One of Africa’s greatest attractions is the warm, friendly and delightful people. With so many different ethnic groups, tribes and cultures there are a plethora of experiences to be had. Many camps and lodges provide travellers with the opportunity to experience the local culture and learn their traditions, but across Africa it is often a controversial and much discussed subject, in what actually is an 'authentic' experience.
A prime example will be where many places offer 'traditional' dances, these can often feel staged and not authentic at all. Or visiting a local market, where you are hassled and feel more stressed than soaking up the sights and sounds as you should be. Therefore in our opinion it is best to discuss with us your specific location you are travelling to and we will be honest about where we feel you will get the best local interaction that not only benefits you, but the local people.
We have travelled and explored extensively in Rwanda with the Rwanda Development Board and are extremely passionate about promoting travel to this stunning and diverse country.
Rob is one of only a handful of true Rwanda experts in the UK. He has explored most of the country in depth, spent time in all three of the main national parks over the years and has also stayed at almost all the best accommodation establishments. For honest expert advice contact Rob or call him on +44 7791 360170 or email him on [email protected] .
Please do note it is not just about the Gorillas here, so plan to not only visit Volcanoes National Park , but also its two sister parks - Akagera for wildlife including Lions, Elephant, Giraffe, Hippo and more; Nyungwe for the variety of primates including Chimpanzees and of course relaxing and exploring beautiful Lake Kivu . With plans to add a tourist lodge in Rwanda's newly established 4th National Park - Gishwati-Mukura National Park - conservation and tourism are thriving in Rwanda.
Mention the name Rwanda and most people remember the protracted civil war that escalated into a horrific genocide and claimed the lives of nearly a million people. However, over twenty years later this resilient and safe country is now truly thriving and has become one of the most economically vibrant and socially progressive on the continent. We do encourage our clients to explore Kigali, one of the friendliest and cleanest capital cities on the continent, and visit the Genocide Museum, to gain a background in this remarkable country to see how far it has come, and head off and explore as much as possible of this sensational country. We at Tailormade Africa love Rwanda!!
Geographically, it’s also one of Africa’s most remarkable countries. Labelled ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’, its verdant forests offer one of the top wildlife experiences on the planet: meeting the mountain gorillas studied by Dian Fossey in the Volcanoes National Park. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event that should be on everyone’s ‘bucket list’.
Other Apes are on offer too: Rwanda is one of only three countries in the world where you can track both Gorillas and Chimpanzees. Found inside Nyungwe National Park – the largest and oldest montane forest in East Africa – this biodiverse park also shelters the endangered Golden Monkey endemic to the Virunga Mountains, the black-and-white Ruwenzori colobus and close to 300 species of bird.
To the east, you can explore the off-the-beaten-track savannah of Akagera National Park home to elephant, hippo and – after a 15-year absence – a newly re-introduced pride of lions and also rhino that are the subject of a fascinating conservation story led by the non-profit organisation African Parks .
You can hike to the summit of dormant volcano Mount Bisoke, pick up woven handicrafts from villages, watch tea pickers at work, and relax at a lakeside retreat on the shores of Lake Kivu – the eighteenth-deepest lake in the world – where Amato fishing boats ply the depths.
If you are travelling from the UK or mainland Europe there are various flight options: RwandAir flies directly to Kigali from London Gatwick three times a week alternatively Kenya Airways fly via Nairobi, KLM via Amsterdam and Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa, all from London Heathrow. Other airlines serving Kigali include Fly Dubai and Qatar Airlines.
Access into Rwanda is easy and all points are easily accessible due to the fact that Rwanda is a small country. Agakera National Park is roughly a 2-hour drive at 100 km from Kigali, Nyungwe is a 5 to 6-hour drive at just over 200 km and Volcanoes National Park is a 2.5 to 3-hour drive at just over 100 km. Lake Kivu is just over 100 km from Kigali: a 2.5 to 3-hour drive.
Mountain gorillas live at high altitude (1,700 metres) in the Virungas, Volcanoes National Park. There are currently 10 habituated gorilla families each of which can be visited by a maximum of 8 visitors per day. Viewing time is limited and people are permitted to stay with the gorillas for a maximum of 1 hour only. Gorilla trekking involves walking long distances through thick vegetation and up steep, wet and muddy terrain which may prove a challenge for some visitors.
