Jump to content

Recommended Posts


Your report is a joy to follow, Peter! You´ve got some great photos of the Chimps and I do love your bird ones, the Double-Toothed Barbets being my favourites. That place you stayed sounds a bit weird indeed, but it seems you had no major issues? Very good to read more about Nyungwe, I believe Lynn was last reporting on it many years ago. Looking forward to more.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 131
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • Alexander33


  • Towlersonsafari


  • Atravelynn


  • Dave Williams


Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

Although groups for the gorilla treks are limited to 8 persons, golden monkey groups can have as many as 25.  And, as it was high season, that’s exactly how many we had.  I was worried that such a lar

Meanwhile, J. had lingered behind and motioned to me.  A blackback, who was more independent than the others and didn’t always feel the need to keep up all the time, had appeared.     

Gorilla Trek # 1: Isabukuru Group    After a somewhat fitful night filled with anticipation, the alarm went off at 5:00 AM.  The day of our first gorilla trek had arrived.  As we walked to t

Posted Images


It was @Alexander33 and a fine museum it was too. And of course we must have both seen a Serval!  its a Deal! that is the only time i have ever seen one so I have a lot invested in that sighting- looking forward to hear more of your trip

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks @Alexander33.      Sounds like a good setup at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge.   Not sure about  Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel - but if I ever make it to Nyungwe National Park, I hope I will be staying at Nyungwe Forest Lodge instead.



Link to post
Share on other sites


12 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

That place you stayed sounds a bit weird indeed, but it seems you had no major issues? 


5 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

Not sure about  Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel - but if I ever make it to Nyungwe National Park, I hope I will be staying at Nyungwe Forest Lodge instead.




Thanks for following along.  No, ultimately we really didn't have any problems at Top View.  It just provided a few stories and some laughs among the guests -- kind of a bonding experience, actually.




Nyungwe Forest Lodge is actually set to reopen in October as the rebranded One & Only Nyungwe House.


It will be good to have that option available, although from their website, it looks like they are pushing the spa/wellness thing more than wildlife/nature: There's woman doing yoga at sunrise; a man taking a brisk swim in the infinity pool; a scantily clad couple playing chess in bed. Come “socialise with likeminded worldly travellers in a myriad of stunning settings; around bonfires, guitars, and at daily aperitif gatherings.”  :unsure:


Edited by Alexander33
Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds ghastly!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have just gotten through the third trek...I will admit, a few happy sniffles as I soooooooo clearly remember that first encounter. Sniffles then too. It is just magic. I can't describe it any other way...it is just magic. I very distinctly recall sitting on the balcony of my bungalow (stayed at Virunga lodge which was set up very high with heart breaking views) that late afternoon. I had a glass of wine in one hand, watching the sun set, hearing singing from far below, sun setting sparkles on the water- having seen my first mountain gorillas- and I literally said out loud to myself- "I am so lucky, I am so lucky".  Magic.


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/27/2017 at 5:51 PM, lmonmm said:

 I had a glass of wine in one hand, watching the sun set, hearing singing from far below, sun setting sparkles on the water- having seen my first mountain gorillas- and I literally said out loud to myself- "I am so lucky, I am so lucky".  Magic.




I completely feel the same way.  The word I tend to use, again and again, is "privileged."  I feel so privileged each time I have these opportunities  for personal glimpses into our incredible world.


Speaking of which.......


Link to post
Share on other sites


.....You may remember these shots of the youngest orphan in the Isabukuru group (our first trek), who had been taken under the protection of the new silverback, Kubaha:









His name is Masunzu, and I found more detailed information about his life on the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund blog.  It's a very interesting and touching account.




And, indeed, it's a privilege to have such insight into these gorillas' lives.



Edited by Alexander33
Link to post
Share on other sites


And, yes, I admit it.  I'm just buying a little time here.  I'm currently going through and processing our last days' photos from Nyungwe, and will finish this report up as soon as I've accomplished that task.  Thanks for bearing with me here.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Did you know I have a fear of heights?


The concern crossed my mind when our travel agent suggested that we do an afternoon tour culminating in the crossing of a suspension bridge through the tree canopy, far above the forest floor.


