how do I arrange Rwanda gorilla trek?

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Sep 25th, 2005, 04:39 PM
  #1
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how do I arrange Rwanda gorilla trek?

My wife and I am going to Rwanda in late December to view the mountain groillas. I had tried several times to e-mail and fax the ORTPN (the national agency that books the reservations in the group to see the gorillas). That effort to fax and e-mail was in June and again in July. Finally I called directly to ORTPN in Kigali and spoke with "Dennis" who speaks perfect English. He formall booked our reservation. It is about 3pm in Kigali at about 7am pacific standard time here so you can reach them in our daytime. Don't be discouraged if they don't answer the phone. Let it ring over 50 times and then call back the next day if nothing happens. They are very VERY laid back over there.

I called back and spoke with "Claire" a week or so later. She confirmed "Dennis" had entered us in the reservation book. Claire said once we had paid our deposit they would contact us to give us all the travel details. Two months later ..... we have never had any written confirmation except my visa card has a $100 debot from it for the $50 per person reservation. I have no information giving me any details and I am staying at the Novatelle in Kigali the night before. I still ower them the next $300 or so for each of us....

So I do not know how this works. How do we get the the start of the gorilla trek. Who will transport us and for how much money. Will they wait for our return trip later that day or do we find another ride? How mucht will this return trip cost us? When to leave Kigali in the morning of the trek, and should I book a room the night before much closer that night. Some say to stay at the Gorilla Nest. I tried to call the Gorilla Nest but have never reached them by phone. I suspect I have the wrong phone number. Is this a good place to stay and should I book there? Some love it and some have said it lacks a lot of things. And what is the price for a room at the Gorilla Nest?

When we arrive in Kigali we are 4pm the day before the trek. What shoudl we see in town? After the trek the next day we will have the afternoon and evening free and the next day until we fly at 1pm. What should we see for that 24 hours?
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Sep 25th, 2005, 10:23 PM
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I know people say they save money by booking with local African operators, but if you're having that much trouble, I'd look for a reputable, specialist agent in your own country to plan and organise your whole trip. You'll spend a bit more, but it will be worth it. I've always used a specialist African safari agent at home who has a reputation to uphold and has never let me down in the tiniest way. I never have any worries, never have to ask anybody else for advice or help. I have friends who have just returned from seeing the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. They had no pre-departure worries like you and they had a wonderful time with no problems of any kind: they used the same agent that I use.
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Sep 26th, 2005, 04:55 AM
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who do you use?

name and phone number.....
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Sep 26th, 2005, 05:08 AM
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In 2003 I arranged my Uganda trip with Great Lakes Safaris in Kampala thanks to a newspaper article here in the Washington Times. They were also able to arrange a Rwanda extension but I ran out of time.

A few other Fodorites have used them as well - all with excellent results.

http://www.safari-uganda.com/
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Sep 26th, 2005, 06:01 AM
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I went on a gorilla trek in Rwanda in August 2003 and I booked it through Volcano Safaris -- you can find them on the Internet.

The permit you purchased is only the permit, it does not include transport from Kigali to Parc Nacional Volcans, which is around two hours from Kigali.

We stayed at Mountain Gorilla Nest the night before and its around 10 minutes from the departure site. We did drive back to Kigali after the trek in the afternoon.

I would expect that Volcanoes Safaris can organize the trip for you from Kigali.

Its a great experience, but I'm sure its a hassle to book independently.

Michael
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Sep 26th, 2005, 06:55 AM
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Have you checked the Thorntree board at Lonely Planet? There are quite a few threads there with information on organizing an independent trek that discuss transportation logistics.

There was also a poster here, sunny_days (Lawrence), who planned his gorilla trekking in Rwanda independently. Hopefully, he'll return soon to report on his results.

Here's his original post -

Author: sunny_days
Date: 04/15/2005, 11:59 pm
Hi Jules39,

You have had some good tips on the budget to see the gorillas. I found in pricing my East Africa trip the worst price/value was in doing an organized Rwanda tour, so I am doing that portion independently. I just added in my head the costs and the markup seemed significantly more than safaris in Kenya/Tanzania. (You may try to get a quote just renting a car/driver for a few days to see if that is reasonable.)

