A Comprehensive 16 Days Birding in Rwanda Itinerary

On a bird watching safari through Rwanda that lasts 16 days, you’ll get to see the breathtaking landscapes and learn about the abundant wildlife that calls this country home. Embark on a captivating excursion through Kigali, the expansive Akagera National Park, the ethereal Nyungwe woods, and the majestic Virunga Mountains, as you explore the heart of Rwanda’s avian treasures.

Kigali is the perfect starting point for your birdwatching excursion. After that, you’ll make your way to the picturesque Umusambi Village, which is teeming with weird and wonderful creatures like Grey-crowned Cranes. Keep an eye out for the elusive endemics and migrant birds as you cruise along the tranquil shores of Gashora lake and the marshes of Nyabarongo. While exploring the savannas and marshes in Akagera National Park’s northern and southern regions, you’ll get the chance to see more than 525 bird species set against the background of breathtaking sceneries. On the Kilala Plains, one could see the symphony of life as well as the famous Shoebill.

Nyungwe National Park is home to stunning woodland dwellers and numerous Albertine Rift unique birds, making it the beating center of Rwanda’s avian diversity. The exhilarating canopy hikes, optional chimpanzee trekking, and golden monkey sightings provide a new dimension to this spectacular Rwanda bird-watching safari. You will depart from Kigali with golden memories of incredible wildlife, breathtaking landscapes, and the diverse array of Rwanda’s natural history as your birding expedition comes to a close.

Rwanda A Paradise for Birdwatchers

Overview: 16 Days Birding in Rwanda

  • Explore avian wonders at Umusambi Village
  • Bird Watching in Nyabarongo Wetlands
  • Journey to Akagera National Park
  • Safari in Akagera’s diverse landscapes
  • Discover Northern Akagera’s birdlife
  • Morning Birding and back to Kigali
  • Musanze adventure, Buhanga Forest birding
  • Bird-watching at Rugezi Swamp (IBA)
  • Volcanoes National Park avian exploration
  • Golden Monkey Trekking, Lake Kivu transfer
  • Gishwati–Mukura National Park journey
  • Reach Nyungwe, experience Canopy Walk
  • Birding at Gisakura, Karamba, Kamiranzovu Marsh
  • Mt. Bigugu Trail birding in Nyungwe
  • Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe

Detailed Itinerary: 16 Days Birding in Rwanda

Day 1 – Arrival in Kigali, Birding at Umusambi Village

A driver and birding guide will be waiting for you at Kigali International Airport and will take you directly to your accommodation. You will go on a birding trip in Kigali after receiving a briefing from your tour manager and bird viewing guide. Listed here are some of the most common bird species found in Rwanda. Umusambi Village is the ideal spot to begin birdwatching in Kigali. Established not long ago to offer refuge for the endangered Grey-crowned Cranes rescued from captivity, this sanctuary is the first of its kind in the city.

Many different kinds of birds call Umusambi Village home because of the many different environments there. One of these is a restored wetland. You can see several birds, like the White-collared Oliveback, which is common in this region, as you walk along the paths that are kept in good repair. Also, you might spot the African Firefinch, Purple-crested Turaco, Black-shouldered Nightjar, Spot-flanked Barbet, Lesser Honeyguide, and Green-winged Pytilia.

Day 2 – Bird Watching in the Nyabarongo Wetlands

Get a good night’s sleep before an exhilarating 16 Days Birding in Rwanda adventure in the varied woodlands, marshes, and wetlands of Bugesera, not far from Kigali. Start your day of birdwatching in Bugesera’s Nyabarongo River Wetlands (IBA) as soon as the sun comes up and see a variety of wetland birds. The Papyrus Gonolek and the White-winged Swamp Warbler are unique to the Lake Victoria Biome; later on, you can visit Ngoma’s Gashora Lake to look for them. The area’s highlights include these rare species.

Your birding adventure doesn’t have to end after lunch; instead, you can spend the afternoon and evening exploring woodlands, open fields, and forests. After a day of excellent bird watching, you can head back to Kigali as the sun goes down.