We recommend you pace yourself: walk slowly and drink plenty of water. On the track, carry as little as possible in a waterproof bag: hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, camera, etc. No one should, however, feel deterred from making this trip as mostly, average fitness levels will be sufficient for the treks. Porters are available to help you carry your daypack for a small fee. Children under 15 years of age are not permitted on gorilla treks.
Being a rainforest, Virunga Volcanoes experiences a changeable climate and you can generally expect rain or sunshine, or both, on any day of the year. At 1,700m above sea level, it is also generally quite cold, especially in the mornings and evenings. Warm clothing is therefore recommended. Please bring sturdy, waterproof walking shoes or hiking boots, gators (if possible) and a light raincoat. We recommend long, thick, waterproof trousers and a long-sleeved top to protect against stinging nettles. A pair of thick gloves is helpful when you are grabbing for holds in thorny vegetation. If you feel safer with a walking-stick, pack a folding one. The park can provide wooden walking sticks if necessary.
To minimise the possible transmission of human diseases you are required to maintain a distance of 7m (22 ft) from the gorillas. If you are unwell with a cold, flu or any other contagious illness please do not visit the gorillas. Spitting in the park is strictly prohibited. Should you need to cough please cover your mouth and turn away from the gorillas. Eating and drinking near the gorillas and smoking anywhere within the park is strictly forbidden. Photography is permitted, but you may NOT use flash. Please keep your voice low when with the gorillas and do not make any rapid movements that may frighten them. Should a gorilla charge or vocalise towards you, do not be alarmed. Stand still, look away from the gorilla and follow your guide’s directions. The safety of visitors is of the highest priority for the park guides and there is no need for concern about your personal security. To enhance your enjoyment make sure you carry at least 1 litre of drinking water with you. You are permitted to bring small snacks to eat during your hike but do not litter.
Fees for mountain gorilla tracking permits are US$1500 per person for foreign non-residents, foreigner residents in East African countries, foreigner residents in Rwanda and for Rwandan citizens - this is inclusive of park entrance fees. Tracking only takes place in the morning and always starts at the Volcanoes National Park HQ in Kinigi at 0700 hrs every day. Many of the park’s team of trackers and anti-poaching officers speak English or French.
Rwanda is a destination for all seasons, however, visiting Rwanda to trek the mountain gorilla is best during the drier season from June to September. This is also the optimum time for tracking chimpanzees. Temperatures hardly vary throughout the seasons due to Rwanda's position just south of the Equator. Days are warm and nights are cool, especially at altitude.
Rwanda is an elevated country in the African Great Lakes region of the continent. The geography of the country is dominated by mountains in the west and savannah to the east with numerous lakes throughout the country.
The population of Rwanda is young and predominantly rural with a density amongst the highest in Africa. Rwandans are drawn from one cultural and linguistic group called the Banyawanda although within this group there are three subgroups: the Hutu, the Tutsi and the Twa. The country has been governed by a strict administrative hierarchy since pre-colonial times and there are five provinces delineated by borders which were introduced in 2006. Rwanda is one of only two countries with a female majority in the national parliament.
Since the genocide of 1994, when Rwanda's economy suffered greatly, the country has now strengthened. The economy of Rwanda is based mostly on subsistence agriculture and coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export. Tourism is a fast-growing sector and is now the country's leading foreign exchange earner. Rwanda is one of two countries in which mountain gorillas can be visited safely. Music and dance are an integral part of Rwandan culture: particularly drums and the highly choreographed intore dance. Traditional arts and crafts are produced throughout the country including imigongo: a unique cow dung art.
On the last Saturday of every month from around 8.00am to 12.30pm all Rwandans, from all walks of life, take a break from their everyday chores and come together with neighbouring communities and villages to work together for the benefit of the whole society. Work often includes chores such as general cleaning, breaking fallow ground for farming, unblocking trenches and roadside drains and sweeping streets. Once the work has been completed, communities hold a short meeting to discuss society issues and then head home. Their afternoon is then free to continue their daily lives and revert back to personal engagements.
Due to a combination of tropical location and high altitude Rwanda enjoys a year-round temperate climate. Temperatures rarely stray above 30 degrees Celsius during the day and 15 degrees Celsius at night through the year. The upper slopes of the Virunga mountains can be cooler however generally, variations in temperature throughout the country are insignificant.
Most parts of the country receive in excess of 1000mm of precipitation annually with the wettest months being February to May and the driest months being July to September.
This is quite possibly the quintessential African destination. When it comes to safari, Tanzania really does have it all and it is certainly one of the most popular among our clients. It is the kind of place which experienced safari hands could easily visit four or five times, but it also makes for a fantastic first-time safari. Here are our reasons why we love Tanzania safaris.
