Gorillas and Chimps - Rwanda, Congo and Burundi

Ever since Stanley emerged from the jungle on his epic trek across the continent, the Congo has held a place in western imaginations as Africa’s ‘dark heart’, a land of thick rainforest, surging rivers and isolated hostile tribes.  The undisputed giant of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo is undoubtedly one of the most challenging countries to travel through, yet those that make the step will be rewarded with some of the most incredible experiences the continent can offer. We combine the DRC with its tiny neighbours Rwanda and Burundi, for a comprehensive trip through the region.

Starting in the Rwandan capital Kigali, we head first to the forests of Nyungwe, one of the premier spots in Africa for primates, where we explore its canopy walkway and track wild chimpanzees.

We then cross the border into the Congo, where in the forests of Kahuzi-Biega we trek to meet a family of rare eastern lowland gorillas, the largest of all the ape species. We spend time with pygmy communities on the idyllic island of Idjwi, and meet local fishermen on Lake Kivu.

Our final country is Burundi, where we explore the lively capital, see traditional Burundian drummers, and discover the lush wetlands of Rusizi National Park.

This two week trip shows you the best of this region’s natural world, as well as giving ample opportunity to meet and interact with local people, gaining insights into their often challenging lives. This area is all too often portrayed as Africa’s ‘heart of darkness’ – we show you another side to this much misunderstood part of Africa.

Gorillas, Chimps and Volcanoes


  • Track chimps in Nyungwe Forest
  • See the impressive Karera Falls
  • Meet pygmies on Idjwi Island
  • Eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega
  • Explore the vibrant Nyamirambo district

Day 1 - Kigali

Arrive in Kigali and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore. Overnight Chez Lando Hotel or similar.


Spread out over hills and valleys, fringed with lush vegetation, Kigali is one of Africa’s most attractive capitals, with a lively but relaxed atmosphere that puts visitors at ease. Founded only in the early twentieth century, the population today stands at around a million, around 10% of the country’s total. Kigali suffered enormously during the genocide of 1994, but since then has rebuilt itself and is now renowned for being a safe and friendly place. It’s also incredibly clean – a result of the country having recently banned plastic bags, one of the scourges of African cities, as well as the fact that each month residents come together to embark on a number of community projects including cleaning the streets.

As anyone familiar with African capitals might expect, Kigali is fairly short on actual tourist sights, but the Genocide Memorial is a poignant reminder of the country’s tragic history and an essential stop for all visitors.

Day 2 - Kigali – Kibuye

Spend this morning exploring Kigali. We visit the Genocide Memorial, a harrowing reminder of the troubles Rwanda has faced and then explore the vibrant Nyamirambo district, where we can meet local people and learn about their everyday lives – a good opportunity to see beneath the surface of Kigali. Continue on to Kibuye and enjoy an evening cruise along Lake Kivu for the chance to meet the traditional fisherman that work here at night. Overnight Inn on the Lake or similar. (BLD)

Day 3 - Nyungwe

Continue to Nyungwe, an area of primary rainforest rich in primate species. In the afternoon we walk into the forest to look for colobus, one of the most striking primates in this region, with groups up to 50 strong residing here. Overnight Nyungwe Top View or similar. (BLD)

Day 4 - Nyungwe - Cyangugu

Return to the forest, this time to track chimpanzees. After lunch we explore the rainforest further on its canopy walkway for a different view of this incredible region. From here drive to Cyangugu for the night. Overnight Emeraude Kivu Resort or similar. (BLD)

Chimpanzee tracking

Humans’ closest living relatives, chimpanzees are spread among 22 African countries, from Senegal in the west to Tanzania in the east, and have become extinct in four countries where they once lived. they are among the largest-brained, and most intelligent of primates; they use a variety of sophisticated tools and construct elaborate sleeping nests each night from branches and foliage. They live in large social groups of several males, females, juveniles and infants, dominated by an alpha male usually between 20 and 25 years old.

Day 5 - Kahuzi-Biega National Park

Cross the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo. After border formalities, we venture into Kahuzi Biega National Park, one of the last strongholds for the endangered eastern lowland gorilla. Trek through the rainforest to observe one of the families in their natural habitat. Overnight Orchids Safari Club or similar. (BLD)


Eastern lowland gorillas

The eastern lowland gorilla – also known as Grauer’s gorilla – is the largest of the four gorilla species and only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Like all of the gorillas, it is under huge threat from habitat loss and poaching, with current population estimated around 4,000, compared to around 100,000 for the western lowland gorilla. However, they tend to form larger family groups than their western counterparts and occupy a greater range of habitats, from mountains to lowland forests.

