13 to 15. The "Sousa group" is the largest and normally the most distant to reach, since they like to live higher on the mountain than other groups.
When you are very close to the troop, the guides will tell you to leave your bags and take only your cameras. The lead guide will edge forward grunting as he goes to announce your arrival to the group so as not to startle the gorilla. Normally the silverback is lazily lying in thick vegetation and watching. One or more females are often close by and are unperturbed by your appearance. Your guides will cut a path through the tangle of vegetation to try to see them. Frequently they are in open glades, which makes photography very rewarding. One of the most entertaining experiences is to watch the young Mountain Gorillas having a great time, play fighting, climbing trees and wrestling. The hour of viewing will pass very quickly.
Kinigi is located in Ruhengeri, the capital of the Musanze District, at the base of the Virunga Mountains. Our aptly named lodge, "the Gorillas Nest," is located in Kinigi, two kilometers west of the Kinigi Park Headquarters. The lodge is in a lovely rural setting and ideally situated near to the park headquarters, convenient for each morning's registration process. There is no electricity in Kinigi, so the lodge operates a generator. Each public room overlooks green lawns and a semi-circle of twenty double rooms and two suites. The rooms all look outwards into the Eucalyptus forest, pyrethrum farms and shambas (farms) beyond. The Lodge is well constructed, but utilitarian: with grass thatched roofs in traditional Rwandese style – not the "rustic luxury safari" style of East and Southern Africa. Nearby is a traditional Rwandese homestead to visit in the afternoon after Gorilla trekking. Return to the lodge and after dinner enjoy entertainment such as traditional Tutsi dancing.
Lodging: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
March 1, Friday: Gorilla Trek
Your grand 'Gorilla' finale will dawn today. Have breakfast at 7 am. As yesterday, you will enter the forest and find the Mountain Gorillas with the skillful guidance of your rangers. Maybe today you will see the largest silverback in the Virungas, named Guhonda, surrounded by the younger members of the group playing boisterously and noisily.
The climb again begins through the lush terraced farmland of the lower volcanic slopes. As the slopes become steeper and rockier, the vegetation becomes thick and tangled; the guides must use their machetes to help clear a path. Huge trees, clinging vines and undergrowth add to the challenge of swift streams and slippery red mud underfoot. Usually at around 8,000 ft. in elevation signs of the huge animals become apparent. Damage to the bamboo trees is an obvious sign as the gorillas relish the young tender shoots and break older stems to suck the sap. The smell of gorilla may waft by in a stray breeze or, if one is really near, it is strong and unmistakable. The sounds you may hear can be loud crashes or dull reverberating thuds. They range up to 8,500 feet.
You will certainly have some great memories, as we do of all our Mountain Gorilla treks, since we started doing them back in the 1980's. On one of our Mountain Gorilla treks, Ted was not watching his soft leather lens cover, which one of the babies snatched from behind him. The youngster proceeded to chew it up while running round and round the silverback. The ranger was not able to retrieve the cover before it was in shreds. Gail had the ultimate experience once when a silverback walked by her and stopped to grasp her knee, gently holding it for over a minute. The ranger lifted the silverback's powerful hand off her knee with a walking stick and Gail kept her eyes down, gazing in amazement at the hand on her knee, not daring to make eye contact with this amazing male gentle giant!
After lunch at the Muhabura Hotel in Ruhengeri, drive back to Kigali to the Kigali Serena Hotel. All meals included today. Overnight at the five-star Kigali Serena Hotel, located on one of Kigali's most charming boulevards and built around a polished granite atrium, which showcases the very best of Rwandese cultural art.
Lodging: Kigali Serena Hotel
March 2 - 3, Saturday - Sunday: Fly back to Nairobi and connect to flights homeward
After breakfast on March 2, you will have a few hours in the morning in Kigali to browse around the grounds at the Kigali Serena Hotel. If you want, Origins Safaris staff can help you fit in an optional morning excursion such as an optional city tour. Lunch and dinner are on your own today. About noon, transfer to the Kigali airport and fly to Nairobi to connect with flights homeward. Arrive home on March 3.
