Rwanda is an East African country nestled between Uganda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. The country’s hilly terrain earned it the description of the “Land of a Thousand Hills”. There is more to Rwanda than its dark history of the 1994 genocide. A safari to Rwanda unpacks the warm culture, green city and all the gifts that nature has crammed up on the 10,169 square miles that Rwanda sits on. Here are the top 10 things to do and see while in Rwanda.
1. Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes national park
There are about 1000 mountain Gorillas left in the entire world and there are only three places where they can be found. Rwanda is one of these 3 places. The country boasts of 11 habituated gorilla families all of which are found in Volcanoes National Park. Each trekking group can only have a maximum of 8 people who can spend only one hour with the gorillas after sighting. Participating in Mountain Gorilla Trekking would crown your ultimate experience of Rwanda.
2. Visit the Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest is the largest remaining afro-montane rainforest in East and Central Africa. This fact is not the only reason for visiting the site while in Rwanda. It has an ecosystem that is so diverse you may be spoilt for choice over what to see and what to give a blind eye. In Nyungwe Forest National Park are 1,000 plant, 120 butterfly, 310 bird, 32 amphibian, 38 reptile, 86 mammal and 13 primate species. It is abuzz with activity and is deserving of an entire safari of its own. You can choose to trek chimpanzees, or and colobus monkeys, canopy walk, walk to the water falls, birding, to mention but a few.
3. An expedition to Akagera National Park
Rwanda’s only savannah national park; Akagera NP is a must see while on safari in Rwanda. It sits on a whole 1,085km2 and is located close to Rwanda’s border with Tanzania. Akagera National Park has diverse vegetation such as swamps, lakes, savannah plains and is nestled amidst neatly terraced hills. From game drives and birding to fishing at Lake Shakani and boat rides on Lake Ihema you will not run out of activity while at this park. It is home to several birds, mammals, insects, amphibians etc. and was recently restocked with Rhinos and Lions making the Big 5 list complete.
4. Kigali Genocide Centre
In 1994, atrocities were committed in this land that left thousands dead. About 250,000 victims were laid to rest at the Kigali Genocide Centre. In this place, time stands still allowing one to pay tribute to those that succumbed to the genocide. Rwanda has come far along this recovery journey and recorded rapid development in the past two decades. Visiting the Kigali Genocide Centre is your first step in appreciating just how far Rwanda as a nation has come.
5. A tour of Kigali Rwanda’s Capital
Kigali is a tidy green city encircled by hills and filled with friendly people. A touch of Rwanda’s culture can be enjoyed at the Inema Art Centre, Niyo Art Gallery, the Ivuka Art Centre and generally, the Nyamirambo neighbourhood that teems with crafts and art. You can visit the presidential museum, Belgium camp, Mt Kigali and perhaps visit a home to enjoy a home cooked meal.
6. Mountain Biking
Rwanda with its ‘a thousand hills’ offers the perfect trails for mountain biking. You have an opportunity to explore and enjoy the sights of Rwanda on your cycle seat. There are trained guides and bicycle mechanics specifically for tourists exploring Rwanda through Mountain biking. Even with the guides in place, there are clear sign posts and secure camping sites where you can unwind along the cycling trails. There are bicycles for hire just in case you did not travel with your own.
7. A tour to the King’s Palace Museum
Take a walk down Rwanda’s cultural history when the society was organized under Kingdoms. There are 2 ‘palaces’ one built by King Musinga Yuhi V and another constructed under King Rudahigwa Mutara III’s reign. These 2 shelter artifacts that have been revamped to form the present day King’s Palace Museum. The Kings Palace Museum is found in southern Rwanda in a town called Nyanza.
In Rwanda, birding can be done anywhere and anytime of the year. The diversity in the country’s vegetation creates a habitat for the birds almost everywhere. There are Albertine Rift Endemics, the Rwenzori and Virunga Endemics and many other species to make up the total number of 650 bird species in Rwanda. For one setting out on a birding safari, the parks such as Nyungwe, Volcanoes, Akagera National Parks, marshlands, wetlands and agricultural lands are some of the places to visit for the best birding experience in Rwanda.
9. Hiking and Walking Experiences
Rwanda’s great landscape offers some of the best hiking and walking experiences. At the Volcanoes National Park you could opt for the day hikes to explore the volcanoes like Mt. Bisoke and Mt Muhavura, Mt Karisimbi is an overnight trip. In Nyungwe Forest National Park you can take the exhilarating canopy walk and several other walking trails. You also have several trails outside of protected areas for one to walk. Rwanda is the place to be if you love to hike while taking in some of the most soul-sating scenes.
There are numerous opportunities of kayaking on lake Kivu and the twin lakes in the northern parts of Rwanda. You can also choose to do boarding or simply take a boat ride around the lakes visiting different islands.