Both Clyde & Rob have vast experience in creating top quality Tanzania safaris. Clyde has been a professional safari guide there for many years and Rob has also spent a huge amount of time in Tanzania over the last decade. So for honest expert advice on Tanzania contact Clyde or call him on +44 7809 726266 or email him on [email protected] . Alternatively, contact Rob - call him on +44 7791 360170 or email him on [email protected] .
Tanzania can effectively be split into three distinct safari circuits, the first and most popular of which is the Northern Parks. Most itineraries through here will make use of a vehicle and guide who will stay with you for at least some of the trip. Lake Manyara, Tarangire and Ngorongoro make a wonderful introduction to safari and help to set the atmosphere. However, the Serengeti is the crown jewel of the region and plays host to the Great Migration where approximately two million wildebeest, zebra and antelope move in a constant cycle in search of the rains and good grazing. Other fringe areas that are well worth making the effort to visit are Lake Natron, Lake Eyasi and Lake Victoria.
The southern circuit in Tanzania offers a safari experience more akin to those in Southern Africa. The burnt red earth and phenomenal predator population of Ruaha make for an action-packed adventure and incredible game viewing. This is wonderfully contrasted in the Selous, where time is whiled away in a more leisurely fashion. Boating safaris allow you to search the lush waterways for hippos and crocodiles whilst sipping on gin & tonic.
The western circuit is the least travelled region in Tanzania due to the expense and difficulty of getting there. Most visitors are safari aficionados who are rewarded with very low visitor numbers indeed. Katavi is an extraordinary wilderness area and Mahale offers the very best Chimpanzee trekking experience in Africa.
As if this wasn’t enough, the beautiful Islands & Coast region includes the wonderful remote Tanzania Coast and tropical beaches of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Islands lie within easy reach. A combination of safari and beach is very popular amongst honeymooners and families to Tanzania and can be one of the most affordable safaris you will find because of the lower cost of the beach lodges. A few visitors will even extend their trips to include a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro – the tallest mountain in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world.
Congo is one of Africa’s best-kept secrets. Remote in the best possible sense of the word, this is safari in the original sense of the word – a voyage into the unknown. A journey of exploration and discovery that will whet even the most jaded of travel appetites. Congo is far from the beaten track – indeed, vast tracts of its pristine rainforest are far from any tracks at all. The very name ‘Congo’ conjures up powerful images of the heart of Africa, a place of marvels and wonder that few have ever visited.
Calmer and much more stable than its larger namesake, (the Democratic Republic of Congo) the "Republic of Congo" is approaching a vital crossroads. Despite its sparse human population, pressure is mounting to fund development by exploiting its natural riches – particularly oil and timber.
Ecotourism, although in its infancy, offers a viable alternative. Far-sighted conservationists have established a handful of sensitively designed and managed Camps in and around Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the north of the country.
One of Africa’s oldest protected areas, Odzala boasts the world’s highest density of western lowland gorillas, and many other charismatic species of bird, mammal and reptile in its 13 600km2. A vivid mosaic of habitats supports incredible biodiversity – several new species have been discovered there in recent years, and almost every day (and night) brings new discoveries.
There are few places left in Africa where you know that your footprints are among the first, and that by placing them there, you are making a real and lasting contribution to the conservation of the globally significant rainforests of the Congo Basin.
We love Congo for the chance it offers to intrepid explorers to have close encounters with habituated groups of gorillas and to spend time with the pioneering primatologists who have dedicated their lives to studying them.
In addition to the gorillas, Odzala has eleven species of diurnal primate and megafauna such as forest buffalo and forest elephant. These more visible species share Odzala with a whole host of fascinating creatures, many of them unknown to the uninitiated. If you’ve ever wanted to see a bongo in the Congo, or a potto, anomalure or tree pangolin, then Odzala is a must-visit destination.
Remember that palpable sense of excitement you felt the first time you set foot in Africa? Odzala is your chance to feel that way again, and discover much more besides
One of Africa’s lesser known countries, once the thriving hub of British East Africa, many people still associate Uganda with Idi Amin’s dictatorship of the early 80s or the infamous Entebbe Airport hijacking.
Visitors to Uganda are often surprised and taken aback by the shear natural beauty of Uganda’s diverse landscapes and the genuine friendly welcome from the people. From the mountainous rain-forests in the south, to the northern savannahs, to picture-perfect crater lakes Uganda is truly one of the most geographically remarkable countries in Africa.