Day 3 – Journey to Akagera National Park

After a leisurely breakfast, set out on a scenic journey to Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda, home to a wide variety of birds and other wildlife. As a savanna ecosystem, the park is one of a kind in a country that is otherwise mostly mountainous. With over 525 bird species—or over two-thirds of Rwanda’s total—calling Akagera National Park home, it is no wonder the park has earned international recognition as an Important Bird Area (IBA). From September to April, the park is home to a plethora of Palearctic migrants, who feed on the area’s savanna, woodland, and marsh bird species.

You can see more birds as you drive to Akagera National Park because you’ll be passing through communities and farmed regions.

You can start your birdwatching adventure the moment you reach the park. You will be greeted by the lovely calls of the Little Rush Warbler as you step into the park. After you drive past the park entrance and onto the gaming courses, you can keep track of the bird species you see. Acacia thickets, forests, grasslands, and marshes cover the terrain close to Akagera National Park’s entrance. This area of the park is home to a variety of interesting animals, including zebras, antelopes, monkeys, and even rhinos, which can be seen while birdwatching.

Take a serene boat trip on Akagera’s biggest lake, Lake Ihema, as the sun sets later in the day. Birdwatchers can see migrant species like the Wood and Common Sandpipers, as well as water-related birds like the African Jacana, Swamp Flycatcher, and African Fish Eagle during this gorgeous encounter. Watch careful for the many species of water animals, such as crocodiles and hippos.

Day 4 – Birdwatching Safari in Akagera National Park

An great day of bird watching and safari activities awaits you at Akagera National Park, so make sure to get up bright and early at 6:00 am. Have a fast breakfast before setting off to discover the lower southern parts of the park. Woodlands, lush grasslands, and dense acacia thickets define this region, which is also home to gorgeous lakeshores and marshes.

The Red-faced Barbet is an East African indigenous species that is regarded a special sighting in Akagera National Park. If you’re a Rwandan birdwatcher, seeing this bird would be a great experience. Birds of many kinds, as well as other interesting animals including antelopes, giraffes, and elephants, will be readily available for observation and documentation throughout the day.

Throughout the day, you will have the opportunity to observe a greater variety of birds and animals as you make your way towards the northern, more elevated, and rugged sections of the park. Nighttime birdwatching in Rwanda is at its most exciting when you keep an eye out for nocturnal animals like the elusive Nightjar. Get a good night’s sleep and look forward to the next day with anticipation.

Day 5 – Birdwatching Safari in the Northern Region of Akagera National Park

As you head north into Akagera National Park, prepare for an exciting day of safari exploration and birdwatching. Wetlands in this region are famous for offering a rare chance to see the elusive Shoebill bird (but sightings are difficult, so don’t get your hopes up). Also, there are great opportunities to see a wide variety of savannah animals in the north’s stunning savannah plains. The vast grasslands and savannahs in the northern part of Akagera National Park are home to a variety of wildlife, including grazers and predators. Keep an eye out for renowned predators like hyenas and lions; this area is ideal for them because of the plenty of food. A great place to go on a game drive to see wildlife is the Kilala Plains, which are in the northern part of the park. You may also see many different kinds of savannah birds here.

Spend the night in the posh Karenge Bush Camp, north of the park, with a view of the stunning Kilala Plains, after a day of birdwatching.

Day 6 – Morning Birding in Akagera and Transfer to Kigali

Birdwatching in Akagera National Park’s scenic Kilala Plains is the perfect way to start the day. In the midst of seeing these magnificent creatures frolic on the open plains, this is the best time of year to see a wide variety of birds. As they move elegantly across the breathtaking scenery, look out for famous animals including lions, giraffes, elephants, and antelopes.

Say farewell to Akagera National Park once you’ve had your fill of wildlife safari encounters and birding. As you say your goodbyes and start the long drive back to Kigali, remember all the wonderful things that happened during your stay.

Day 7 – Journey to Musanze and Birding in Buhanga Forest

A hearty breakfast will set you up for a successful day as you bid farewell to your current lodging. In the northwestern section of Rwanda, you’ll find the majestic Virunga Mountains and the mysterious mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. Today, you’ll take a beautiful journey to reach this area.

