Road Trip Across Africa with Self-Drive Kigali

Traveling across Africa by car or by public transport is safe when you stick to the areas that are peaceful. The biggest risks are other traffic users and animals on the road. As well as driving at night. Take the right precautions and use common sense to stay safe.

We have been traveling for three weeks as a group of nine through Botswana, Zimbabwe and now Rwanda. Everything was gearing up for this experience and it did not disappoint one bit. When we were in Botswana and Zimbabwe we used one company for car hire self-drive, and when we decided to come to Rwanda we used Self-Drive Kigali.

The reception center is well organized and run, and the anticipation builds ahead of being allocated a family of gorillas to visit, and being split into groups of 8. We were fortunate to do 2 hikes, one to the famous Susa family, and the next day to the Amahoro family. Both walks were fantastic with knowledgeable guides, expert trackers and very helpful porters. You may feel you don’t need a porter but believe me you probably do, but it is not about the carrying. Your tips and contributions to everyone is a big part of their livelihood. When you are at 3,000 meters sucking in air, you will be grateful for them.

Walk duration varies. We had requested easy/moderate walks. Our first was an hour and a half in and an hour out. Our second was far more challenging three hours in with the guide hacking a path through the vegetation and an hour and a half out. The only really fixed duration is the drive time to your put in. The Gorillas are not on a schedule, they move!

There are no words for the hour you spend with these majestic creatures, so I won’t even try. Aside from telling you we saw a day-old baby. Gorilla tourism is a big revenue earner for Rwanda and the gorilla is the poster-boy for the Visit Rwanda marketing campaign. It is well controlled and strictly limited.

Of course the gorillas are now used to seeing gawping tourists every day for an hour. It is an “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” relationship. In return for this access they get protection, a preserved habitat, and to be mountain gorillas. If they weren’t happy they would either clear off and would certainly not be producing 20+ babies a year. This is conservation in action. Follow up your visit to the Ellen de Generes Dian Fossey research and visitor center for the complete experience.

It has been a long when I wanted to share traveling experience. I am gladly to say that Rwanda has much more to offer in terms of adventure experiences.

  • Driven to the base area for briefing. It is well-kept, clean bathrooms. Very good cafeteria for free coffee.
  • We were split into groups and assigned to a guide. The groups consisted of max 8 persons, and max of 12 groups per day. I want to applaud the government, they maintain their policy and conservation.
  • Our guide, Edward, was super knowledgeable and has been doing this job for more than 20 years.
  • He gave us an in-depth explanation about mountain gorillas in general, the sounds that they make, how to react, the rules (wearing face mask in presence of gorillas), what will roughly happen throughout the experience, how long we will have to walk (this may range from 2-8 hours) and the family which we were about to meet.
  • In our case we were so lucky to be allocated to the Amahoro group. A family of 22 mountain gorillas, including 3 silver backs, juveniles and babies.
  • We went back to the van and were driven to the closest accessible point. From there, we were given walking sticks and also given the opportunity to make use of bag porters to walk more freely and faster. Bag porters are a way to support the local community – do consider making use of them, but also be mindful of the load you give them to carry.
  • Walked in thick vegetation for around 1.5 hours. Would recommend wearing good hiking shoes (covering the ankles), trousers, take a rain jacket, plenty of water and some snacks. The guide gave us numerous water and photo breaks along the way.
  • Trackers joined us mid-way to slowly and softly lead us to the gorillas.
  • Gorilla experience speechless, humbling, mesmerizing, once in a lifetime. We heard the rumbling sounds and knew we had arrived. From here on, we wore our face masks and one hour starts ticking off (so as not to stress the primate family).
  • After the one-hour is up, the guide will lead you back. This may not necessarily be the same route (they will communicate with the drivers), depending on where the gorillas are located.
  • On our way back, we were lucky to spot golden monkeys running across the fields.

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