Adventures / Adventure Tapas

Trek, Kayak and Wild Camp in Rwanda

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

I'M UP FOR
Adventure Tapas
DURATION
6 Nights
DIFFICULTY
Challenging
COMFORT
Basic
LOCATION
Rwanda
SEASON
June, August, October—February
NEAREST AIRPORT

Lap up the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, as you kayak your way across the biodiverse islands of Lake Kivu and trek through the misty mountains and lush rainforest of the Virunga Mountains. You’ll climb volcanoes, wild swim at sunset and sample some of the freshest coffee on the planet. Your peepers may even get a rare glimpse of the endangered mountain gorillas that make the Virunga National Park their home.

Your hassle-free adventure includes

  • Airport transfers
  • All meals (excluding dinner on day 4 and lunch on day 6)
  • 3 nights camping
  • 2 nights hotel accommodation
  • 2 nights guesthouse accommodation
  • Qualified English speaking and government-registered guides
  • Volcano National Park permits and National Park guides (legally required, $400pp)
  • Single modern kayaks and all kayaking equipment
  • All camping equipment

Perfect for

Intrepid travellers looking for a true off the beaten track experience in a country where adventure tourism is in its infancy. Previous kayaking experience isn’t necessary but you should be in good physical fitness.

Need To Know

The following are not included in the trip price:

  • Flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Tips for your guides (optional)
  • Airport transfers if not arriving and departing on the specified flights (these can be arranged with your host for approx $15 per person each way)
  • Dinner on day 4 and Lunch on day 6

This trip will run with a minimum of 4 people, and a maximum of 14.

Sure can! A lot of people do, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

Your host recommends to pack:

Personal items

  • Personal medical kit & toiletries
  • Insect repellent
  • Waterproof sunscreen (SPF 50 recommended)

Clothing

  • Sun hat (suitable for use on the water)
  • Sun glasses
  • 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 or thick fleece for the night on Karisimbi
  • Waterproof trousers and jacket
  • Swimwear
  • Strap on sandals or flip flops (ideally waterproof for kayaking)
  • Walking boots
  • Lightweight shoes (for evening wear and to guard against mosquitos)

Accessories

  • Electrical adaptors
    (Rwanda uses a random combination of 230V UK and European plugs)
  • Refillable water bottles (2 litres total)
  • Head torch/flashlight
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Day pack for hiking
  • Dry bag (for important documents)
  • Reusable stuff sacks and containers
  • Sleeping bag liner (sleeping bag provided)

You host provides all camping equipment (sleeping bags, sleeping mats, small pillow and all cooking equipment).

While kayaking, you will need to pack everything you need in the kayak for the 3 days kayaking. Your personal space in the kayak will be about 20litres so you will pack this into a small flexible dry bag. Your main luggage will be transported to the hotel midway.

The kayaking is entry-level however you will be spending long days out on Lake Kivu and paddling for consecutive hours so you should have reasonable upper body strength. The trekking, while not technically difficult, also requires that you have done some trekking before and be in good physical shape. The walk to the summit of Karisimbi is uneven and steep in places.

We’ve teamed up with the guys at World Nomads to offer insurance designed for adventurous travellers across 140 countries that includes overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. To get yours sorted, click here.

Yes! Your passport must be valid for 6 months from the date of travel. And you will likely need a visa. Click here for more information.

Single-use plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda so please don’t bring them in. As are drones, these will be confiscated on arrival.

Most of the time in Rwanda it’s warm and “spring-like” all year round. Temperatures are about 24-34°C in the daytime and 17-20°C at night. Short thunderstorms that almost always pass within an hour or so can occur at any time of year but the main wet seasons are March to mid-May and late August to mid-November.

Rain is very unlikely in the main dry season from the start of July to mid-August but it can also be more hazy due to dust in the air at this time of year. It is often windy on Lake Kivu in July and August. Rwanda is a great place to visit at any time of year however, the nicest months are end of November to February, June and October as there is a lot of sunshine and the landscape is also lush and green.

We suggest you check out the up to date advice available on Travel Health Pro.

Important note about Yellow Fever Yellow Fever is possible in Rwanda so to prevent it becoming re-established, proof of having been vaccinated is mandatory for travellers coming from any country at risk of Yellow Fever (or after visiting a neighbouring country on the same trip). Thus whilst visitors arriving directly from Europe, USA and Canada may not need to show a Yellow Fever certificate on arrival, you must have a Yellow Fever certificate if you visit a neighbouring country on the same trip.

You can find all the up to date travel advice about Rwanda here.

