Often called the "Land of a Thousand Hills" Rwanda has a richly varied landscape. Lake Kivu is one of the most spectacular Rift Valley lakes and is amongst 22 others in Rwanda. There are also five volcanoes, tropical and montane forests and dry savannah. The geography gives reason enough for visiting this small country.
Three national parks protect the wide range of fauna and flora:Akagera National Park, Virunga National Park, and Nyungwe National Park. The biggest attraction is the rare mountain gorilla on the slopes of the volcanoes.
More about Rwanda
Rwanda has been nicknamed the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ in respect to its incredible beauty and the mountainous and irregular landscape. The rare silverback Gorilla and chimpanzees can be found here, along with birds and insects endemic to the Nyungwe Forest.
Nestled in the centre of Africa, the views, animals and plants of this economically and [now] politically stable country make any trip here truly memorable.
Rwanda is near the centre of Africa, and is a few degrees south of the equator. It shares borders with Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the other side of Lake Kivu.
What to do
There are three national parks here; Akagera National Park, Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe National Park.
Akagera National Park protects some of the landscapes more commonly found in Kenya and Tanzania; acacia and bush savannah with patches of open grassland and swamp-fringed lakes along the course of the Akagera River. Big game is found here, and elephant and buffalo are fairly common, whilst less common but still present are hyena, lion and even leopard. As well as these, a huge number of birds live in the area, as well as more than a dozen types of antelope, zebra and giraffe.
The Virunga Volcano National Park is mainly known by its French name “Parc National des Volcans” and is the home of the gorillas. Covering the section of the Virunga mountain range that is in the country, it is made up of six extinct and three active volcanoes and is the home of gorilla-trekking. The endemic Golden Monkey is also found here, and the walks can take place as leisurely strolls or challenging hikes across the mountains. This is also the place that the film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ was filmed, and is the area in which primatologist Dian Fossey carries out all of her research. The Dian Fossey Centre is dedicated to the research of the magnificent animals, the Mountain Gorillas and also serves as an educational centre.
The Nyungwe Forest National Park protects the largest singe track of montane forest in East and Central Africa, and the life within its ecosystem is both rich and varied. Home to 13 species of primates, chimpanzees can be tracked here and other magnificent species such as the Ruwenzori Colobus and l’Hoest’s monkeys can be seen in the trees. Leopard are commonly seen, and elephant and buffalo can occasionally be seen.Smaller mammals such as golden cat, wild cat, serval, jackal and mongooses can be seen, as well as a few different types of antelope.
The forest is also home to over 300 species of bird, making it the most important ornithological site in the country, and hence perfect for birders.
To see the animals up close and personal, there are a large number of footpaths and tracks that are well maintained for walkers, and the flora and fauna are so varied that you are guaranteed to find it interesting and exciting.
The Great Rift Valley lies on the border of Rwanda, and of the lakes that cover a fifth of the country's area, the most spectacular, Lake Kivu, is a consequence of the natural geography of the valley.
Kigali is the countries capital, and has a central location which means that most tourist attractions are no more than three hours away from the city. The city is colourful and retains its African roots with a vibrant market located in the central district. There are few high-rise buildings and with tree-lined avenues it has a friendly atmosphere that contradicts its modern appearance.
For those interested in the history of the country, which ended a violent civil war in 1994 and is now a stable and friendly place to visit, there is a memorial in Kigali dedicated to the memory of those who were killed in the genocide of the war. 250,000 people were buried here and there is a museum that gives a fantastic insight into the genocide, and preserves the memories of those involved in one of the greatest tragedies in recent history.
When to visit
It is possible to visit Rwanda at any time of the year; however certain times are better for certain activities. The best time for tracking gorillas and biking is the dry seasons from June to September, whilst for photographers the wet season is best as there is less haze and more greenery. This is also the best time to track chimpanzees in the Nyungwe National Park. November to March is the best time for birding as flocks of migratory birds join the native species.
How to get there
There are two direct flights from Brussels to the capital, Kigali, every week. Entebbe in Uganda, Johannesburg and Addis Ababa airports run daily flights, whilst Nairobi has twice daily connections, and several flights a week to Bujumbura. It is also possible to drive to Kigali from the Goma airstrip in Goma and from Uganda.
Rwanda is an excellent place to go for outstanding natural beauty as well as some of the most exciting activities in the world; gorilla tracking and chimp-trekking. The people are friendly, the tropical climate pleasing, and the travelling fairly minimal in terms of African distances, making a holiday enjoyable and unforgettable in one of the more obscure countries in Central Africa.