First Time Rwanda – A Self-Drive Holiday in Parks


Referred to as the Land of a thousand Hills is one of the top African safari destinations blessed with numerous tourist attractions that include culture, historic sites, wildlife, nature and of-course the beautiful landscapes and water bodies. From the Genocide to a popular destination for tourists who love to get a chance to encounter the mountain gorillas and also learn about the chaotic genocide history.

This safari will give you the opportunity to hire a 4×4 car to self drive Rwanda alone, as a couple, friends or family. Driving yourself is much cheaper than traveling with a hired driver guide and also offers you all the privacy you need and flexibility to do things at your own pace. You will use the 4×4 land cruiser strong for all the country terrains as you enjoy the endless hills.

All you need is a valid International Driver License, a GPS or Google maps app and a passion for exploring the country’s three national parks.

From Kigali, head south to Nyungwe forest; one of the oldest and largest rain forests in Africa home to various primate species most notably the Chimpanzees. Other attractions in the park include 275 bird species, 13 monkey species, 100 orchid species plus unique flora species.

Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest is a year-round activity. Every morning groups of tourists set off as early at 4:00am under the guidance of experienced guides to search for one of the two habituated clans found the Uwinka and Cyamudongo sections of the park. One needs to be prepared for the demanding activity which requires following highly mobile primates who do not necessarily follow the main trails but can wander off to thick untouched forest.

Canopy walks top the list of things to do when you tour Nyungwe forest. Visitors interested in taking walks in Nyungwe forest have two alternatives a canopy or low ground forest walk. You will take five hours to rotate around the hills head to the park.

Continue your Rwanda self drive adventure with a visit to Lake Kivu, Rwanda’s largest freshwater lake. This is the best place to relax and enjoy views of the lake and islands. Kibuye & Gisenyi are the two shore side towns where you can find accommodation plus some of the best bars, restaurants and beaches where you can get a chance to swim and have fun. Top activities to try out include a boat ride to Napoleon’s islands, Pfunda tea estate tour plus the Congo Nile trail tour by bicycle or walking.

Continue your road trip north heading to volcanoes national park with your permit (1500USD); the most popular of the Virunga range parks and Africa’s oldest national park established as early as 1925 by the Belgian rulers. The park’s star attraction is the mountain gorillas that inhabit the lowlands of the Virunga ranges and since gorilla trekking is the country’s number one tourist export, Volcanoes Park has become Rwanda’s most visited destination over the years.

It is important to be in good shape before embarking on an activity that can prove demanding depending on the gorilla group you are assigned. Trackers can hire the services of a porter to help with extra luggage at a cost of about $15.

Golden Monkey tracking can be done before or after gorilla trekking. Tracking the Golden Monkeys is less strenuous than the gorillas because they don’t go to high altitudes in search of fresh food like the gorillas.

Continue to self drive Rwanda with a trip to the country’s best wildlife park. The road trip will last about 4 and a half hours. Akagera is home to over 8000 mammals and up to 482 bird species which can be spotted on a guided or self-drive game tour. The park offers camping, budget and luxury accommodation ensuring all types of travelers get a chance to experience the unique wildlife and nature of this savannah park.

Game drives can be done in the morning, afternoon and at night in the hills, plains and lakes. Use your 4×4 tour van that can pass through the rough terrain in the park. Park guides are important during the game drive because they are knowledgeable about the area and will take you to the right spots while sharing with your important information about the different species.

Akagera is one of the few places where night game drives can be arranged. Night game drives are done using spotlights and an open-roof vehicle to allow visitors spot nocturnal animals like genet, mongoose, bush babies, owls, night jar, leopards and hyenas. These animals and birds are very difficult to see during the day.

Nature walks in the park can be arranged with the help of a park guide. A walk-through selected sections of the park gives you opportunities to appreciate the great biodiversity in the park. The nature walks involve following established park trails that lead to forests, lakes and swamps.

Lake Ihema is famous for boat trips. While on the boat trip, you might encounter crocodiles, hippos and elephants drinking along the shores. The Lakes and nearby swamps are breeding grounds for several bird species like African darter, African Jacana, blue-headed coucal, cormorant, fish eagles, kingfishers, marsh flycatcher and the open-bill stork.

Drive back to Kigali ending your exciting Rwanda self drive road trip, you can decide to go shopping or just head straight for the airport for departure.