After arrival at Kigali International Airport, clearing passport control and collecting baggage, you will be met by an ORYX representative and driven to your comfortable accommodation in Kigali for an overnight stay. This evening you will meet your ORYX Photo Tour Leader, and during dinner tonight we will have the opportunity for formal introductions and to run over the exciting program for your upcoming Rwanda photography tour.
Overnight Select Boutique Hotel
Following breakfast at 8am, we will depart Kigali by road transfer (approximately two and a half hour journey) on a very scenic tour through this clean green country to Volcanoes National Park, our base for the duration of our stay in Rwanda for our photography expedition.
The lodge is situated on the foothills of the mighty Virunga’s, the chain of 15,000ft volcanoes that straddle the border region between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The lodge itself lies on the gentle foothills of Sabyinyo, one of the most impressive of the six volcanoes visible from the lodge. The lodge itself is approximately a 10 minute drive from the Volcanoes National Park Head Quarters from where we will start each day’s activity. On arrival at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge we will be met with friendly smiles, and a refreshing welcome drink before we are shown to our accommodations.
Tonight, before dinner and at a time agreed upon, we will meet in the lounge for a talk on Mountain Gorilla photography, techniques and camera settings in preparation for the following day.
If weather and time permits, we will have a short two hour excursion in the late afternoon to an authentic local village where we will get to experience and photograph the way that rural Rwandan people live their daily lives.
Overnight Mountain Gorilla Lodge
After a delicious 6am breakfast, we will set off for a short drive to the National Park Headquarters where we will receive a quick briefing about our upcoming Gorilla trekking in Rwanda. Thereafter, we will likely have a short drive to the closest point to the specific Gorilla family we have been allocated to. It is customary for us to hire a local porter who will carry participant’s backpacks and assist on the trek itself. This is a great initiative to support the local community and the porters prove themselves invaluable when your trek turns out longer than expected. Upon reaching the park boundary, our park guide will give us a short briefing on walking etiquette inside the National Park.
The scenic and refreshing hike is set at our own comfortable pace with plenty of stops and photo opportunities. During these stops, our park guide will share some of their knowledge and answer any questions we may have. Once we reach the armed trekkers, who guard each Gorilla family, we will leave behind our porter, backpack and walking stick. No food or water from this point on!
**Please ensure you are equipped with (waterproof bags for your gear) extra camera batteries and memory cards. There is no turning back once you have reached your allocated Gorilla family**
Shooting off 600 to 1000 images in the allocated one hour visit with the Gorillas is not uncommon! The sheer size of these gentle Giants is enough to make ones heart skip a beat and at first they appear to be very intimidating, but once the youngsters start with their antics, nerves will give way to laughter. Years of habituation means that these animals show very little interest in their human spectators, especially the big Silverbacks.
These are highly intelligent creatures and this is evident in the way in which they communicate and go about their daily routine. An initial perceived look of intimidation from the dominant Silverback soon turns into an incredible emotional connection.
Your ORYX tour leader will use his years of experience to always ensure participants are in the best possible position when photographing during your Gorilla photography tour.
In the afternoon, if time and weather permits, we will take a short one hour drive to a beautiful viewpoint, beneath which lies two scenically spectacular lakes (know locally as Two Lakes”) and here we will have opportunities to photograph the landscapes of Rwanda, including spectacular vistas across the Volcanoes National Park.
Overnight Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
Following the same routine as yesterday, we will once again hike into the National Park and spend a magical hour with another group of assigned gorillas. The 2nd experience is usually more magical than the first, as now you will be more comfortable around these incredible animals.
If time and weather allows, we will visit the Ibyi Iwacu Cultural Village in the late afternoon for a Rwandan cultural experience. Ibyi Iwacu is changing the traditional perception of what constitutes tourism by turning fate into fame through sharing various aspects of rural cultures and livelihoods into tourist attractions and creating income-generating activities for rural poor people that have reformed from living on bush meat and poaching for generations.
After this enriching experience, we will return to the lodge for dinner and a night’s rest before our journey continues!
Please note that afternoon excursions on day 3 and 4 are largely dependent on what time we return from the morning’s gorilla treks.
