Rwanda, also referred to as a country of a thousand hill is a small country in Eastern Africa, that attracts tourists from all over the world, primarily for gorilla trekking. Though widely renowned with the 1994 genocide, Rwanda is an upcoming destination that is rapidly changing to being a land of the gorillas! Apart from the gorillas, there is much to see on a safari in Rwanda; from wild chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest National park, golden monkeys in PNV to interesting cultural sites, there is a lot to see in Rwanda. The memorial museums and genocide sites in Kigali are a “must-see” while in Rwanda, yet gorilla trekking remains the top adventure to take in Rwanda.
Rwanda is a landlocked country which lies on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift, a western arm of the Great Rift Valley. It is blessed with tremendous geographical and natural beauty. Part of this beauty is because of the unique flora and fauna that exists in the forests. The valleys and mountain peaks of the country combine with the skyline to produce captivating moods for travelers to Rwanda. Safari holidays in Rwanda and tours across the country lead visitors to see the majestic mountain gorillas in the wild at Pac National Des Volcanoes and Chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest National Park. Travelers can view flocks of migratory birds in Nyungwe Forest, Albertine Rift basin, etc. Experience all this and more as you journey across the country on a Rwanda wildlife holiday.
Rwanda is the true gateway to Africa. Often referred to as the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda is an upcoming travel destination offering an amazing experience to travelers taking their holidays in Africa. Emerging from the tragedy of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, less is known about this country about the good side of this country to people from all over the world. Today Rwanda is a favorite to many travelers looking for an African safari.
Rwanda at a Glance
Location: Rwanda is in East/Central Africa, east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Uganda to its north and Burundi to the south. Rwanda also shares its eastern border with Tanzania. (the country is part of the East African Community)
Area: Rwanda covers 26,338 sq km, slightly smaller than Maryland, US.
Capital City: Kigali
Population: Almost 10 million (Rwanda is Africa’s most densely populated country).
Languages: Kinyarwanda, French, English, Kiswahili
Religion: Roman Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventist 11.1%, Muslim 4.6%
Climate: Rwanda has a temperate climate with two rainy seasons from February to April and November to January. Click here for daily temperatures.
When to Go: June – September (during the dry season).
Currency: Rwandan Franc (click here for a currency converter)
Attractions in Rwanda
Rwanda has some of the most inspiring touristic attractions on the African continent. From the rare mountain gorillas to unique cultural experiences, a single visit to Rwanda is not enough to explore this amazing tiny country in Central Africa.
Rwanda is a hidden gem of flora and fauna as a few people know about it but whoever visits this amazing country only has special remarks for it.
Below are some of the major attractions for travelers to Rwanda including some of the best natural, historical, cultural and adventure sites in the country. These include all of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Rwanda which represent the best of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
The Mountain Gorillas
For starters, Rwanda is a home to the endangered species of mountain gorillas which are located in the forested Virunga ranges in the north eastern part. It has a third of the population of mountain gorillas in the world. The world has less than 900 mountain gorillas and Rwanda has about 320. The mountain gorillas are one of the most popular tourism products in the world due to the lifetime experience one cultivated on the encounter. These animals are so special as they are so intelligent and one may thinks that they are real humans the way they relate socially within their families. They have so much respect for the silver back the alpha male gorillas and everything around the family rotates around him. They also have the ability to use tools like tree branches and leaves to build their homes and also gather food. Words cannot explain the real gorilla safari experience unless someone physically visits the mountain gorillas in the bamboo forests of the Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda.
Moving away from the gorillas, Rwanda has the largest montane forest in East Africa Nyungwe forest. This a forest that inhabits 13 different species of primates the most notable ones are chimpanzees, red tailed monkey, black and white monkeys and grey cheeked mangabey. These primates are amazing to track as they are so playful and also very intelligent in the way they do their day to day activities the chimpanzees in particular. While in this amazing forest, the visitor is able to encounter beautiful bird species and butterflies that color up the sky. Another unique attraction in this forest is the canopy walk, here the visitor trek around the forest on an 50 meter elevated trail from the ground and have the opportunity to have a good aerial view of the forest.
Rwanda’s authentic traditional culture is worth to experience. This can be encountered by visiting the different traditional and historical sites of Rwanda like the genocide memorial centre, the market place, the presidential palace, museums and also the cultural villages like Iby’iwacu. Getting to know more about Rwanda and mix and mingle with the traditional cultural of Rwanda gets one close to nature. With meeting the mountain gorillas, the primates in Nyungwe and mixing and mingling with traditional culture one gets to know mama nature more.
