Destination Kivu Belt

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Birding Trip Along The Kivu Belt from Rubavu

08/13/2022 8:32

Birding Trip Along The Kivu Belt from Rubavu

Birding Trip Along The Kivu Belt from Rubavu

Activity Description

Join a professional bird guide for a half day birding session around Rubavu with. 

One day birding in Rubavu gives you remarkable experience to explore beautiful common birds, water birds, endemics and palearctic migrants during period of early August to late May. As you stay in Gisenyi you can walk around and visit nearby hotspot to enjoy colorful birds and birds’ songs as well. One afternoon or morning session is enough to encounter interesting birds and lifers as well, Sebeya Riverside, Lake Kivu Shores, Hotels’ Gardens, Mt. Rubavu, Nyundo Wetlands, Mt. Muhungwe are quite interested place to visit in half day while Gishwati-Mukura National Park one day is recommendable for better experience.

Morning Session

After early breakfast at 6:00 AM birding along Sebeya River and Mt.Nengo gives you chance to see most of colorful birds as well as water birds and raptors such as Black cuckoo shrike, Gray Capped Warbler, Common Sandpiper, Palm-nut Vulture and other many Species.

Afternoon Session

After noon birding session at Mt. Rubavu offer opportunities to see interesting sunbirds, babblers, soaring raptors and Twin Cities panoramic view at the top of the mountain. this incredible experience offers you opportunites to see palearctic migrants during migration periods of Aug-May.

About the Organizer

Wildlife conservation travels specialize in eco tours featuring Rwandas remarkable nature and wildlife

From 50 USD

Highlights

  • Spend a day birding in several different habitats
  • Hooded vultures are common sightings
  • Many different raptors and babblers inhabit the area

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Categories:Birding, Tours and Activities

Birding in Rwanda

05/20/2021 9:14

Birding in Rwanda

Birding in Rwanda

Rwanda is a great and unique birding destination with vastly different habitats and over 30 endemic bird species. It is often overlooked as a birding destination and less known than its more famous safari neighbors Kenya and Tanzania. Between the Albertine Rift Valley, the volcanoes of the north and the western plains, Rwanda bird habitats are many and diverse. Rwanda bird species differ much between the western, southern and eastern parts of the country. Eastern Rwanda is lower and has a drier savannah climate. The Albertine Rift Valley in Western Rwanda’s Kivu Belt Region is dramatic with high mountains and deep valleys and more varied habitats. In the tropical montane rain forests of the Kivu Belt and around Lake Kivu is where you will find most of the endemic Rwanda Bird species. The wet marshes and lakes of South eastern Rwanda offer the possibility for exploration by dugout or boat.  

Download the official Birding in Rwanda Booklet from Visit Rwanda

The small size of Rwanda, good infrastructure and relatively high levels of digitalization with a steady cover of 4g internet, makes it quick and easy to move around. Rwanda is also known as the safest and cleanest countries in Africa with a low level of corruption, further adding to Rwanda’s popularity as a country for birding.

The recently opened Gishwati Mukura National Park in the Kivu Belt is a great addition to Rwanda’s diverse birding sites. Gishwati Mukura is a montane rainforest on the eastern range of the Albertine Rift Valley. The forest which has many of the Albertine endemic Rwanda birds is still very much unexplored territory as it was closed off to the public for a very long time. Improvements in walking paths and other essential infrastructure was not made until as late as 2020 when it reopened to the public.

The best known and one of the classic Rwanda bird spots for Albertine endemics is the elusive Nyungwe Forest. Nyungwe Forest has all the Rwanda Birds which are Albertine Endemics and should be on every birder’s itinerary.  Nyungwe is one of the oldest forests in Africa and has more than 300 recorded bird species and 30 Albertine endemics. 

Rwanda Birding Destinations

Since Rwanda has very diverse bird habitats in a small geographic area, visitors to Rwanda will be able to see many different species in a short amount of time. Most Rwanda bird visitors are surprised at the diversity of birding in Rwanda. The country is very different and ranges from the mountainous terrains and lakes along the Kivu Belt in the west, to the flatter savannah to the east and the marshlands of the south east. 