Overnight Mountai Gorilla View Lodge
After an early breakfast, we will hit the road and drive approximately 6 hours to the southwest corner of the country where the largest montane forest of East and Central Africa is found. Reflecting something that looks like a scene from a medieval fairy tale, Nyungwe Forest is decked with old mahoganies, ebonies and giant tree ferns that tower above you, whilst orchids and other epiphytes cling to every branch and butterflies flutter gracefully amongst the flora.
The park itself covers approximately 970 km² of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps and bogs, and is one of the last mountain rainforest habitats on the planet. Home to over 275 different bird species of which 25 are endemic, 75 mammal species including 13 types of primates, as well as 20% of all the apes in Africa, it is here where our Rwanda photography tour will focus on treks to photograph the endangered chimpanzee.
We will reach the lodge in the afternoon in time for lunch, followed by an afternoon of relaxation.
Overnight Nyungwe House
Today is the start of the second trekking portion of this photo tour with the chimpanzees and we have two wondrous day in the Nyungwe Forest in search of these special primates.
With an early wake up call, breakfast will be pre packed and we will drive to the park’s headquarters for briefing on the trekking before commencing at 06:00. As we embark on our trek in search of these great Apes, their noisy behavior will give them away as we listen out for their thrilling whoops, shrieks and grunts.
As much of their diurnal time is spent feeding, an encounter is likely to involve observing them gorging on fruit all the while engaging in acrobatic swings through the forest, bonding moments with another and playful demeanours. We will observe subtleties of Chimp etiquette for 1 hour before heading back to the lodge. As we make our way back, keep an eye out for avian highlights such as the Great-blue Turaco, the rare Grauer’s Rush Warbler and a quasi-endemic to Nyungwe Forest Red-collared Mountain Babbler.
After lunch and some down time, at 15:00 we will visit the Gisakura Tea Factory to experience how Rwandan tea is planted, harvested and processed. The tea plantation came into existence during the late 1950s and has since 2010, become a joint Indian/Rwanda venture.
Afterwards, we will drive back to the lodge for dinner and have a good night’s rest for the next day’s second chimpanzee trek.
Overnight Nyungwe House
Today calls for another early start as we make our way back into the forest for our second Chimpanzee trekking adventure. This will be our last chimp trek, which will also be for 1 hour as the previous day.
You will return to lodge for lunch and to freshen up before transferring in the afternoon to the Canopy Walkway. Consisting of three bridges and three towers, the walkway is 200m in length and hangs across a steep and deep valley filled with thick vegetation that offers breathtaking views across the misty forest and sightings at eye-level of a number of unique wildlife inhabiting the canopies.
The first 200 meters is a walk along a forest trail under the thick canopies for a chance to observe the ground level nature before taking on the canopy walkway to access the top level of the forest. Notable sightings include several monkeys such as L’Hoest’s Monkeys, Blue Monkeys, Black-and-white Colobus, Red-tailed Monkeys, and lots of colourful birds. Allow yourself to indulge in the view of Rwanda’s forests and its inhabitants 50m up in the air!
Our local guide will be on hand to guide you through the Canopy but will also take the time to explain how it forms part of the integral tropical rainforest ecosystem. Following our afternoon with the forest treasures, you will make your way back to lodge for our last dinner on our Rwanda photography tour.
Overnight Nyungwe House
Sadly, today is our last day of our Rwanda photo safari and we will make our way back to Kigali but not before we incorporate some stops along the way. After breakfast, we will take the scenic route and stop briefly at the Ethnographic Museum in Butar, as well as the King’s Palace Museum. The Ethnographic Museum is one of six museums that make up the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda. This Museum was built in 1987 and now houses one of Africa’s finest ethnographic collections. Its seven galleries display historical, ethnographic, artistic and archaeological artifacts accompanied by visual aids, giving visitors a rich insight into the culture of Rwandans. The King’s Palace Museum in Rukari is a fascinating museum that is less about ancient history and more about royal residences. The displays centre on a replica king’s ‘palace’ that helps explain some of the architectural idiosyncrasies inside the royal compound, including why the royal beer brewer’s hut had an entrance without a lip, and other curiosities such as why the woman who looked after the king’s milk was never able to marry.