One of the main threats to their survival is the encroachment of small scale mining operations – this part of the DRC is rich in minerals, and not only does this lead to habitat loss but the killing of gorillas by miners for food.

Day 6 - Bukavu

In the morning we hike on Mount Bugulumiza for great views of the surrounding countryside (3 hour easy walk, but optional). After lunch visit the Lwiro rehabilitation centre for primates, home to around 80 chimpanzees and about 100 other primates, to learn about their valuable work caring for animals that have been orphaned by hunting and the bush meat trade. Overnight Orchids Safari Club or similar. (BLD)

Days 7-8 - Idjwi Island

Travel to Idjwi, the largest island on Lake Kivu with its traditional pygmy villages and laid back atmosphere. We spend our time here visiting local settlements and sailing out on the lake with fishermen. Overnight Oasis Lodge or similar. (BLD)


‘Pygmy’ is a term used to describe a number of different ethnic groups living throughout central Africa, from the Batwa of the Great Lakes to the Ba’Aka and Badgeli of the western forests. Most Pygmy communities are partially hunter-gatherers, living on the wild products of their environment, but many also trade with neighbouring farmers to acquire cultivated foods and other material items. It is estimated that there are between 250,000 and 600,000 Pygmies living in the Congo rainforest.

The pygmies are masters of the forest, traditionally relying on it for most of their daily needs, although in modern times many have become more settled and are adopting the customs of the larger populations around them. They have been much discriminated against in recent times, with African governments attempting to ‘modernise’ them and seeing them as something of a throwback. However, we feel that spending time among these groups of people, with their encyclopaedic knowledge of the natural world and unique customs is one of the more special experiences the continent can offer.

Day 9 - Bujumbura

Cross the border into Rwanda and then drive to the border with Burundi, continuing to Bujumbura. Depending on arrival time we can explore the city and learn about the history of Burundi before and after independence. Overnight La Palmeraie or similar. (BLD)

Day 10 - Gitega

Head to Gitega, where we visit the National Museum and also witness an impressive music performance by traditional Burundian drummers. Overnight Tropitel or similar. (BLD)

Day 11 - Rutana – Rutovu – Bujumbura

Drive to Rutana to see the Karera Falls, a series of impressive waterfalls, before continuing to Rutovu and the source of the Nile. Return to Bujumbura for the night. Overnight La Palmeraie or similar. (BLD)

Day 12 - Rusizi National Park - Bujumbura

In the morning we visit Rusizi National Park, home to hippos, antelopes, monkeys and numerous species of colourful birds. This afternoon we visit the local market before transferring to the airport for your departure flight. (BL)

We arrive in Bujumbura in the afternoon of the final day and you should not book any departure flight before the evening.

Eastern lowland gorilla - Congo tours
Pygmy woman on Idjwi Island - Congo holidays
Young children in Goma - Congo tours and holidays
Busy market on Idjwi Island - Congo holidays

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by English speaking guides throughout the tour, but will have different guides for different sections of the trip, to take advantage of their local knowledge.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively, a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however, you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.


Most travellers will require a visa to enter Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.

For Rwanda, UK travellers can obtain a visa on arrival in Kigali at no cost. For other nationalities, the visa can be obtained upon arrival for US $30-50.

We can arrange for the visa for Democratic Republic of Congo to be issued locally for you. If you would like us to do this you MUST let us know at the time of booking as we will need to send you some forms to enable this. There is a charge for this of £100. Your passport must also be valid for a minimum of twelve months after completion of the trip.

The Burundi visa can be obtained on arrival for US $60.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations, you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for entry to the Democratic Republic of Congo and you must bring this with you.


It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover, which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.


The local currency in Rwanda is the Rwandan franc and in the DRC it is the Congolese franc.

It’s not difficult to change money here, but only in the larger cities – once you leave these your opportunity for changing funds is slim to non-existent. Your guide will be able to assist with this. ATMs exist but are not always reliable and so it is best to think of them as a back up rather than a main means of obtaining money.

However, US dollars are accepted almost everywhere in both countries.

Credit cards are accepted in larger hotels and better restaurants (usually in Kigali) but are not commonly accepted elsewhere.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any parts of the Republic of Congo that we visit.

We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in the DRC. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Updated July 2023

Eastern lowland gorilla - Congo tours
Pygmy woman on Idjwi Island - Congo holidays
Young children in Goma - Congo tours and holidays
Busy market on Idjwi Island - Congo holidays
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
10 June 2024
Price (PP) -
Single Supplement -
Trip Status -
Date -
09 June 2025
Price (PP) -
Single Supplement -
Trip Status -

You may also like…