I went ahead and booked it based largely on my experience with the suspension bridge at Bosque del Cabo in Costa Rica.  That bridge is wide and very sturdy, with shoulder-high cables and a sense of permanence.  I’ve crossed that bridge numerous times without any problems.  I’ve even spent time photographing birds and monkeys from it.


The suspension bridge at Nyungwe is not that bridge.  It’s much longer and narrower (I would say no more than about 24 inches wide). It’s bisected by a viewing platform, with the first length of the bridge being the shorter one.  I walked this part with only a bit of trepidation and enjoyed the views of the beautiful pristine Afromontane forest and the surrounding mountains. 















But I could only do this for so long.  Now it was time to face the music.  I had to walk the longer length back to terra firma. 






The more I walked, the more wobbly the bridge became, until toward the center, in spite of my most earnest efforts to walk gently and at the center, the bottom was swaying by as much as 30 degrees at times (or so it seemed to me).


And then I did what one should never do in a situation such as this.  Panic set in, and I froze.  My heart raced, my head buzzed.  I knew that if I didn’t start moving again, immediately, I was going to be in trouble.  I took a deep breath and looked straight ahead, concentrating on only one thing: getting to the end of that bridge.  I finally managed to do it, but, believe me, it was anything but fun.


The forest scenery was beautiful, however.








We didn’t see much on this tour, but it was during the hotter part of the afternoon.  A morning tour might be more productive, but we had two private tours with a specialist bird guide booked for the successive mornings we were there, so this afternoon was the only time we had available.


Most people love this suspension bridge.  J. had no problem with it.  Our guide probably thought I was nuts.  There was a small group behind us patiently waiting for me to scurry my panicked self off so that they could enjoy it.  From a general, very unbiased point of view, I’d highly recommend it.


But I’m not unbiased, and for those of you with a fear of heights, like me, before booking this activity, you might first want to consult this mental checklist of mine:


___ Yes


___  Maybe


  ✔   Oh, hell no


Yes, I’m a wuss.




Edited by Alexander33
Link to post
Share on other sites

We spent one afternoon looking for the Ruwenzori Colobus Monkey, a subspecies of the Angolan Colobus.  These striking, long-maned black-and-white monkeys travel in large troops and are quite sociable.  Nyungwe National Park is one of the few places where you can readily find them.











Babies are more grayish in coloration.











Much remains to be known about this endemic monkey.  This habituated group lives in a very isolated, small patch of forest that is surrounded by tea fields.  Park officials believe that the monkeys have chosen this location because it safely separates them from the chimpanzees, who prey upon them.










With the bright sunlight streaming through the trees, creating intense highlights and dark shadows, photography was extremely challenging.  Just getting a decent exposure under these conditions, with the added demands of the shiny black fur, white accents and poofy white Einstein hairdos, was close to an impossible task.


And when they chose to jump through the forest? Just forget about it.









We also saw a lone Dent’s Mona Monkey, but didn't obtain good photos of it either!





As with our chimpanzee trek, there was only one other couple that joined us, and while we enjoyed this intimate activity, the farmland all around us removed any sense of wildness.  Instead, it was almost as if we had visited a zoo of sorts, only one where farmland provided the demarcation instead of bars or fences.  Ironically, this group naturally has taken advantage of the manmade alterations to protect themselves against their predators, as the chimpanzees will not cross the cultivated, open tea fields to reach this “island” of remaining forest.




Edited by Alexander33
Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Williams

The report continues to enthral , you are a very accomplished photographer ( albeit with a fear of heights but there is no shame in that, my fear is hospitals and I usually come near to passing out during minor procedures like visiting someone).

I hadn't got to the bridge episode when I was telling wife Claire it was the sort of trip she might enjoy as it involves more trekking than hanging around taking photos but interestingly her first comment was"What about snakes?" Something that never crossed my mind. However when I saw the bridge that was another reason she wouldn't be doing it. She doesn't even like a window seat on a plane!

