Rwanda

December 9—22, 2023

Are you ready for a truly unique and empowering birding experience? Join us as we embark on an extraordinary adventure into the avian wonderland of Rwanda, Land of a Thousand Hills, where we will be guided by the exceptional women from the Women Birder Clubs.

Nestled in the heart of East Africa, Rwanda boasts a breathtaking biodiversity that will leave you in awe. Despite its small size, this remarkable land is home to over 700 bird species, with rare and endemic treasures awaiting your discovery. Prepare to be captivated by the sight of the elusive Shoebill hunting in the wetlands, marvel at the vibrant plumage of the Rwenzori Turaco, and enjoy the elegant dance of the Grey-crowned Crane…

Nestled in the heart of East Africa, Rwanda boasts a breathtaking biodiversity that will leave you in awe. Despite its small size, this remarkable land is home to over 700 bird species, with rare and endemic treasures awaiting your discovery. Prepare to be captivated by the sight of the elusive Shoebill hunting in the wetlands, marvel at the vibrant plumage of the Rwenzori Turaco, and enjoy the elegant dance of the Grey-crowned Crane.

Ease of exploration is key in Rwanda. Its compact size and excellent infrastructure make traversing the country a breeze, ensuring maximum time immersed in the magical world of birds. From the misty rainforests to the sprawling savannas, and from the tranquil wetlands to the majestic mountains, each diverse habitat promises unique encounters with Rwanda’s birds and other wildlife.

Rwanda’s commitment to conservation is evident, as it safeguards precious bird species and their habitats through well-established national parks and reserves. Explore the lush landscapes of Volcanoes National Park, where the intriguing calls of the Great Blue Turaco resonate through the mist. Wander through the verdant Nyungwe Forest National Park, home to a symphony of bird songs and the secretive Grauer’s Swamp Warbler.

Beyond the avian delights, immerse yourself in Rwanda’s vibrant culture and embrace the warmth of its local communities. Experience the joy of interacting with friendly faces, savor traditional cuisine, and witness the country’s rich cultural heritage.

As you embark on this incredible journey, consider adding another chapter to your wildlife exploration by combining your birdwatching tour with an unforgettable gorilla trekking experience. Encounter the gentle giants of the mountains, the awe-inspiring Mountain Gorillas.

Despite its terrible past, with civil wars and genocide until the mid-1990s, Rwanda has since known relative safety and stability.

Traveling with the Women Birder Clubs provides an opportunity to embrace a different perspective, one that celebrates the strength, knowledge, and contribution of women in the field of birding. It’s a chance to support and empower local women while experiencing the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage of this captivating destination.

Whether you’re an experienced birder or new to the world of birdwatching, this adventure promises an unforgettable and transformative experience. Together, let’s celebrate the diversity of birdlife, support women in conservation, and create lasting memories in the heart of Rwanda..

Sat., 9 Dec 2023: Arrival in Kigali (KGL), Rwanda.

Sun. 10 Dec 2023: Kigali Nyandungu wetlands and Umusambi Village

Mon. 11 Dec 2023: Transfer to Akagera National Park and Lake Ihema

Tue. 12 Dec 2023: Akagera National Park South sector

Wed. 13 Dec 2023: Akagera National Park North sector

Thu. 14 Dec 2023: Akagera National Park and transfer to Kigali.

Fri. 15 Dec 2023: Transfer to Nyungwe

Sat. 16 Dec 2023: Nyungwe Forest

Sun. 17 Dec 2023: Optional Chimpanzee trekking OR birding Nyungwe.

Mon. 18 Dec 2023: Transfer to Ruhengeri.

Tue. 19 Dec 2023: Optional Gorilla trekking OR birding in Volcanoes NP.

Wed. 20 Dec 2023: Rugezi Marsh.

Thu. 21 Dec 2023: Buhanga Ecopark. Transfer to Kigali.

Fri. 22 Dec 2023: Akagera Bridge and Kamatana Valley Dam. Transfer to the airport for return flights from Kigali (KGL).