General Rwandan cuisine uses lots of local ingredients and is not too spicy. Sweet potatoes, corn, beans, fruit and millet are the common foods that make up most diets. A typical traditional breakfast is made up of porridge and sweet potatoes. The porridge is a mixture of corn, millet and sorghum. The heaviest 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).

Whilst meals containing meat are commonplace at most restaurants, packed lunches and freshly cooked meals whilst ‘adventure’ camping are only made using tasty vegetarian ingredients to help ensure that everything we prepare is fresh and healthy.

Dietary requests can usually be catered for but please check with your host.

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 suggest the below 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.

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

The permit system in place does just that; visitor numbers are restricted, conservation is funded so the park is protected and travellers must employ local government guides ensuring employment is guaranteed. Trekking in the Volcanoes National Park comes with a permit fee of $400 per person, but you can rest assured that you are creating a positive impact as you go!

A: Sure can! This is a real once in a lifetime opportunity so if you don’t fancy taking your chances seeing them in the wild, your host can plan a private extension trip for you.

The plan would be as follows:

Day 6 Overnight in Musanze, bid farewell to the group Day 7 Gorilla viewing and transfer to Kigali for overnight in guesthouse Day 8 Depart or make own arrangements

The cost of the extension will vary according to the number of people booked on. The extension includes a driver guide (in a 4x4 vehicle), an extra nights’ accommodation and permits to view the gorillas. The price for 1 single traveller will be $2505 however if more people book the extension, the price will reduce as per below:

1 x traveller: $2505pp 2 x travellers: $2054pp 3 x travellers: $1952pp 4 x travellers: $1,864 5+ travellers: $1840

Gorilla viewing permits (included in above price) are $1500pp and these will need to be payable upon booking the extension to secure your place. These are non refundable so please ensure you have travel insurance just in case you are unable to travel etc.

Your host will confirm the final overall cost of the extension 70 days prior to departure once final traveller numbers are confirmed. The remaining balance for the extension (cost above minus pre paid $1500) will be added to your final balance.

Got a question not covered here? Contact the host.

Location

View map

Known as the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, this tiny yet beautiful African nation, is home to some of the most dramatic scenery in Africa. Sandwiched into the Great African Rift, Rwanda owes its mountainous terrain and lush green landscape to the volcanic activity murmuring below the surface. It’s warm constant ‘spring-like’ climate means it never gets too hot or cold, perfect for exploring volcano summits and lake islands.

Start point

Kigali Airport - 07.00am

Your adventure begins at Kigali Airport (KGL) with your airport transfer at 07:00.

Please schedule your flight to arrive more than 30 minutes before this time, your driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals area.

Finish point

Kigali Airport - 06.00am

At the end of your adventure, you will be dropped back at Kigali Airport (KGL) at 06.00am.

The trip has been planned around London/Brussels return flights to Kigali with Rwanda Air. For those arriving on these flights, airport transfers are included. If you would like to arrive early or stay on, your host can arrange airport transfers for an extra cost.

What to Expect

Day 1: Arrive in Kigali

An early morning arrival, you’ll meet your local guide and head to a hotel for a quick freshen up. You’ll pay Kigali a quick visit to get a taste of the city before heading to the hills. Stopping off at the women’s cooperative, Question Coffee, you’ll learn a little about coffee and how it’s transforming lives before visiting the downtown market to pick up any last minute pieces you might need for the adventure ahead. Lunch will be taken overlooking the city before driving to your lakeside hotel in Kibuye for the full briefing about the journey to come.

Day 2: Kayaking, sunset paddling and star-gazing

Setting off in your single-kayak, you’ll start paddling through the crystal blue waters of Rwanda’s ‘Bay of Islands’. The numerous islands of Lake Kivu are covered in lush vegetation and rich in flora and fauna; keep an eye out for monkeys in the trees, fish eagles and Congo otters sharing the waterways with you.

Lunch is served on Munini Island to the backdrop of a raucous colony of thousands of fruit bats that roost here. You’ll end the day cruising along at sunset and if lucky join locals in the water as they fish, singing as they go to help them paddle in unison.

With exclusive access on the island, you’ll set up camp, buy fish for dinner from a local fisherman and sit down to a simple but delicious meal around a small open fire before falling asleep under a blanket of stars.

16km kayaking / approx 6 hours with breaks

Day 3: Bugarura Island Strait, lakeside camping

Start the day with the dawn chorus and a hearty breakfast before setting off to navigate the headlands and islands of this incredible never-ending lake.

