Musanze Caves

The Musanze caves were formed by the volcanic activity which created a two kilometer long underground caves that formerly provided shelter to the indigenous forest dwelling Batwa pygmies.

The Musanze caves are located in Volcanoes National Park. A visit to the caves can be done after gorilla tracking or golden monkey tracking. It is an excellent add on activity. Visitor experience to the caves is enabled by the walking trails, stairs which lead tourists into the interior of the caves a home to large colony of bats.

The Musanze caves give an understanding of the geology that led to its formation and the history of the Batwa pygmies as well as how it was used to be a hiding place during the 1994 genocide. In addition the wide entrance is covered by green plants good for photographs. The interior of the caves is quite dark with bats and dripping waters.

Packing list when Visiting

Visitors to the caves should dress up in helmets with headlight, rain coats, hiking boots, long pants and long sleeved shirts. Guides lead tourists into the dark interior. Visitors will use lamps to see the former sitting rooms and corridors of the Batwa pygmies. Your guide will explain the how the local people attach value to the caves.

What to Expect
The entrance is large about 10 km wide allowing easy entrance marked by holes that allow arrays if light to shine inside. Bats and small reptiles such as lizards make it their home.
Visitors can book for the cave exploration through the Rwandan Development Board.

There are lodging options near the caves
Sabinyo silverback lodge, la bamboo gorilla lodge, virunga lodge and many more.

Getting There
Getting to Musanze caves takes 90 minute drive from Kigali to kinigi Volcanoes National park headquarters. Tourists who stay in Musanze town need to get transfer transport to kinigi.


Dian Fossey Grave Site

Dian Fossey was an American primatologist who conducted ground breaking research about mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park since the 1960’s up to her death in 1985. Dian established a mountain gorilla research centre in 1967 between Mt. karisimbi at (4507 m) and Mt. Bisoke at 3,700 meters above sea level. She named the research centre Karisoke which is symbolic to the two great volcanic mountains.

In 1966 Dian Fossey ventured into the DR Congo virunga forest to continue studying mountain gorillas which were being poached and killed due to the undergoing civil strife at the time. Such political turmoil forced her to relocate to Rwanda where she finally established a small camp that would be the present scientific research centre Karisoke.
Dian Fossey Hike
With her new location being mountainous, it was difficult to move in the forest due to cold conditions that she had not been exposed too. Such unfavorable conditions forced her fellow researchers to return to their home countries which left her as a stand a lone woman trying to forge relationship with local communities in return to help her get close to wild gorillas which she later habituated naming one of her favorite gorilla Digit.

Dian Fossey uplifted the need to conserve gorillas which were being poached day and night that if nothing was done, mountain gorillas would become extinct. Her book gorillas in the mist compelled international conservation bodies such as the World Wildlife Fund, world conservation society and African Wildlife Foundation. These officially established mountain gorilla project that aimed at allowing few tourists to visit gorillas by paying money that would help to fund conservation activities and help local communities improve their wellbeing.
Prior to the official mountain gorilla project, Dian Fossey had waged war against poachers. Not only gorillas died due to poachers but illegal trade and infectious human diseases were also responsible for declining gorilla population. Dian worked with local people in destroying snare traps and limiting encroachment. Through rivals with poachers her gorilla Digit was also killed in 1978.

With the death of her gorilla friend Digit, Fossey also increased her anti-poaching campaigns and created the Digit fund which fetched support from the Rwandan tourism officials enforcing laws and punishing poachers. This created hatred between Dian and local poachers who were often being arrested and imprisoned. Later poachers retaliated back and murdered Fossey in 1985 and buried right at Karisoke research camp that is popular today as the Dian Fossey grave site.

With the official mountain gorilla project allowing tourists to visit gorillas, gorillas were exposed to intense human contact which resulted into spread of human infectious diseases like influenza, diarrhea killing some of the gorillas. Due to weak regulations and rules governing human contact, tourist visits could alter the natural behavior of gorillas something that Dian Fossey was not happy with.

As a result of gorillas dying from increased tourist contact, gorilla tracking was introduced with strict rules and regulations set under the brand ecotourism. Ecotourism is that tourism where tourists travel to undisturbed natural environment to appreciate nature while taking care of the wellbeing of the local communities.

Gorilla tracking is today’s most sought after wildlife encounter a reason why we should pay tribute to Dian Fossey for having pioneered gorilla conservation. The subsequent gorilla tourism projects partly built on Fossey’s efforts for instance the planting of pyrethrum farms to demarcate Volcanoes National park boundaries.

Tourists who come for gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park also hike to Fossey grave site and the Karisoke research centre. The park is about 2 hours drive from Kigali city to kinigi the park headquarters where all tourists gather early morning for gorilla tracking.

