Uganda and Rwanda have only re-emerged as tourist destinations in the last decade. Lodges and camps there are not as luxurious as in some African countries. Generally accommodation in towns is in three to five star hotels. Up-country it is in lodges or tented camps of varying standard, sometimes with electricity powered by solar power and controlled water supply; some camps have long-drop or composting toilets. Accommodation is based on two people sharing a room, except when a single room supplement is paid. The food may not be sophisticated but benefits from the inclusion of fresh fruit and vegetables.
We recommend clients do not give money to beggars or children; it is better to give donations to established charities that help the homeless or street children or schools. Exercise books, pens and pencils are useful gifts but not money or sweets as they create a dependency culture. Volcanoes Safaris can make arrangements to visit schools and orphanages on request. Please ask a member of Volcanoes staff for advice.
Ugandans and Rwandans appreciate those who dress modestly. Cotton clothing is the most comfortable during the day. Uganda and Rwanda are warm in the plains but often cold in the hilly and mountainous areas; a rain jacket, heavy sweater and boots are therefore essential. See also our recommended packing list and equipment for Gorilla tracking and Rwenzoris.
Volcanoes is involved in supporting a number of community /school projects. We welcome further participation in these activities. Please ask us for more details.
Kampala to Kyambura Gorge Lodge
Take the northern bypass (to avoid the heavy traffic) and drive to the Busega roundabout. Take the Masaka - Mbarara highway (approx 287 Km). From Mbarara town, take the Bushenyi - Kasese road to Kyambura trading centre in Rubirizi district; there is a Volcanoes Kyambura Gorge Lodge signpost at the trading centre. Turn right on the Katerera road (1km) to Volcanoes Kymabura Gorge Lodge. Mbarara to Volcanoes Kyambura Gorge Lodge is approx 130km.
This journey should take 6 - 7 hours with a lunch stop on the way.
Kampala to Bwindi Lodge
Take the Kampala – Masaka – Mbarara highway (approx 280km). Drive through the main street of Mbarara for about 3km, then turn right and take the Kasese road (Bushenyi and Rubirizi districts).
Continue on to Katunguru - Ishasha junction at the park headquarters (about 10km) where you will turn left on the Murram road (Note the Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge signpost is at the turn to Ishasha road). Drive 81km within the park to the Kihihi turning. From the junction in Ishasha to Kihihi town is about 10km.
From Kihihi take Kanungu road up to Kanyantorogo. Take Butogota road for about 33km then turn right (there is a Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge signpost). Drive for 17km to Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge in Buhoma.
This drive will take approximately 10 hours.
Kampala to Mount Gahinga Lodge
Take the Kampala – Masaka – Mbarara highway (approx 280km). Drive through the main street of Mbarara and follow the Mbarara – Ntungamo – Kabale road (158km). Once in Kabale town, take the Kabale – Kisoro road (80km). The Kisoro road has a number of bends, hills and valleys; drive with extra care.
From Kisoro town continue to Bunagana road, turn left opposite the Kisoro police station (50 meters) then turn right and follow the Mgahinga – Kisoro road (14km sign post showing Mgahinga National Park).
This drive should take approximately 8 - 9 hours.
Kigali to Virunga Lodge
Take the Kigali – Butare road then turn right after 3km and take Kigali – Musanze (Ruhengeri) road.
Drive through Ruhengeri town and turn left and take Ruhengeri – Cyanika road (approx 17km) to Nyarwondo. (At the turn off on the Ruhengeri – Cyanika road, there is a Volcanoes Virunga Lodge signpost). Turn right and take the Murram road (about 5km) on to Virunga and lodge signs will guide you to the lodge.
This drive should take approximately 3 hours.
Kigali to Mount Gahinga Lodge
Take the Kigali – Butare road then turn right after 3km and take Kigali – Musanze (Ruhengeri) road.
Drive through Ruhengeri town and turn off on the left and take Ruhengeri – Cyanika road (approx 28km) to Cyanika border. After clearing with Uganda/Rwanda immigration, continue to Kisoro town (approx 14km).
Take the Bunagana road, turn left opposite the Kisoro police station (50 meters) then turn right and follow the Mgahinga – Kisoro road (14km sign post showing Mgahinga National Park).
This drive should take approximately 4 hours
Kigali to Bwindi Lodge
Take the Kigali - Katuna road (95km) onto the Rwanda/Uganda border post (Katuna border). After clearing with immigration for both countries continue to Kabale town (22km).
Drive for 30km on Kabale – Kisoro road, turn right and take the Ruhinja road (there is a big signpost detailing which it is). Continue on the Ruhinja road until you get to the edge of the forest where you will find a signpost to Buhoma.
