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Hike and Kayak Rwanda

Paddle one of Africa’s Great Lakes and summit Rwanda’s highest peak as you journey through the 'Land of a Thousand Hills'

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Trip Ref #9947

Hike and Kayak Rwanda

Paddle one of Africa’s Great Lakes and summit Rwanda’s highest peak as you journey through the 'Land of a Thousand Hills'

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
Classic

Hotel · Wild camping

OVERALL RATING

4.3

Based on 15 reviews
DIFFICULTY
Challenging

No specific experience is needed, but you'll be hiking on uneven ground at high altitude so a good level of fitness is recommended

Kayak and wild swim the emerald waters of Lake Kivu, before camping under the stars on a remote island

Trek through the lush rainforest of the Virunga Volcanoes National Park, and summit Mount Karisimbi (4507m)

Cruise down the flank of Mount Kigali by bike, fuelled by some of the freshest coffee in the world

Want to visit Rwanda’s enigmatic mountain gorillas? You can opt to add on this once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience

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 Mount 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

Lake Kivu, Rwanda

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

Day 6

Summit Mount Muhungwe (2990m)

Congo Nile Trail, Rwanda

Hiking

4-5hrs · 11km

Pull on your hiking boots and explore The Congo Nile Divide trail – the watershed that separates 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 view of the challenge ahead – you can even see Mount 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 Mount Karisimbi (4507m)

Hiking

8hrs · 14km · 800m up

Depart at first light for the final push to the summit of Mount 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 vast volcanic vistas. Bag the summit, take in the incredible panorama over a rejuvenating brew and then descend to Musanze in time 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

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.

Included

Guides

Expert, English-speaking local guides

Accommodation

7 nights in hotels & guesthouses, 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

Visas where required

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?

Market in Kigali, Rwanda

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 the safe consumption of food in the case of 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.

Lake Kivu

You’ll wild camp on a private island in the middle of Lake Kivu, 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.

Gisenyi

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

Mount Karisimbi

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

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. Depending on availability, some departures will stay at the Karisimbi Cave Resort, which is a 10 minute drive away in Ruhengeri. This is a similar standard accommodation with gardens, restaurant, lounge, terrace and free wifi.

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.

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Kigali International Airport, Rwanda

Any time on Day 1

Ends

Kigali International Airport, Rwanda

Any time 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 align with the trip dates. Day 1 will only involve a meet and greet with the group, so if your flight arrives late on this day, it's 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. Your host can also support you with suggestions for any activities you may wish to undertake either before or after your trip.

Enjoy 12.5% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 12.5% discount 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 (including technical/quick drying for when hiking)
  • 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
  • Woollen socks
  • Waterproof trousers and jacket
  • Swimwear
  • Strap on sandals or flip flops (ideally waterproof for kayaking)
  • Walking boots (well broken-in and waterproof)
  • 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 support vehicles while hiking or kayaking.
  • Sleeping bag liner (sleeping bag will be provided)
  • Dry bag (for important documents only)
  • Day pack for hiking (waterproof or with a waterproof cover and 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
*Requests for optional extras can be made after booking on your “My Bookings” page

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

Kristine D.
This was a wonderful trip

This was a wonderful trip exploring many parts of Rwanda which is exactly what I wanted. Some parts were a bit challenging, but it was always fun and the group was great. The local guide was fantastic and really helped make it a great trip! The highlight for me was the Gorilla Trek, but really the whole trip was such a great experience.

There were a lot of early mornings and this is a very active trip, but there was some down time in the evenings which was nice.

Ben B.
4.5 Stars

Really enjoyable experience for a first timer in sub Saharan Africa, the country is beautiful and the people are friendly and accommodating. The Cycling was better than expected and a great way to see rural village life, the kayaking although enjoyable was quiet and not as much wildlife as expected although great for bird watching, hiking Karisimbi was my highlight, tropical woodland with lots of mud and summiting alongside soldiers is a first. Some people did ask for money which came across as rude but they were mostly children and wasn’t common. I didn’t have any uncomfortable moments with locals a would recommend using local currency as opposed to USD and tipping seems to be expected. Overall A fantastic experience.