Lunch will be at the Ibis Restaurant and at 14:30, we will continue the drive back to Kigali. As we arrive back in the city, our wonderful Rwanda photography tour comes to an end and we will be transferred to the airport for our flight home.
Penny Robartes is a professional fine art wildlife photographer whose work is easily recognized by her iconoclastic work that is recalibrating the way the world sees wildlife.
Penny Robartes has emerged as one of Africa’s great nature photographers. Her stunning creations breathe life into natural encounters with the deftness of an artist’s brushstrokes and the enthralling narrative of the best storytellers.
Her photographs are intended to showcase the utter allurement of our natural heritage through moments captured, and the stories that they tell.
Combining a conservation message with portraits of elusive and endangered animals becomes all the more poignant through the artistic interpretation she brings to every one of her works, with seemingly abstract compositions morphing graphically into poignant statements. Each image is a work of art but also a moment of Africa’s unbridled rawness captured forever.
Penny has photographed and led multiple photo tours throughout Africa, predominately to South and East Africa. In 2016, she spent over 40-days living in the Masai Mara as a Photographer in Residence at Alex Walker’s Serian Kenya Camps and will be returning in 2017 to host multiple photo safaris. Additional to this, Penny spent 2 weeks in Tanzania as Photographer in Residence at Alex Walker’s Serian Tanzania Camps in January 2017. Her passionate and relaxed manner enables her to connect with and inspire each of her guests as she assists them in capturing and exploring their own unique vision. With her extensive travels to East Africa and her knowledge on its wildlife as well as photography, Penny is an undeniable force within the ORYX artillery.
Semi finalist in BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017!
“The trip was awesome – the whole family really loved it! As for Greg himself, he was a total hit! Greg is another level. So very happy he could join us, and I doubt it will be the last time either. He certainly helped me out a lot, and also had incredible patience with my mum & sister who were beginners.
Thanks so much for organizing this for us – ill definitely give ORYX a shout for our next safari.”
“Dear Marius and ORYX Team,
Thank you so much for organizing our recent trip to Botswana and Rwanda. All the arrangements for travel and accommodation were impeccable. Your recommendations worked out perfectly for us and we are very grateful to you all.
Although Botswana was a great experience, Rwanda and the Gorilla trekking was of course the highlight. The fact that you, Marius, were able to join us for this part of the trip added an extra dimension. Your local knowledge and organization ensured we received the best possible attention and that certainly enhanced the quality of our experience. You also provided good company and needless to say your photographic expertise helped to ensure that we returned home with terrific photos as well.
Rwanda is a beautiful country – we had no idea it was as clean and as safe as it is. We enjoyed the short stay at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge where we were very well looked after by the hosts, Nelis and Tracy. The first Gorilla trek was such an exciting experience; it is difficult to describe the exhilaration felt upon meeting a Gorilla in the wild for the first time. We enjoyed fantastic viewing that day with the Gorillas in the open for the most part. The second day was equally, if not even more exciting though and quite a different experience with a different Gorilla group including several active Silverbacks moving around in the bamboo forest. Absolutely fabulous and makes it fully understandable why Gorilla trekking is described as the best wildlife experience in Africa.
Thank you again for all you did to make this trip very special and one we will never forget!”
“Thank you so much to Nelis for such a wonderful time in Rwanda. Our experiences with the gorillas were both phenomenal, especially day 2 where they were so interactive and allowed us to take many photographs!
The few days with the gorillas completely lived up to our expectations and even surpassed them!
Thank you for allowing us this amazing opportunity.
Many thanks and kind regards”Rwanda
I had a super time and lots of fun with Dale and Marius but I do need to thank Nicolette and Kirsty for answering all of my questions in such a prompt and efficient manner. Their emails were always informative and cheerful. Ethiopia and Rwanda are not the easiest locations so the support was much appreciated. In fact without it I probably would not have travelled with ORYX. I look forward to another ORYX tour at some point in the future. Fondest regards and, again, many thanks!