Along the way there are signposts for Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge. Please follow the signposts.
This drive should take approximately 7 hours.
Kigali to Kyambura Gorge Lodge
Take the Kigali - Katuna road (95km) onto the Rwanda/Uganda border post (Katuna border). After clearing with immigration for both countries continue to Kabale town (22km). From Kabale town, turn right and take the Kabale – Ntungamo road (75km).
As you approach Ntungamo town, turn left at the Fuelex fuel station and follow the Ntungamo – Rukungiriri road (15km). Turn right from Kagamba junction. Drive to Ishaka town (35 km), turn left and continue to Kyambura town Rubirizi district.
From Rubirizi town continue to Kyambura trading centre where you will see a Volcanoes Kyambura Gorge Lodge signpost. Turn right on the Katerera road (1km) to Volcanoes Kymabura Gorge Lodge.
This drive will take approximately 6 hours.
Between the lodges:
Kyambura Gorge Lodge to Bwindi Lodge
This route passes the park's southerly Ishasha sector, providing the chance of a stopover to search for the famous tree-climbing lions.
From Kyambura Gorge Lodge take the Kasese road and continue on to the Katunguru - Ishasha junction at the park headquarters (about 10km) where you will turn left on the Murram road (note that the Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge signpost is at the turning onto the Ishasha road). Drive 81km within the park to the Kihihi turn off. From the junction in Ishasha to Kihihi town is about 10km.
From Kihihi take Kanungu road up to Kanyantorogo. Take Butogota road for about 33km and then turn right (there is a Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge signpost). Drive for 17km to Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge in Buhoma.
This journey should take approximately 5 hours depending on the stops.
Bwindi lodge to Mount Gahinga Lodge
From Bwindi take the Ruhija road and drive for 70km to the Kabale - Kisoro tarmac road. Turn right to Kisoro road and drive for about 55km onto Kisoro town. From Kisoro town continue on the Bunagana road, turn left opposite the Kisoro police station (50 meters) then turn right and follow the Mgahinga – Kisoro road (14km sign post showing Mgahinga National Park).
The drive from Bwindi lodge to Mgahinga lodge should take about 5 – 6 hours. However, it may stretch to 7 hours during the rainy season.
Mount Gahinga lodge to Virunga Lodge
From Mgahinga, drive to Kisoro town and proceed to the Uganda/Rwanda border (Cyanika border post about 22km). From Cyanika take the Ruhengeri road – drive for about 12km to Nyarwondo trading centre and turn left. From here, Volcanoes Virunga Lodge signposts will guide you to the lodge on top of the hill (approx 5km).
From Mgahinga to Virunga lodge should take you about 2 hours including clearing with immigration.
For any emergency, please call + 256 772 741 718.
Uganda: 240 volts. 3-pin (square) sockets. Rwanda: 230/240 volts at 50 Hz. 2-pin (round) sockets. It is best to travel with your own adaptor. At Volcanoes lodges these are provided. Most camps/lodges, even if they do not have power, can make arrangements for recharging batteries. Consult your guide.
Warm clothes, fleece or light wool sweater, moisture wicking undergarments, lightweight wool socks, long-sleeved shirt, strong waterproof walking boots (comfortable for going up and down steep hills), sturdy trousers, sunglasses, a torch, fast film, binoculars, sun screen, a sun hat, a breathable lightweight rain poncho or parka with a rain hat, gloves to grip vegetation (inexpensive gardening gloves work well) and a small backpack to carry water and a packed lunch. It is best to have layers of clothing as temperatures tend to change. The guides will make you a walking stick if needed.
Climbing - mountain gloves or mittens / overmitts for climbing; climbing rope; crampons; ice axe; climbing harness; carabiners; slings; day pack/climbing pack; tent; sleeping bag; sleeping mat; waterproof sacks, such as large canoe bags (Ortleib) for packing tent, gear and sleeping bag and clothes. Clothing - hats for sun/rain; warm hat for high altitude climbing; mountain jacket; rain gear; fleece jacket and sweater; long-sleeve trekking shirts; T-shirts; hiking, climbing pants; shorts; light weight long underwear; light pair of gloves for camp. Footwear - camp shoes or sandals, walking shoes (runners) gaiters (a set for low and high altitudes); and mountain boots that can fit crampons for going to summit. Medical - Malaria prophylaxis; Diamox (helps acclimatisation and reduces risk of edema); non-prescription painkillers (like panadol - avoid aspirin); sleeping pills (for those who find it hard to sleep at altitude); first aid kit; medication; sun screen, about 45 or 60 spf; dark sunglasses.
