Nothing prepares you for the emotional rollercoaster that is Rwanda. A nation that should not forget the past, but faces its future with spirit. This ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ allures with, green volcanoes, shimmering lakes and Mountain Gorillas made famous by Dian Fossey’s memoir, ‘Gorillas in the Mist’. For a dramatic contrast of wildlife adventures, scenic beauty and pilgrimage spots that call for deeper reflection, the national saying ‘God roams the world but comes to rest in Rwanda’ certainly rings true.
Landlocked by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo, tiny Rwanda offers plenty of heart-stopping natural rewards for its holiday makers, including over one-third of the world’s remaining Mountain Gorillas, several rare lesser primates, and over 250 bird species. At the heart of this beautifully diverse country is its capital, Kigali, where you can visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, shop for handicrafts at Caplaki Market, take walking tours with locals, and zip around the city streets on the back of a moto (motorbike).
For many, Rwanda is all about the highly endangered Mountain Gorillas that reside amongst the bamboo forests in Parc National des Volcans, which rose to prominence with the world of renowned primatologist Dian Fossey. Gorilla tracking in this rainforest backed by the volcanic peaks of the misty Virunga Mountains is one of the most awe-inspiring of all wildlife adventures. Watch these gentle giants play, tease, eat and doze, and keep your eyes peeled for Golden Monkeys, Rwenzori Turacos and the Black-Fronted Duiker.
Equally remarkable is the prime Chimpanzee habitat of the vast Nyungwe Forest National Park. Here you can soak up stunning views of epic rainforest scenery, striking waterfalls and treetop primates by enjoying East Africa’s first canopy walkway - a hanging platform over a steep valley that is set 40-metres above ground that cuts a path through this ‘highway of the rainforest’.
Another key Rwandan attraction is the shimmering Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s Great Lakes and a vast playground where you can fish, sail, laze on gorgeous inland beaches and tour the three main towns along its palm-fringed shoreline: Cyangugu in the south, Kibuye in the centre, and the bustling market town of Gisenyi further north, famed for its night time views of Mt. Nyiragongo Volcano, glowing red as it bubbles and smoulders away on the horizon.
Imagine Africa specialist Matt has just returned from a week in Rwanda, where he discovered there’s more to the ‘land of a thousand hills’ than gorilla trekking. Here, he explains why this fascinating country should be next on your list…
Spotting the majestic mountain gorilla in its natural habitat is on the A-list of wildlife encounters. Whilst tracking the mighty silverbacks requires patience and stamina, coming face to face with a gorilla is a real privilege to cherish on any trip to Uganda or Rwanda. From the rugged rainforests of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to the woolly green slopes of Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans; gorilla territory is unapologetically remote. Trekking can therefore be quite demanding, lasting up to five hours and reaching high altitudes, yet a glimpse of these magnificent creatures in the wild is an unparalleled thrill for even the most seasoned safari aficionado.