Organizational aspects of the gorilla hike.
Booking: We booked at the Rwanda Development Board (commonly known as the RDB) HQ in Kigali. Many will be able to direct you to their very prominent building or take a taxi. Bookings can also be done through agents or at the Volcanoes Park HQ at Kinigi. As explained earlier we followed the excellent advice of travelling directly to Kigali, obtaining our bookings there and then planning the rest of our stay in Rwanda around this. I think we were extremely lucky to obtain suitable bookings at such short notice but this was probably due to the decrease in tourist numbers. Many would prefer the assurance of obtaining bookings months ahead, but on a trip such as our’s it would mean tying ourselves to a schedule. This we wanted to avoid as far as reasonable.
Cost: US$750 pp compared to US$500 in Uganda and US$ 400 in DRC. Add to this at least US$10 for a porter, plus quite a few dollars to tip the porters, the gorilla trackers and the guide. Obviously these amounts are discretionary.
Where to stay: I would advise not to look beyond Kinigi Guesthouse. The most obvious advantage is its close proximity to the park HQ and the early morning start of the hike. Camping there in a ground tent will be reasonably comfortable and with a RTT the parking lot is good as far as these go. Our choice was a room which is reasonably priced.
What to wear: There is lots of advice on the internet. We wore normal trackshoes, jeans, layered sweaters and a longsleeve shirt. You need some protection against fire ants and stinging nettles.
What to take: Money to tip the trackers and porters, a waterproof top, a liter of water each, some energy snacks (chocolate), cameras and spare batteries and memory cards.
Choice of group: Arrive early to see the ranger in charge of group allocations before the pushy guides arrive, 6H30 is plenty early enough, or visit him the afternoon before. He appears to take cognizance of the type of group you want, mainly based on your fitness and the distance anticipated to hike to the allocated group..
Organizational details: You have to drive yourself to the HQ and the hike starting point. It would be unreliable to expect to organize a lift. If you do not have your own vehicle, one would have to be organized and hired the day before.
Kinigi – Musanza – Cyanika Border Post – Kisoro – dirt road short cut around northern Lake Bunyonyi – Bunyonyi Overland Resort.
Distance and time taken.
114km, 5hr (but including border crossing and ATM and buying insurance in Kisoro), can probably do in 4hr.
Route details and breakdown.
Not too much to report here. The road is tarred all the way until the short cut to Lake Bunyonyi.
• Kinigi – Border. Road a little pot-holed. 45min for 36km.
• Cyanika Border Post to Kisoro town, 9km, excellent tar.
• Kisoro to short cut turnoff, 34km, 50min, excellent new tar road.
• Short cut, 22km, 1hr 15min. Rough dirt road but OK with fantastic views.
Cyanika Border Post.
Total time taken, 1hr 20min.
• Customs, get Carnet completed, ensure stub for Rwanda retained in Carnet book. I also got my typed list of dutiable personal items stamped out of Rwanda.
• At police station at gate fill vehicle details into book and leave through police controlled gate. Passenger has to walk the short distance through no-man’s land to the next set of buildings.
• Customs. Have carnet filled in and pay TIP or temporary vehicle license of Ush 66,100 (US$ 22). They helped us with a decent rate of money changing.
• Immigration. The Rwanda and Uganda offices are right next to each other. First get stamped out of Rwanda. Then into Uganda next door. We were very pleased that they honored our East African visa with no extra payment. Wayne paid US$50.
• Police. At the far end of the parking lot is where you enter your registration number in a book and obtain a gate pass from the police. I gather this is where your vehicle may be searched.
• Pass through the gate. Remember to now drive on the left hand side of the road and set your watch 1hr back.
COSTS Bunyonyi Overland resort. Camping US$8 pppn.