Places to Visit in Rwanda
There are several amazing destinations to visit in Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills.
Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanoes National Park is a forested area in the Virunga Mountains that border Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is Rwanda’s top tourist attraction, with the mist-covered volcanoes of the Virungas. Being one of only three locations in the world where you can track mountain gorillas, this part attracts tourists all year round who are interested in gorilla tours. It was this park that Dian Fossey lived and died studying and protecting the gorillas, her efforts made famous in the film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’.
Huye / Butare
The southern city of Huye, formerly known as Butare, is the intellectual capital of Rwanda. It is home to the National University, the Institute of Scientific Research and the National Museum which contains some excellent ethnographic collections and provides insights into Rwandan culture and history.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest covers some 1000 km² in the southwest of Rwanda and is an area of huge biodiversity. Primates are the main attraction here, with some 13 species identified, including some habituated groups of chimpanzees and colobus monkeys that can be viewed on guided treks through the park. Other primates include L’Hoest’s monkey, owl-faced monkey, silver monkey and red-tailed monkey.
Enjoy lakeside sports at Lake Kivu – Rwanda’s coastal adventure hub! Wind-surfing, swimming, or boating.
If you’re surprised that Rwanda has a beach – you’re not alone. Rubavu (also known as Gisenyi) is a waterfront town located on the shores of Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s great bodies of water. At only an hour away from Volcanoes National Park, Rubavu is a great way to unwind after trekking with the gorillas and golden monkeys.
Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre
Kigali is the dynamic capital at the heart of Rwanda.
The people of Rwanda embrace peace and reconciliation. They are committed to fight the ideology of genocide. The memorials found throughout the country are moving testimonies in memory of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and the people who lost their lives. Inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi is where 259,000 victims have been buried. This memorial also serves to educate how the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi took shape and examines genocide in the 20th century.
Akagera National Park
A stunning National Park where the past has been revived.
Akagera National Park is located in the north east of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. It is named after the Akagera River that flows along its eastern boundary and feeds into a labyrinth of lakes of which the largest is Lake Ihema. The forest fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, savannah plains and rolling highlands combine to make Akagera amongst the most scenic of reserves anywhere in Africa. It has exceptional levels of biodiversity and forms the largest protected wetland in central Africa.
Things to Do in Rwanda
Gorilla tracking is the most popular adventure activity on a Rwanda gorilla safari that can be done in a year in and year out. Imagine standing just a few meters from man’s distant cousins, the mountain gorillas and observe them through their activities. Watch them eat, rest, play and bond with their young. Gorilla tracking in Rwanda is a humbling experience that can be taken during your holiday in Rwanda. Currently, seven of the park’s gorilla groups are habituated to tourists with eight permits available for each group every day.
Chimpanzee Tracking is another adventure activity that can be taken in Rwanda. This activity can be carried out in Nyungwe Forest National Park, home to various primates, birds and wildlife. Other popular activities in this park are canopy walk, bird watching, forest walks etc.
Cultural Tours – A holiday in Rwanda cannot be complete without taking a cultural visit to the different cultural sites in Rwanda. These sites include genocide memorial sites, museums, Palaces etc.
A trip to see some of the largest populations of gorillas in Africa is possible with a short visit to the country – ranging from day hikes to longer trips. These popular safaris often called Rwanda Gorilla Safaris offers tourists a rewarding experience to see the mountain gorillas, exotic wildlife, unique cultural experience and majestic sightseeing in Africa. Gaze at exotic birds and take in other African wildlife in the African lowlands of Rwanda on carefully crafted trips into the wild. A true once in a lifetime experience for even the most traveled, a holiday in Rwanda today ranks among the top things to do while in Africa.
Why choose Rwanda?
It’s a beautiful country with unique primate species and several mountain gorilla families that can be tracked at any time of the year. Rwanda has a conducive climate that easily caters for all individuals from different parts of the world with mountains which encourages hiking plus an equatorial forest with several bird species enabling birding activities to be carried out. Not only being a good place for sight seeing, Rwanda is also a home of beautiful people with unique cultures. There is also a well developed transportation network that eases movements across the country even in national parks.
Best Safaris in Rwanda
There are several different packages that you can choose from for your safari so you should get on the internet and try to find one that will work for you and your family. You will want to bring along a camera since there is a good chance that you will get to see things that you need to capture on film for showing to your friends and family.