Uganda’s star attractions are the mountain gorillas, with just under half of the world’s remaining population found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. While access has improved over recent years with better roads and the introduction of affordable internal flights, the forest still lives up to its “Impenetrable” tag offering a real jungle adventure. Gorilla trekking is a true bucket list adventure, journeying through the dense jungle to spend an hour with the completely wild and imposing giants of the forest.
Chimpanzee trekking, often overshadowed by their more glamourous gorilla cousins, is different and fascinating experience. Chimpanzees live in large communities of up to 100 individuals (gorillas remain in family units of 8-20), so visitors to one of Uganda’s four different chimpanzee trekking sites can witness a variety of antics from feeding and grooming to clashes for ranking seniority.
Uganda also has a range of National Parks to visit on safari. Animal numbers are on a steady increase after a drop during the lawless years of Amin’s regime. You won’t find the teeming herds of the Masai Mara, but you are more likely to have a safari experience where you are the only people viewing animals at one time.
Uganda’s profusion of lakes and rivers also means there are many chances to experience safaris from a boat. On The Nile in Murchison Falls, the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Albert in Semliki and Lake Mburo.
For those with a more active outlook there is Jinja – East Africa’s adventure sport capital with white water rafting, kayaking, quad biking and bungee jumping. Sipi Falls on the slopes of Mount Elgon offers great Mountain Biking and Rock Climbing excursions. The Rwenzori Mountain range can be climbed in 3-14 day expeditions, the unique experience of being above the snow-line on the equator.
Due to its arid nature, Namibia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth. The feelings of sheer space and freedom that can be felt here are unlike anything else you may have experienced before. This comes with an understanding that a safari to Namibia is mostly about spectacular desert scenery and wide open landscapes. The exception being in the spectacular Etosha Pan National Park where the wildlife sightings can be relatively few and far between but they are made that much more special by their infrequency and the backdrops which they are seen against. We therefore do not usually recommend Namibia for a first time safari, unless it is combined with Botswana or South Africa.
Self-driving safaris or guided vehicle safaris are very popular as the road network is in good condition and this form of travel can be one of the most affordable ways to experience safari in Africa. Unfortunately, this involves long distances on the road and will only afford you the chance to experience the more accessible parts of the country. Having said this, the massive and majestic dunes of Sossusvlei are not to be ignored and neither is Etosha Pan. Although some may question the authenticity of safari here, it will certainly provide a heavy dose of large animal sightings with relative ease. The Atlantic Ocean provides a welcome relief from the desert at Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, where the marine wildlife is especially rich.
In order to reach the most remote and truly special parts of Namibia though, you will need to fly. The distances involved are again immense and this can amount to three times the cost of a driving safari. It is well worth it in our opinion though, as these flights are the most spectacular you are likely to experience anywhere. You will be rewarded with almost unshared access to the untouched Skeleton Coast and Kunene regions. This wilderness is also home to the fascinating Himba and Herero tribes who still maintain their traditional way of life.
This country has become something of an institution over the years and is where the lavish and luxurious hunting safari was pioneered and perfected. It is no surprise then that when tastes shifted toward the photographic safari in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Kenya was again at the forefront. Being spread out over a fairly large landmass means it offers a diversity of different habitats to explore, from endless savannas to snow-capped mountains, from harsh deserts to tropical coastlines.
The crown jewel is without doubt the world-famous Masai Mara reserve. It plays host to the most spectacular portion of the Great Migration, where up to two million wildebeest, zebra and antelope follow the rains in constant search of good grazing. The herds only move through the Mara between July – Nov but their time here is action-packed and chaotic river crossings are the norm. During the rest of the year, however, you will still be rewarded with healthy populations of resident game and much lower visitor numbers. Other safari areas which deserve serious consideration when planning a trip are Meru, Laikipia, Samburu and the Chyulu Hills.
Another drawcard that few safari countries are still able to offer is truly authentic cultural interaction with local tribespeople. Kenya will afford you the unique opportunity to visit Maasai, Kikuyu or Pokot villages.
After a rigorous safari schedule, there is no better way to round off your trip than with a week on the tropical beaches that line the coast. Only Kenya and Tanzania offer such an effortless combination of safari and beach. Unfortunately, Malindi has fallen victim to the large resort syndrome but the areas around Lamu still offer that laid-back barefoot atmosphere that most of our clients are hoping for. Even the spectacular Seychelles is easily connected via the main hub of Nairobi.