The Land of a Thousand Hills, with endless expansive lush mountains and diverse natural beauty lies with in the great lakes region of Central Africa and boasts a moderate climate. Mountains dominate the centre and west of the country, while the east consists of savannah plains and swamps.
Rwanda is bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Despite being landlocked and one of Africa’s smallest countries, 26,338 sq km, Rwanda has an incredible treasure trove of diversity that requires protection. The Albertine-rift Eco- zone (ARE), a region that stretches across six countries with Rwanda as its epi-centre, is of particular importance as it has an exceptional level of endemic species. Scientists regard it as having the highest levels of diversity on the continent.
While on a safari in Rwanda, a nature lover will be impressed by the variety and the rarity of what can be observed visiting Rwanda, but there is more to Rwanda than protected mountain gorillas and Albertine endemics. The shores of Lake Kivu boast some of the best inland beaches in Africa and offer an opportunity to explore the many small islands of Lake Kivu.
Kigali, the capital and conference hub of east Africa, forms a central stepping stone to various destinations with in the country and cent5ral and east Africa. The city is green, vibrant, safe and brews superb home grown tea and coffee.
Although Rwanda is all too often associated with the 1994 genocide that resulted in the mass murder of as much as 20% of the country’s total population, the country is taking giant strides towards cultural recovery and investment in the future.
Things to Do in Rwanda
Rwanda is truly a country with some thing for every one to enjoy. Here are a few of the many things to do in Rwanda;
- Visit Rwanda’s famous primates in Nyungwe National Park, Akagera National Park, and Volcanoes National Park including golden monkeys, chimpanzees, colobus monkeys and baboons to name a few.
- Track the world renowned mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park,
- Join a birding safari to experience the diversity of Rwanda’s birdlife and visit several of Rwanda’s (IBA’s) Important Birding Areas; Nyabalongo Wetlands, Akagera National Park, Nyungwe Forest National Park, Akanyaru wetlands, Rugezi marsh, Volcanoes National Park and Cyamundongo Forest.
- Explore Nyungwe National Park’s amazing water falls or orchids and butterflies.
- Explore one of 52 surveyed caves in Rwanda. Formed from Cenozoic volcanic rocks.
- Visit Rwanda’s largest lake, Lake Kivu and its many islands and beach resort towns Rubavu and Karongi.
- Go canoeing, kayaking and wind surfing on Lake Kivu.
- Go mountain climbing at Volcanoes National Park – Don’t miss the 5th highest mountain in Africa- or mountain biking over Rwanda’s thousand hills.
- Enjoy a full tradition Rwandan experience including dancing, traditional crafts, archery, tradition healers, food and a taste of Rwanda’s local brew at Iby’Iwacu village in Musanze in Rwanda’s Northern Province.
- Enjoy fish dishes and a relaxing day at Lake Muhazi around 60km from Kigali.
- Tour Kigali on the Kigali city tour bus and learn all there is to know about Rwanda’s capital city.
- Go shopping for Rwandan crafts at one of the many local markets or cooperatives throughout the country.
- Travel back in time at the king’s place, Nyanza
- Visit Rwanda’s genocide memorial sites; Kigali memorial site; Murambi memorial site; Nyanza Kicukiro memorial site; and Ntarama Memorial site.
Where to Go While on Safari in Rwanda
Nyungwe National Park
Deep in the south west within the Albertine rift area is the Nyungwe National Park, home to the region’s largest and oldest remaining patches of mountain rain forest and a number of eco-systems form rain forest, bamboo, grassland, swamps and bog habitats. It protects one of the region’s largest and oldest remaining patches of montane rain forest and is home to 310 species of birds.
This park is the most important ornithological site in Rwanda. It is increasingly being sought out for the incredible birding opportunities, particularly the numerous Albertine rift endemics; the highest concentration found n any single park in Africa. There are more than 240 tree species, more than 140 colorful orchids, 1050 plant types, such as the giant lobelia. Of these plants 250 are Albertine rift endemics. Mount Bigugu is the highest mountain in the park, reaching an altitude of 2950m. Also with in the park, is the most remote source of the Nile.
There are 13 primate species, including habituated chimpanzees, a number of mammals and a large variety of other species within the park, comprising of hundreds of butterflies, a small number of snake species, due to the altitude but several colorful lizards and species of chameleon. There is much to be seen and experienced on a number of magnificent hikes offered in the park.
Volcanoes National Park
To the north lies the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, which protects the Rwandan portion of the Virunga mountains, a trans frontier conservation area that includes protected areas in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and forms a complex of mostly dormant volcanoes, it includes Rwanda’s highest point, Mount Karisimbi (4,507 m), and the two active volcanoes, Mount Nyirangongo and Mount Nyamuragira.
This national park boasts almost 100 bird species but is more famous for being home to world’s last remaining mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Although visited predominantly for the mountain gorillas, there are several other tourism sites and opportunities in the park and surrounding area. There is a chance to climb to the mount Bisoke’s beautiful crater lake or even the hike to the summit of the Karimbi mountain, the 5th highest mountain of Africa.
The often neglected twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo and the nearby Rugezi swamp are recognized for their excellent water birding opportunities. With in the area there are a number of community based tourism tours on offer, for example: visiting villages, agric-production plants, an ethno botany tour or even a group of local fishermen using traditional methods, or simply sit back and take in the breath taking scenery of the area.
Akagera National Park
This is establishing it self as Rwanda’s big 5 game park. Located on the north-eastern edge of Rwanda borders Tanzania and incorporates the Kagera River, hence the name Akagera.
The national park as founded, in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation in three habitats; savannah, mountain and swamp. Focusing on “big game” Akagera currently includes African elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe and a variety of antelope. Akagera and its lakes are home to many hippopotamus and the Nile crocodile, the world’s largest reptile.
It is recognized as one of the best spots for bird watching in Rwanda. The diverse habitats of the park encourage a wide variety of bird species to the area. Akagera is indisputably the best place in Rwanda to find savannah birds and raptors. It is also very well stocked with water-birds living amongst the papyrus swamps can be spotted. Akagera and Nyungwe national parks are complementary in terms of bird life and there aren’t any species breeding in Rwanda that can’t be spotted in either of these sites.