Volcanoes Safaris does not organize or sell international flights. We have partnered with AirTreks, based in San Francisco, the leader in international flight planning, to assist our clients with arranging flights to Entebbe in Uganda or Kigali in Rwanda. Airtreks' travel consultants work with each traveller to find the best choice of airlines, routes, and fares. For a co-coordinated and customized flight itinerary at a cost-effective price please contact Airtreks at email@example.com, or call (+1) 415-977-7100 and ask for the Volcanoes Safaris representative.
Flights to Uganda are available from British Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Brussels Airlines, KLM, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, African Express, South Africa Airways and Kenya Airways.
Flights within Uganda are offered by Aerolink which operates twice daily flights between Murchison Falls, Kibale Forest, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi and Kidepo. Fly Uganda also offers scheduled flights to Murchison Falls, Kibale Forest, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi and Kidepo.
Flights to Rwanda are available from KLM, Kenya Airways, Brussels Airlines, Qatar Aiways, Turkish Airlines, South Africa Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.
Helicopter transfers within Rwanda can be arranged daily to Volcanoes Virunga Lodge and other destinations.
Flights within East Africa are operated by Kenya Airways, Precision, Coastal Aviation, Air Uganda and Rwandair, making the connection between Uganda, Rwanda and the savannah plains of Kenya and Tanzania easier than ever before!
Please note that Volcanoes Safaris does not handle international flights. The airlines operating to the region are subject to change so please check with the airline concerned. Please also be sure to book flights at the appropriate time that connect with the beginning and end of your safari.
Main roads are generally good but travel is much slower than on European or American roads. Secondary roads are of variable quality and often slow and bumpy especially around the gorilla parks. Be prepared for long car journeys often taking most of the day. Four-wheel drive vehicles are required for certain routes in the rainy season. Light aircraft can also be chartered to the main airfields.
The gorilla lives in four parks in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. In Uganda they are seen in Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park, in Rwanda they can be tracked in the Parc National des Volcans (PNV) where Dian Fossey conducted her research. The Parc National de Virunga in the DRC also has a number of habituated gorilla families but Volcanoes does not currently take clients there.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has nine habituated families with 8 permits available daily for each group. The gorillas there live in thicker tropical forest and tracking is more challenging as the hillsides are steeper and it can take 3-10 hours after leaving the base. Five of the families (Mubare, Habinyanja, Oruzogo, Bitukura and Rushegura) are accessed from Buhoma in the north, staying at Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge. A further four families can be tracked from Southern Bwindi around Nkuringo, which is accessed from Kisoro, staying at Volcanoes Mount Gahinga Lodge. These families are Nkuringo, Nshongi, Kahunje and Mishaya.
The Mubare group has 7 members including 1 silverback. Mubare is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Uganda and was named after the Mubare hills, where it was first spotted.
The Habinyanja group has 15 members with 2 silverbacks. Habinyanja means ‘body of water’.
The Oruzogo group has 16 members including 1 silverback. The group was named after the local name of a common plant in the home range of this family.
The Bitukura group has 12 members including 4 silverbacks and was named after the Bitukura river.
The Rushegura group has 19 members with 1 silverback and was named after the place where the separation of this group from the larger family of Habinyanja took place in February 2002.
The Nkuringo group has 19 members with 2 silverbacks and was named after the Nkuringo hill where the group was first spotted.
The Nshongi group has 25 members with 4 silverbacks. The group was named after the river close to where this gorilla family was first sighted.
The Kahungye group has about 27 members, including 3 silverbacks. The group was named after the Kahungye hill.
The Mishaya group has 12 members including 1 silverback. Mishaya means 'lucky one'.
Parc National Des Volcans (PNV) in Rwanda has ten habituated gorilla families. These include Susa, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Umubano, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Agashya, Bwenge and Ugyenda. Most groups are half-day walks but Susa can take around 7 hours. There are 80 permits available each day, which splits up into 8 permits for each group. Tracking in PNV and Mgahinga is usually easier than Bwindi as the afromontane forest is lighter.
The Susa group has 28 members including 3 silverbacks. It was the largest gorilla group before it split into twoand was named after the Susa river.
The Karisimbi group is the family that split from the original Susa family. It has 15 members and it always stays in the slopes of Karisimbi Volcano.
The Sabyinyo group has 12 members including 2 silverbacks. The group was named after the rugged Sabyinyo volcano. Sabyinyo means 'old man's teeth'.
The Amahoro group has 17 members including 1 silverback. Amahoro means 'peaceful'.
The Umubano group has 11 members including 1 silverback. Umubano means 'live together'.
The Kwitonda group has 18 members including 2 silverbacks. Kwitonda means 'humble one'.
