FAQ

We have tried to provide answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions below. Please click any of the below sections to have your questions answered by our Rwanda and Uganda safari company!

If you cannot find the answer to your question, feel free to contact a member of our sales team.

FAQ

Visas

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A valid passport with minimum six months of validity is mandatory. Single entry visas are available without difficulty. Multiple-entry visas are difficult to obtain. You will need a valid Yellow Fever certificate to enter Uganda and Rwanda. If you require a visa, you will need to show your Yellow Fever certificate during the visa application process.

Rwanda tourist visas

The latest advice from the Rwanda immigration service is the following:

  • Nationals of USA, UK, Australia, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden require a tourist visa and pay a visa fee of $30 upon arrival at any Rwanda entry point without prior application. The visa is valid for a period of 30 days.
  • Rwanda tourist visas are NOT required by nationals of the East Africa community and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Hong Kong, Philippines, Mauritius and Singapore.
  • Foreign nationals of all other countries should submit their visa applications to Rwandan Diplomatic Missions of their country of residence.
  • Where there is no Diplomatic Mission or consulate, visitors should use the online visa application process. Successful applicants will be sent an Entry Facility Form that should be presented on arrival in Rwanda. The single entry visa is issued upon payment of the $30 visa fee.
  • Please visit the Rwanda immigration web site  for more information on different visa types.

For more information about Rwanda tourist visas, contact:

  • In the UK, the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda is located at 120 – 122 Seymour Place, London W1H 1NR. Telephone: +44 (0)20 722 49 832.
  • In the USA, the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda is located at 1724 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DE 200091. Telephone: +1 202 232 2882.
  • List of Rwandan diplomatic missions around the world.

Uganda tourist visas

The latest advice from the Uganda immigration service is the following:

  • Nationals of USA, the European Union and Japan require a tourist visa and should apply in advance of travel to Uganda. The visa fee of $100 is payable upon arrival at any Uganda entry point.
  • Uganda tourist visas are NOT required by nationals of Ireland, the East Africa community, COMESA. Other nationals should check.
  • Applications for all Ugandan visas should be made online on the Uganda immigration website.
  • A single entry visa to Uganda costs US$ 50, and is valid for between two weeks and three months.

For more information about Uganda tourist visas, contact:

  • 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.
  • Please visit the Uganda immigration web site for more information on different visa types.
  • List of Ugandan diplomatic missions around the world.

 

Please note that immigration rules and visa costs are subject to change at late notice. For any information, you are welcome to contact the Volcanoes Safaris team.

 

Clothing

ClothingUgandans and Rwandans appreciate modest dressing.

Uganda and Rwanda are warm in the plains but often cold in the hilly and mountainous areas. Cotton clothing is the most comfortable during the day. Layered clothing, a rain jacket, heavy sweater and boots are essential for higher altitude stays at Bwindi Lodge, Gahinga Lodge and Virunga Lodge.

See also our recommended packing list for hiking and equipment list for Gorilla tracking.

Electricity
  • Uganda: 240 volts. 3-pin (square) sockets.
  • Rwanda: 230/240 volts at 50 Hz. 2-pin (round) sockets.Electricity

We recommend you travel with your own adaptor. Although we do provide adaptors at Volcanoes Lodges, not all lodges will supply adaptors.

Even those lodges that do not have power, can usually make arrangements for recharging batteries.

If you have any questions, please contact our sales office or consult your driver guide.

Equipment for Gorilla Tracking

Mountain gorilla, Gorilla gorilla berengi, Volcanoes National Park, RwandaWe recommend the following clothing and equipment for tracking the gorillas:

  • Warm clothes, including a 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 walking trousers
  • A breathable lightweight rain poncho or ‘parka’ with a rain hat
  • Gloves to grip vegetation (inexpensive gardening gloves work well)
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and sun hat
  • Torch
  • A good supply of rechargeable camera batteries and/or fast film
  • Binoculars
  • A small backpack to carry water and a packed lunch

It is best to wear layers of clothing as temperatures fluctuate. Early mornings on the mountains can be cold, although as the sun rises in the sky, and you climb, you will start to feel the heat. It rains often, generally in the afternoons.

The ranger guides will make you a walking stick, if needed, or you can borrow one from your lodge. You will find the walking sticks come in very useful when climbing up and down slippery slopes.