I have just secured my permits through ORTPN. Besides that cost, seeing the Gorilla's independtly involves few major costs or headaches, at least from reading in LP and the Bradt guide. I enjoy travelling independently and if you want until after Sept, I can tell you how it went

Lawrence
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Sep 26th, 2005, 09:54 AM
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<When we arrive in Kigali we are 4pm the day before the trek. What shoudl we see in town? After the trek the next day we will have the afternoon and evening free and the next day until we fly at 1pm. What should we see for that 24 hours?>

I just re-read this part of your post. I think it would be best if you did an organized tour. Arriving in Kigali at 4pm the day prior to your trek doesn't leave you much time to sort things out upon arrival. I think most travelers who organize treks independently give themselves some extra days cushion to organize their transport and pick up their permits. With such a tight schedule, I wouldn't want to risk missing your trek. Good luck!
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Sep 26th, 2005, 10:09 AM
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I used Primate Safaris in Rwanda, operated by Origin, a Kenya company.

http://www.originsafaris.info/land-of-1000-hills.htm

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Sep 26th, 2005, 02:06 PM
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Unless you're in Australia, my company won't be much use to you for the total package.
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Sep 26th, 2005, 03:34 PM
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hi, i also used greatlakes for uganda in june. still in contact with them as friends. i am thinking of rwanda for Feb with them. if you need any contact info let me know.
cheers, david
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Sep 28th, 2005, 08:15 AM
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I've encountered the same troubles dealing with ORTPN. I'm thinking about booking thru thousand hills (office in the Mille Colines a.k.a. Hotel Rwanda). Has anyone had any experience with them? I'm trying to compare them to Volcanoes Safaris.
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Oct 5th, 2005, 07:32 PM
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I have contacted Volcanoes Safaris and they are totally out of reason in cost.

We need an e-mail and fax address for Gorillas Nest to make sure they have our reservation - so we don't arrive without a room the night before the trek.

We also need a clean car and English speaking driver to take us from the airport at Kigali to the Gorilla Nest and then a car and driver for the return to Kigali the next day after we finish visiting the gorillas.

For the car and driver and nothing else Volcanoes Safari wanted $350 for each of us (my wife and myself) or $700 for the two of us for simply chaufering us to and from the trek.

Since they offer nothing else except the car and driver - I think they are outrageous.

I find that all safari services in Rwanda are way too expensive and it is hard to plan with a budget in mind because the safari companies rob the tourists.

Can anyone dig out the Gorilla Nest email and fax numbers so I can contact them. When I call by phone I get cut off and there is a language problem.

What are the experiences of others on this board with using safari companies in Rwanda?
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Oct 6th, 2005, 04:54 AM
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Hi there,

I just got back and a trip report and photos are forthcoming, but I thought I would respond to this post before I finish that off since Patty has been kind enough to refer you to me. She also has good advice about the thorntree.

I felt the same way as you and did it independently. We did get a quote from some guy refered by ORTPN for drive up day 1, trek day 2, trek day 3 and return same day for I think $350-400. Its just some guy David I think but I can try to track the number. You have already been directed towards the two main tour companies: volcanoes and primates. The only other option is to try the tour companies listed on the Rwanda tourism site and ask just about car hire. I think I got a response from ITT that was something like $100 per day but I think that may have been just in Kigali. Because you are going up north they tack on a lot because the driver has to stay over etc...

Here is what I did:

Stayed at milles collines - its close to ORTPN so you can walk there and pick up your permits. We took local transport to and from Ruhengeri ($2 each). We left most of our luggage at the hotel and walked to the bus office. If you ask ORTPN very nicely they will go outside and point to where some of the private bus operators are - slightly nicer than the other local buses. Make no mistake it was basic transportation but the drive is 90mins to 2hours so doable. On the way back we had to go through a police check which just meant getting out of the car and showing our passports.

In Ruhengeri we arranged with a local guy to drive us to and from the hotel, park entrance, and trekking points. He also booked us into Gorilla's nest. (www.amahoro-tours.com). The website has problems so here is the contact info:

President:
Gregory Bakunzi
Tel.: +250-08687448
Fax: +250-546877
Email: [email protected]

We just went to a local public phone booth (you phone and a meter counts up and you pay later - looks weird just a regular phone sitting on a desk) and he was with us before I paid the phone guy and walked back to my wife at the bus office.

I think you can also arrange something at the ORTPN in Rugengeri but for the little cost difference it is probably not worth it. We paid $30 for transfer from town to hotel, then $60 each day for transfers to and from the trek. Note that we had to pay the driver an extra $20 to take us to and from town one day for lunch and snacks. What you get for the money is a big pickup, which is what all the independent people we saw had.

About Gorilla's nest phone number, I tried all of them, old one in the bradt guide, new ones in the Rwanda phone book but none are in service. And when I got to the hotel I didn't think to ask for their number (which is I think just the manager's cell). The only way is through an agent I guess, unless maybe ORTPN has the new number.