Akagera National Park

In eastern Rwanda you will find Akagera National Park. Akagera National Park has a traditional Savannah habitat with several larger lakes and swamps. There are more than 480 recorded bird species in the park, making it the most diverse Rwanda bird area. Akagera is a big 5 park which makes it possible to see some of the larger Rwanda bird species here such as the white-headed and griffon vultures. You will also find larger raptors such as bateleur, a range of snake eagles as well as the African harrier hawk. In the wetlands of Akagera you will find the iconic African fish eagle, jacanas and other waders. After a successful conservation project, Akagera is now one of the few places in Africa where you can see the elusive shoe billed stork.

As Akagera National Park is a big 5 park, the only ways to move around inside the park is by car or by  boat on Lake Ihema, the largest lake in the park. Walking and biking can be done outside or on the edge of the park. Accompanying bird guides, renting of bikes or other equipment is organized through the park office. Be aware that there is lot of misleading information about Akagera, mostly from different tour operators posing as the official park website. Akagera is managed by African Parks and for contact information to the park office visit at the official Akagera website.

There are three lodges inside Akagera National Park all of which will give you a close encounter with nature. Many Rwanda bird species can be seen around the lodges in a early morning or afternoon walk or from your tent. Ruzizi Tented Lodge is an intimate retreat located on the edge of Lake Ihema in a nice natural setting. Magashi Camp is a small tented camp in the east of the park which will bring you very close to nature. Karenge Bush Camp is a small low-impact tented eco lodge with only six tents. Just outside the park you will find the more modern but upscale Mantis Akagera Game Lodge and the more rustic but nice Akagera Rhino Lodge. There are also three campsites  for self-camping inside the park which are bound to give you a very close experience.

Birding in Rwanda
Red Necked Frankolin

Birding in  Nyungwe Forest National Park

Probably the best Rwanda bird location is Nyungwe Forest. With over 300 bird species of which 30 species are regional endemics, it is no wonder Nyungwe is the most popular Rwanda bird destination. Nyungwe forest is also recognized as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International, mainly due to its abundant species and unique habitats. Nyungwe Forest is located in the Kivu Belt Region in southern Rwanda on the eastern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley. It is one of the oldest and largest montane rainforests in Africa. Nyungwe Forest is a very diverse rainforest with a range of different habitats. The habitat ranges from Bigugu, the highest peak in the park at just under 3000 meters to the swamps of Kamiranzovu. Apart from birds, Nyungwe is the home to many larger primates, mammals and retiles including chimpanzees.

Nyungwe Forest is one of the few places outside of Democratic Republic of Congo with a resident population of Albertine Owlet. The vulnerable Rockafeller’s Sunbird is normally mostly found west of Lake Kivu and Nyungwe Forest is one of the few remaining forests where it remains in the Eastern Albertine Rift. Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the best places to spot the Rwenzori Turaco which can be found in abundance throughout the park.

Nyungwe Forest has some the most developed infrastructure for birding in Rwanda. There are numerous walking paths throughout the forest and there are many informative resources available at Uwinka Visitors Centre. The best bird guides in Rwanda can be found in Nyungwe Forest, most of which can be booked by contacting the park office at Uwinka. Note that there are many websites which claim to be the official park website, but are actually managed by other actors and who might provide misleading or incorrect information. Nyungwe Forest National Park is managed by African Parks and all official information can be found on the African Parks Website or the Visit Rwanda Website.

Birding in Nyungwe Forest is good throughout the year as the main species are not migratory. The dry season in July-September is generally the nesting season with less vocally birds. The wettest month is April which can make birding in Rwanda a little less pleasant. Migratory species are in the forest between November and April and the best months for birding is December to February.

There are many places to stay in and around Nyungwe National Park. For a 5 star experience,
One & Only Guest House at the forest’s edge is the place to stay. Nyungwe Top View Hotel offers good rooms and great view of the Gisakura Buffer Zone. For a more personal experience, there is a campsite at Uwinka Visitors Center which can be booked trough the park office. 

head over to the Birding in Nyungwe Forest page for complete information about birding in Nyungwe Forest

Birding in Rwanda
Red Headed Weaver

Birding in Gishwati Forest 

The forest of Gishwati-Mukura National park is a fragmented montane rainforest located in Rwanda’s Kivu Belt region. It is part of the Congo-Nile divide forest which originally stretched over the entire mountain range which divides the Congo Water Basin from the Nile Water Basin all the way from Congo to Burundi. Today’s remainders of these forest complex include Gishwati Forest, Mukura Forest and Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda and Kibira National Park in Burundi.