The Hirwa group has 12 members including 1 silverback. Hirwa means 'lucky one'.
The Agasha group has 25 members including 2 silverbacks. Agasha means 'the news'.
The Bwenge group has 10 members including 1 silverback. Bwenge means 'brightness'.
The Ugyenda group has 11 members including 1 silverback. Ugyenda means 'departure'.
Only a limited number of permits are available in each gorilla park. It is therefore essential to book well in advance. Permits need to be paid for at the time of the initial safari booking so that they can be purchased immediately. Delay in payment can result in permits not being secured. Those going gorilla tracking need to be properly equipped and should consult our website for a packing list. To protect gorillas from disease, no children under 15 or people with illnesses may go tracking. Trackers must be fit and in good health as tracking in thick forest at heights up to 3,000m traversing steep-sided mountains and ravines can be tough, arduous and wet. Porters can be hired to carry equipment. Part of the gorilla permit fee goes to communities living around the gorilla parks. Permits are non-refundable except for medical reasons and a medical certificate has to be provided. Gorilla viewing can be denied at short notice because of national park or border closures, security changes or gorillas going out of range. In such circumstances refunds are at the discretion of the authority and are not within the company's control. Obtaining a gorilla permit therefore is not a guarantee of seeing a gorilla. One hour is allowed with the gorillas, at a distance of at least 7 metres. Flash photography is not allowed, so fast film is useful (400-1600 ASA). Personal DVD recorders are allowed. Professional film makers require permission and need to purchase filming permits. At the National Parks you will meet your ranger who explains the rules for tracking gorillas and will take you up to the gorillas. Please follow the rules stated.
There are no set percentages for tips. Local culture believes the level of tips should be at the discretion of the client and any token of appreciation is gladly received. These are our suggestions: About 3-5% in restaurants; at lodges/camps US$ $3-5 per guest for a stay of 1-3 days; for driver/guides US$ $5 - 10 per day per client; for the Head Ranger when gorilla tracking $10 per day per client who shares it out; porters at parks - $20-25 per day per person; Hotel/lodge baggage porters - $1 to $2 per client per stay. Forest walks - $5 per client.
Seek medical advice before travelling. In the UK, MASTA (The Medical Advisory Service for Travellers Abroad) can be consulted on +44 9068 224100 or on line at www.masta.org. In the USA, CDC can be consulted on www.cdc.gov. Bring any personal medication required. Anti-malaria tablets and mosquito repellent are essential. Seek advice on vaccination inoculations that may be required. Travel to and from some African countries such as the DRC requires a Yellow Fever inoculation. Drink bottled or boiled water only. Medical services, especially up-country, are basic. Ensure the insurance cover includes medical and evacuation cover.
It is a condition of booking that all clients must have, and must demonstrate to the company prior to their departure, adequate insurance for the duration of the tour. Such insurance should fully cover personal injury; medical expenses; repatriation in the event of accident, illness or death; cancellation or curtailment of the tour by the company or client; and loss of, damage to, or theft of the clients' personal property. Activities with a greater inherent risk, such as mountaineering, animal tracking on foot and white-water rafting should be covered. Please see the Travel Insurance page for more information. Theft, personal injury or any disruption to arrangements should be reported immediately to the company and to the nearest police station.
On safari, luggage should be limited to two items of baggage per person.
Upon your arrival in Entebbe or Kigali, a Volcanoes Safaris representative will meet you after immigration control. If you have any problems call our 24-hour Ugandan telephone number on +256 (0)772 741718 or our Rwanda 24-hour number on +250 0830 2069.
Relative to other African countries, Uganda and Rwanda are expensive destinations. Most costs are covered in the safari. For personal expenditure Travellers Cheques and some cash are best; US$30-50 per day is a reasonable minimum. One US Dollar is about 2575 Ugandan Shillings and 640 Rwandan Francs (June 2013). Please be aware that high denomination US Dollar bills (only post-2000) are usable. Bills should be in excellent condition with no stains or tears. Credit cards are accepted by very few outlets in Kampala and Kigali and a few hotels/lodges up-country. Only cash is accepted by most places. ATM machines are available in Kampala and Kigali only.
Photography is not allowed near military buildings or soldiers. Before photographing people it is polite to ask. Bring sufficient films, including fast film (400-1600 ASA) for gorilla tracking and batteries. For digital photography, please bring extra batteries and a car charger as not all lodges/camps have electricity. Volcanoes Safaris lodges have facilities to charge batteries. Flash photography is not allowed, so fast film is useful (400-1600 ASA). Personal DVD recorders are allowed. Professional filmmakers require permission and need to purchase filming permits. Those interested in photographing gorillas should note that photography is often easier when the weather is not sunny.