Thomas L.
Great but exhausting trip

A really tough but great Journey. Our Guide Pax organized the trip perfect. The trip would benefit from extending it by at least 1-2 days to allow some time for rest inbetween activities. Add a day of Kayaking to really get into the vibe. Also some more time for acclimatization would be beneficial for example by climbing Mt Visoke or visiting Diane Fossey´s grave.

All in all make it a whole 2 week trip by adding a few days and half day activities with some rest time in between.

Julia G.
Good trip, but would made some changes

It’s nice way to explore this beautiful country. It was indeed pretty challenging because of busy schedule: you go from one activity to other with no stop. I loved 1st cycling: proper off road mountain biking through the village and with great panoramic views. Kayak was really nice, simply relax and enjoyable. Hike was challenging and not only due to attitude, but also because of mud all the way up to the top. If you used to hike with rubber boots, probably would be best (all porters, guides, soldiers were in woolies). Additionally lack of proper sleep stopped people to go up (one night in camp, then very short night sleep, and again short night sleep on floor of basecamp). Packing list of bags was confusing: basically I could have one big luggage, that would stay or transferred to hotel, one bag for porter to carry to basecamp / or to ho on boat for camp on lake, and daybag. Would be great to add Safari, as otherwise there will be not much of wildlife. I would say it was a bit pricey.

Polina I.
Clean, unusual, safe but not the trip of the lifetime

This trip is more 3.5

Pros- Rwanda is clean, safe, fairly well organized, with some interesting spots. Good produce, though restaurants seem to be out of fresh fruits and veggies on a number of occasions. Lake Kivu was the highlight.

Cons- overpriced for what it is. Hospitality is not at the level Rwanda charges. For the record this is my 10th country in Africa, 60th overall so some decent benchmarking. White person clearly means tips/money whether kids in villages who scream “money” every time they see us, even if we drive by not so subtle reminder to tip everyone everywhere. Other examples I won’t go into. Communication between the guides and office could be tightened too - the agenda was changed and we only received mid-trip, numerous requests we made about kayaks/sleeping arrangements were not passed down. Frankly, could be shortened by a couple of days.

Jennifer

Exceptional tour that truly gives you the unique and local experiences in the country. Definitely listen to the advice in the description - the activities are very challenging, but very rewarding. The group leads worked tirelessly to give us a smooth experience. Gorillas were an absolute top lifetime experience! Rwanda is a beautiful country we got to experience with a great set of guides and a fun group. Pax, Nshuti and Nina were exceptional guides and organisers!

Stuart

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.

Rachel

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.

Alexa

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

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!

We partner with the World Land Trust to ensure this trip achieves Net-Zero emissions. We also support their Buy an Acre programme, helping local communities to buy and protect natural habitats in perpetuity.

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 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. We partner with the World Land Trust to ensure this trip achieves Net-Zero emissions. We also support their Buy an Acre programme, helping local communities to buy and protect natural habitats in perpetuity, ensuring the protection of the reserve and its wildlife.

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 70% 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 USD618 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 or evacuation 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.

All foreign nationalities entering Rwanda require a valid visa. This can be obtained upon arrival in Kigali and in many cases, is free. The Visit Rwanda website provides more information. Please check the regulations for your nationality.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory for all of our adventures and you are required to provide your policy information before departing.

Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure. We also strongly recommend it includes cancellation and curtailment insurance, should you be unable to join your trip for specific reasons such as illness.

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 always in good company on one of our adventures.

Our trips are typically made up of a mixture of solo travellers and small groups of 2 or 3 friends, with most in their 30s-50s.

Our sociable adventures are solo-friendly by design and naturally attract outdoorsy people with a shared mindset; a love for adventure, a desire to push themselves and meet awesome, like-minded people along the way.

It’s this camaraderie that has so often turned a great adventure into a life-changing one.

Don't just take our word for it:

  • 95% of people rate the group dynamics on our trips 5/5
  • 90% of people recommend joining a trip to make new friends
  • 75% of people have met people on our trips that they would now consider friends

See here for more info about the Much Better Adventures tribe.

Interested in a more exclusive experience? Opt for a 'Private Group' through the dates and prices tab to book this adventure for just you and your chosen companions.

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

TRIP DEPARTURE DATES

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