Akagera National Park
Great For: Getting very close and learning about conservation.
Highlights: The simple beauty and ease of safari.
Akagera is one of Africa’s great conservation stories, a compact wilderness that has successfully reintroduced species after the land was ravaged during the 1994 genocide fallout. Lions and elephants now roam, joining hippos and large antelope populations.
Cute and charming, the park provides a varied safari experience, with boat rides and walks complementing the drives. Consider the behind the scenes conservation tours as well, a great insight into how the land has been revitalized.
The range of wildlife now makes Akagera a good first-time safari destination; you’ll get very close to the famous animals, even if the park doesn’t have the same quantity of life as in nearby Tanzania.
Best Time to Visit Akagera National Park: June to September is very good although most other months will be okay other than March to May.
Also Consider: Lake Manyara and Tarangire national parks in Tanzania.
Combine With: Nyungwe and Volcanoes national parks for the full savannah and forest adventure.
Great For: A Central African Congo Basin safari experience.
Highlights: Chimpanzee tracking and the sheer variety of primates.
The Congo Basin remains an unexplored land full of magic and mystique. Traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo or Congo is extremely difficult and usually unsafe. But the Congo Basin ecosystem can also be found in Rwanda.
Nyungwe National Park immerses you in the Congo rainforest and is just four hours drive from Kigali. Primates thrive and you’ll spot over a dozen species when spending a couple of days exploring.
Walking safaris are the only way to get around and it’s remarkable how close you get to rare mangabeys and monkeys. Chimpanzees are the prime attraction and Nyungwe is one of the best parks in Africa to see these icons in their natural habitat.
Best Time to Visit Nyungwe Forest: Just avoid the long rains from March to May; the rest of the year is good.
Also Consider: Kibale Forest in Uganda offers a similar experience with chimpanzees.
Combine With: Volcanoes National Park for the complete Rwandan primate experience.
Volcanoes National Park
Great For: Gorillas in the mist.
Highlights: Accessibility of seeing the gorillas.
Volcanoes is the easiest place to go if you’re short on time and want to see the gorillas. Fly to Kigali, take a two-hour drive to the national park, then go gorilla trekking the next morning.
The permits are expensive but the experience is otherworldly; no fences, no barriers, just you and a gorilla troop in their natural habitat.
Intense, intimate, invigorating…this is a wildlife experience that will create a wild side in everyone. You can spend an hour with a habituated troop and that’s plenty of time to first take photos, then enjoy the show.
Best Time to Visit Volcanoes National Park: June to September and December to early March.
Also Consider: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.
Combine With: A Kenyan or Tanzanian safari.