Equipment for Hiking

Hiking EquipmentWe recommend the following clothing and equipment for mountain climbing:

Clothing

  • Mountain gloves or mittens, or overmitts for climbing;  light pair of gloves for camp
  • Hats for sun/rain; warm hat for high altitude climbing
  • Mountain jacket and raingear
  • Fleece jacket and sweater; long-sleeve trekking shirts; T-shirts
  • Hiking or climbing trousers; shorts
  • Lightweight long underwear

Footwear

  • Camp shoes or sandals
  • Walking shoes (runners)
  • Gaiters (a set for low and high altitudes)
  • Mountain boots that can fit crampons

Equipment

  • Climbing rope and climbing harness
  • Crampons and ice axe
  • Carabiners; slings
  • Day pack/climbing pack
  • Tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat. Waterproof sacks, such as large canoe bags (Ortleib) for packing tent, climbing gear, sleeping bag and clothes

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
  • Your personal medication
  • Sun screen (about SPF 45 or 60); dark sunglasses
Flights

FlightsVolcanoes 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 volcanoessafaris@airtreks.com, or call (+1) 415-977-7100 and ask for the Volcanoes Safaris representative.

Flights to Uganda are available from 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 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.

Gorilla parks and Gorilla families

OD8_0771The Mountain gorilla lives in four parks in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In Uganda the gorillas can be trekked in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park.

In Rwanda the Gorillas can be tracked in the Parc National des Volcans (PNV) where the famous Primatologist Dian Fossey conducted her groundbreaking research.

Virunga National Park in the DRC also has a number of habituated gorilla families but Volcanoes Safaris does not currently take clients there.

UGANDA

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has ten habituated families with 8 permits available daily for each group. Bwindi’s gorillas live in thick tropical forest and tracking is more challenging than Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and PNV in Rwanda as the hillsides are steeper. Trekking the mountain gorillas in Bwindi can take 3-10 hours after leaving the Park headquarters.

Five of Bwindi’s Gorilla families (Mubare, Habinyanja, Oruzogo, Bitukura and Rushegura) are accessed from Buhoma in the north, for guests staying at Volcanoes Safaris’ Bwindi Lodge. An additional four families can be tracked from Southern Bwindi, which is accessed from Kisoro, for guests staying at Volcanoes Safaris’ Mount Gahinga Lodge. These gorilla families are Nkuringo, Nshongi, Kahunje and Mishaya.

The Mubare Family: 
11 members including 1 silverback.
Mubare is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Uganda, having been habituated between 1991 and 1993 and was named after the Mubare Hills, where the family was first spotted. The family is led by silverback Kanyonyi.
15-30 minutes from Bwindi Lodge.

The Habinyanja Family: 17 members with 1 silverbacks.
Habinyanja means ‘body of water.’ This family was habituated in 1997. It was a massive family group that split into two families, the other being the Rushegura family.
1 hour drive from Bwindi Lodge.

The Oruzogo Family: 17 members including 1 silverback.
The group was named after the local name of a common plant in this gorilla family’s home range.
2 hour drive from Bwindi Lodge.

The Bitukura Family: 14 members including 4 silverbacks
The family is one of the newer groups in the Impenetrable Forest and was named after the Bitukura river. Their habituation started in 2007 and tracking began in 2008.
2 hour drive from Bwindi Lodge.

The Rushegura Family: 15 members with 1 silverback
The family was habituated in 2000. It is named after the place where this group separated from the larger family of Habinyanja. Their name is taken from a tree species that grows in their home area, ‘Ebishegura’. They are a calm group and often visit the Bwindi Lodge gardens.
15 minutes or less from Bwindi Lodge (It is the nearest group o the lodge).

The Nkuringo Family: 12 members with 2 silverbacks
The family was named after the Nkuringo Hill where the group was first spotted. They were originally habituated in 2004 because of difficulties caused by their destroying crops of local farmers. Now farmers benefit from the tourism they provide.
6 hours from Bwindi Lodge; 2 hours from Mount Gahinga Lodge.

The Nshongi Family: 7 members with 1 silverbacks.
The group was named after the river close to where this gorilla family was first sighted. Nshongi was the largest group to be habituated and were first tracked in 2009.
6-7 hours from Bwindi Lodge; 2 hours from Mount Gahinga Lodge.

The Mishaya Family: 9 members including 1 silverback.
Mishaya means ‘lucky one’. The group was formed after a dispute in the Nshongi family, at which point they split off and became a separate family.
6-7 hours from Bwindi Lodge; 2 hours from Mount Gahinga Lodge.

The Kahungye Family: 18 members including 3 silverbacks.
The group was named after the Kahungye Hill. Visitors have been tracking this family since 2011.
6-7 hours from Bwindi Lodge; 2 hours from Mount Gahinga Lodge.

UGANDA

Mgahinga National Park has 1 gorilla group, the Nyakagezi Family, who have recently returned from their travelling in Rwanda and Congo. Tracking in Mgahinga and Rwanda is usually easier than Bwindi as the afromontane forest is lighter and easier to navigate.

The Nyakagezi Family: 10 members, including 5 silverbacks.
Although this group gained a reputation for being nomadic (crossing the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC) they have been resident in Uganda for nearly 3 years.
5 minutes from Mount Gahinga Lodge (the group tends to move frequently and distance to the group itself varies).