Bird Watching Tours
If you are a curious bird watcher, bird watching tours in Rwanda are the best way for you to get close to the most amazing and stunning bird species of the country. Carry your camera with you and click some rare pictures of these colorful species amidst their melodious chirping. Bird sanctuaries such Nyungwe Forest and the Albertine Rift are some of the famous bird reserves which you must visit on a bird watching tour in Rwanda. Visitors cannot also miss to catch a glimpse of the rare acacia species including the Tabora Cisticola, Red-Faced Barbet, Black and Familiar Chats, Bennett`S Woodpecker, White-Headed, White-Winged and Broad-Tailed Warbler and Miombo Wren-Warbler.
The mountain gorillas are perhaps the top safari attraction of Rwanda. Tracking of these rare primates is done within Nyungwe Forest and the Pac National Des Volcanoes. Gorilla tracking can take up to eight hours because; you will have to walk through dense forest, swamps and hills. The mountain gorillas are one of the most endangered species in the world with a number shrinking to 700 mountain gorillas. The long dry season from June to September presents the best moment to go on Gorilla tracking safari. During this time, the ground is dry enabling easy walks in the dense forest. 96 permits are issued a day for tracking the primates and each permit goes for US$1500 per person.
Photographic safaris in Rwanda are special types of safari led by professional photographers who are well acquainted with the best shooting spots in their area. Life all types of photography you’ll need patience and a little luck to get those images of a lifetime. But having an expert along will certainly help your chances. Wildlife photography requires special skills so if you’re serious about your photography, you should opt for one of these safaris.
Wildlife safaris in Rwanda offer an extremely captivating opportunity to savor wildlife tour with various national parks in the country. The best national parks in Rwanda for wildlife safari tours are Akagera National Park, Nyungwe Forest National Park and Pac National Des Volcanoes. You will not only love these tailor-made wildlife holidays in Rwanda but will also keep coming back to Rwanda to re-visit these places. After all wildlife in Rwanda has a class of its own.
Rwanda is one country that is teeming with unique vibrancy cultures. This diversity in culture has made the country a very popular cultural tourist destination. Cultural tourism in Rwanda has always attracted travelers from all over the world. It includes various facets like architectural heritage, food, festivals, religion, languages, fashion, dance, and music. Traditional dances and music are amazing in their unique style and movement of the performers.
Plan Your Safari
Safari / tour Company to Use?
Most companies have gorilla tracking and other wild expedition packages. It’s important to have enough information about the safari company you intend to use in order not to be conned by fake tour companies. Check whether the company is registered with any tourism related organization like Rwanda Tour Operators Association, Africa Tour Operators, information of park entry fees and any other vital information. All this information can be got on the safari companies’ websites, by asking those who have ever visited Rwanda, or by visiting the offices of Rwanda Development Board.
When to visit Rwanda?
For those interested in gorilla tracking, hiking and birding, the country can be best visited during the dry seasons December- march and around June –September. This is because it’s easy to hike and track mountain gorillas during these months of the year since there are limited chances of raining. However you are advised to carry a rain coat or jacket, boots, boots and walking sticks especially while going for tracking and birding because the weather of the equatorial forests is unpredictable meaning it can rain at any time of the day even when it has been seriously shining.
Rwanda has accommodation facilities that can cater for all tourist categories from high income to back packers. All national parks in Rwanda have standard hotels, lodges and campsites which prepare local and international food dishes. A tourist there fore has a chance to choose an accommodation facility of his/her choice depending on the budget. The most known accommodation facilities in national parks include Virunga lodge, volcanoes lodge, mountain gorilla nest lodge, Sabyinyo silverback lodge, mountain gorilla view lodge, hotel Muhabura, Garr hotel, villa gorilla, Kinigi guest house, Akagera lodge, Ruzizi tented lodge, Ninzi hill hotel, The Manor Hotel, Nyungwe forest lodge, Nyungwe top view hill hotel and many others.
Possibility of Family safaris
They are very possible however kids are not allowed to go for gorilla tracking. Gorilla permits are only sold to individuals who are 16 years and above. Those below 16 can however go for primate tracking or taken to leisure parks around the capital city or visit any other tourist destination around.
Rwanda is now among the most visited countries in Africa because of her stunning scenery, unique wild life species especially the rare mountain gorillas and chimpanzees plus a large number of bird species. The people are also very welcoming and therefore any one who decides to visit Rwanda can never regret his decision.