Bird Watching Safaris and Tours In Nyungwe, Lake Kivu And Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Rwanda has 7 important birding areas located in 4 of her national parks that is Nyungwe National Park, Akagera National Park, Giswati-Mukura National Park and Volcanoes National Park.

Bird Watching In Rwanda

Are you looking for bird watching tours in Nyungwe, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes national park Rwanda?  When one talks about Rwanda, the first thing the pops in their mind are the mountain gorillas in volcanoes national park, the rolling hills or the Rwanda genocide of 1994. Rwanda has never been a top birding destination. This is because all tourism activities have been overshadowed by gorilla tourism. There is still more effort to promote bird watching and sport fishing in the country. Mountain gorillas are more popular than any other attractive destination and activity in the country.  The country has the little known Congo Nile trail which is the best biking trail in the whole of east Africa and the Rwanda governments’ needs to put in more effort to promote these less known attractions and destinations like they did for gorilla trekking.

Back to birds, Rwanda as a country stands out to be a good destination for birders because of a variety if bird habitats in the country. These range from mountains, grasslands, plains, montane forest, swamps, rolling hills, lakes and rivers. Rwanda has good road networks which are safe and they have the cleanest city in east Africa. Bird watching would have been famous or popular but there are no well-established bird trails in the country. Because of her small size, covering Rwanda takes one a short time compared to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya or Congo. The confirmed bird species in Rwanda are so far 704 with only 44 endemic bird species that can only be seen in the Albertine rift.

What’s the best time for bird watching Tours in Rwanda?

Although bird watching in Rwanda can be done any time of the year, there are some months which are favorable for birders.  It’s good to know that Rwanda has two seasons that is the dry season and the wet season.  Dry season is the best season to go for birding in Rwanda because there are a thousands of wintering and Palearctic migrant birds that are always escaping the harsh winter conditions in Europe and the Arctic’s coming into the country. The dry seasons in Rwanda happen in the months of December, January and February.

Important Birding Areas in Rwanda

Rwanda has 7 important birding areas located in 4 of her national parks that is Nyungwe National Park, Akagera National Park, Giswati-Mukura National Park and Volcanoes National Park.

Kigali city:

Just like Kampala Uganda, bird watching can start in Kigali city as soon as you live the airport or even in other cities.  Birding is Kigali city is favorable for those that love don’t like venturing into the country side or visit the national parks. Birding in Kigali city can start from the balconies of your hotel or even the hotel gardens. Another person can opt to visit Lake Nyarutarama located on the main gold course in Kigali city. Lake Nyarutarama has amazing tracks and walkaways that are best for seeing black headed herons, white faced whistling duck, grey capped warbler and winged geese. The government of Rwanda has gazzeted a large park as you leave Kigali city and its gaining popularity among birders. You can also have a tour to Ngabarongo wetland to see little egrets, squacco turaco, spur winged geese or yellow billed stork. Mountain Kigali is also good for birding and from there you can see red chested cuckoos, southern black flycatchers and African paradise among others

Nyungwe national park:

This forest is the largest and oldest montane forest in the whole of Africa. Nyungwe forest harbors over 300 different bird species in the forest. Bigugu Mountain located in Nyungwe forest is one of the best spotting areas for birds as they feed on tree canopies and fruits. One can also hike down Bigugu Mountain and move to Gisakura tea estate plantation which is also favorable for bird viewing. The most popular and attractive birds in Nyungwe national park are the red-colored babblers. Nyungwe forest is also a home of Handsome spur fowls, handsome francolin, Neumann’s Warbler, Purple Breasted Sunbirds, grauer’s warbler, Regal sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, swamp warbler, Rwenzori Nightjar, Rwenzori Turaco, blue headed sunbird, albertine owlet and the Red collared babblers among others. The best way to explore Nyungwe forest is using the canopy walk which is the best canopy walk in east Africa or biking through part of the Congo Nile trail which cuts through Nyungwe forest or else use of the well-developed trails that lead you to different sections of the forest. The canopy walk in Nyungwe forest is 160 meters long and passes on top of the trees which gives you an aerial view of the forest, birds and animals. Visiting Nyungwe forests needs one to get a well-trained birder guide to move with you around the forest as they help you identify some of the birds and forest trails.

While in the forest with a guide you might come across birds such as Eastern Mountain Greenbul, Great Blue Turaco, doherty’s bush-shrike, Grey Cuckoo shrike, Montane Oriole, black headed waxbill, Mountain Illadopsis, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Pink-footed Puff back, Red-chested Owlet, barred long-tailed cuckoo, Regal Sunbird, Ruwenzori Batis, Ruwenzori Blue-headed Sunbird, archer’s robin-chat, Sharpe’s Starling, Slender-billed Starling, Striped-breasted Tit, Stuhlmann’s Double-collared Sunbird, regal sunbird, Stuhlmann’s Starling, blued headed sunbird, Thick-billed Seedeater, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, albertine owlet, White-starred Robin and the Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher. Nyungwe is a dense forest which makes bird viewing difficult because most of the birds prefer to stay up in the trees. An experienced birder guide should be able to take you to the good spots of the forest where you can clearly see different bird species. birding in Nyungwe forest will expose you to other forest creatures most especially the primates such as black faced monkeys, vervet monkeys, silver monkeys, blue monkeys, Angola colobus, golden monkeys, l’hoest’s monkeys, dent’s monkeys and the chimpanzees.

