Birds, Butterflies and Orchids

Rwanda’s location in the Albertine Rift and its dense forests and mountains create a unique and remarkable environment for ecotourism. Though small, (about 250km East-West by 150km North-South), it has a bird list of over 670 species and supports a higher number of Albertine Rift endemics than any other country outside the DR Congo.

The wetlands and lakes of Akagera National Park is home to the elusive Shoebill stork, and is one of the easiest sites in the region where it can be seen. In addition, Akagera supports a mixture of acacia and papyrus species, including red-faced barbet, Bennett`s woodpecker, papyrus gonolek, white-headed, black and familiar chats, Carruther`s and Tabora cisticolas, white-winged and broad-tailed warblers and miombo wren-warblers. You can stay in the Akagera game lodge. There are also plenty of camp sites to stay at while exploring the park. It is a rewarding trip for visiting birders, who will find a supporting cast of large mammals, including hippo, elephant and giraffe.

In the southwest, just a few hours’ drive from Akagera, Nyungwe Forest National Park is a vast tract of virgin forest, one of the largest uncut natural forest reserves remaining in Africa and home to more than 300 species of birds, 27 of which are regional endemics. Much of the forest is unexplored, with access being extremely difficult, because of the steep high hills and deep valleys. However, an excellent winding tarmac road bisects the forest, following the crest of the mountains. This road is one of the few places in the world that allows the visitor to look directly into and even down on the rainforest canopy. Along this road you can find most of the Albertine Rift endemics, including handsome francolin, Ruwenzori turaco, mountain sooty boubou, Ruwenzori batis, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Archer`s robin-chat, Ruwenzori hill babbler, Grauer`s rush, Neumann`s and Grauer`s warblers, masked mountain apalis, stripe-breasted tit and Strange weaver, and a full range of Ruwenzori double-collared, purple-throated, blue-headed and regal sunbirds. A specialty is the red-collared mountain babbler, which has its only easily accessible site here, as does Kungwe apalis. Recent possible sightings of Rockefeller`s sunbird show that much is left to be discovered, and perhaps even such gems as the Congo peacock (found only 70km distant in the DR Congo) could exist in the remote dense forest!

There are also good forest tracks for birding based around the ORTPN Guesthouse at Gisakura, and the ORTPN Campsite at Uwinka, where some of the more skulking species can be seen such as the red-throated alethe, Archer`s robin-chat, Kivu ground thrush, collared apalis, and Shelley`s and dusky crimson wing. Other special birds here include white-bellied robin-chat, Doherty`s and Lagden`s bush-shrikes, white-tailed blue flycatcher, great blue turaco, barred long-tailed cuckoo and white-bellied crested flycatcher. At night, Ruwenzori nightjar is not uncommon, Albertine owlet may be found, and there might be a possibility to see the Congo bay-owl. Add to this the presence of 13 primates, including chimpanzee, more than 100 different butterflies and over 125 varieties of wild orchids and this should be a site on any birders must-visit list.

e also plenty of camp sites to stay at while exploring the park. It is a rewarding trip for visiting birders, who will find a supporting cast of large mammals, including hippo, elephant and giraffe.