Gorillas and Tigers

September 20th 2019  |   Countries, Rwanda, Zambia  |  by   Francis Naumann
Rwanda and Zambia

It was a client’s request to combine Rwanda and Zambia that got me thinking about the airline routings in Africa that bring together disparate countries and experiences. The tigers in the title are tigerfish rather than the stripy forest dwelling predators, but five times a week it’s possible to leave Rwanda in the morning, fly direct to Zambia, and be on the Zambezi River in the middle of the afternoon.

Elephant strolling through the Lower Zambezi River

Elephant strolling through the Lower Zambezi River

Getting Close to Gorillas

Recent openings – One and Only’s Nyungwe House and Magashi Camp in Akagera National Park – mean Rwanda offers more wildlife to visitors than just gorillas. They are, however, still the country’s big draw and it’s the Virunga National Park and properties such as the new Bisate Lodge and the more established Virunga Lodge to which most people flock.

Wildlife viewing in Akagera National Park

Wildlife viewing in Akagera National Park

A face to face encounter with a mountain gorilla, the world’s largest living primate, is an unforgettable event.  These wonderful beasts are one of our nearest relatives, with whom we share over 97% of our DNA. They are massively powerful yet amazingly gentle and caring, and appear to be almost human at times.

Luxurious accommodation at Bisate Lodge

Luxurious accommodation at Bisate Lodge

A recent client described their days’ gorilla tracking as follows:

“Your advice on spending two days with the gorillas was spot on.  Others at Sabyinyo Lodge did not do that and I think regretted not having more time to spend with them.  We visited the Susa group up in the hills the first day and that climb was arduous but so rewarding.  The next day we walked through the potato fields, over the stone wall and found the troop right in front of us with babies and teens romping away. Just mesmerising.”

Gorillas eating thistles near Sabyinyo Lodge

Gorillas eating thistles near Sabyinyo Lodge

Taming Tigers

Tigerfish frequent several African rivers, but the Zambezi River, during our summer and autumn months is a good choice for those wanting to try and hook one of these ferocious fighters. In fact, some of the best Lower Zambezi experiences take place on the water, on silently-paddled Canadian canoes, drifting bird watching launches, and speedboats.

Tigerfish – handle with care

Tigerfish – handle with care

Time + Tide Chongwe River Camp set at the confluence of the Chongwe and Zambezi Rivers is a perfect spot to make the most of all that’s on offer in this lovely wildlife area – with great fishing alongside the more usual safari activities.

Glorious river front setting at Chongwe River Camp

Glorious river front setting at  Time + Tide Chongwe River Camp

Away from the river, the Lower Zambezi National Park is a world of towering baobab, marula and sausage trees, with elephant grazing in their shade, zebra on the more open grasslands, plentiful predators, and large herds of buffalo to keep them company.

Wild dog on a game drive from Chongwe River Camp

Wild dog on a wildlife drive from Time + Tide Chongwe River Camp

And Zambia has more tricks up its sleeve, further north in the South Luangwa National Park. The river here runs full in our winter months, but dries to a series of pools by October. Despite the paucity of water, it teams with life. Literally. It’s estimated that each mile of river is home to more than 80 hippo, and that’s sharing with plentiful croc, who demand their own patches of territory. It’s also well known as a leopard hot-spot and night drives from camps like Tena Tena (where a number of our team have worked) are often as productive as outings during daylight.

Leopard in South Luangwa National Park

Leopard in South Luangwa National Park

The Best Time To Travel

Rwanda’s mountains can have rain throughout the year, but they generally have more in April and May, while Zambia’s camps typically close from November to mid-May as the national parks become inaccessible once the ground is wet.

Combining the two areas is best between June and October, with good weather and wildlife throughout these months, and temperatures warming from cool to hot as the year goes on.

Any questions on Rwanda and Zambia safaris?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris.  If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.


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