Akagera national park:

Akagera national park is made up of rolling hills, rivers and lakes and also savannah vegetation. The park is located in north eastern side of Rwanda bordering with Tanzania. The park is home to about 525 bird species and the best birding areas are around Lake Ihema, its marshes, wetlands and its islands. Taking a boat cruise on Lake Ihema exposes you to a number of birds in the park but birding trips in the park are organized in the morning or in the evening. The morning shift is the best session for bird watching in the park. Red-faced barbets are the common species in the park while the most beautiful bird is the African starling. The park is also a home to the endangered papyrus ganolex and ring-necked francolin. When you visit Akagera national park for birding you expect to see birds such as white-winged swamp warbler, white collared oliveback, northern brown-throated weaver, papyrus gonoleck, grey crowned crane, shoebill stork and Caruthers’s cisticola among others. The best time to visit Akagera national park is during the dry months of June, July, August and September. While in Akagera national park, you should expect to see animals such as leopards, lions, giraffes, antelopes, elephants and hippos.

Volcanoes national park:

Located in Kinigi, Ruhengeri in Rwanda bordering with Mgahinga national park in Uganda and Virunga national park in DR Congo, volcanoes national park well known for chimpanzee trekking, golden monkeys and mountain hiking any of the Virunga Mountains such as Mountain Karisimbi or Mountain Bisoke. However this does not change the fact that it’s one of the best places where birding in Rwanda can take place. The park is home to more than 480 bird species with 100 of them not found anywhere in Rwanda while 16 of them are only endemic to volcanoes in Virunga ranges of the mountains. Among the bird species to look out of in volcanoes national park are the Archer’s ground robin, grauer’s rush warbler’ cinnamon bracken warbler’ black and white manikin, Rwenzori batis, white-tailed blue flycatcher and Rwenzori batis.

Gishwati-Mukura national park:

This is the newest national park in Rwanda opened up in 2015. The park is located in the north western part of the country.  Even before this place becoming a national park, Giswati was known as a place for birding having over 126 bird species. Some of the birds here include Ruwenzori Batis, regal sunbird, Ruwenzori Turaco, red throated alethe, Strange Weaver, Stripe-breasted Tit, purple-breasted sunbirds, marital eagle and the Grey Crowned Crane. Most of these birds live in the forest while others are endemic to the Albertine rift. While carrying out birding in this park you expect to see animals such as baboons, blue and golden monkeys, chimpanzees, duikers and reptiles. Dry seasons are the best for birding in Gishwati-Mukura national park as wet seasons present a lot of difficulties among which include mud-filled trails which is always slippery.

Lake Kivu:

Lake Kivu is famous for its stunning beaches, islands and one of the best places where spot fishing can be done in Rwanda. The park is good for birding because of its natural beauty and its islands that attract pied kingfishers and white-breasted cormorants. During certain months of the year, migratory birds are always seen around the lake. To have a complete birding experience on your safari to Lake Kivu, you must visit Nkora Island which is a small fishing village with in Lake Kivu attracting many birds and even cave bats.

Wetlands, marshes and Nyabarongo River:

A small percentage of rwand is made up of marshes, swamps and wetlands. The common wetlands and marshes are Rugezi and Akanyaru. These wetlands and marshes act as breeding grounds for birds because they keep away from most predators while proving frogs and insects as food. Rugezi marsh is the best destination in Rwanda covering an area of 6,734 hectares and is a home to 43 bird species among which include thick billed seedeater, papyrus yellow walber, grainers swap warbler and papyrus genolek. On the south of the marsh you will find Nyagafunzo and Ngabarongo rive which is a tributary to river Nile emptying its waters in River Akagera that flows to Lake Victoria. Nyabarongo wetland is a home of papyrus gonoleks and garuer’s swamp warblers.

Packing list for bird watching safaris in Rwanda

To have the best birding safari in Rwanda, you must travel well prepared with good binoculars used to stop birds that are far, cameras to take amazing photos of Rwanda and beautiful birds, a portable voice recorder to record voices and sounds of different birds, birding books to help you identify species you spotted, drinking water and food, insect repellants, hides and other clothing.

Code of conduct while on a bird watching safari in Rwanda.

These are rules and guidelines you should follow while birding

During bird watching activities in Rwanda,  avoid chasing away birds from their hiding places, let them come out themselves

Avoid using flash cameras while recording birds

Keep a distance away from the birds so as not to expose the chicks from danger

Don’t litter in the sanctuaries

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