Specialty birds:

Several endemics of Albertine Rift, Lake Victoria Basin, Zambezian biome, Afrotropical Highlands biome, and Guinea-Congo Forest biome

Mammals:

Big Five (lion, rhino, elephant, leopard, buffalo), Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees

Landscape, scenery, habitats:

Open savannah, wetlands and marshes, Afrotropical montane forest

Culture, history:

Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Dian Fossey museum

Supported projects:

Rwanda and Uganda Women Birders, Umusambi Village Grey-crowned Crane conservation, Mountain Gorilla conservation, Nyandungu Urban Wetlands restoration and ecotourism

Dates: December 9—22, 2023

Number of days and nights: 14 days / 13 nights

Start and end point:

  • Starting: 9 December 2023, arrive before 6 PM, Kigali International Airport (KGL)
  • Finishing: 22 December 2023, Kigali International Airport (KGL)

Hotels:

  • Flame Tree Village in Kigali
  • Akagera Game Lodge in Akagera NP
  • Chimpanzee Lodge in Nyungwe
  • Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge in Volcanoes NP

Group size:

  • Minimum number of participants: 8
  • Maximum number of participants: 24

Guides and ABA staff: 1 local lead guide and 1 ABA staff per 12 participants

Focus:

  • Birds
  • Mammals
  • Conservation

Birding pace: Medium – High

Photography opportunities: Medium (it is not specifically a photography tour!)

Physical difficulty: Low – High

  • Low: Several days of birding by bus or along the road.
  • Medium: Several days of birding along forest trails in mountainous (and above 7000 ft) areas.
  • High: Gorilla trekking and chimp trekking require good levels of fitness and endurance.

Price:

  • $6,500 per person in double occupancy (twin or double)
  • $1,300 single supplement

Included:

  • 13 hotel nights
  • 3 meals per day from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 14
  • All in-country private transportation to and from sites visited and transportation from airport to hotel and day 1 and from hotel to airport on day 14
  • All guiding fees for tour leaders and local guides
  • All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
  • All activities as described in the itinerary, except where it is explicitly mentioned they are optional or not included

Not included:

  • Gorilla trekking permit: $1,500 per person (optional activity)
  • Transportation to and from Rwanda
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Purchases of personal nature, including (but not limited to) laundry service, room service, phone calls, toiletries, souvenirs etc.
  • No insurance is included. We do strongly recommend you get your own travel, cancellation, and medical insurance
  • Extensions of the trip due to circumstances out of our control
  • Any tips you would like to offer tour leaders, guides, drivers, porters, wait staff, housekeeping etc. for outstanding service

Optional add-ons:

  • Gorilla trekking permit: $1,500 per person. Given limited availability of these permits, book them as soon as possible. You can indicate this in your booking form.
  • Extra hotel nights: If you want to arrive before December 9 or leave after December 22, 2023, we can book extra hotel nights in Kigali for you. You can indicate this in your booking form.

Terms and conditions:

aba.org/terms-conditions

Booking and secure payment:

(Note: itinerary subject to change, times are approximate)

Sat., 9 Dec 2023: Arrival in Kigali (KGL), Rwanda

Upon your arrival in Rwanda, you will be greeted at the Kigali International Airport (KGL) and transferred to Flame Tree Village, where we will stay overnight. Around 7 PM, we will enjoy our first dinner as a group, get to know each other, meet our guides, and go over the plans for the next few days.


Sun., 10 Dec 2023: Kigali Nyandungu wetlands and Umusambi Village

From a degraded wetland to a revitalized haven of education and recreation at the heart of Rwanda’s capital city: Welcome to the recently (2022!) opened Nyandungu Ecopark, an extraordinary addition to Kigali’s public green space and a testament to the city’s commitment to environmental conservation. By showcasing the restoration of wetlands and promoting eco-tourism, the park exemplifies the nation’s dedication to preserving natural resources. 

At Nyandungu Ecopark, we will witness the remarkable transformation of the Nyandungu wetlands through the planting of 17,000 trees, representing 55 indigenous species. Spanning 121 hectares, this ecological gem now encompasses wetlands, gardens, ponds, and forests, creating a harmonious blend of habitats.We will explore the park’s comfortable trails and marvel at a variety of animals, including over 100 bird species that call Nyandungu home: African Jaçana, Malachite Kingfisher, African Fish-Eagle, Pied Kingfisher, and Grey-crowned Crane, to name just a few!

After lunch, we’ll witness another Kigali ecotourism and conservation success. Just a few years ago, Grey-crowned Cranes were confined to captivity, gracing hotel gardens across Rwanda. With only 400 of these magnificent creatures remaining in the wild, their existence teetered on the edge of extinction. Enter the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, determined to halt the illegal trade, raise awareness, and release captive cranes back into their rightful place.

