Rwanda is renowned for mountain gorillas and golden monkeys which are found in Volcanoes National Park. Rwanda is a member of the East African Community and it lies in the great lakes region of Africa bordered by Uganda in the North, Tanzania in the East, Democratic Republic of Congo in the West and Burundi in South, this makes it a land locked country. It is covered with Savanna in East, and it’s mountainous in the West which makes it the land of a thousand hills, there are also many lakes across the country.
The climate of Rwanda is subtropical whereby there are two dry seasons and two rainy seasons throughout the year. Rwanda’s capital is Kigali of which it is where the international airport is found. Concerning languages there are various languages spoken in this country such as French, Kinyarwanda, Swahili and English.
WHERE TO VISIT AND THINGS TO DO
Rwanda being a small country has unique things to offer to the tourists starting with the magnificent mountain gorillas and chimpanzees found in National Parks, the rich culture like the Intore dance, Lake Kivu, tea plantations, historical sites like Ntarama Memorial Site, Gisozi memorial site, and Bisesero Memorial Site among others.
Rwanda has national parks such as Volcanoes, Nyungwe, Akagera which are managed by the Rwanda Development Board where most wildlife such as Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Monkeys, antelopes, elephants, buffaloes, different bird species found there home. In these parks there is a lot to see and do as listed;
Volcanoes National Park
This is Rwanda’s most famous park also known as “Parc National de Volcans” and lies in the Virunga Massif area that is found in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo also. The park is found in the Northwestern part of the country in Musanze town commonly known as Ruhengeri that is a 2 hours drive from Kigali the capital of Rwanda.
The major attraction in this park is the Mountain Gorilla and the Golden monkeys, so one can do this amazing activity of tracking gorillas. Nothing is thrilling and interesting like moving up and down hills covered with vegetation, and in the forests looking for gorillas. A 3 day Gorilla Trek in Rwanda will be all you need. The gorilla permit goes for US$ 1500 and it is recommendable to making your bookings early especially during the peak seasons (June to September).
Other activities to do in this park are nature walks, birding, hiking such as a hike to the Bisoke volcano and other animals can be seen in the park are bush pigs, elephants, spotted hyenas, buffaloes, bushbucks, over 200 bird species among others.
After gorilla tracking you can also have some cultural encounters by visiting the Iby’lwacu cultural village which is found near the park. While at this cultural village you are able to engage in various activities, and learn different things from the people in this community such as their ways of living and how they make art and crafts. Visitors have an amazing time listening to stories from the elderly, watching the local people in their natural environment engaging in music, dance and drama, and also there is a chance to watch the Batwa make pots and any other things, something that will create a memorable experience.
While visiting this park one can stay in various lodges that range from Budget to Luxury/Up market such as five volcanoes (mid-range), Mountain Gorilla View Lodge (mid-range), Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge (luxury), Virunga lodge among others.
Nyungwe forest National Park
This is a forest National Park located in the Southwestern part of Rwanda at the border of Burundi. The park covers approximately 1019sqkm and has a lot to offer being a home to 13 primate species such as Chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, 87 mammals, over 300 bird species, 1067 plant species and many more.
The park is approximately 4-5 hours drive away from Kigali on a well tarmacked road. On your way to the park, you could have a visit to the Nyanza king’s palace where by you will learn about the history and culture in this place.
Nyungwe can be visited anytime in the year although it is advisable for those interested in Chimpanzee tracking to visit the park during wet seasons since the chimpanzees are not very far and those in for nature and canopy walks can visit in the dry seasons since it is easier to penetrate through the forests with less disruption from rains.
The major activity is chimpanzee tracking and with this, tourists can still participate in other activities such as birding, canopy walks, birding, hiking, cultural encounters, and monkey trekking, among others.
While at Nyungwe there are no worries of where to stay as there are lodges, hotels and camping sites around such as Nyungwe forest lodge (luxury), Gisakura guest house (budget), Nyungwe top view hotel among others.
Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is one of those other suitable parks one can opt for to add on the gorilla experience from Volcanoes National Park. The park a 2 hours drive away from Kigali and is located in the Northeastern part of Rwanda on the Tanzanian border. It covers approximately 1122sqkm and it is characterized by highlands, savanna vegetation, papyrus swamps, woodland and forest fringed lakes.