RWANDA

Parc National des Volcans (PNV) in Rwanda has ten habituated gorilla families with 8 permits available daily for each group. 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. Tracking in PNV is usually easier than tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda as the afromontane forest is lighter.

The Susa group: 28 members including 3 silverbacks.
Susa was the largest gorilla group before it split into two and was named after the Susa river. It was the group originally studied by Dian Fossey and is popular because of a pair of twins, Byishimo and Impano.
40 minutes from Virunga Lodge.

The Karisimbi group: 15 members including 3 silverbacks.
This is the family that split from the original Susa family. It has 15 members and it always stays in the lower slopes of Karisimbi Volcano.
40 minutes from Virunga Lodge.

The Sabyinyo group: 12 members including 2 silverbacks.
The group was named after the rugged Sabyinyo Volcano. Sabyinyo means ‘old man’s teeth’ and the group is known to stay between the mountains Sabyinyo and Gahinga, enjoying the gentle slopes and easy terrain.
40 minutes from Virunga Lodge.

The Amahoro group: 17 members including 1 silverback.
Amahoro means ‘peaceful’ and the group is usually extraordinarily gentle and peaceful, which is why they were given the name. It is a tougher climb to reach them, though.
40 minutes from Virunga Lodge.

The Umubano group: 11 members including 1 silverback.
Umubano means ‘live together’ as the group originally formed when it split from the Amahoro group. They still share much of the same territory and there is a peaceful relationship between them.
40 minutes from Virunga Lodge.

The Kwitonda group: 18 members including 2 silverbacks.
Kwitonda means ‘humble one’, a name given to the group after the name of their dominant silverback. They generally stay on the lower slopes of Mount Muhavura but are one of the more difficult tracking experiences.
40 minutes from Virunga Lodge.

The Hirwa group: 12 members including 1 silverback.
Hirwa means ‘lucky one’. Hirwa is a new group that was formed when splinters from Sabyinyo group and Group 13 merged. They have twins and are usually on Mount Sabyinyo.
40 minutes from Virunga Lodge.

The Agasha group: 25 members including 2 silverbacks.
Agasha means ‘the news’. The Agasha group was previously known as Group 13 but was renamed when Agasha challenged the dominant silverback by leading the group away from him and assimilating other individuals from groups or solitary wandering.
40 minutes from Virunga Lodge.

The Bwenge group: 10 members including 1 silverback.
Bwenge means ‘brightness’ and shares much of their territory with the Ugyenda group on Mount Visoke.
40 minutes from Virunga Lodge.

The Ugyenda group: 11 members including 1 silverback.
Ugyenda means ‘departure’. The group usually stays around the Mount Visoke region and the tracking is not too difficult.
40 minutes from Virunga Lodge.

Gorilla Trekking

Virunga LodgeOnly 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.

Gratuities

GratuitiesThere 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:

  • Restaurants: 3-5%
  • Lodge Camp Staff: US$ 3-5 per person per day.
  • Guides/Drivers: US$5 per day per person.
  • Community walk guide/ Batwa trail guide: US$ 5 per person.
  • Channel/boat trip staff: US$5 per person.
  • Gorilla tracking: US$ $5-10 per person per day for the main guide. A smaller amount for the rangers.
  • Porter for gorilla treks: US$ 15 per person per day in Uganda and US$ 10 per person per day in Rwanda to help carry bags and help with the trek.
  • Intore dancers at Virunga/ Batwa dancers at Mount Gahinga $5 per person.
  • Hotel/lodge baggage porters: US$ 1-2 per person.
Health/Medical/Fitness

HealthSeek 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.

All passengers travelling to East Africa, including Uganda and Rwanda, are required to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate on arrival as a condition for entry in to the country.

Drink bottled or boiled water only. Medical services, especially up-country, are basic. Ensure the insurance cover includes medical and evacuation cover.

Insurance

JPM Aerial 004.tifIt 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.

For more information visit our Safari Insurance Page.

Money

OD8_6216Most costs are covered in the safari.

For personal expenditure cash is best; US$30-50 per day is a reasonable minimum. One US Dollar is about 3400 Ugandan Shillings and 700 Rwandan Francs (July 2015).

Please be aware that only post-2006 US Dollar bills 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

PhotographyPhotography is not allowed near military buildings or soldiers. Before photographing people it is polite to ask. 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.

Security

SecurityBasic 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.

Time

Uganda is three hours ahead of GMT. Rwanda is two hours ahead of GMT.Time

Telephone and Internet

TelephoneInternational 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. Our safari guides have cell phones which can be used for incoming calls.

Most European or American mobile phones with a roaming agreement work in Uganda and Rwanda. Local SIM cards can be purchased cheaply (upon presentation of your passport).

Internet facilities are widely available in Kampala and Kigali and in most major towns in Uganda and Rwanda although the quality and speed of the connection varies. Free Wi-Fi is available in all our lodges. However, the remote locations do affect connectivity.

Weather

WeatherUganda 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.

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.