Passing through a narrow channel between Bugarura Island and the mainland you’ll meet many canoes and the families that make the short journey back and forth to the island. It’s a great way to connect with the communities who share the resources of the lake.

A day of island hopping will provide you with the chance for some wild swimming in the lake’s cool waters. And 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 and sunset.

As coffee is grown next to the guesthouse, our local guides will show us how the beans are harvested and processed. Later you’ll set up camp on the peaceful shores here and soak up the sounds of the lake at night.

18km kayaking / approx 6 hours with breaks

Day 4: Freshest coffee in the World, summit Mt Muhungwe (2990m)

Staying so close to where some of the best coffee in the world is grown, sampling it really is a must. Your morning coffee will be freshly roasted just before breakfast using beans from the bushes around the village.

Today’s kayaking provides you with a spectacular view of the active Nyiragongo Volcano just over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (if the weather is clear). With steam rising from its crater, it contains the world’s largest permanent lava lake and dominates the skyline ahead of you all day.

Next, you’ll bid goodbye to your kayak and start hiking through dense forest to reach the peak of Muhungwe Mountain (2990m). This peak is set apart from the Virunga Volcanoes and provides a spectacular view of the challenge that lies ahead - you can see Mt Karisimbi looming on the horizon. You’ll spend the night either in a guesthouse in Musanze or safari tents.

12km kayaking /approx 3 hours. Approx 4 hours walking / 612m ascent

Day 5: Virunga Volcanoes National Park and Bisoke crater lake (3711m)

Setting off early this morning you’ll meet your rangers at Volcanoes National Park. You’ll have a short drive to the trailhead and then you’re off to hike to the summit of Bisoke. This is mountain gorilla territory so although very rare, there is the chance you may come across these magnificent great apes in the wild.

As you ascend the equatorial rainforest – with occasional sightings of antelope – the views give way to more open meadows near the summit filled by a spectacular crater lake. You’ll continue onto the campsite for an early night.

Approx 8 hours walking / 1327m ascent

Day 6: Summit Mt Karisimbi (4507m)

Leaving early in the morning, it’s a steep climb up this iconic conical volcano to the summit so we’ll take it slow and steady.

At 4,507m it is the highest of all the Virunga’s and occasionally sees snow. With impressive views over the other Virunga volcanoes, including Nyiragongo and Mikeno in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the arc of volcanoes in Rwanda to Muhabura.

Heading back down the trail, you’ll make it to Musanze for a late lunch before driving back to Kigali for your last night and a final group dinner.

Approx 8 hours walking / 1072m ascent

Day 7: Head home or stay on to spot gorillas

It’s home time or you can extend your adventure for a better chance of seeing the mountain gorillas. Permits are tightly controlled in order to limit visitor numbers, but if you’d like to add on a few extra nights to do this you can. You can find more information about this in the FAQ section.

If you’re choosing to go home, an early morning transfer will take you to the airport to catch your flights back.

Accommodation

In Kibuye you will be staying in the lakeside Rwiza Village. This individual lodge-style accommodation is the perfect way to start your journey as you watch lake life unfold from the balcony. In Musanze you’ll stay in a basic guesthouse that has a mixture or simple rooms and safari-style tents that we will use. In Kigali you’ll be staying at the Iris Guesthouse, a simple hotel surrounded by lush gardens.

Rooms for all hotel/guesthouse nights will be same sex, twin-share by default.

On the island, you’ll be wild camping, having taken everything we need for the night in our kayaks. There are no facilities and everything that you bring in for the night leaves the island the next day so is very low impact. Our second night, camping is in the ground of a small guesthouse so some limited facilities will be available. The final campsite on Mt Karisimbi may have other trekkers staying but again you’ll take all of your own kit in and out as there are also no facilities. Tents will also be same sex, twin-share by default.

If you would like to upgrade to a private room and tent throughout, please let your host know. The cost for this will be £105 and is subject to availability.

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Dates & Prices

Prices include

Accommodation · Airport Transfers · Equipment · Financial Protection · Guide · Happiness Guarantee · Local Transport · Meals As Described · Happiness Guaranteed · 100% Financial Protection

Please note: Flights are NOT included and must be purchased separately.

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Optional Extras

Make your life easy. Once you have reserved your space, your host can help you arrange the extras you’ll need. Here are some guide prices which can be confirmed with you during booking.

Optional Private Room Upgrade Payable Before Departure
Optional Private Accomodation Upgrade · · · Per Person
Visit the Mountain Gorillas Payable Before Departure
Visit the Mountain Gorillas. Prices start from · · · Per Person