Actual Hik

The trek to Dh3ian Fossey grave site starts at kinigi, tourists then drive for 30 minutes to the main trailhead along the park boundary. The Rwandan Development Board guide leads tourists into the forest and it can take about 2-3 hours to reach the site depending on the fitness of the group. Views are breathtaking and wildlife encounters include buffalos, giant forest hogs, bushbucks, duikers, golden monkeys and several species of birds such as white tailed blue flycatcher.

Hiking the Dian Fossey Tomb site takes tourists through rolling green hills, plantations along the park boundary. You will encounter mammals such as buffalos, worth hogs, forest elephants and many species of birds. Standing at 3000 meters above sea level, the views of the virunga volcanoes are good for nature photographers. Visitors usually learn about the legacy of Dian Fossey that still exists today as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
Right at the site, visitors will see an old house where Dian was killed in 1985 and the tomb where she was buried. To commemorate her work to save gorillas, a cemetery was built where most of the gorillas that would be killed by poaches were buried next to her tomb.

The hike is quite challenging, tourists are recommended to wear solid hiking shoes, long sleeved pants and shirts, warm sweaters, rain jackets and cameras for photography. Descending from the grave site takes about 1-2 hours.
Permits to hike to the Dian Fossey grave site cost $75 per person and do not need advance booking; you will just pay for it right at kinigi Volcanoes National park headquarters.

There are other tourist activities in Volcanoes national park. For the park is small but with a diversity of wildlife as well as cultural significance. Besides mountain gorillas, there is also the critically endangered golden monkeys stay in bamboo forested slopes. Permits to track golden monkeys cost $ 100 per person.

Near volcanoes national park is the Iby’Iwacu cultural village displaying Rwandan culture with a local touch of African traditional setting of the grass thatched huts. Tourists can participate in different cultural activities such as banana beer brewing; meeting the Batwa pygmies and their unique traditions is fascinating with traditional dance performances.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International funds the conservation and monitoring of habituated 10 gorilla families that fascinates tourists. With other several conservation organizations, mountain gorillas in Rwanda have increased to 250 individuals due to strict conservation in collaboration with Bwindi impenetrable forest national park Uganda where 400 gorillas (half of the entire mountain gorilla population) live and the virunga national park in DR Congo. Today there are 880 mountain gorillas left.

Rwanda nick named the land of a thousand hills due its undulating rolling hills is an amazing safari destination with rich ecosystems that provide home to wildlife including the rare mountain gorillas. Rwanda has emerged from scratches of the 1994 genocide to become a politically safe and economically vibrant country in East Africa.
Rwanda is famous for mountain gorillas which live in tropical forested volcanoes of the virunga massifs in Volcanoes national park in the north of the country. Mountain gorillas attract many tourists who come for gorilla tacking and later visit the Dian Fossey grave site to pay tribute to the pioneer of mountain gorilla conservation.

Hiking the Dian Fossey Tomb site takes tourists through rolling green hills, plantations along the park boundary. You will encounter mammals such as buffalos, worth hogs, forest elephants and many species of birds. Standing at 3000 meters above sea level, the views of the virunga volcanoes are good for nature photographers. Visitors usually learn about the legacy of Dian Fossey that still exists today as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
Right at the site, visitors will see an old house where Dian was killed in 1985 and the tomb where she was buried. To commemorate her work to save gorillas, a cemetery was built where most of the gorillas that would be killed by poaches were buried next to her tomb.


Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park





The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in South-Western Uganda approximately 330 sq km at an altitude of between 1,160m – 3,000m above sea level is the oldest rainforest in Uganda. The name “Bwindi” dwells from Rukiga (Local language) means very thick and not easily passable because of its Afromontane lowland forest in nature which makes it a little hard to trek. It is located at the rim of the Albertine Rift bordering the Great Virunga region which extends to Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is popularly known because it is home to almost half of the world’s largest apes and endangered Mountain Gorilla( Gorilla Gorilla Berengei) population which is projected to be less than 850 in the world. The Mountain Gorillas are the second closest primates to humans only after Chimpanzees having approximately 97% DNA similarity with the humans. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park has four Gorilla Tracking sections which include Ruhija section, Rushaga section, Buhoma section and Nkuringo section from which the different Gorilla Families are found during the trekking. More than 150 Mountain Gorillas are habituated hence can be viewed by visitors. The forest has a vast number of trails which lead to various attractions within including Waterfalls, Rivers like the Muyanga River in the Buhoma valley and many swamps which harbor a lot of wildlife.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park is not only known for being the Land of Mountain Gorillas but is also habitat to over 120 mammal species (only second to Queen Elizabeth National Park) eleven of which are primates most notably The L’Hoest’s monkeys, The Black and White Colombus monkeys, Baboons and Chimpanzees.

