Adventures / Adventure Tapas

Hike and Kayak Rwanda

Paddle one of Africa’s Great Lakes, sleep under the stars and summit Mt Karisimbi, Rwanda’s highest peak (4507m). Eyes peeled for gorillas.

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Trip Ref #9947

Adventures / Adventure Tapas

Hike and Kayak Rwanda

Paddle one of Africa’s Great Lakes, sleep under the stars and summit Mt Karisimbi, Rwanda’s highest peak (4507m). Eyes peeled for gorillas.

DURATION

9 nights

LOCATION

Rwanda

ANNUAL LEAVE

8 days off work

SEASON

Dec-Feb, Jul-Aug

GROUP SIZE

Up to 12 people

MEETING POINT

Kigali International Airport, Rwanda

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel · Wild camping

DIFFICULTY

Challenging

No experience needed, but you'll be hiking on uneven ground up to a 4500m peak so a good level of fitness is recommended.

Journey through the 'Land of a Thousand Hills' as you trek the misty mountains and lush rainforest of Virunga National Park

Cycle the back roads of Kigali and climb the flanks of Sabyinyo Volcano, with an optional visit to see the mountain gorillas - a once in a lifetime experience

Wild swim at sunrise, followed by a cup of some of the freshest coffee in the world

All our reviews are verified

We only invite travellers to leave a review if they have booked this trip with Much Better Adventures.

Stuart, February 2020

The trip was very enjoyable. Highlights included; golden monkey tour, kayaking and canoe trip. Description of hiking not reflective of difficulty, description suggested normal hike with some steep sections, the reality involved mostly steep hiking, lots of mud and fresh trail to be cut, at times lots of pulling with hands/trekking poles, probably amounting to a grade 1 or 2 scramble.

Alexa, November 2019

Loved the kayaking - nicely paced days, sufficient variety in scenery and activities, able to chat with different members of the group. Lake Kivu is beautiful and very peaceful. Eloi and Grasien were great- enthusiastic, friendly, motivated. They went above and beyond.

Anthony, November 2019

Such a unique itinerary - using kayaks to travel point to point (the only kayaks in the country?!), camping on uninhabited islands, hiking through mountainside villages, exploring local coffee culture/farms and climbing the country’s tallest peak all within a week. Never have I come back from a holiday with so many stories from one holiday, nor has one holiday generated so much interest from friends, colleagues and family. The local guides were passionate and entertaining. Steve was responsive to hiccups in the plan, acting efficiently and honestly. How unique it was to be exploring the country beyond the gorillas, the military escort was far from anything I’ve ever experienced!

Rachel, November 2019

This trip to Rwanda was exciting, varied, fun, challenging and truly memorable. Rwanda is a great country to visit; friendly people, good roads and lots of different experiences available. Our guides were super keen, enthusiastic and encouraging. Some moments were tough, but the trip was very worthwhile. My highlights were swimming in Lake Kivu and the views at sunrise as we climbed Mt Karasimbi. I thoroughly recommend booking the gorilla trek too.

Ashlee, November 2019

The immersion in Rwanda and its people, the beautiful scenery and the adventure were great. I thought the hot spring massage and the coffee tours were great additions to the trip.

Rachel, November 2019

Swimming in Lake Kivu was great, views of the volcanoes at dawn as we started out the ascent of Karisimbi also.

Steve, November 2019

Fantastic & exciting country, two epic adventures on one trip.

Nick, November 2019

The adventurous nature of the trip and the exposure to Rwandan culture was absolutely beautiful. It was the most adventurous experience I've had for some time and whether encountering wildlife, summiting with soldiers or strolling through villages where they've rarely seen muzungus, it's a trip I'll never forget.

Emily, November 2019

The team went out of their way to make sure everyone was happy and comfortable - even rearranging itineraries for specific individuals, and sourcing replacement kit.

Included

Guides

Expert, English-speaking local guides

Accommodation

7 nights in a hotel or guesthouse, 2 nights camping.

Meals

Munch on tasty food throughout

Transfers

To and from the airport and everything in-between

Equipment

All your camping and kayaking equipment

Permits

All park permits and entry fees

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Tips for your guides

Personal expenses

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Kigali International Airport, Rwanda

Arrive any time on Day 1

Ends

Kigali International Airport, Rwanda

Catch any flight on Day 10.

