This 9-day wildlife photographic experience is an opportunity to photograph the Gorillas and Chimpanzees of the Virungas with specialist primate photographer Nelis Wolmarans who will lead this spectacular once in a lifetime photographic safari.
When you arrive in Rwanda at the Kigali International Airport, you will meet your Pangolin Photo tour leader. A transfer from the airport will take you to the Kigali Marriott hotel. After lunch you will be taken on a city tour of Kigali and visit the Genocide Memorial. During dinner at the hotel, there will be a short briefing on what to expect over the next few days.
We will depart Kigali in the morning for the scenic drive to Musenze at the foot of the Volcanoes National park in Rwanda and check-in to the aptly names Mountain Gorilla View Lodge. Although it is our intention to do the gorilla treks in the Virungas instead Musenze has plenty to offer and is well worth including in this itinerary on the way to the DRC border.
Nelis worked at a nearby lodge for some time and has developed a special relationship with people of the Ibyi Iwacu village and always like to take his clients to their cultural village for an exclusive visit. The villagers will proudly present all the aspects of their traditions and beliefs and there are many great photo opportunities to be had especially when they demonstrate their vibrant local dances and costumes.
You will then return to the hotel for dinner and a short post-production session with Nelis on the images you have taken.
The next morning is an early start to go in search of some very interesting primates, golden monkeys, on a short hike in the forest. These beautiful primates offer not only a great photo opportunity but also a chance to check your camera settings and techniques for photographing in what can be challenging situations (i.e. dark moving subjects with green backgrounds in dappled sunlight!)
After the trek, we will travel towards the border town of Gisenyi with a lunch stop along the way at The Paradis Malahide Hotel. Once through the border make our way to the Bukima Tented Camp, the base for the two treks where you’ll spend time photographing the Mountain Gorillas of the Virungas.
Day 4 – 5
We will be doing two treks to these magnificent animals on two separate days as a group led by Nelis who will be on hand each time to help you make the most of these encounters. The treks vary in length and we will endeavour to visit two separate families and you will have a full hour with each. The group size is limited to five guests plus Nelis.
When you first come across a wild gorilla it can often be an almost overwhelming sensation at first. There are no barriers between you and these beautiful and intelligent animals and to be honest it can take a short while to gather your thoughts let alone remember that you have a camera with you. Nelis, being a veteran of over seventy gorilla encounters is the best person to have by your side in the situation. His intimate knowledge of Gorillas in general but also the behavioural quirks of individuals means that he is able to help you identify the best photographic compositions in a calm and relaxed manner so you can make the most of each hour.
On the fifth day, after our second hour with the gorillas then be taken on a drive to the luxurious Mikeno Lodge, situated in a forested hillside at Virunga National Park Headquarters where we will stay for the next two nights.
The day will start at 6 am where you’ll set off to search for the chimpanzees in the forests around the lodge as part of the animal habituation project. Chimps are amazing photographic subjects and this will be a great opportunity to photograph large families in their natural environment. Please be aware that the visit to the chimpanzees is a little more hit and miss as they tend to cover more ground during the day than the gorillas. You may only catch a small glimpse of them in the forest or indeed have no luck at all in finding them but the walk itself is an exhilarating one anyway with plenty of other subject matter to photograph.
After lunch, there will be an opportunity to visit the Senkwekwe Mountain Gorilla Orphanage, which is the only place for orphaned Mountain Gorillas in the world.
Dinner and an evening of relaxation back at Mikeno lodge with an opportunity to start working on all the images taken so far
Day 7 – 8
Following the descent from Mikeno Lodge, we will make our way to the beautiful Tchegera Island on Lake Kivu. Tchegera Island offers spectacular views of the volcanoes and the lake and we’ll spend two night at the Tchegera Island Camp.
There will be time for some rest and relaxation as well as image review and post-production with Nelis. For those still looking for more subject matter, Tchegera has some stunning birdlife.
On the final day, you’ll be transferred by road to Kigali International Airport back in Rwanda and board your flight home or perhaps to your next adventure destination. Kigali is easily connected to Kenya (Masai Mara) or perhaps further south to Victoria Falls, the Chobe and then The Okavango Delta.
When considering what camera gear, and specifically lens choice, to take on this trip it’s good to bear in mind that there is an element of uphill where those big fixed lenses will be way too cumbersome and unnecessary. The maximum focal length that we recommend would be 300mm with a good wide angle lens for the landscape shots. You might also consider a monopod which not only offers stability but will also aid in the hiking too.
Location : Virungas, DRC
All tour descriptions and conditions are given in accordance with the information of Pangolin