The forest is also home to over 346 bird species which include the critically endangered Albertine Rift African green Broadbill. Other commonly viewed include the Black throated Apalis, Crowned Hornbill, Rwenzori Nightjar, Compact and Dark-backed Weaver, Coppery Sunbird, and the Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher.

At such an altitude, its very interesting to be a great spot for its biodiversity with over 170 trees species some of which have existed for more than 2000 years, 100 species of ferns, 27 species of frogs, geckos and Chameleons plus a great number of endemic butterflies.

The park can either be accessed by Road or Air transport. It is about 535km from Kampala, the Capital City of Uganda.
You may use the different routes according to the section that you wish you wish to trek the Mountain Gorillas from.
1) Kampala-Ntungamo-Rukungiri-Kihihi-Buhoma(6 hours)
2) Kampala-Kabale-Nkuringo(6-8 hours)
3) Kampala-Kabale-Rujija( 6-7 hours)
4) Kampala-Kanungu-Buhoma( 6-7 hours)
Using Air transport from either Entebbe International Airport or the Kajjansi Airstrip can get off to Kayonza airstrip or Savannah airstrip in Kihihi which is almost close to all the sections.


Hiking Safaris in Rwanda

Rwanda also known as a land of a thousand hills has three moderate altitude volcanoes which form part of the Virunga massifs.
With the help of Rwandan development board or trusted local tour operators, you are guaranteed the best hiking experience while in Rwanda. Hiking permits can be obtained right in Kinigi Rwanda’s main tourist centre located inside the Volcanoes National Park in Musanze district northern province.

Tourists will not need to book hiking permits in advance, except purchasing your own hiking gears in time or optionally hiring them. Other requirements that you need to enter Rwanda include Rwandan tourist visa and a yellow fever vaccination card.

Rwanda’s three distinct volcanic mountains from an integral part of the virunga volcanic province, a chain of 8 volcanoes that make up the verdant virunga mountains region one of the two place to see mountain gorillas in the whole world.

The volcanoes are karisimbi, Bisoke and muhavura. Karisimbi volcano is the 5th highest peak in Africa standing at 4507 meters above sea level and it will take hikers two days to complete it while Bisoke at 3,700 and muhavura at 4,127 meters above sea level can be hiked in one day.

Mount Karisimbi is best for serious hikers because of its high altitude (4,507 meters above sea level) often referred to as the white shell mountain and once you get on top expect to be covered by a mist of white clouds.
To hike karisimbi, you will need your own hiking gears such as camping tents, sleeping bags, porters, rain jackets, warm clothing not forgetting your cameras.

Hiking starts at kinigi the main tourist centre early at 08:00am. As the guides briefs visitors, hikers make final checking of their hiking gears then slowly ascend. For the first day you will traverse the lush mountain base with wild animal encounters, birds, rare vegetation and scenic views. The first day of hiking takes 6 hours to reach the first camping base and enjoy the overnight camping. The second day hikers ascend up to the top summit offering magnificent and breathtaking views of Nyiragongo in DRC and the greater virunga.
Descending takes about 6 hours depending on the pace of the group and guides.

Mount Muhavura is the second highest volcano in Rwanda at 4,127 meters above sea level. Muhavura is shared between Uganda and Rwanda but it’s possible to hike it from kinigi in volcanoes national park Rwanda. It takes a full day and needs average fitness but rewarding with fantastic views of the five virunga volcanoes and twin lakes of Burera and Rubondo and you will refresh by the Crater Lake near the summit.

While hiking the steep slopes, hikers can see rare high altitude plants such as lobelias abd heathers as well as mammals and monkeys. The name muhuvura means the guide when translated from Kinyarwanda because the mountain is used to navigate the borders of Rwanda and the Albertine rift valley.

Permits to hike can be got on arrival at kinigi and there is mid range to luxury accommodation since hiking the volcanoes takes one full day, hikers can stay for other adventures such as golden monkey tracking and biking safaris.

Mount Bisoke is another stunning volcano standing at 3.711 meters above sea level with a largest crater lake on top than any other crater lake within virunga volcanoes. It’s the fourth highest volcano in Rwanda, Hikers start at 08:00 am and it can be hiked in 4-6 hours roundtrip depending on the average fitness of the group.
Hikers escorted by armed rangers traverse through breathtaking bamboo and sub-alpine that are often covered by fog and are a habitat for mountain gorillas and the Dian Fossey’s karisoke research centre. Hence visitors can make a visit to the grave site of Dian Fossey after the hike.
Hikers are likely to encounter buffalos, giant forest hogs, monkeys and see many birds.