Transfers

Airport transfers are included to and from the group hotel if you arrive on Day 1 and depart on Day 10. If you need a transfer outside of the start and end days, your host can arrange one for you at an extra cost. Please see Optional Extras for details.

Travel options

There are regular flights in and out of Kigali from the UK, Europe and the US. These are generally with KLM and Brussels Airlines. There are some RwandAir flights however these do not usually work with the trip dates. Day 1 will only be a meet and greet with the group so if your flight arrives late on this day, that is not a problem.

If you arrive into Kigali before Day 1, or stay longer at the end, your host can arrange additional accommodation for you, please see Optional Extras for more info.

Day 1

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2 – Day 3

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4

Wild camping · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 5 – Day 6

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

Wild camping · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 8 – Day 9

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 10

Departure day

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

Rwandan cuisine uses lots of local ingredients, with sweet potatoes, corn, beans, fruit and millet making up most diets. A typical breakfast consists of corn, millet or sorghum porridge and sweet potatoes. The biggest meal of the day is dinner and this is usually made up of dishes like ‘isombe’ (cassava leaves with eggplant and spinach), ‘umutsima’ (a dish of cassava and corn) as well as ‘mizuzu’ (fried plantains).

Vegetarian diets can be fully catered for. Vegan diets and other dietary requirements can usually be catered for, please make sure to contact your host about it, and be prepared to bring your own snacks. Whilst meals containing meat are the norm at most restaurants, packed lunches and cooked meals are made using tasty vegetarian ingredients to ensure that everything is fresh and healthy. Please note that we cannot guarantee safe consumption of food in case you have strict food allergies. We recommend you discuss any such conditions with your host before booking your trip to Rwanda.

What is the accommodation like?

Kigali

You'll stay at the Iris Guesthouse, a simple hotel surrounded by lush gardens.

Kibuye

You’ll stay in the lakeside Rwiza Village in lodge-style accommodation - the perfect way to start your journey as you watch lake life unfold from the balcony.

Gisenyi

You'll stay at the Hotel Paradis Malahide, located next to the lake and with its own private beach.

Musanze

You'll stay at the Isange Paradise Resort: each room has a private terrace overlooking the beautiful garden. Located near the National Park it has stunning mountain views.

On the island

You’ll wild camp on a private island in the middle of the lake, with everything you need brought over with you on your kayaks. There are no facilities at this low-impact location so everything must also leave with you afterwards.

On the mountain

You’ll camp on the flanks of Mt Karisimbi, with everything brought in and taken away afterwards to keep this spectacular location pristine.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room and tent can be booked for an extra charge, please see Optional Extras for the price. This will secure you a single room for hotel and guesthouse nights and a single tent on the island. Depending on the group size, it may not be possible to have a single tent at Karasimbi base camp as space is limited. Please request at the time of booking as all upgrades are subject to availability.

Day 1

Welcome to Rwanda

You will be picked up at the airport and transferred to your hotel, where you can meet up with your fellow travellers and get a good night's sleep before the action starts tomorrow.

Day 2

Kigali

Your guide will meet you for a briefing before heading off to Question Coffee, one of the city's best coffee shops, to see how the brew is transforming lives in Rwanda. Wander the streets, meet some of the locals and visit the Genocide Memorial to learn more about the country's recent and often tragic history. Return to the hotel for some downtime, before meeting up with the rest of your team for dinner.

Day 3

Kibuye

Cycling

15km

Drive to the summit of Mt Kigali and take in the views, before climbing onto your bike for the cruise downhill - the roads are mostly dirt tracks and quiet lanes, so you’ll pretty much have them to yourself. After lunch, say goodbye to the city and head to Kibuye, reaching your lakeside hotel in time for sundowners and a spectacular view across Lake Kivu.

Day 4

Sunset paddling and stargazing

Kayaking

6 hours · 16km

Board your kayak and paddle across the clear waters of Rwanda’s ‘Bay of Islands’. The numerous islands of Lake Kivu are covered in lush vegetation and rich in flora and fauna, so keep an eye out for monkeys, fish eagles and Congo otters. Have lunch on Munini Island to the backdrop of a raucous colony of thousands of fruit bats roosting in the trees, then continue paddling as the sun starts to set. If you’re lucky, the local fishermen might join you, singing to help them paddle in unison.