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The Mountain Gorilla: Mountain Gorillas were made famous by Dian Fossey who dedicated her life to their future and immortalised them in the film "Gorillas in the Mist." There are no more than 668 Mountain Gorillas remaining in the world today, of which 355 live in the Virunga Mountains (extinct volcanoes). In the past, poaching and habitat destruction were the main cause for concern. However with publicity, tourism and education regarding the plight of the gorilla, the authorities have been able to halt this rapid decline.
There are few animals in Africa about which so many legends circulate. Their enormous size, extraordinary strength and the fact that they live in mysterious forests of luxuriant vegetation have contributed to their mystique. The Mountain Gorilla troop consists usually of a dominant male and up to five or more females and their young. It is basically a stable family with the young only leaving after they reach sexual maturity. Females join another group while young males remain solitary until they have an opportunity to form their own troop.This primate is of impressive dimensions; some males (such as Guhonda, the silverback of Sabinyo Group that you may visit) attain over six feet in height and weigh more than 440 pounds. The head is massive and the huge jaws are equipped with powerful teeth. Far from being an aggressive animal, as the legends claim, the gorilla is gentle and peaceful in its habits. It is only when threatened that he adopts an intimidating attitude in which he howls in a most frightful way and beats his chest with his fists. Should visitors find themselves in his presence at this moment, they will be advised to assume a submissive, non-threatening attitude. Once his confidence has been restored, the gorilla goes on about his business accepting the intruder.
It is estimated that there are about 170 gorillas on the Rwandan side of the park. They are very sociable animals, living in groups of three to thirty. Being sedentary, they are continually looking for food in a restricted living space. They are active only during the daytime and build nests for the night. The females and young occupy nests built in trees, while the males seem to prefer nests on the ground. Their food consists mainly of leaves, buds, tubers and sorts of wild celery from the umbelliferous family.
Gorilla Viewing Rules:
Introduction to Rwanda: A tiny landlocked republic in Equatorial Africa, Rwanda lies on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift and the watershed between Africa's two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Often called the "land of a thousand hills," Rwanda is a mountainous country with a moist, temperate year-round climate.
Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. French, English and Kinyarwanda are the most widely spoken languages and the population of about eight million people is largely Christian with some Muslim and Animist communities. In 1962, under Prime Minister Gregoire Kayibanda, Rwanda gained independence. Ten years later Major General Juvenal Habyarimana came to power. His death in a plane crash in April 1994 unleashed the genocide in which about one million Rwandans are thought to have been killed. Nearly twice as many fled into exile.
Eighty Gorilla permits are issued per day. There are now 10 gorilla families habituated in Rwanda, so 8 people per day may visit each gorilla family. Each permit now costs $750. Sightings are virtually guaranteed. The biggest threat to Mountain Gorillas is habitat loss to agriculture.
Destination Information: Kigali has been the capital of Rwanda since 1965. An attractive city, it spreads over a number of hills and although it saw some difficult times through the genocide in 1994 and as power changed hands subsequently, it now has a pleasant, buoyant air. The main shopping and commercial area is centered around the Hotel Mille Collines, with the government district on the neighboring Kaciyiru hill. The markets, the handicrafts, the Muslim quarter and a new genocide memorial under construction in Gisozi are some of the main places of interest.
Volcano National Park is located in northwest Rwanda, bordering Virunga National Park in the Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. This park is a refuge for the Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla berengei). It is home to many volcanoes, which are covered in rainforest and bamboo.
