Working for birds in Africa

Visiting

Fri, 01/25/2013 - 11:26 -- abc_admin
Papyrus_Gonolek_Rwanda

Papyrus Gonolek Laniarus mufumbiri in Papyrus marsh, Rwanda

Image Credit: 
John Caddick
Red_throated_Alethe_Rwanda

Red-throated Alethe Alethe poliophrys in Nyungwe forest

Image Credit: 
John Caddick

Birding tours

Birding & BeyondBirding AfricaRockjumperSafari Consultants, and Sunbird operate tours to Rwanda.

Trip reports

Moorhouse, N. and Sargeant, D. Rwanda, June 2003. rwanda trip report 1

For a list of species seen during a 6-day visit to Nyungwe and Akagera in July 2003, please email michael@birdingafrica.com.

More recent trip reports are available at CloudBirders and try the Rwanda Birding Club Facebook page for recent sightings.

The following items have been updated November 2018.

Logistics

International travellers are likely to fly to Kigali which has flights or connections to several African and European destinations. 
Useful flights often include a stop in Entebbe Uganda:

•    Brussels Air: Brussels to Kigali via Entebbe, Uganda
•    KLM from Amsterdam to Kigali via Entebbe, Uganda 
•    Rwandair: London Gatwick to Kigali via Brussels 

Kigali Airport is also served by several other airlines, including; Qatar, Ethiopian, Turkish, Kenya and there are regular flights to major cities in Africa. 

You should note that plastic bags are not welcome in Rwanda and plastic bags with duty free items will be confiscated on arrival at Kigali airport. Luggage may also be searched for plastic bags and fines are not unlikely for offenders.

Entry to Rwanda can also be made by road at several border crossings. The road is metalled from the Ugandan border to Kigali and this provides a route from Bwindi in Uganda. For birders and other ecotourists therefore, it is convenient to visit both Rwanda and Uganda, flying into to one country and departing from the other with road connections between the main national parks in both countries.

A passport, visa for nationals of some countries and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Visas are now required for UK visitors, these cost $30 for a 30 day tourist visa. They are certainly available at point of entry at the airport and should also be available at road crossings. Another option if you are travelling in the region is to get an East African Community Tourist Visa which allows multiple entry to Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya over a 90 day period. 

Rwanda is a small country with a good network of tarmac roads and frequent and generally punctual buses. Public transport is therefore simpler and quicker than elsewhere in central Africa. Nyungwe is easily reached by bus from Kigali (4 to 5 hours). Car hire is expensive. 4x4 is even more expensive and may not be strictly necessary for the more frequent destinations in the west of the country, but necessary in Akagera. Taxis are plentiful in and around Kigali and the airport.

English seems to have overtaken French as the most widely spoken second language, especially amongst younger Rwandans. By the standards of African capitals, Kigali is safe and well organised, though as with any other city visitors should take care at night and beware of pick-pockets. The events of 1994 are long past and should not deter visitors. The borders with DRC and Burundi are largely safe, but it is prudent to exercise caution in these areas.

The Bradt Travel guide to Rwanda by Janice Booth and Phillip Briggs contains lots of useful travel information.

Currency

The Rwandan Franc is the currency in Rwanda and its symbol can be written RWF. The Rwandan Franc is divided into 100 centimes. The exchange rate 12 November 2018 was around 1144RWF to £1 GBP or 890RWF to $1 US. Rwandan Francs can be bought for $US, Euros and £UK at Forex bureaux and most towns have ATM machines that accept VISA/Mastercard. Foreign currency can also be exchanged at Kigali airport on arrival although the rate is unlikely to be as good as Forex. Some of the larger hotels will also exchange or allow payment in foreign currency.

US notes earlier than 2006 are generally unacceptable in Rwanda. High value notes have a better exchange rate than lower denominations. Currency notes attract better exchange rates than travellers cheques.

Accommodation

Good quality hotel accommodation in Kigali was found at $US55 for a single room for one night. Payment in US$ was acceptable.

The national parks have lodges and alternative accommodation is available in the vicinity. Camping is also a possibility so it is worth considering alternatives close to the major sites and finding something which suits your price and requirements.

Food and Drink

A range of food is available in hotels which should suit most tastes. Lodges in the national parks often provide a set meal or selection from a buffet. Bottled water (500mL, 1 L, 1.5L, 5L) is recommended and can be purchased in supermarkets. It is environmentally preferable to purchase the 5L bottles and use these to refill a re-usable container. Soft drinks are readily available as are cold beers. Wines and spirits are also available at the more up-market places and lodges, but can be expensive.

Safety

It is worth seeing the embassy website for your own country for the latest safety and travel information.
There are a number of safety issues which are similar to those in any other African country. Guidebooks, travel companies and the above websites provide much of the advice one needs, but some key points warrant repetition here. (1) be aware of the risk of malaria, seek current advice, sleep in a sealed tent or under a net and take prophylaxis as recommended. (2) always ensure you have sufficient water and some method of purification (even if this comprises a pot and a campfire for boiling). (3) do not under-estimate the danger of being in the sun too long. Ensure you use sun-block and drink plenty of water, and wear a hat. (4) The incidence of Aids is high (5) Ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including a supply of hypodermic needles (6) Advise against swimming in any rivers or lakes. Even though you may be told Lake Kivu is free from Bilharzia, there have been several cases reported from there. (7) Pay attention at wetlands for crocodile and hippo which can occasionally be found along the Nyabarongo and Akagera rivers.

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