Gishwati Forest serves as a very important habitat for numerous birds. A total of 209 different species of birds can be found in Gishwati Mukura Forest National Park. Out of these birds, 20 are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley and 10 bird species can be found on the IUCN Red List, meaning that they are a rare and threatened species.

As Gishwati Forest is in the Albertine Rift of the African Rift valley, there are many special bird species which can only be found here. Some of these species are endemic to the montane forests of the Congo-Nile divide and can therefore only be found in either Gishwati Forest, Mukura Forest or Nyungwe Forest.

Gishwati Forest has several newly constructed hiking trails and all visits to the park need to follow these. Since Gishwati Forest is a national park, all activities need to be arranged and booked with the park office. The brand-new park office can be found next to the main road at the edge of the forest in the end closest to Rubavu.

At the moment there is only one place to stay in Gishwati Forest.
The Forest of Hope Guest House and Camping is located at the forest’s edge. It is good point from which to explore the forest. The newly renovated guest house cottages offer great value, but there is also a protected campsite if you bring your own tent. 

Head over to the Birding in Gishwati Forest page for comeplete information about Birding in Gishwati Forest

Birding in Rwanda
Birding in Rwanda

Birding in Lake Kivu

The peaceful and tranquil Lake Kivu makes a welcoming stopover on a birding tour as well as being home to impressive numbers of White-breasted Cormorants, African Fish Eagles and Pied Kingfishers. The lake and the surrounding hotel gardens and vegetation are home to 301 bird species, including attractive species such as Double-toothed Barbet and Yellow-bellied Waxbill. The fortunate birder may also observe Ospreys during their migration, diving into the lake after the plentiful fish.

A boat trip to Napoleon’s Hat Island close to Karongi is recommended. This island is home to a very impressive colony of fruit bats and also has some good birdlife. Close to Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s newest protected area, Gishwati-Mukura National Park. This park comprises two patches of high-altitude forest and is only a short drive from Rubavu and Karongi. There are currently extensive conservation efforts to restore the habitat between these important habitats. The forests hold good birdlife Gishwati 232 species and Mukura 163 species, including several Albertine Rift Endemics and montane forest specialists. Gishwati is also home to a troop of Chimpanzees, which are being habituated. Various tourism options will be available here in the near future.

There are three main towns to stay along Lake Kivu: Rusizi, Karongi and Rubavu. These offer numerous hotels in close proximity to the lake. For a more rural setting, Kinunu is a paradise amongst the coffee plantations at the the edge of Lake Kivu between Karongi and Rubavu. Kinunu offers great accommodation options at
Rushel Kivu lodge or Kinunu Guest house. Further north, just outside Nyamasheke Town is the tranquil Kumya Eco Lodge and Kumbya Retreat Center in wonderful natural setting next to the lake.

Birding in Rwanda
Malachite Kingfisher

Birding in Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is best known for its Mountain Gorillas and Golden Monkeys. What is less well known is that the park is also home to 200 species of bird, including Albertine Rift Endemics such as Kivu Ground Thrush, Archer’s Robin-Chat and Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird. It is also the only place in Rwanda to see Scarlet-tufted Sunbird.

Close to Volcanoes National Park are several other good birdwatching sites including: Buhanga eco-park, the northern (volcanic) lakes and the twin lakes of Burera – Ruhondo, which offer good birds and superb scenery. Rwanda’s only Ramsar site Rugezi Marsh is also nearby, this is a globally significant wetland and is home to good populations of Grauer’s Swamp Warbler and also supports Grey-crowned Cranes, Papyrus Canary and Papyrus Yellow Warbler.

As there are many visitors to Volcanoes National Park, mostly for the mountain gorillas, there are plenty of great accommodation options for all tastes around the park. 

Birding in Rwanda
Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu

Birding in Rwanda’s Eastern Wetlands

Rwanda’s wetlands and marshes cover around 10% of the country. In addition to Rugezi Marsh in the north, there are extensive wetlands along the Akanyaru and Nyabarongo rivers in the south and south-east of the country. The Akanyaru and Nyabarongo Wetlands are considered Important Bird Areas by Birdlife International.