Recounting the ant story took me back to a personal experience in Costa Rica when I trod on an nest of what I believe were called Fire Ants. Wearing shorts and no shoes was an advantage but I couldn't believe the instant pain . I hadn't a clue what was happening or even the likely reaction that might happen next. I ran in to the sea to a) get the ants off me 2) get some relief from the incredible burning sensation so I have a huge amount of empathy for the victim in your story.


Looking forward to the next instalment. 


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Williams

PS Can I ask how old you are? I know some people are sensitive about their ages but it helps immensely to judge suitability for an ageing 67 year old and I'm sure others would be interested too. Fitness and age aren't necessarily comparably from person to person of course. 


Just realised I'm only 66.


I have reclaimed a year of my life! Best thing that's happened so far today.:D

Link to post
Share on other sites

@Dave Williams


Thanks so much for continuing to follow along. I'm 52, but I'm happy to reassure readers that there were travelers older than we were on the gorilla treks, so 67 -- oops, 66 :P -- in and of itself would certainly not be disqualifying.  General good health -- and a healthy outlook on life -- regardless of age are more determinant, in my opinion. And we found Nyungwe much easier going than in the Virungas, but that, at least partially, may be due to our more leisurely pace there. 



Speaking of which......we've got two more days to go at Nyungwe, hiking through the forest with a private guide, and I hope to finish things up this weekend. 


Thanks to all for your patience with my somewhat glacial pace here. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

If it sounds as if I was deflated at Nyungwe, that’s not exactly accurate.  Certainly the gorillas are a tough act to follow, especially when seeing them has been central to one’s goals and the actual viewing experiences exceeded expectations, as in our case.  But, in fact, far from feeling any letdown, we were just really laid back.  We were under no pressure, self-imposed or otherwise.


One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Nyungwe was simply to experience this unique forest and to compare it with the mountainous rainforests and cloudforests we had hiked through in Central and South America.  The Albertine Rift is noted for its birdlife – over 300 species, 27 of which are endemic.  As a result, we had booked two days of hiking with a specialist bird guide, and in this effort, we really hit the jackpot.  Our guide, Narcisse, was extraordinary.


We spent our days with Narcisse slowly walking through these ancient forests, setting our own pace, taking time to appreciate every small detail.  Narcisse’s genuine enthusiasm was infectious.  The sense of discovery was palpable.


“Come, I want you to see this,” he implored.  “It is an endemic.”


With this naturally gifted teacher, we were amongst the privileged few who were afforded an opportunity to glimpse into the secrets of Nyungwe’s forest and the inhabitants who maintained refuge there.


(As always, photography in the forest, especially on sunny days, was a genuine challenge.  We were only able to capture decent photos of a fraction of what we saw.  The Black-and-White Casqued Hornbill, Black-billed Turaco, Ross's Turaco, and Doherty's Bush-shrike were all good sightings that we simply could not get good shots of).





















L'Hoest's Monkey, or Mountain Monkey -- one of the few mammals we saw casually.  





We did happen upon a duiker -- I believe a red forest duiker -- but it quickly disappeared into the forest.  Other than that, it was monkeys and lots of birds.



African Yellow White-eye





Great Blue Turaco 






Ruwenzori Turaco








Regal Sunbird








Bronze Sunbird





Narina Trogon





Dusky Crimsonwing





White-starred Robin








Narcisse was very excited about this Gray-capped Warbler, because they are so secretive.  We tried to match his enthusiasm, but sometimes it was hard!





Black-billed Weaver





Baglafecht Weaver





Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater (heavily cropped)





What made our visit to Nyungwe National Park special is that we were amongst only a handful of visitors there.  Even in the high season, there were never more 10 other guests staying at Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel.  With Forest Lodge closed, and very restricted accommodation options remaining, I would estimate that there were no more than 30 tourists in the whole Park on any given day.  During our two days with Narcisse, we never saw another soul.  It was just us and the forest.





Link to post
Share on other sites

Overall Impressions


While I certainly have a better understanding of why so many people combine Rwanda with other destinations, in retrospect, I was pleased with our decision to slow down and spend some more time in Rwanda.  If I hadn’t taken the opportunity now, I most likely never would have at all.