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Payments and Cancellations: All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. Upon receiving your deposit and reservation form, we will send trip materials with additional information to help you prepare for your safari. Within six months of the trip departure date, the full deposit of $1,500 is non-refundable and non-transferable, because this deposit pays for your two non-refundable gorilla trekking permits of $750 per person per trek for two days of trekking. There are no refunds given after the Final Payment due date. If you are a single traveler and desire so, we will find a roommate for you: if we cannot find a roommate we may have to charge you the single supplement fee. We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation and in the exchange rate. All costs are in US$.
|Cost per Person|
|Trip cost, double occupancy||$3,950 each with two participants and
$3,550 with four to six participants on the extension.
|Deposit - to reserve your space||$1,000|
|Final Payment - September 15, 2012||remaining balance|
|*Important Note: Within six months of the trip departure date, the deposit of $1,000 is non-refundable and non-transferable, because this deposit pays for your two non-refundable gorilla trekking permits of $500 per person per trek. There are no refunds given after the final payment.|
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To Make a Reservation: Please contact us (there are many methods of contacting us) to assure space availability and to let us answer your questions. Then, print our reservation form, fill out one form per person, and post it to us in the mail with your deposit. Or fill out our handy online information request and we will send you more information.
|Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris
20800 Kittredge Road
Saratoga, CA 95070
|Toll Free: (800) 527-5330
Fax: (408) 741-0358
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Origin Safaris will arrange your roundtrip flight between Nairobi (NBO) and Kigali (KGL) and the cost is included in this extension. The roundtrip flight details will be announced. We recommend that you arrange your international flight homeward from Nairobi on the evening of March 2 to avoid going through customs if you have an overnight in Nairobi.
Travel Insurance: Emergency Medical Insurance is optional, but encouraged, for this tour. Read about travel insurance and our recommendations and requirements.
Leaders and Transportation: Doug and Gail will not lead this safari extension, but very experienced, highly efficient, and very knowledgeable guides from Origins Safaris will lead this safari. Origins Safaris is based in Nairobi. Their operations in Rwanda include a fleet of custom built 4x4 Toyota Landcruisers with three roof hatches and eight seats. It takes less than two hours to drive from Kigali to the Virunga Massif, known as the "Mountains of the Moon," which hosts the Volcano National Park.
Accommodations: Rwanda is an emerging destination. Access to high quality foods other than fresh fruit and vegetables can be challenging. In this respect we ask that visitors be prepared to appreciate the efforts of the Rwandan people to make their stay as comfortable as possible, rather than noticing the few home comforts which may be missing or the lack of "luxury safari".
Trip Materials: Detailed information about your specific tour will be sent to you after you make your reservation with us. These trip materials include information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, packing, etc. Please take a moment to read this important informtation upon receipt.
Conditions: We have a strict non-smoking policy - smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours. We try to spend as much time in the field as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience. Travel to remote places is exciting, but understanding and accepting the risks, both medical and logistical, are important. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but due to the fact that we often travel to locations far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this trip. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your tour deposit and signed reservation form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants. For all tours that are ship-based, please note that although we cannot guarantee a request for a specific cabin, we do guarantee that you will be in a cabin of equal or greater value specified in your reservation.
Mailing List: If you would like to be on our mailing list or request information, please use our online information request form or contact us to give us your name, address, email address and phone number. Please note we will never share your personal information with anybody!
Responsibility: Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris, Saratoga, California, act only as agents and shall not be responsible or become liable for any delay incurred by any person in connection with any means of transportation, nor for the loss, damage, or injury to person or property by reason of any event beyond the control of the agency or default of such agency suppliers. We reserve the right to cancel the tour prior to departure in which case full refund will constitute full settlement to the passenger. No refund will be made for any unused portion of the tour unless arrangements are made at the time of booking. All rates are based on current tariffs, exchange rates and fuel prices and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited. Baggage is at the owner's risk.
Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is registered as California Seller of Travel #2063050-40. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California. Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is a participant in the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation (TCRC). In event of a client canceling where a refund is applicable in accordance with the schedule above, or in the event that CES needs to cancel the trip, all payments for transportation or travel service not provided to the client shall be promptly refunded, unless the client instructs us otherwise in writing. All client payments are deposited into a trust account in accordance with California law. If for any reason a valid refund is not forthcoming, the client may request reimbursement from the TCRC within six months of the scheduled end of the tour. Please feel free to ask us for more information.
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