Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Rwanda is carving a niche in the tourism industry. Embracing its wild spaces and acknowledging its cultural heritage, this tiny nation packs a lot into its borders. Best known for sheltering Mountain gorillas in the mists of the Virunga mountains, Rwanda offers so much more to those who wish to dig deeper. Safaris in the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ are thriving with ambitious conservation initiatives and innovative safari lodging throughout the nation.
While the Mountain gorillas are worthy subjects of attention, dozens of other primate species can be found in the lush forests of Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park–including Golden monkeys and chimpanzees, respectively. Bird watching is spectacular, with over 700 species recorded and opportunities to view those endemic to the Albertine Rift. Akagera National Park serves up Big 5 game viewing with the successful reintroduction of lion and rhino in recent years. The shores of Lake Kivu offer a languid respite from safari travel and a glimpse into the daily lives of the vivacious Rwandese people.
On ‘express’ trips through Rwanda, many miss the ebullient capital of Kigali. Perched on seven stunning hills, the city is teeming with trendy artisan shops, a thriving restaurant and nightlife scene, and somber historic sites. The Rwandese people have united since the horrific genocide which tore the nation apart in the spring of 1994. Remembering those who perished and fostering a peaceful future, a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial is insightful and essential in understanding the history of this landlocked nation.
What we love about Rwanda
Gorillas! — Of course trekking to the Mountain gorilla’s home is Rwanda’s iconic wildlife encounter. Through dense vegetation on the steep slopes of a dormant volcano, come eye-to-eye with these gentle giants. Spend a magical hour observing these magnificent creatures, an experience which has been described as humbling and profound, moving and visceral. Make a pilgrimage to the site where famed researcher and activist, Dian Fossey, is buried and her former research site.
Hidden Rwanda — So many choices, so little time. The solution? Spend more time in Rwanda. Learn about the conservation success story that is the Akagera National Park. Spend time with those who were instrumental in the reintroduction of the endangered black rhino and threatened lion prides into the park. Stroll amongst the treetops on Nyungwe Forest’s Canopy Walkway; for a completely different perspective on life in the forest. Find yourself waking to fishermen’s songs as they celebrate the morning catch on Lake Kivu. Spend the afternoon kayaking or sailing on the sparkling waters. Meander through bustling markets and participate in community based ‘Crop to Cup’ coffee plantation tours.
Empowered people — There is a buoyant spirit in the hearts of Rwanda’s people. It is evident in the vibrant art scene in Kigali, where street art and creativity dominate neighborhoods that pulse with energy. Take a walking tour with a knowledgeable local guide to discover some initiatives which uplift women artists and support their business endeavours. Indulge in divine meals at outdoor cafés serving world-class coffee and fresh international dishes with a local twist.
Throughout the year, Rwanda’s temperatures are fairly consistent and comfortable. Humidity and altitude are two factors which may add some variance. Like most of East Africa, the peak dry season months are June through October and again in December to March. Altitude can vary between 3,000 ft to nearly 8,000 ft (900m to 2,400m) with temperatures cooling considerably as you ascend. Rwanda is lush year-round.