Join Roy Toft – renowned wildlife photographer and animal behaviorist – for this unique itinerary focusing on intimate encounters with some of humanity's closest living relatives: Mountain Gorillas at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Chimpanzees at Mahale Mountains National Park on the shores of Tanzania's Lake Tanganyika. Our basecamps for this all-inclusive expedition are two of Africa's finest accommodations – Virunga Lodge and Mahale Greystoke Camp – and excellent logistics have been arranged throughout.
Few Mountain Gorillas remain in the world; the subspecies (Gorilla beringei beringei) has dwindled down to fewer than 1,000 individuals due to war, poaching, habitat loss, and disease. About half of those that remain reside in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, where George Schaller and Dian Fossey both studied the Mountain Gorilla groups extensively. To get up close and eye-to-eye with these apes in their natural surroundings is truly an experience of a lifetime. Like their lush forests, these gorillas are prodigious. Weighing as much as 500 pounds, their extra fur helps them adapt to the high altitudes of the mountains when the temperatures fall. The gorillas' survival depends on the health of their forests and a continued stable political climate; we hope to share the experience of seeing these wild and beautiful primates first-hand with you!
Experienced trackers will lead our group on gorilla hikes which can take anything from a total of three to eight hours depending on the movements and activity of the family groups. Participants need to be reasonably fit and prepared to hike. Our group will have eight of the 38 available gorilla tracking total for the group of those 38. Groups are permitted to remain with their assigned gorilla family for one hour once they encounter it, and this time is precious, magical, and photographically productive. The golden monkeys (also known as blue monkeys) are a local subspecies of the Sykes monkey and also require permitting to track. They also reside in the Volcanoes National Park area, but behave in a more sociable and playful manner. We will have two gorilla trekking sessions and one golden monkey trekking session over a span of three days.
While at Volcanoes National Park, we retreat to Virunga Lodge, a first-rate sustainable eco-lodge, spectacularly located on a hillside overlooking the Virunga Volcanoes and Lakes Ruhondo and Bulera. The views, luxurious comfort, and its intimate feel make Virunga one of the top lodge destinations in the continent. All of Viruga's eight bandas (cabins) have private verandas with views over the lakes and volcanoes. Open fire places in the lounge and dining room are a warm welcome after a day tracking the mountain gorillas.
Following our time in Rwanda, we fly into Tanzania and visit Mahale Mountains National Park to track chimpanzees. This area of western Tanzania is home to the world`s largest chimp population. These intelligent apes are also on the endangered species list, particularly due to loss of habitat, hunting, and commercial exportation. Hear their hoots and watch them traipse around the tropical jungle that surrounds you. Watch them communicate with numerous facial expressions and gestures, and use their long arms and opposable thumbs to use tools to help them feed as they forage for food. A truly amazing experience!
While in Mahale Mountains National Park, we will be accommodated in exotic wooden bandas overlooking the white sand beach at Nomads Greystoke Camp: a luxurious camp in a small bay lined with palm trees and backing on to the lush green slopes of the Mahale Mountains. The camp provides direct access to one of the largest habituated troops of chimpanzees.
Through the itinerary, Roy Toft will provide attentive, hands-on photographic guidance and instruction, including sharing his insights into gorilla and chimp behavior, to help every guest make the most of the experience.
This 9-night package is designed to deliver a superb overall experience, and includes first-rate lodging, all meals, beverages (including fine wine and beer at dinners), expert guides, photographic instruction, park entry fees, trekking permits, ground transfers, and three flights during the itinerary.
Click "read more" below right for the itinerary and more information...