The drive from where you are to Musanze, the park entry to Volcanoes National Park, should take about two hours. As soon as you get to Musanze, go birdwatching in Buhanga Forest and take in the breathtaking scenery. There may not be any Albertine Rift endemics in Buhanga woodland, but there are plenty of other interesting woodland bird species to witness. Spend as much time as you like discovering the forest and relishing in the tranquility of this captivating environment.

The Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge will serve as your home away from home. Indulge in the ultimate in luxury and convenience at this elegant mid-range lodge.

Day 8 – Birdwatching in Rugezi Swamp (IBA)

Will you be able to spend a whole day immersed in the natural beauty of Rwanda’s Rugezi Swamp, a prime location for birdwatching? The number of bird species specialized for wetlands makes this wetland ecosystem well-known. You will mostly be focusing on the amazing Albertine Rift endemic, the Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, today. You should be on the lookout for this unusual bird as you go around the marsh.

If you’re looking to expand your Rwanda birdwatching list beyond just wetland birds, you’re in luck! The neighboring gardens and bush communities are home to a diverse range of bird species. Stop what you’re doing and take careful notes on the many bird species that call this extraordinary habitat home.

Day 9 – Birdwatching in Volcanoes National Park (IBA)

Get ready for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure as you explore the magnificent Virunga Mountains. A trip to Volcanoes National Park, ideal for birdwatching, is in store for you after a hearty breakfast. The astounding variety of birds found at Volcanoes National Park is well-known. There are almost 200 species of birds that have been documented there. You can spot a plethora of mountain-specialist birds and as many as fifteen Albertine Rift endemics among them.

On your birdwatching journey, you’ll pass through mountain slopes that are home to a variety of forest ecosystems, including bamboo and hagenia. As you venture into the unique alpine environment, be on the lookout for birds that inhabit higher altitudes. As you make your way to Lake Ngezi on Mount Bisoke, you may be lucky enough to see several mountain-specialist birds and rare species from the Albertine Rift. In addition, unique bird species linked with water may be spotted in the serene waters of Lake Ngezi.

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park first thing in the morning is an optional extra. Continuing your birdwatching activities after this amazing African trip would let you to immerse yourself in the park’s natural beauty.

Day 10 – Golden Monkey Trekking and Transfer to Lake Kivu

Get a head start on the day with a delicious meal and an early wake-up call at approximately 6:30 in the morning. A thrilling golden monkey hike in Volcanoes National Park will be escorted by well-informed park rangers, whom you will meet at the park offices in Kinigi afterward. At the foot of Mount Sabinyo Volcano, you’ll find a lovely bamboo forest that the trail winds through. The journey to find a habituated group of more than a hundred golden monkeys is brief and straightforward. Once you find them, you’ll have about an hour to enjoy and marvel at these active and attractive monkeys in their own environment.
Your journey to the picturesque lakeside town of Gisenyi, located on the banks of Lake Kivu, will follow the golden monkey trail.

Birdwatching is an activity that you can partake in while at Lake Kivu. You could see many different kinds of birds if you go birdwatching around the lake or along its shores. Be on the lookout for the colorful Southern Red Bishop; you can see them often along the shores of Lake Kivu.

Day 11 – Transfer to Gishwati–Mukura National Park

You should get ready for an interesting day ahead and check out of your motel at 6:30 am. You will visit Gishwati Forest, which is part of Gishwati-Mukura National Park, today via a beautiful drive. It takes around 1.5 hours to go from Gisenyi to this protected region, which is the most recent natural attraction in Rwanda.

Among the many unique flora and fauna found in Gishwati-Mukura National Park are seventeen bird species that are exclusive to the Albertine Rift. Before you go to Nyungwe Forest, where you may see even more bird species, here is a great spot to see these unusual birds.

Take a day trip to Gishwati Forest and look for rare birds in their natural surroundings. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery of this newly formed national park while checking off another item on your bucket list: birding.

Day 12 – Drive to Nyungwe National Park, Take a Canopy Walk

Wake up bright and early and get ready for an amazing experience as you set off for Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda’s southwest area. With a population of about 310 bird species, this park has earned international renown as an IBA. The ideal place to see these rare bird species is Nyungwe, which is well-known for its richness of Albertine Rift endemics. Nyungwe has more Albertine endemics than any other park in the Albertine Rift Valley, with 27 out of the 40 or so species found here.