You’ll have exclusive access to the island tonight, so set up camp, buy some fish for dinner and sit down to a simple but delicious meal around an open fire, before falling asleep beneath a blanket of stars.

Day 5

Bugarura Island Strait

Kayaking

6hrs · 18km

Start the day with the dawn chorus and then navigate the headlands and islands of this incredible, never-ending lake. Pass through the narrow channel that seperates Bugarura Island from the mainland, meeting families making the short journey by canoe - a great way to connect with the local communities who share the resources of the lake.

Spend the day island hopping and wild swimming - don't worry, Lake Kivu is the only Great Lake that doesn't have any crocodiles or hippos, so you can just enjoy the incredible views followed by another amazing sunset. As Rwandan coffee is considered some of the best in the world, visit a local cooperative and see how the beans are harvested, processed and roasted over an open fire - and of course, sample some of the finished product.

Bid goodbye to your kayaks and then hop onto a boat for the transfer to Gisenyi, where you’ll spend the night.

Day 6

Summit Mt Muhungwe (2990m)

Hiking

4-5hrs · 11km

Pull on your hiking boots and explore The Congo Nile Divide trail - the watershed that seperates two of the world's great rivers. Pass through the dense forest as you make your way to the summit of Muhungwe (2990m). This peak is set apart from the Virunga Volcanoes and provides a spectacular viewpoint of the challenge ahead - you can even see Mt Karisimbi looming on the horizon.

Day 7

Virunga Volcanoes National Park

Hiking

8hrs · 10km · 1200m up

Enjoy a slightly later start this morning, then begin hiking through the lush rainforest on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes. After an initial steep ascent, you’ll hike through dense bamboo thickets and alpine meadows with tantalising views of the summit ahead, before making a final ascent to the campsite at approx. 3750m. There's a lot of ascending today but the pace will be steady and the drop in temperature will be well appreciated.

Day 8

Summit Mt Karisimbi (4507m)

Hiking

8hrs · 14km · 800m up

Depart at first light for the final push to the summit of Mt Karisimbi - at 4507m it's the highest of all the Virungas and occasionally even sees snow. As you ascend you’ll notice the landscape change from tropical rainforest to huge volcanic vistas. Bag the summit, take in the incredible panorama over a rejuvenating brew and then descend to Musanze in time for for a celebratory beer and a hot shower!

Day 9

Bike and canoe, or visit the mountain gorillas (optional)

Cycling

17km

Grab a mountain bike and cycle through the countryside along quiet dirt roads, passing through local villages and markets with views over Lake Ruhondo. Then hop into your canoe and paddle down the Mukungwa River through a fertile valley filled with birds and friendly farmers - a unique view of rural Rwandan life. Later, head back to Kigali for a final night in the city.

Alternatively, you can opt to visit the mountain gorillas – a wildlife encounter like no other. You’ll walk amongst these gentle primates and witness their lives up close. You can find more information about permit fees for this optional extra in the FAQ section.

Day 10

Goodbye Rwanda

After a last Rwandan breakfast, check out and enjoy some free time exploring Kigali. Visit a local market for lunch, or relax your muscles at a nearby swimming pool, before making your way to the airport for your flight home.

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

You host will provide all your camping equipment (sleeping bags, sleeping mats, small pillow and all cooking equipment), kayaking equipment and cycling equipment (including a helmet)

What do I need to bring?

Personal items

  • Medical kit & toiletries
  • Insect repellent
  • Waterproof sunscreen (SPF 50 recommended)
  • Sun glasses with strap

Clothing

  • Sun hat (suitable for use on the water)
  • Short sleeve shirts/t-shirts
  • Short trousers/long shorts
  • Long trousers (for village visits / cultural sites)
  • Lightweight fleece for cooler mornings/evenings
  • Thermal base layers for trekking
  • Light down jacket and thick fleece for the night on Karisimbi
  • Hat, gloves and scarf/snood for the Karisimbi trek
  • Waterproof trousers and jacket
  • Swimwear
  • Strap on sandals or flip flops (ideally waterproof for kayaking)
  • Walking boots
  • Gaiters
  • Lightweight shoes (for the evening and to guard against mosquitos)