The park derived its name “Akagera” from the Akagera River that flows in the east of the park pouring in Lake Ihema. Having such a diverse landscape, the park is a home to wildlife such as buffaloes, elephants, zebras, hyenas, lions, giraffes, bush babies, topis, antelopes, crocodiles, elands, hippos, and a variety of bird species such as the shoebill stork.
Game drives are the major activity in this park where by you drive through the park viewing various animals and how vegetations vary, also self drives are allowed in the park. Other activities include; cultural tours to nearby communities, fishing, birding and boat trips on Lake Ihema.
Where to stay cannot be your question while at Akagera National Park, there are lodges and tented camps to stay in such as Akagera game lodge, Karenge bush camp, Ruzizi tented camp among others.
Kigali Genocide memorial centre
This is a memorial centre that is a final resting place to over 250,000 Tutsi victims of the genocide that occurred in 1994. This centre is among the 6 main memorial centers in Rwanda that are there in remembrance of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. Others include; Natrama genocide memorial centre, Murambi memorial centre, Nyamata, Bisesero, and Nyarubuye memorial centers.
The memorial centre was opened in 1999 whereby the different remains of people that where around the city, in lakes and rivers where transferred to this place to be buried. The major aim for this place was to provide a dignified resting place for victims from the Genocide and also to provide support to the widows, orphans and survivors of the genocide. Apart from that it is also a place of education and research to various tourists who get to learn about the causes and implications of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
Do not miss out on visiting the other genocide memorial centers as they also have a lot to offer and to discover concerning the Rwanda genocide.
Visit Kigali city
Kigali is Rwanda’s capital, with a great view surrounded by hills and awesome vegetation. It was established in 1907 and given a name ‘Kigali’ by the first colonial governor Richard Kandt. Kigali is among the cleanest cities in Africa and it has a lot offer which one wouldn’t like to miss out while on a Rwanda safari. Places to visit in Kigali include;
- A visit to the Kigali/Gisozi genocide memorial site which is a resting place for over 250,000 victims of the 1994 genocide as earlier said. While here you will have a chance to know what happened and how Rwanda has managed to move on with such a horrific past.
- Visit the Kigali Museum, while here you are able to learn about Rwanda’s history such as the colonial rule times and the city’s background.
- Travel around the Juru Park which gives an amazing view of the city and the neighboring countryside and hillside. It is among the highest points in Kigali.
- Visit the Kigali Museum and learn the history of city and find out country’s colonial and period pre-colonial, also get to know the colonial masters in Rwanda.
- While in Kigali you cannot miss out on a tour to the Kimoronko market, the Librarie Ikirezi and the hand and craft market of CAPLAKI.
- Visit the Inema Arts gallery; it’s a centre with various artists that specialize in modern African crafts, arts, dance and music. There is always showcasing of paintings, media expressions and sculptures; it is a wonderful time spent in this place. Also another arts centre you could opt for is Ivuka Arts centre, there is also a lot to see for those interested in African arts.
- Do not miss out on the Night life in Kigali, as you will visit various bars and restaurants that serve drinks and nice food. In the night have very nice panoramic views seeing the whole Kigali City and this can be best viewed at Crystal View Cocktail Lounge which is at the top of Tower Hotel. Enjoy Kigali the land of a thousand hills!
Accommodation facilities around Kigali include; Hotel des Mille collines, Nobleza Hotel, Quiet haven hotel, Gloria Hotel, Shalom guest house, Hotel chez, the hotel gorillas among others.
Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s largest lake located on Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo border; it is approximately 90km long and 50km wide and covers an area of 2,700km2. A visit to this lake give you unforgettable experience whereby you can engage in various activities while there which include;
- Chill and unwind at lake Kivu, you can either walk around the lake, read a book, have awesome views like the sun sets, islands, the hills, among others. After the game drives, gorilla tracking, chimpanzee trekking, canopy walks among others, this is the best place to relax before heading back home.
- Participate in Biking and hiking in places near the lake, this involves biking and hiking along the hills around the lake, village visits (cultural interactions), venturing the Congo Nile Trail. The hikes can be for a half day or full day.
- Swimming, Lake Kivu is among the safest lakes to swim in, as there are lesser worries of hippos, crocodiles or even Bilharzia, most hotels have swimming pools, but you could also opt for a refreshing dive in the lake.
- Take boat ride on the Lake to Nyamirundi Island which is more like a coffee tour, here you are able to know how coffee is harvested, processed, up to how it is served. You can also buy some to take home an amazing time while at this island.
- Engage in water sports such as kayaking, sailing, fishing, motor boat cruises, wind-surfing among others.