Tiny, landlocked Rwanda is known as ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’, and offers an experience of tropical Africa at its most lush and exuberant.
Though visitors to Rwanda will be conscious of the 1994 genocide, its memory is not overwhelming, and the focus of the optimistic and welcoming Rwandan people is now on healing ethnic divisions and looking forward to the future.
Rwanda’s headline attraction is its population of mountain gorillas, first made famous by Dian Fossey. However, it also has a number of other unique delights to offer travellers, including an incredible number of bird species (670 recorded so far), protected primate communities including chimpanzee, colobus and golden monkeys, savannah wildlife and a particularly vibrant cultural tradition.
Highlights on a safari in Rwanda include the many activities at Parc National des Volcans, with six great peaks and home to endangered gorilla communities, walks and birdwatching in Nyungwe Forest in the south, and the capital, Kigali.
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Rwanda Travel Tips
- A safari in Rwanda is possible at any time of the year.
- Gorilla tracking in Rwanda combines well with a safari in Kenya or Tanzania.
- The long dry season in Rwanda runs from June to September, with wet seasons from March to May and October to December.
- Gorillas tracking in Rwanda is possible all year, although it is easier during the dry months, while chimps are more accessible in wetter weather.
Rwanda - A Personal View
Rwanda moved me on a number of levels:
It’s a beautiful country and lives up to its billing as the ‘land of a thousand hills’ with wonderful views stretching to the horizon in many places. For active people there is plenty to do in the Parc National des Volcans, from incredible gorilla tracking safaris to searching for golden monkeys, looking into the caldera of a volcano and visiting the grave of renowned gorilla researcher Dian Fossey.
I was most affected by the levels of cooperation I found between all the people I came across. Although the 1994 genocide will never be forgotten, there has been forgiveness; and the apparent desire to move forwards together is both humbling and heart warming.
I went to Rwanda to track gorillas, but came back having had a much richer experience than I could have imagined.
Richard Smith - One of Aardvark Safaris' Rwanda specialists
Rwanda - Ideas You Might Not Have Thought About
Hike to Dian Fossey’s Grave
Located in a beautiful meadow between the Karisimbi and Visoke volcanoes in the Parc National des Volcans are the remains of the research centre set up by Dian Fossey. It was here that she carried out her pioneering work with mountain gorillas, and over 22 years her observations of gorillas’ behaviour dispelled myths about these incredible creatures and changed the ways animals are studied in the wild. A fascinating hike through the lush mountain terrain leads to the historic site of the graves of Fossey and some of the gorillas made famous by the film and book “Gorillas in the Mist”, which documents her life and astonishing achievements.
Climb a Volcano
Enjoy the stunning view and peer into the caldera of the Visoke volcano in the Parc National des Volcans. Fit walkers can enjoy a day’s guided hike to the summit through varied terrain of forest, bamboo and woodland leading to afro-alpine moorland; the summit experience makes it well worth the effort. For a more challenging climb the peak of Karisimbi requires two days, sleeping overnight in a tent on the mountain. This is a wonderful, fairly arduous walk, but does not require technical skills and takes you to the highest mountain in the Virungas.
Golden Monkeys - an Elusive Treasure
A short excursion into the misty Virunga Forest in the Parc National des Volcans allows visitors the chance to track the golden monkey, one of the most endangered primates in Africa. Two groups are being habituated and the monkeys now chatter and play quite happily while being observed. Small groups of six visitors can spend an hour watching the monkeys climbing the vegetation 2-3 metres above ground and feeding on bamboo leaves and shoots. The juveniles are quite small and fluffy and their infectious good humour makes them charming to watch.
Explore the ancient Nyungwe Forest
Nyungwe National Park extends for 1,000 square kilometres across the majestic hills of southeast Rwanda. The ancient Nyungwe Forest dates back to the Ice Age and is home to a huge diversity of flora, 13 species of primates, and with 300 species of birds, is a birdwatcher’s paradise. On a day trip visitors can explore an extensive network of well-maintained walking trails through the forest to waterfalls and viewing points, track chimps or the great blue turaco - an outlandish blue, red and green bird which flits from tree to tree like a procession of streamlined psychedelic turkeys.
Genocide Museum in Kigali
A visit to the Kigali Memorial Centre gives a shocking and powerful insight into the Genocide of 1994. Opened on the 10th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide the memorial centre is built on a site where over 250,000 people are buried. The centre is a permanent memorial to those who fell victim to the genocide and serves both as a place for people to grieve those they lost and for visitors to gain a better understanding of the horrendous events that took place.