Reaching on top at the crater a perfect picnic to have your packed lunch meals as well as enjoy scenic views of the surrounding volcanoes because it marks the borders of Rwanda and DR Congo. There are accommodations within volcanoes national park or visitors may choose to stay in Goma or in Lake Kivu because these are not far from Bisoke just about 35 km.


Biking Congo Nile Trail- Rwanda

Rwanda is famous for gorilla tracking in volcanoes national park, chimpanzees tracking in Nyungwe forest national park, golden monkeys and wildlife of Akagera which most travelers tend to crave for while in Rwanda.

However, the Congo Nile trails is one of the new adventure activities that even the average tourist will afford as an alternative to highly priced gorillas or chimpanzees.

The Congo Nile trails is 227 km long that runs along the sparkling stretches of Lake Kivu waters and its clear to get the real meaning of a thousand undulating hills. The trails offer stunning views of beautiful rift valley landscapes, shorelines of Lake Kivu, rolling terraced hills, valleys and green plantations which all immerse you into the Rwandan rural life from a cultural experience view point you will navigate through several villages and towns.

The Congo Nile trail offers biking safaris.

It’s a network of trails and dirt roads that runs from Gisenyi on the northern shores of Lake Kivu then extends from Rubavu continues through Rutsiro via the Karongi and Nyamasheke districts and ends at Rusizi at the southern end of lake kivu covering 227 km.

It takes 10 days to complete the 227 km journey but there are no limits of days one is interested to bike. Bikers can decide to choose from a range of short biking trails such as 1 or 2 days than the roundtrips of 5 or 10 days but all in all you are guaranteed to have an ultimate adventure.

Bikers are advised to be vigilant of other road users like motorcycles, cars and pedestrians. The trail is rated moderate to difficult. There are several shops along the trail to buy food and water. The Rwandan development board provides bikers with maps giving clear directions, distances of all trail sections and elevations, there is nothing like getting lost for self guided bike packers.

Depending on your interest of supplies and logistics, Rwandan adventure cycles have all equipments and gears for hiring including average and big mountain bikes without shocks, spare parts such as tires, bike pumps and a patch kit in case of breakages. While hiring or purchasing a bike make sure to test it yourself.

For what to wear or pack, you will need light items such as sleeping bags, warm clothing, gloves, biking shoes, spare tires and bike pumps, head and knee protective helmets/ bandages, sunglasses, strong head lumps/light, mouth masks to protect dust, neck cloth and packed food or snacks and drinks. This is just little it should never dictate for your favorite pack.
Whether you have less than 5 or 10 days which is the maximum time to complete the trail, you will still find pleasure. There are well serviced camping sites, guest houses and coffee washing stations that offer excellent accommodation and of course friendly and welcoming locals make you feel safe to stay minus worries. Whoop! Picture yourself sleeping under the stars.

You will also need to be physically fit and up for the challenging elevations ranging between 1,440 to 2,630 (highest peak) meters above sea level. Of course this is coupled with varying distances between towns and villages for instance Gisenyi to kibuye is about 120 km and includes a chance to take a boat ride on Lake Kivu after a roundtrip.

Biking along the Congo Nile trail in Rwanda is like a discovery that circles around the globe searching for what you have never tried before. Exploring the Congo Biking trail safaris gives cherished encounters of local people doing their daily activities, markets, schools and churches combined with magnificent sceneries is rewarding as it is demanding balancing two wheels.

There are several ways to explore the Congo Nile trail such as motorcycles, bikes, vehicles but one option will give you wilderness experience by biking/ cycling. Cycling enables you to tour Rwanda, interact with local people, and enjoy physical exercising as you wind down the narrow paths, valleys and hills by the lakeside.

Camping along the trail gives an opportunity to explore the surrounding areas and the experience is rewarding to encounter species of birds such as fowls which are common, white headed cormorants and many more to see for birders. Other activities to enjoy include swimming and resting on the karongi Lake Kivu shore beaches, island tours, waterfalls, canoeing and visiting the churches or coffee stations widens your adventure experience. So far the Congo Nile trails biking safaris is the best in East Africa.

For booking the Congo Nile trails biking safaris, you need to get in touch with Rwandan adventures cycling and the Rwandan development board. These will arrange for you biking trips including side adventures to other tourist attractions in Nyungwe or Giswati forest reserve where you will see primates, chimpanzees, birds and the famous canopy walks. Or you can decide to have full day kayaking activities on Lake Kivu after completing the trail in any given time possible.