Many cranes endured disabilities from their time in captivity, and especially for them, Umusambi Village emerged as a sanctuary, where they thrive in a natural habitat — unable to return to the wild yet cherished in their forever home.

Umusambi Village not only fulfills its vital mission of ensuring no cranes remain in captivity, but it also is part of the many eco-tourism wonders within Kigali City. By connecting people with nature, the Umusambi Village continually raises awareness of the ongoing efforts to safeguard Grey-crowned Cranes from the clutches of the illegal trade.

But the impact goes beyond the village borders. Umusambi Village collaborates with local communities, fostering a deep appreciation for the cranes while creating ecotourism opportunities that benefit the region. From partnering with small businesses to supporting local artisans, every aspect of the project has become a conduit for community empowerment and shared responsibility.


Mon., 11 Dec 2023: Transfer to Akagera National Park and Lake Ihema

Today, we undertake the 3h drive from Kigali east to Akagera National Park. We may make a few stops along the way, before we reach the park gates, but the main part of our birding activity today will take place in the park, as we drive through the rolling savannahs to our lodge and Akagera unfolds its breathtaking, untamed wilderness. 

With about 500 species of bird recorded, Akagera is one of the top birding hotspot in Rwanda. It represents the northern limit of a good number of Zambezian biome species, nine Lake Victoria basin endemics, seven species of the Afrotropical Highlands biome, and one of the Guinea-Congo Forest biome. It is also an important wintering and stopover site for many Paleartic migrants. Along the way today, we’ll be looking out for Baudouin’s Snake-Eagle, Denham’s Bustard, Brown-chested Lapwing, Lilac-breasted Roller, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Flapper Lark, Red-headed Weaver, Ross’s Turaco, and more.

Akagera National Park serves as the last refuge for the savannah-adapted species of Rwanda, and thus offers a more traditional Big 5 safari experience. Effective conservation law enforcement measures and strong community engagement formed the foundation for rehabilitation of the park. After practically eliminating poaching in just five years, lion and black rhino were reintroduced between 2015 and 2018, and white rhino were introduced in 2021 in a conservation move to help protect the species. With sound wildlife conservation, Akagera is now home to thriving populations of wildlife, including lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe and leopard! 

But with nearly a third of the park dominated by water, Akagera National Park is also the largest protected wetland in eastern-central Africa. After our arrival, late this afternoon, we embark for an evening boat ride on the enchanting Lake Ihema. As we glide over the water, we keep our eyes peeled for Black Crake, Water Thick-Knee, African Fish-Eagle, Spur-winged Lapwing, African Jaçana, Brown-chested Lapwing, Marsh Tchagra, Western Reef Heron, African Harrier-Hawk, Malachite and Pied kingfisher, Papyrus Gonolek, Red-headed Weaver, and many more. If we are lucky, we may even see the endangered and elusive Shoebill or African Finfoot!


Tue., 12 and Wed., 13 Dec 2023: Akagera National Park 

Over the next two days, we explore both the southern and northern sectors of beautiful Akagera National Park, marveling at the park’s interesting mosaic of habitats. To the far west, Akagera is dominated by rolling sandstone hills. Moving east, those hills give way to open savannah characterized by vast grassy plains. Continuing towards the east, the open savannah becomes more heavily wooded. Eventually, the far east of Akagera near the Tanzanian border, is characterized mainly by lakes, marshes and swamps.

On our first full day in Akagera, we’ll focus on the southern sector, whereas the second day will take us to the northern sector of the park. We will be looking for Sauza’s Shrike, Arnot’s Chat, Long-tailed Cisticola, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Tabora Cisticola, Slate-colored Boubou, Red-faced Barbet, Eleonora’s Falcon, Purple-crested Turaco, Denham’s Bustard, Crested Barbet, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Carruther’s Cisticola, Booted Eagle, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Bearded Woodpecker, Brown-throated Wattle-Eye, Red-winged and Ring-necked francolins, Marabou Stork, Saddle-billed Stork, Lesser Honeyguide, Dideric Cuckoo, Ruaha Chat, Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting, Green-capped Eremomela, Red-faced Crombec, African Penduline Tit, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Southern Black Flycatcher, Meyer’s Parrot, etc.

The evening of the 13th, we also have the exciting opportunity to go on a night drive, allowing us to look for Akagera’s nocturnal species. Of the avian sort, we will look for Verreaux’ Eagle-Owl, Pennant-winged Nightjar, African Scops-Owl, and more. We may also see hyana’s, lions, civets, bush babies etc.