Ultimately, though, each individual has to decide what’s best for him or her.  Although we did not use Africa Travel Resource as our travel agent for this trip, I could not come up with a better summation than the one they have on their website:


“We always love to spend longer in a country and to get really off the beaten track.  But, in truth, the attractions of this part of the country (Nyungwe) are pretty low key and the chimp tracking is not generally as reliable as Kibale Forest and nothing to compare with Mahale Mountains in western Tanzania.  But don’t let that put you off, a trip down to Nyungwe can still be very rewarding.”



We’ve been back now for three months, but it seems an eternity.  I don’t think I’ll ever fully “recover” from my experience with the mountain gorillas.  These magnificent animals, so endangered, so gentle, so sentient, have left an indelible impression in my mind.  There are days when I stare out the window and remember the mist on the sides of the mountains and those soulful brown eyes staring back and me, and I just can’t shake it.





This trip was a game-changer.  I now find myself dreaming of pursuits for Grauer’s gorillas in the DRC and western lowland gorillas in the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, plus more experiences with mountain gorillas in the DRC and Uganda. I imagine searching for forest elephants and buffalos in places I would never have imagined I’d even consider visiting.  None of this may come to pass, I realize.  I’m a realist.  But……



Edited by Alexander33
Link to post
Share on other sites

A Final Twist


You may recall that we originally were scheduled to fly back home on Qatar Airways via Doha, but that, in the wake of the U.S. electronics ban on flights originating in the Middle East, I subsequently elected to reroute through Johannesburg and London in an effort to thwart chances that we would have to check all our camera gear. 


As it turned out, during the course of our trip, the ban was lifted.  Flights from Doha to the U.S. would no longer be subject to the ban.  By then, my brain was so tired of the subject that I had ceased to care.


But one more twist awaited us.


As we inched our way through the final security line at Kigali, I looked up at an airport monitor, curious to see where other flights were headed.  The line at the very bottom caught my attention:


Flight               Destination                Status


QR 1388          Doha                            Cancelled



I later learned that Qatar Airways had suspended service to and from Kigali from July 6 through August 31.  Passengers to Doha would now have to connect via a RwandAir flight to Entebbe or a Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi, both on Embraer E-175 regional jets.  Based on my own familiarity with these small planes, I have to wonder if, with or without the electronics ban, there would have been room on this aircraft for us to carry on our Pelican cases. (I like to imagine there would not have been).


As I settled into my seat on the RwandAir 737 bound for Johannesburg, camera gear safely stowed in the compartment above us, I had to smile at the irony of it all.  After all the tribulations that I had put myself through in the planning of this trip, one last sudden, unpleasant surprise had lurked in the shadows.  But we had dodged it.  Instead of having to endure the stress of an unplanned international airline connection and new carry-on worries, I could simply close my eyes and settle in for the comfortable 4-hour flight and a bonus two nights at the Makweti Safari Lodge in South Africa’s Welgevonden Game Reserve.


Perhaps it all had somehow been foreordained.  Perhaps it was just sheer good luck.  In the end, it really didn’t matter. 


Everything, it seemed, had turned out just the way it was supposed to have.



(To be continued in the South Africa forum)


Link to post
Share on other sites

I started this at the end - been too busy for trip reports recently....... the colobus monkeys are wonderful (I am going there just for them I think) and now I need to start again from the beginning.

Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, pault said:

I started this at the end 




Glad to see I'm not the only one who does that. And why not?  Starting at the beginning is so commonplace, after all.....:)


Link to post
Share on other sites

wonderful report  @Alexander33 and love the birds you saw at nyungwe-the place is crying out for some reasonably priced accommodation!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

Really enjoyed the Nyungwe section, it does look like such a unique place. Love the very hairy Colobus there, and you did great with the birds! Very jealous about the Trogon!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Wait, did I miss your opinion on the permit cost increase? My husband and I were in Rwanda in June this year for the mountain gorilla trekking and luckily did two treks for the cheaper cost. I'd be interested in hearing your take on the increase. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

@taylorqobrien (and everyone else):


Aha!  I was wondering if anyone would hold my feet to the fire on this. 