The most easily accessible wetlands and lakes can be found in Bugesera District to the south-east of Kigali. There are numerous sites across this district that offer excellent birding within a short drive from Kigali and, so far 415 bird species that have been recorded in this region. There are several habitats in this area, such as swamps, lakes and savanna type pastoral lands. The whole district has good birding, but it advantageous to explore the area’s numerous hotspots that offer good chances to observe numerous waterbirds and savannah species; including Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, White-winged Swamp Warbler, White-collared Oliveback, Lesser Jacana, White-backed Duck, Redchested Sunbird, Palm Nut Vulture, Blue-naped Mousebird and African Fish Eagle.

Birding in Rwanda’s Capital Kigali

Kigali has great Urban Birding. Hotel gardens often hold interesting bird species and Nyarutarama Lake or “Lover’s Lake” at the edge of the Kigali golf course is always productive. Even those with a few spare hours will be rewarded by a visit. Species include: White-collared Oliveback, African Swamphen, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Bat Hawk, Narina Trogon, Lesser Honeyguide, Brown-backed Honeybird, Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Olive-bellied, Red-chested Sunbird and Bronzy Sunbirds, African Goshawk, Palm Nut Vulture, Crested Barbet, Grey-backed Fiscal, Rüppell’s Starling and Black-headed Weaver.

In addition, Umusambi Village in Kigali offers rehabilitated wetlands and close up views of rescued Grey crowned Cranes and to date around 100 species have been seen in the restored habitat. The Rwanda Environment Management Authority is also developing a park at the edge of Kigali, which is a good place for urban birding. Furthermore, there are good birding sites at wetlands at the edge of the city and around Mount Kigali.

Birding in Rwanda
Crowned Crane, Rwanda's National Bird

Rwanda Bird Species

Albertine Rift Endemics

Common name

Status

Volcanoes NP

Gishwati

NP

Mukura NP

Nyungwe NP

Camudongo Forest

Rugezi Marsh

Handsome Francolin

Common

X

X

X

X

 

 

Rwenzori Turaco common

Common

X

X

X

X

 

 

Congo Bay-Owl

5 unconfiremed Records

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albertine Owl uncommon

Uncommon

 

 

 

X

 

 

Ruwenzori Nightjar common

Common

X

X

X

X

 

 

Dwarf Honeyguide uncommon

Uncommon

 

X

 

X

 

 

Ruwenzori Batis

Common

X

X

X

X

X

 

Albertine Boubou

Common

X

X

X

X

 

 

Willard’s Sooty Boubou

Fairly Common

 

 

 

X

 

 

Stripe-Breasted Tit

Fairly Common

X

X

X

X

X

 

Ruwenzori Apalis

Common

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain-masked Apalis

Common

X

X

X

X

X

 

Kungwe Apalis

Unommon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neumann’s Warbler

Common

 

X

X

 

 

 

Grauer’s Swampwarbler

Fairly Common

X

 

 

 

 

X

Red-faced Woodland Warbler

Common

X

X

X

X

 

 

Grauer’s Warbler

Fairly Common

 

 

 

X

 

 

Red-collared Babbler

Fairy Common

 

 

 

X

 

 

Kivu Ground-thrush

Uncommon

X

X

X

X

X

 

Red-throated Alethe

Common

 

X

X

X

X

 

Archer’s Robin-chat

Common

X

X

X

X

 

 

Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher

Common

 

 

 

X

 

 

Blue-headed Sunbird

Common

X

X

X

X

 

 

Ruwenzori Doublecollared Sunbird

Common

X

X

X

X

 

 

Regal Sunbird

Common

X

X

X

X

 

 

Rockefeller’s Sunbird

Very Uncommon

 

 

 

X

 

 

Purple-breasted Sunbird

Common

 

X

X

X

 

 

Strange Weaver

 Common

X

X

X

X

 

 

Dusky Crimsonwing

Common

X

X

X

X

 

 

Shelley’s Crimsonwing

Scarce

X

X

X

X

 

 

Other Range Restricted Species

 

Common name

Status

Akagera NP

Bugesera

Rugezi Marsh

Other sites

Papyrus Gonolek

Common

X

X

 

Lake Muhazi. Localised in otherpapurys swamp

White-winged

Swamp Warbler

Common

X

X

X

X

Papyrus Yellow

Warbler

 

 

 

 

 