Dedicate at least three full days to bird watching in Nyungwe Forest if you want to maximize your chances of seeing all the Albertine Rift endemics. While here, you can take a stroll around the park on one of the many paths. You can extend your birding excursions in Nyungwe by adding extra days to your program if your schedule permits.

Day 13 – Birding in Nyungwe: Gisakura-Karamba-Kamiranzovu Marsh

After you’ve had your breakfast, it’s time to get back to the magical Nyungwe Forest and begin your Rwanda bird viewing safari at the Gisakura ranger station. The first stop on your journey will be at Kamiranzovu Marsh, a breathtaking site where you have a chance to see the Albertine Rift-exclusive Grauer’s Swamp Warbler. For anyone interested in birds, this is an absolutely priceless bird.

On your birdwatching adventures near Gisakura, you’ll come across a plethora of avian wonders native to Nyungwe Forest, including a number of species that are unique to the Albertine Rift. Be on the lookout for these extraordinary birds and their distinctive sounds as well as their vibrant plumage. Your animal encounters in Nyungwe will be taken to the next level if you are lucky enough to spot many monkey species while you are out and about.

Day 14 – Birding in Nyungwe on The Mt. Bigugu Trail

Nyungwe National Park is going to host another thrilling birding day. Today, you’ll explore a new section of the park by hiking a different trail. Today, we’ll be hiking the breathtaking Mt. Bigugu trek, which culminates at the 2950-meter summit of Mt. Bigugu—the highest point in the Nyungwe.

There are a plethora of endemic bird species in the Albertine Rift, so keep an eye out for them as you stroll along the trail. Be on the lookout for the following species: Neumann’s Warbler, Blue-headed Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Strip-breasted Tit, Mountain Masked Apalis, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Apalis, Rwenzori Batis, and Neumann’s Warbler. These are only a handful of the many magnificent bird species that can be spotted on this hike. Keep an eye out for other interesting birds, like the Mountain Buzzard and Olive Woodpecker.

As you stroll through this picturesque woodland, you’ll feel completely immersed in nature. As you make your way along the trail, take a moment to listen to the birdsong. The knowledgeable guides who are going with you will fill you in on the history of the area and help you identify the birds you see.

Day 15 – Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe National Park

In Nyungwe National Park, you can go on an exciting chimpanzee trip today. At five minutes before the top of the hour, the trip departs from Nyungwe’s Gisakura area. As you venture into the Cyamudongo Forest, you will enter a smaller section of the forest that is part of Nyungwe National Park but not the same as the bigger Nyungwe Forest.

You will have the opportunity to follow and see magnificent primates as you traverse the verdant foliage. While looking for the chimpanzees, you’ll be surrounded by a breathtaking forest. With the hike usually wrapping up around noon, you’ll have plenty of time in the afternoon to keep on with birdwatching in Rwanda.

If walking among chimpanzees isn’t your thing, Nyungwe National Park offers a full day of birdwatching instead. Uncover secret avian riches and add additional birds to your checklist as you explore the pathways and undiscovered regions.

Day 16 – Transfer to Kigali

As you bid farewell to the fascinating Nyungwe National Park on this, the last day of your tour, you will be returning to Kigali, Rwanda’s vibrant city.

You will start your day with breakfast before setting out on a beautiful journey from Nyungwe to Kigali. You will have many chances to stop and enjoy the beautiful scenery as you travel through Rwanda. The nature, culture, and memories you’ve encountered on your voyage will stay with you forever, and this drive will provide a great opportunity to reflect on them.

Your journey will come to a close when we transport you to your designated drop-off spot upon your arrival in Kigali. Kigali is a lively, culturally significant city that is always on the move. As a last stop on your wonderful bird viewing safari in Rwanda, you might want to check out the Genocide Memorial Center or the bustling local markets if you have the time.

I hope that this journey gives you a profound respect for the natural beauties of Rwanda when you think back on the varied birds, amazing animals, stunning scenery, and friendly hospitality you encountered while you were there.

End of the 16 Days Birding in Rwanda Itinerary