Thu., 14 Dec 2023: Akagera National Park and transfer to Kigali.

We spend one final morning in Akagera National Park and then head back to Kigali for one night on our way to Nyungwe. In the afternoon, we will visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial. 

The Memorial provides a national and international focal point for remembrance of the Genocide against the Tutsi. The final resting-place for 250,000 victims of the genocide, it is a site where their memory is preserved and where people from all walks of life can honour their humanity, learn about what happened to them and reflect on the challenges this experience raises for the lives and communities of Rwanda today. The Genocide Memorial also hosts the Genocide Archive, which records evidence of the genocide, testimonies, photographs, identification records, etc. It is also the base of the Rebuilding Lives programme that assists survivors in difficult circumstances meet their basic needs.

But the Memorial is not only about the past. It is also very much about the future. The Memorial addresses the key drivers of conflict and insecurity by offering education programs that focus on trauma healing, mental health literacy, sustainable livelihoods, climate change mitigation, peace education, and more. The Peace and Values Education that was developed at the Genocide Memorial is not built into Rwanda’s school curriculum. 


Fri., 15 Dec 2023: Transfer to Nyungwe 

We spend most of today driving from Kigali southwest to Nyungwe Forest, but will make a few stops along the way to look for birds. 

Nyungwe is one of the oldest rainforests in Africa, and the largest expanse of forest in Rwanda, covering 1,019 km2 of dense Afromontane forests, bamboo-covered slopes, grasslands and wetlands. The park feeds two of the world’s largest rivers, the Congo and the Nile, providing a significant portion of the country’s freshwater. As a regional biodiversity hotspot, Nyungwe supports 1,068 recorded plant species, 75 known mammal species and 13 different primate species, including a small population of Chimpanzees as well as 12 other species of primate, including the L’Hoest’s Monkey — endemic to the Albertine Rift —, Golden Monkey, Rwenzori Colobus Monkey, Vervet Monkey, Olive Baboon, etc.

Nyungwe Forest is also one of the seven Important Bird Areas in Rwanda recognized by Birdlife International. It is home to over 300 bird species, of which 29 are endemic to the Albertine Rift! 


Sat., 16 Dec 2023: Nyungwe Forest

Today, we will bird the Nyungwe Forest trails, focussing specifically on the Albertine Rift endemics! These include Albertine Owlet, Archer’s Ground-Robin, Blue-headed Sunbird, Congo Bay Owl, Dusky Crimsonwing, Dwarf Honeyguide, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Handsome Francolin, Kivu Ground Thrush, Kungwe Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Neumann’s Warbler, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Red-collared Mountain-Babbler, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Red-throated Alethe, Regal Sunbird, Rockefeller’s Sunbird, Rwenzori Apalis, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Nightjar, Rwenzori Turaco, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Strange Weaver, Stripe-breasted Tit, Stuhlmann’s Sunbird, Willard’s Sooty Boubou, and Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher

Some of the other mountain and forest species we may see in Nyungwe are African Paradise-Flycatcher, Chinspot Batis, Crowned Hornbill, Long-crested Eagle, Buff-throated Apalis, Stripe-breasted Tit, Kivu Ground-Thrush, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Bar-tailed Trogon, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Black-faced Prinia, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Dusky Twinspot, Elliot’s Woodpecker, Equatorial Akalat, Kakamega Greenbul, Lemon Dove, Many-coloured Bush-Shrike, Mountain Illadopsis, Mountain Oriole, Olive Woodpecker, Pink-footed Puffback, Red-chested Flufftail, Scarce Swift, Slender-billed Starling, Stripe-breasted Tit, Stuhlmann’s Starling, Tullberg’s Woodpecker, Violet-backed Hyliota, White-bellied Robin-Chat, White-browed Crombec, White-headed Wood-Hoopoe, Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye, and many more.


Sun., 17 Dec 2023: Optional Chimpanzee trekking OR birding Nyungwe. 

You have two options this morning: Either you can participate in an exhilarating chimpanzee tracking experience or you can continue your birding adventure in Nyungwe Forest. Choose the activity that appeals to you most!