Red-chested Sunbird

Common

X

X

X

Kigali

Papyrus Canary

Fairly common

X

X

X

Kigali

Northern Brown-throated Weaver

Common

X

X

 

X

White-collared

Oliveback

Uncommon

 

X

 

Kigali, Lake Kivu

Grey Capped Warbler

Common

X

X

X

Kigali, Forest Blocks, Lake Kivu

Red Faced Barbet

Common

X

X

 

 

Shoebill

Uncommon

X

X

 

 

Caruther’s Cisticola

Fairly common

X

X

X

 

When to go Birding in Rwanda​

As the main draws for birding in Rwanda are the endemics. These Rwanda birds are resident and present in year-round. Western Rwanda around the Albertine Rift receives abundant rainfall year-round with a few exceptions. The dry season is June to September, this is the best season to visit if you wish to avoid heavy rain, but this is also the season when most resident species nest and will be quiet. Expect the West to be green even in the dry season. 

The wettest season is November and April. Expect heavy rainfall during these months, but also some sun especially in the mornings. The season of December – February receives less rain but is not dry, this season is generally the best for birding as the migratory species are present and many trees will flower. 

When To Visit Rwanda
When To Visit Rwanda
When To Visit Rwanda
When To Visit Rwanda

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Categories:Birding, Tours and Activities

Birding in Lake Kivu

05/20/2021 8:50

Birding in Lake Kivu

Birding in Lake Kivu

Birding in Africa is one of the most popular activities for visitors. With so many bird species in Africa it is no wonder that birding in Africa is one of the main reasons for visiting. There are many well-known sites for birding in Africa Ranging from Southern Africa’s migratory streaks to the Rainforests of Congo.

East Africa with its two separate Rift Valleys has many great places for birding and almost 100 endemic species. One of the best kept secret places for birding in Africa is the Albertine Rift Valley. The Albertine Rift Valley is the Western part of the Great Rift Valley and passes between Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. The Albertine Rift Valley encompasses the largest and oldest montane rainforests in Africa as well as several of Africa’s Great Lakes. The Albertine rift Valley has a total of 37 endemic bird species, making it one of the most unique regions for birding in Africa. 

Birding in Africa
Rwenzori Turaco in Rwanda

Lake Kivu

The peaceful and tranquil Lake Kivu makes a welcoming stopover on a birding tour as well as being home to impressive numbers of White-breasted Cormorants, African Fish Eagles and Pied Kingfishers. Lake Kivu, its islands and the surrounding gardens and vegetation are have a total of 301 recorded bird species, including attractive species such as Double-toothed Barbet and Yellow-bellied WaxbillOspreys migrate all the way from northern Africa and Europe to Lake Kivu where they can be found from October – April.

A great destination for birding on Lake Kivu are the islands in the archipelago outside Karongi. There are plenty of boats available to rent for a small fee.  Napoleon Island close to Karongi is home to a very impressive colony of fruit bats and also has some good birdlife including African fish eagle and Palm-Nut Vulture. Outside Karongi you will also find Monkey Island and Peace Island, both of which have a good degree of indigenous vegetation and a great bird life. Lake Kivu is in Western Rwanda in the Kivu Belt Region. For bird watching, it is ideal to combine a visit to the lake with a visit to Gishwati Forest and Nyungwe Forest, two of Rwanda’s national parks.

Birding in Africa
View of Lake Kivu

Close to Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s newest protected area, Gishwati-Mukura National Park. This park comprises two patches of high-altitude forest and is only a short drive from Rubavu and Karongi. There are currently extensive conservation efforts to restore the habitat between these important habitats. The forests hold good birdlife Gishwati 232 species and Mukura 163 species, including several Albertine Rift Endemics and montane forest specialists. Gishwati is also home to a troop of Chimpanzees, which are being habituated. Various tourism options will be available here in the near future.

There are three main towns to stay along Lake Kivu: Rusizi, Karongi and Rubavu. These offer numerous hotels in close proximity to the lake. For a more rural setting, Kinunu is a paradise amongst the coffee plantations at the the edge of Lake Kivu between Karongi and Rubavu. Kinunu offers great accommodation options at Rushel Kivu lodge or Kinunu Guest house. Further north, just outside Nyamasheke Town is the tranquil Kumbya Eco Lodge and Kumbya Retreat Center in wonderful natural setting next to the lake.

Birding in Africa
Ruaha Chat

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