Accessories

  • Electrical adaptors (Rwanda uses a seemingly random combination of 230V UK and European plugs)
  • Refillable water bottles (2 litres total)
  • Head torch/flashlight and spare batteries
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Reusable stuff sacks and containers for any equipment you want to leave on the minibus while hiking.
  • Sleeping bag liner (sleeping bag will be provided)
  • Dry bag (for important documents)
  • Day pack for hiking (big enough for your lunch, water camera and waterproofs etc.)
  • Large backpack to which a tent can be strapped rather than a suitcase for your main luggage so that the porters can carry it to the campsite

Optional Private Accomodation Upgrade

Payable Before Departure

Optional Private Accomodation Upgrade

Per Person

Visit the Mountain Gorillas

Payable Before Departure

Visit the Mountain Gorillas

Per Person

Single Room in Kigali

Payable Before Departure

Single Room in Kigali

Twin/Double Room in Kigali

Payable Before Departure

Twin/Double Room in Kigali

Airport Transfer (each way)

Payable Before Departure

Airport Transfer (each way)

Per Person

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 116kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

No previous experience is needed, but you'll be spending long days on Lake Kivu so you should have reasonable upper body strength to enjoy it to the full. The trekking, while not technically difficult, is at altitude and the Karisimbi summit trek involves a lot of climbing. You should feel comfortable walking for up to 9 hours in a day across steep and uneven ground. The cycling is largely downhill with no technical sections, so while you should be confident riding, you don't need any previous experience.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

While tap water is unsafe for drinking, please bring a refillable water bottle with you as a plentiful supply of filtered/treated water will be available during the trip.

Rwanda is warm and spring-like all year round. Temperatures average 24-34°C in the daytime and 17-20°C at night. Short thunderstorms that usually pass within an hour or so can occur at any time of year, but the main wet seasons are March to mid-May and September to mid-November.

Rain is unlikely in the main dry season from the start of July to mid-August but it can be a little more hazy due to the dust in the air. Rwanda is a great place to visit at any time of year however, December to January are the most popular as there's lots of sunshine and the landscape is lush and green.

During the trek you'll only need to carry your day pack containing lunch, waterproofs, camera, water etc. Your larger backpack will be carried by your porters.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so if you want to see these incredible animals in the wild this can be arranged for you on Day 8. Gorilla viewing permits are limited and the price is set by the Rwandan Government.

Gorilla permits are non-refundable and to secure one a USD464 deposit is needed upfront at the time of booking. Please let your host know in advance if you would like to arrange this experience.

Gorilla health is taken very seriously in Rwanda. This means that if you are ill (even the slightest of colds), you will be unable to visit them. The government does not offer refunds so if this was to occur you will need to try and claim this on your travel insurance (please check that you are covered for such an eventuality).

When you trek in the mountains, there's always the risk of getting altitude sickness, regardless of how old, young, fit or unfit you are. We would expect most trekkers to feel some mild symptoms of altitude sickness (headache, sleeplessness, heavy breathing) when over 3000m. Our guides are trained to identify the symptoms of altitude sickness so if any more serious symptoms are noted, there is a strict procedure regarding extra care or a rapid descent if needed. All of our trips have been designed with altitude best practice in mind so acclimatisation days have been built in and our experienced guides follow advice to ‘walk high and sleep low’.

Adventure tourism is relatively new to Rwanda and the government is keen to ensure that it develops in the right way - i.e. with maximum benefit to the local communities and minimum impact on the environment.

To support this a permit system has been put in place: visitor numbers are restricted and conservation is funded, so that the park is protected and travellers must hire local government guides to guarantee employment. Trekking in the Volcanoes National Park comes with a permit fee of $300 per person (included in the trip price), but you can rest assured that you are creating a positive impact as you go!

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

For current advice about travelling in Rwanda, have a read of the UK Foreign Office pages here.

Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion but there is an expectation to tip for good service. Your guide will help with advice, however, we'd suggest the folllowing as a guideline per person:

Guide: approx $25-50pp Driver: approx $15-30pp National park guide: approx $8pp Porters: approx $2pp Total: $50-90pp

Of course, you are free to tip more or less, and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

You're in good company. Our adventures are typically made up of a mix of solo travellers and small groups of two or three friends who simply love adventure, pushing themselves and meeting awesome like-minded people. See here for more info about our lovely bunch of Much Better Adventurers.

Want to book a private trip? Just tap ‘Private Group’ in the dates and prices tab.

Your trip is led by carefully curated local hosts and expert guides. See here for more info about the guides we work with.

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