Option 1: Chimpanzee trekking

Chimpanzee trekking begins with a briefing at the visitors’ center at 5:00 am. We will organize bagged breakfasts, but recommend you eat before starting the actual trek and carry water and snacks in your daypack in case you get hungry (again) along the way. Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe forest can take 2 to 6 hours! A group of experienced and knowledgeable trackers go ahead of the group to find the chimps. They then let the lead ranger know their approximate location. 

Chimpanzee trekking is different from gorilla trekking: Chimps are noisy and very mobile. They spend a lot of their time in the treetops. Tracking chimpanzees requires one to be fit enough in order to follow the apes as they make quick movements both on the ground and in the trees before settling down. After following the chimps for a while, they will hopefully settle down for a while and allow us to observe them more closely as they groom each other, mate, feed, play, start fights… Although chimps are curious about humans, they will tend to keep their distance.

Option 2: Birding Nyungwe Forest

We continue exploring the various trails of Nyungwe National Park in search of its huge variety of forest birds. 


Mon. 18 Dec 2023: Transfer to Musanze (formerly Ruhengeri). 

Today will take us up to the Musanze area and Volcanoes National Park. It is a long but beautiful drive due north along Lake Kivu, allowing for many interesting birding stops along the way. Some birds we’ll look out for at Lake Kivu are Hamerkop, Augur Buzzard, Pied Kingfisher, Cape Wagtail, Speckled Pigeon, Baglafecht Weaver, Variable Sunbird, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-knobbed Coot, Double-banded Plover, African Spoonbill, African Sacred Ibis, among others. 

As soon as we turn towards the northeast, you’ll start noticing the cones of the Karisimbi, Mikeno, Bisoke, Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhavura volcanoes that gave the park its name. Impressive! As the gateway to Volcanoes National Park, the city of Musanze (formerly called Ruhengeri) where we will be based for the next few nights, is one of the most touristy places in Rwanda. It is, however, still not overly crowded, and offers an interesting combination of local culture set against the spectacular backdrop of the Virunga volcanoes. Musanze is situated at about 7,250 ft (2,200 m) above sea level — you’ll notice the temperature drop!

In 1929, Volcanoes national park extended into Rwanda and the then Belgian Congo and was named Albert national park managed and run by the Belgian Colonial Authorities. During the early 1960s, the park was divided as Rwanda and Congo gained their independence. By the end of that decade, the park was almost half of its original size.

In 1967, the American primatologist Dian Fossey, who had been doing research on mountain Gorillas in the forests of Congo, fled from insecurity and established her research base in Rwanda, between the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes. It became known as the Karisoke Research Center. Fossey spearheaded the conservation campaign of the Mountain Gorillas and mobilized resources to fight against poaching in this area, a fight she put up until her murder in 1985. She was buried at the Karisoke Research Center next to the grave of her favorite gorilla called Digit. 

The park continued to suffer at the mercy of poachers, even though conservation efforts were underway. In the early 1990s, the park became a battlefield in Rwanda’s civil war, which paralyzed tourism activities until 1999. 

Since then, Rwanda has invested heavily in the conservation of the park and the endangered Mountain Gorillas, which can be found in only two locations in the world: Bwindi in Uganda and the Virunga Mountains on the border of Rwanda, the DRC and Uganda. Volcanoes National Park is still the most popular location to see the gentle giants. 


Tue. 19 Dec 2023: Optional Gorilla trekking OR birding Volcanoes NP.

Once again, you have two options today: Either you can opt for the exhilarating trek to see the Mountain Gorillas (note: Gorilla Trekking Permits are not included in the base price for this trip, see add-on options). Or you can decide to focus on the rich birdlife of the Volcanoes National Park.

Option 1: Gorilla trekking

The day starts around 7.30 AM at the Visitors’ center, where you’ll be given a briefing on the Gorilla trek and meet the guides and rangers. If you want, you can also hire a porter here who will help you carry your day pack (we’re bringing lunch, snacks, and plenty of water with us), camera, etc. 

Experienced trackers are constantly monitoring the groups of gorillas, and will inform the rangers and guides of their whereabouts. Visitors will then be sent out in groups of maximum 8 participants with a guide to find ‘their’ respective group of Mountain Gorillas. 

Bear in mind that you’ll be walking up- and downhill at relatively high altitude (over 7,250 ft / 2,200 m), along sometimes narrow, steep and muddy forest trails, and sometimes you’ll even be bushwhacking. Plus, the gorillas are wherever they are. Sometimes, we’ll find them after merely 1 hour of hiking, sometimes it can take multiple hours to reach them. You need to be in good condition to do this trek. Talk to us beforehand if you have doubts.