Prices INCLUDE transport and a driver/guide for the itinerary agreed, accommodation on a shared basis and meals as stated (in Kampala, Entebbe and Kigali bed and breakfast only and on safari full board) and, where appropriate, boat trips, park fees, one chimpanzee and one gorilla permit. At Volcanoes gorilla lodges, the tariffs are on an all-inclusive basis and in addition to accommodation and meals, include unlimited consumption of all alcoholic and soft drinks; laundry services and any activities clients wish to do around the lodges. A complimentary massage is also offered. All gorilla permits need to be purchased at the time of booking or a deposit equivalent to 20% of the cost of the safari paid, whichever is higher. Gorilla viewing is subject to availability of permits, which are limited; any additional gorilla permits required should be purchased when booking. Gorilla permit prices are subject to change without warning.. Prices EXCLUDE airfares to Uganda/Rwanda, entry visas and airport taxes. At non-Volcanoes lodges all personal expenditure such as tips, telephone calls, laundry and drinks are excluded. For single rooms, a supplement (SRS) needs to be paid. From the safari price paid by clients Volcanoes contributes $100 per client to the Volcanoes Partnership Trust, a separate non-profit organisation which undertakes community and conservation activities.
Safety standards conform to local standards and regulations. For specific inquiries check with us.
For latest information consult the relevant government's consular advice and Volcanoes’ website: www.volcanoessafaris.com, or get in touch with us. Basic precautions should be taken, as in all countries, and common sense used. Do not carry excessive jewellery and money or leave them lying around. Use safe deposit boxes where available; secure travel documents and valuables. Do not walk unescorted at night. If in doubt seek advice from your Volcanoes guide.
International telephone communication is very good from Kampala and Kigali but more difficult from some up-country areas. The mobile telephone network is good and rapidly expanding. Most European or American mobile phones with a roaming agreement work in Uganda and Rwanda. Local SIM cards can also be purchased in many outlets. Internet facilities are available in Kampala and Kigali and in most major towns in Uganda and Rwanda although the quality and speed of the connection varies. Our guides have cell phones which can be used for incoming calls.
Uganda is three hours ahead of GMT. Rwanda is two hours ahead of GMT.
A valid passport is mandatory. Multiple-entry visas are difficult to obtain. Single entry visas are available without difficulty.
Rwandan visas are NOT required by nationals of USA, Germany, South Africa, Great Britain, Sweden, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Kenya, DRC, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi. Please note that it is no longer possible to acquire Rwandan visas on arrival at the airport, so other nationals should either submit their application demands to Rwandan Embassies/Diplomatic Missions abroad, or request for an online Entry Facility Form, which allows them to obtain a visa on arrival at the airport. Please visit https://www.migration.gov.rw/online_visa/ for details.
Clients who need a visa will be required to present a copy of the accepted Entry Facility Form at the airport in order to obtain their Visas. A single entry visa to Rwanda costs US$ 60. In the UK the Rwandan Embassy is located 120 - 122 Seymour Place, London W1H 1NR. Telephone: +44 020 722 49 832. In the USA the Rwandan Embassy is located at 1724 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DE 200091. Telephone: +1 202 232 2882.
Ugandan visas are required by citizens of the European Union, the USA and Japan; other nationals should check. Entry visas can be obtained at Ugandan missions overseas or at Entebbe airport or land borders. A single entry visa to Uganda costs US$ 50, and is valid for three months. In the UK the Ugandan Embassy is located at Uganda House, 58/59 Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DX. Telephone: +44 (0)20 7839 5783. In the USA the Uganda Embassy is located at 5811 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20011. Telephone: +1 202 726 7100.
Uganda and Rwanda are both near the Equator. As a result the climate does not change much, this makes both countries all year round destinations. The rainy seasons tend to be from March to April and October to November, but this varies in different areas and it can rain any time of year, especially in the gorilla parks areas. Travel can be slower in the rainy season but the views are often better. Gorilla tracking can be muddier but remains open. In the mountainous areas it is much colder than on the plains and the rainfall is greater. The temperatures on the plains tend to be between 21°C and 30°C and in the mountainous areas they can go down to 10°C in certain months. So our advice is to travel when it is most convenient and usually the rain, which is often for short periods, is part of the great experience. A client may avoid tracking in the "official" rainy season only to find that it pours throughout his visit during another period! For this reason Volcanoes does not close our lodges during the rainy season as they do in savannah countries.
Things work more slowly on the African continent than in Western countries and there can be unexpected delays and difficulties. It is important to be patient!