Rwanda primates & Mafia Island holiday

“Spend time with wild mountain gorillas, track endangered golden monkeys, and relax on the more-idyllic-than-it-sounds Mafia Island on this tailor made Rwanda and Tanzania holiday.”


Kigali | Volcanoes National Park | Dar es Salaam | Mafia Island | gorilla & golden monkey tracking

Description of Rwanda primates & Mafia Island holiday

Mountain gorillas, monkeys and whale sharks are the stars of this wildlife holiday in Rwanda and Tanzania. Things start off full speed ahead as you crack on with tracking wild mountain gorillas and endangered golden monkeys in their natural habitat in Volcanoes National Park. Following in the footsteps of an expert guide, you might be lucky enough to spy a silverback this deep into the Virunga Mountains. The rainforest lodge you stay in is both luxury and socially responsible, supporting projects that reduce human-animal conflict.

The wildlife tracking is balanced with total relaxation on Mafia Island – a remote island off the coast of Tanzania that’s more relaxing than its name suggests. It plonks itself in Mafia Island Marine Park, so the only activity you need do is snorkelling in Chole Bay – keeping your eyes peeled for gentle whale sharks and humpbacks.

You’ll travel with a holiday company that’s an expert at crafting tailor made luxury trips. They know that well-managed tourism has helped save the last of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, so they’ll acquire permits, a guide and make sure you’re informed on all the dos and don’ts of trekking in vulnerable rainforest. They’ll also suggest the best seasons to see whale sharks and humpbacks in the little-known Mafia Islands, and give you a code of conduct for snorkelling alongside these curious mammals.

Travel Team

If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. The Travel Team.

01273 823 700 Calling from outside the UK?

Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

We ensure that we advise all of our clients who are travelling to Rwanda that plastic bags are banned and we recommend that they take a strong bag with the, to carry any shopping that they may purchase. On arrival at Kigali airport there is a sign that says “the use of non-biodegradable polythene bags is prohibited” and any plastic bags you may have in your luggage will be confiscated.

On this itinerary you’ll track endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans. Well managed tourism practices have helped to save the last of the mountain gorillas from extinction, and your trekking permits and national park fees contribute to the ongoing conservation efforts in Parc National des Volcans.

Before you depart for Rwanda you will receive a detailed travel pack in which we outline the rules and regulations for gorilla trekking. These regulations will be repeated to you by your guide before you embark on your trek and it is essential that you adhere to them. You will not be allowed to track them if you’re suffering from any illness including a cold or flu which can be transmitted to the gorillas. You will be instructed to talk in a low voice whilst you’re with the gorillas and you’re requested to keep a seven metre distance from them. You must not touch the gorillas under any circumstances - although they are used to seeing people on a daily basis, they are wild animals and they can sometimes react unexpectedly so it is essential that you listen to your guide’s and trackers’ instructions. You will also be advised to disable the flash on your camera before you get to your group of gorillas as flash photography is not permitted.

This holiday also includes five days on the idyllic Mafia Island. During the summer season whale sharks can be spotted swimming slowly close to the surface in the channel between Mafia Island and mainland Dar Es Salaam, and this is a main attraction for many visitors to the island. From October to March the ‘kaskazi’ (north monsoon wind) pushes the water’s surface layer, full of plankton fed by the sun and nutrient-rich Rufiji River silt, towards Mafia Island, trapping it against the west coast. The whale sharks hoover up their daily requirement on the surface, making them easy to spot. You can snorkel alongside them, but please ensure that you are patient and respectful so that the whale sharks can continue to feed.

Sea Sense is an NGO that works closely with coastal communities in Tanzania to conserve and protect endangered marine species including whale sharks. In collaboration with the Marine Megafauna Foundation they have produced a 'Whale Shark Briefing Pack' which includes a ‘Code of Conduct’ for swimming with whale sharks. The briefing pack is available at hotels and lodges in Mafia and is also stored on whale shark tourism boats. We expect our clients to adhere to the Code of Conduct if they choose to swim with these magnificent creatures.

The Impacts of this Trip

One of the accommodation options on this holiday is Virunga Lodge which is located approximately one hour's drive from the Volcanoes National Park HQ. The lodge is part of Volcanoes Safaris which is a leading luxury lodge company in Uganda and Rwanda. Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT), established in 2009, is a non-profit organisation that connects Volcanoes’ Rwanda and Uganda luxury lodges to the neighbouring communities and conservation activities. The VSPT receives funding through Volcanoes Safaris, which contributes $100 from safari bookings, as well as private donations by their guests and others.

The VSPT aims to create long-term, self-sustaining projects that enrich the livelihoods of local communities, promote the conservation of the great apes, restore natural habitats and work with communities and institutions to reduce human-wildlife conflict. As part of their stay at Volcanoes Lodges, guests get an opportunity to visit VSPT projects and to share the lives of the local communities.

Virunga Lodge community projects include facilitating the funding and erection of a 2.7km power line through Kinoni village and the lodge, bringing electricity to 63 local families for the very first time, a beehive project which five local beekeepers participate in, a mushroom growing project which aims to provide a livelihood for low income families from the Sunzu, Nyagatoki and Bugeyo villages neighbouring the lodge, and the lodge also works with the Intore Dance Troupe who are made up of 24 dancers and two dance trainers. (Every afternoon at Virunga Lodge the troupe perform the traditional Rwandan ballet called The Intore, also known as “The Heroes” which is based on the courtly victory dance of the Rwandan Mwami).

On a free afternoon at Virunga Lodge we recommend taking a walk through local villages to Lake Bulera. Passing through the local communities offers a fantastic insight into village life and there may be opportunities to visit local schools and community centres.


1 Reviews of Rwanda primates & Mafia Island holiday

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 28 Oct 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Spending time with the mountain gorillas in Bwindi national park. Truly a
once in a lifetime experience being up close and personal with a remarkable primate.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Bring fresh $50 bills for visas on demand. Uganda gave us a hard time about dollars older than 2013

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

All the staff at the lodges and all guides were locals supporting the local
economy. Most of the staff was using the money to support their extended families. Lodges by and large were trying to be environmentally friendly with solar electricity and hot water heaters

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Amazing Lodges were outstanding. Guides and staff were excellent and
welcoming. Countries depend upon tourism to bolster their economies.

Popular similar holidays

Rwanda highlights, tailor made tour

Rwanda highlights, tailor made tour

Enjoy highlights of this amazing place with a turbulent past

From £3225 9 days excluding flights

Rwanda highlights tour

Rwanda highlights tour

Chimpanzee tracking, gorilla trekking & Lake Kivu relaxation

From £5250 - £6900 7 days excluding flights

Gorilla and chimpanzee tracking holiday in Rwanda

Gorilla and chimpanzee tracking holiday in Rwanda

A great trip when short on time but want to see gorillas

From £2300 7 days excluding flights

Tailor made safari, gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar

Tailor made safari, gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda, safari in Kenya, plus Zanzibar

From £5950 - £7800 11 days excluding flights