About the permits - I was told they weren't secure until they were fully paid. I would check that via email - I found that if I emailed the same thing 3-5 times over the course of a few days I would get a reply. Note that you need to take a printout of your wire or some documentation showing you paid with you when you pick up your permit. They aren't organized to find it themselves in their records.

So if I understand you are arriving in Kigali 4 pm the day before your trek? I don't know if you can replicate what I did with that tight schedule. You couldn't leave the next morning early enough to get there. To leave the same day, you would have to scramble to get on a bus plus you would still have to go to the ORTPN office and there is the risk of them being closed by the time you get there (can't remember how late they are open). One idea would be to ask them to have the permit sent up to Rugengeri but that is really risky. I think your best best is exactly what you suggest, organizing a simple car hire. I can't give you any advice other than to try the operators listed on the tourism website. I would get a quote from Amahoro as well. (http://www.rwandatourism.com/guide.htm#5)

Note, that you need a driver for the gorilla trek as well, its close to the park entrance, but you need your own transport from the park entrance to where you will trek to see the gorillas which can be 30mins to 1hour+ away. ORTPN does not provide that transport (the guides hitch with tourists).

Finally - how many treks are you doing? 1 or 2? If you do just 1 you can do it as a day trip. Its tiring because you get up really early on the first day but if you see a close group you could be back by 2 in Kigali. If you are doing 2, ask for a quote going up in the early morning and then returning after the second trek (I think that is your plan anyway?). That will be cheapest because the driver has only one overnight.

That's a lot of info, please ask questions if its unclear.

Lawrence
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Oct 6th, 2005, 08:04 PM
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Thanks for all the imput.

I plan to print it off and go over it tonight with my wife and then get back to you with specific questions.

I do feel the tour companies are overcharging for a simple enough service.

Anyway, thanks and I will get back o nthe board in a day or two with my questions.
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Oct 9th, 2005, 04:18 PM
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I have now received a copy of the Bradt Rwanda guide book and it opens up a lot of information lacking in other guides.

For example, it gives me many travel agencies located in Kigali and their phones, faxes, e-mails, and web sites. With such clear information I am sure any of these travel agencies can arrange transportation and make sure I have a room reserved at either the Gorilla Nest or the Kinigi Guest house near the park.

I can now udnerstand what is happening. I am about 50 miles from Kigali to Ruhengeri and it takes about 96km (55 miles) surfaced all season road that takes about 90 minutes and transportation is easily found.

But the actual park and trek are another 8 miles up the road and this means you need to stay closer at Gorilla Nest which is about a mile away. You could also stay at the Kinigi Guest House run by a famous genocide-formed charity and much lower in cost (About $20 vs $100 for a Gorilla Nest room).

I guess the real problem is to get a ride to either Gorilla Nest or Kinigi Guest House and then making sure you have arranged with a local driver from either of these lodges to drive you the last mile or so to the trek. Also need a pick up after the trek back to the lodge and back to town.

It appears that many local transporters are easily available with they ofering their pickups to take us for about $60. That sounds outrageous in price but I guess it is not avoidable - but the $60 is still a lot lower than any safari company who wanted to charge us over $700 for about the same thing.

Does anyone have a little more information of whether the Gorilla Nest is best or the Kinigi Guest House? Food, location? Which place is close to the trek? How are the comfort and hospitality at each place?

Any information? Please give me your thoughts....



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Oct 9th, 2005, 07:35 PM
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I can only comment on Gorillas Nest, which is very comfortable. There are many rooms spread out over a nice area -- its not a typical, multistory hotel. Many crowned cranes wander the grounds, plus all sorts of other birds. I don't remember the food, but if that's the case, I'm sure it wasn't terrible, nor great. Nice bathrooms, showers, comfortable beds. Its definitely worth $100 a night, and almost everyone is going on the gorilla trek, so you may be able to hitch a ride, and if not, I'm sure they could get you a local taxi.
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Oct 10th, 2005, 12:26 PM
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The three pictures about halfway down the page are from Gorilla's Nest:

http://individual.utoronto.ca/ltaylo...isc/index.html

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Oct 12th, 2005, 08:59 PM
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Can anyone tell me a bit about the Kinigi Guest Lodge or can others who have been to the Gorilla Nest in Vulcans Park in Rwanda.

Food and lodging and transporting us the next morning to the gorilla trek and back.

Thanks to those who have give us some insight already and if there are others I want to hear from them too....
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Oct 13th, 2005, 06:21 PM
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Kinigi Guest Lodge comments, anyone?
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