Gorillas in the forest in Rwanda

Rwanda Wildlife: The Highland Forests' Most Fascinating Creatures

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Niarra Travel

Known as the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda is as beautiful as it is mysterious.

Not as ostentatious as some of the larger African countries. This humble nation has emerged as a leading destination for wildlife conservation and a place to come face to face with Africa’s most enthralling animal species.

The lush highlands of Rwanda, cradled by misty mountains and cloaked in emerald forests, gives you the chance to not only witness the unique Rwandan wildlife but also to be captivated by the breathtaking beauty of the landscape. Here, we look at the fascinating menagerie of animals that you will discover on a safari trek in this stunning region.

Monkey in the forest in Rwanda

Mountain gorillas

Found in the mopane forest of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, these powerful primates are endemic to East Africa and are made of two groups that can only be found in the volcanic slopes of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mountain gorillas have strong family bonds and are extremely protective of their group, which is most commonly made up of several females and of course the iconic male silverback.

Despite their intimidating size, they are incredibly gentle, spending most of their day munching on leaves and shoots and spending quality time with each other in their nests that they build both on the forest floor and in trees. These majestic beasts are now critically endangered due to habitat loss and poaching, leaving only 1,063 in the wild.

While Akagera National Park is the place in Rwanda to see Africa’s most recognisable savannah species, a trek through the bamboo forests of Rwanda’s highlands in search of a group of mountain gorillas offers a uniquely rare wildlife experience that no nature lover should miss.

Nothing can quite prepare you for the thunderous drumming of a silverback beating its chest or the sight of female gorillas tending to their adorable babies. Similar to a walking safari, a jungle trek lends itself to a far more immersive experience than a game drive. As you look into the expressive brown eyes of the world’s largest ape and see their humanity staring back at you, you can't help but be moved.

Gorilla trekking in Africa is undoubtedly a bucket list experience that always exceeds the expectation of those who make the decision to go. For everything you need to know, read our gorilla trekking FAQ.

Baby gorilla seen on a trekking safari


When it comes to Rwanda’s wildlife, mountain gorillas are not the only great apes you will find in its extensive highland forests. The region is also a refuge for our closest living relative - the chimpanzee.

Sadly, chimpanzees are classified as endangered, and much like the mountain gorillas have seen their numbers decline due to habitat loss and poaching, which further solidifies a trek to see these amazing primates as an opportunity of a lifetime.

Venture into Nyungwe Forest National Park, one of Africa’s most ancient rainforests, and be greeted by the awe-inspiring sight of a troop of chimpanzees grooming each other on the forest floor.

Unlike mountain gorillas, who tend to stay in one place, chimpanzees are constantly on the move, so a trek to find them can be a more challenging adventure. But with hard work comes great reward and with an expert tracker at your side, it won't be too long until you hear their playful grunts and see them hanging from the trees.

Two chimpanzees seen on a trekking safari in Rwanda


Rwanda is home to 13 primate species and many of them can be found throughout the highlands. While mountain gorillas and chimpanzees are of course the most prized animal sightings, the many monkey species also promise incredibly worthwhile wildlife encounters.

Inhabiting the slopes of the Rwandan highlands is the charismatic golden monkey. These playful primates, with their distinctive golden orange fur can be spotted frolicking in the bamboo forests of Volcanoes National Park.

Their acrobatic antics and inquisitive nature provide a thrilling source of entertainment and a truly captivating experience for those who come upon them. With only 5,000 left in the wild, living in only a handful of places across Africa, spotting them is a real treat.

Monkey in the Rwandan forest on a trekking safari


The highlands is also a haven for many rare birds and is known as one of the most important ecosystems for the country's birdlife. This makes it one of the most sought after bird watching locations in Africa.

If you are looking to catch a glimpse of the many beautiful bird species, then Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park are bird-watching paradises with hundreds of recorded bird species in the region, many you won't find anywhere else in the world. Both parks are stunning backdrops to see the many brightly coloured bird species that bring the forests alive with their vibrant songs.

The most notable birds to spot on your trip include the Rockefeller's sunbird, the red collared babbler and the Albertine owlet. Tread with care and you may be in luck in spotting a Kivu ground thrush. Its shy nature and inclination to reside on the forest floor makes it a rare but rewarding sight for birdwatchers. However, the bird’s beautiful burnt orange plumage makes it instantly identifiable in the undergrowth.

Sunbird perched on a tree

Conservation efforts in Rwanda

While Rwanda is making world-leading strides in protecting its wildlife; deforestation, habitat destruction and illegal poaching are all still a very real threat and continued conservation effects are crucial for the survival of its fascinating wildlife.

Taking a trip to see these wonderful animals on a guided trek is not only an unforgettable wildlife experience, but also an opportunity to support the further protection and conservation of these vulnerable animals and their habits to help ensure they are here for years to come.

Looking to embark on your own Rwanda wildlife adventure? Then get in touch with our expert travel team on +44 (0) 20 3821 5994 (UK), +1 (833) 215 9353 (US) or explore@niarratravel.com and help be a part of protecting these magical creatures on an once-in-a-lifetime trip.

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