Once we find our ‘family’, we get to spend 1 hour in their presence. We may see them feeding, playing in the trees, suckling their babies, sleeping, … You can never know what to expect. One thing is for sure: Seeing these gentle giants is an emotional experience you’ll never forget. 

Of course, you’re allowed to take lots of photos, as long as you turn off your flash and respect a 23 feet (7 m) distance. Your guide/ranger will be with the group at all times, so listen closely to their instructions to enjoy an amazing experience that’s safe for all — humans and gorillas alike.

Note: Gorilla trekking is a sensitive activity which, when not controlled and managed strictly, may negatively impact the lives of the Mountain Gorillas. In order to limit stress on the apes and their habitat, a maximum of 8 visitors per gorilla group is allowed per day. In a bid to regulate the activity, the governments of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda decided to create permits. These permits are more expensive than any other wildlife permit, but they guarantee the sustainability of the activity by, as said, limiting the number of visitors, but also by generating revenue that is invested in the protection and conservation of the species. Governments and wildlife organizations have also established a set of guidelines trekkers have to follow in order to remain harmonious with the gorillas. The Gorilla Trekking Permit ($1,500) is not included in the base price for this tour. If you are interested in doing the trek, make sure to book them as an add-on. Given the limited availability of permits, we recommend you do so as early as possible!

Option 2: Birding

Volcanoes National Park was described by Birdlife International as the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda. It harbors several Albertine Rift endemics and about 70 of the 100 Afro-tropical highlands biome bird species that occur in Rwanda. We’ll have the amazing opportunity to witness a large variety of beautiful birds, such as White-collared Oliveback, African Swamphen, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Bat Hawk, Narina Trogon, Lesser Honeyguide, Brown-backed Honeybird, Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Olive-bellied, Red-chested and Bronzy sunbirds, African Goshawk, Palm Nut Vulture, Grey-backed Fiscal, African Green Broadbill, Lagden’s Bush-shrike, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Handsome Francolin, Red-faced Barbet, Regal Sunbird, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Doherty’s Bushshrike, Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird, Strange Weaver, Rwenzori Nightjar, Kivu Ground-Thrush, Rwenzori Nightjar, Dusky Crimsonwing, Rwenzori Apalis, and more.


Wed. 20 Dec 2023: Rugezi Marsh.

We’ll start off the day with an early morning birding session at Ruhondo and Rugezi Marsh. Rugezi Swamp is an extensive wetland with rich biodiversity that has been recognized as an important bird area (IBA) by the Birdlife international and is thus protected. It is considered a unique ecosystem, situated at a high altitude point of about 7,000 ft (2,100 m). The marsh drains its water into the twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo, and is also known as one of the tributary streams that form the source of Akagera river and the Nile. 

A wide range of avifauna call the marsh and its surrounding environment home, including Grey-crowned Crane, Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Grauer’s Swamp-Warbler, White-winged Swamp-Warbler, Slender-billed Starling, Papyrus Canary, Carruthers’s Cisticola, Baglafecht Weaver, White-collared Oliveback, etc.

We’ll return to Le Bambou for lunch, and enjoy a tranquil afternoon birding around the lodge. 


Thu. 21 Dec 2023: Buhanga Ecopark. Transfer to Kigali.

On our final full day, we start heading back to Kigali, but not without getting in one a few more treats. En route to the capital, we will stop at Buhanga Ecopark. Buhanga is considered a sacred place, where the Kings of ancient Rwanda performed their coronation ceremonies. It is also a good place for birding, with over 150 species registered, including Red-eyed Dove, Red-chested Cuckoo, Speckled Mousebird, Grey-throated Barbet, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Rwenzori Batis, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Tawny-flanked Prinia, White-headed Sawwing, Green White-eye, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Red-headed Bluebill, and more.

Upon our arrival at Flame Tree Village in Kigali, you will have time to pack and prepare for departure tomorrow, before we enjoy our final dinner together in Rwanda.


Fri. 22 Dec 2023: Akagera Bridge and Kamatana Valley Dam. Transfer to airport for return flights from Kigali (KGL).

Airport transfers will be arranged to get you to Kigali International Airport (KGL) for your return flight home. Those who have afternoon flights can take advantage of the extra morning to squeeze a few more birds at Akagera Bridge and/or Kamatana Valley Dam just south of Kigali.