February 17 : Kigali - Volcanoes National Park
Arrive at Kigali International Airport (KGL). A private, professional English speaking driver will transfer the group in 4x4 safari vehicles to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, which contains exhibitions of the Rwandan genocide. After lunch, we travel north to Ruhengeri and the Volcanoes National Park. Overnight at Virunga Lodge (L, D)
February 18 : Volcanoes National Park (Gorillas)
Today we will have our first trek to see the mountain gorillas! After an early breakfast, we travel to the park headquarters at Kinigi to find out which gorilla family we track. Then, we set out to start our gorilla trekking. The guides will use their knowledge of the gorillas' habits previous day's whereabouts to navigate in their direction and follow their movements. Return to the lodge later in the afternoon to relax, enjoy a group dinner together, and discuss the day's events and memorable moments. Overnight at Virunga Lodge (B, L, D)
February 19 : Volcanoes National Park (Gorillas)
We get to enjoy a second trekking session, returning to park headquarters at Kinigi to find out if we will track the same family or a different one. Spend a few hours out tracking the family, getting familiar with their behavior and interactions, before returning back to the lodge in the afternoon to retire and spend time looking out at the beautiful views. Overnight at Virunga Lodge (B, L, D)
February 20 : Volcanoes National Park (Golden Monkeys)
Following another early breakfast, we set off into the forest to track the golden monkeys. There are currently two habituated groups; guests are allowed to spend one hour with one group. Return to the lodge after the trek to relax throughout the afternoon or explore the local area, including Lakes Ruhondo and Burera. Overnight at Virunga Lodge (B, L, D)
February 21 : Volcanoes National Park - Kigali - Kilimanjaro
We will stay the morning at the lodge and then after lunch be driven back to Kigali International Airport (KGL). Our flight departs at 7:30pm and arrives at Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) at 10:10pm. Our airport transfer will take us to our favorite hotel in the area, in between the Kilimanjaro and Arusha airports. Overnight at Onsea House (B, L, D)
February 22 : Arusha - Mahale Mountains National Park
After a short stay at the Onsea House, we meet our driver early in the day for our transfer to the Arusha Airport (ARK). Our flight departs at 8am for Mahale Mountains National Park, on the shores of the crystal clear waters of Lake Tanganyika, the world’s second deepest lake. We land at the airstrip nestled at the foot of the Mahale Mountains before embarking on pleasant cruise on a traditionally constructed dhow to the private retreat of Nomads Greystoke Camp. Overnight at Nomads Greystoke Camp (B, L, D)
February 23-25 : Mahale Mountains National Park (Chimpanzees)
After already seeing gorillas, golden monkeys, and other species of the African Great Lakes region, chimpanzees are next! We set off chimpanzee tracking following an early breakfast. Explore the tropical jungle of the Mahale Mountains during these treks, and return to camp in the afternoon to spend time relaxing on the soft sands of the private beach or swimming in the clear waters. Overnight at Nomads Greystoke Camp (B, L, D)
February 26 : Mahale Mountains National Park - Arusha
On our last day, we transfer back along the shores of the Lake Tanganyika to the nearby airstrip. We will catch an afternoon charter flight back to the Arusha Airport (ARK), departing at 1pm and arriving at 5:30pm. After landing at ARK, ground transfer will take everyone to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) for your onward flight. We suggest the KLM flight departing shortly before 9pm for connections back to the USA (via Amsterdam). Upon request, arrangements to stay in Arusha can be made instead of transferring to JRO. (B, L)
Cost: $20,195 per person based on double-occupancy (single supplement: $1,700)
- Generous expert photographic guiding and instruction throughout by Roy Toft
- Luxury sustainable accommodations throughout, carefully selected for optimal location, photographic opportunities, and overall quality of experience
- All meals and associated beverages (local beer, fine wine, standard cocktails, soft drinks, bottled water)
- All permits and park entrance fees, including for gorilla, golden monkey, and chimpanzee trekking. The local community and park infrastructure receive a percentage of permit sales.
- One boat tour on Lake Tanganyika (fishing included, if desired)
- Three group flights and all ground transfers
- Laundry at Nomads Greystone Camp
- International flights into Kigali, Rwanda and out of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
- Accommodations before or following the itinerary
- Travel insurance (required, we recommend TravelGuard.com
- Personal items
- "Top-shelf" brand alcoholic beverages
- Visas for entry to Rwanda and Tanzania
Payment schedule: 50% deposit required upon booking and balance due by December 1, 2017.
For more information, please contact Justin or Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-558-9596.
- VISA: A passport with at least six months of validity remaining is required, in addition to visa for both Rwanda and Tanzania; please visit the country pages for Rwanda and Tanzania on the website for the U.S. Department of State for further information.
- TRAVEL INSURANCE: Travel insurance is required. We advise that your insurance policy covers repatriation, emergency evacuation and search and rescue, cancellation or curtailment, medical expenses, loss of luggage, death, illness, and loss or theft of personal property.
- FLIGHTS: Three internal flights are included, from Kigali International Airport (KGL) to Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), from Arusha Airport (ARK) to Mahale airstrip, and from Mahale airstrip back to ARK.
- VACCINATIONS: A yellow fever certificate of immunization is required for entry into Rwanda.
- GRATUITIES: Baseline tips are included. Our guides and lodge staff work very hard to make our experience the best it can be, and Visionary Wild budgets for a basic group tip in recognition of their services. Guests are encouraged to tip additionally if they would like to recognize exceptional service.