One of the reasons I've procrastinated is that I have very mixed feelings about the permit fee increase from $750 USD to $1,500. Our six permits for the three gorilla treks we took were $4,500. Under the new fee schedule, they would have been $9,000. 
Where I end up is here: 
Our three gorilla treks were, as my title suggests, a dream realized. It was an amazing, life-changing experience for me. In the planning stages of the trip, would I willingly have paid $9,000 for them?  With less expensive alternatives available, I have to say, no. Was the experience worth $9,000 to me?  Without question, yes. 
So, I'm a little torn. There still are some positives for opting for Rwanda. 
First, if time is a major issue, the quick accessibility from Kigali International Airport to Volcanoes National Park (about 3 hours) is a huge benefit. Uganda and, even more so, DRC, require a lot more transit time and investment. I suppose also that if there were something specific you were looking for, such as particular photographic opportunities or accessibility assistance not otherwise available, Rwanda could still make sense. 
However, I have to confess, if I were planning a trip right now and wanted to include Mountain Gorillas, I'd probably be focusing on Uganda. The price differential in permit fees ($600 vs. $1,500) is just too great. 
This was a subject that most of the guides I encountered were reticent to discuss. It was as if they were being very careful to not criticize the decision, and so I never felt like I really got a candid opinion from them. They did emphasize that the additional anticipated revenue will almost all go toward conservation efforts and benefits for the local surrounding communities. Given that Rwanda may be the last source of hope toward saving the Mountain Gorilla in this volatile part of the world, a philanthropic approach toward addressing this issue may make sense. 
Incidentally, Rwanda is trying to get visitors to stay in the country longer (and, thus, spend more money) by discounting the gorilla permit fees by 30% for anyone who also spends at least three nights at Akagera or Nyungwe National Parks -- but, even with this discount, they're still a lot higher than in Uganda or DRC. One thing that is very clear is that Rwanda is trying to position itself as an ultra-luxury destination. The new Bisate Lodge run by Wilderness Safaris ($1,400 per person, per night, excluding permit fees) is a prime example.  (Anyone who knows me knows I love my creature comforts, but not that much.)
I guess all we can do is sit back and see whether Rwanda's experiment here ends up working out. It will be very interesting to see whether the drop in visitor numbers, which undoubtedly is going to occur, can be made up for with the higher overall per-visitor expenditures that Rwanda appears to be counting on. 
I have to say that for those who are more adventurous, DRC looks very appealing, because you can also combine it with lowland gorilla (Grauer's) trekking and you've got active volcanoes, which look amazing. @Zim Girl's recent report was intriguing.  I just don't know if I have the gumption to try that yet, but I'm working on it!
(And, hey, I think we'd all love to see a trip report from you, as well. Jump on in. The water's fine!)
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm working on editing my photos still...I'm new to the process, so it's slow going. 


Our park guides didn't have much to say about the price increase, but our in-country guide said that he thinks it wouldn't be a problem, and that if it turns out the numbers fall too much, then can always lower the price (I'm not sure that would ever happen). 


I also heard about the fact that the extra dollars would help with the conservation efforts as well as the local people, so if that's the case, then I see their rationalization. However, I'm unlikely to ever do gorilla trekking again in Rwanda due to cost. I'd likely head to Uganda. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

From an economic point of view I do not really think it´s a good decision. Why would anyone pay double when you can have pretty much the same "product" in Uganda? (I don´t believe Congo is really a factor, the average tourist - and even the average member here - would probably not even consider it because it´s deemed unsafe by most.)


Even if it is successful, after all they only need half the tourists to get the same revenue, which should be doable, it means less jobs for guides and lodge staff. Given the pressure the park faces from all sides this could become a big problem, and they will have to make sure that the local communities get some benefit from this.


And I really worry for Akagera and Nyungwe. Let´s face it, they will always only be an add-on, nobody goes to Rwanda for those parks. And if the number of tourists decreases overall (which it probably already has by now) it certainly will for those two. African Parks has done a great job with helping Akagera back on its feet again, and the price hike is certainly not helping.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy