Known as the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda has five volcanoes, 23 lakes and numerous rivers. It is one of the smallest countries on the African mainland and also one of the most progressive. It has made huge strides since the war in 1994 and today is one of the safest and cleanest countries in Africa. Rwanda is best known for its gorilla trekking safaris but in recent years there have been more options developed and parks opened and today one can enjoy a number of beautiful lodges in scenic areas and game reserves. Small, compact and easy to travel around, one should take the time to explore all that this beautiful country has to offer.
Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda. It spans several ridges and valleys with lush hillsides and flowering trees. It is one of the most attractive capital cities in Africa as well as one of the cleanest and safest. Situated roughly in the center of the country it is the entry point where your visit will begin. Nyamirambo, a colorful Kigali neighborhood located just outside the center of town, is one of the city’s most vibrant areas with a growing art scene and trendy bars and restaurants.
Volcanoes National Park
A three hour drive from Kigali in the northwest corner of Rwanda is Volcanoes National Park. (Parc National des Volcans). This park was created to protect the magnificent Virunga’s mountain range which is home to almost half of the worlds rare mountain gorillas as well as the Golden Monkeys. Nothing can prepare you for the impact of encountering a fully grown Silverback gorilla and watching the families interact and at play.
There are a range of superb lodges in the park and surrounds where one can stay to do the gorilla treks. Permits are limited however so one should book well in advance.
Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park lies in eastern Rwanda and is the only Big Five Reserve in Rwanda. Consisting of highlands, plains, and swamp-fringed lakes, the park is the largest protected wetland in central Africa. The varied terrain shelters wildlife including zebras, giraffes, elephants, lions and hundreds of bird species, such as the rare shoebill stork. In the southern part of the park, vast Lake Ihema is home to hippos and crocodiles. There is a newly renovated game lodge as well as a new beautiful tented camp on this reserve.
Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe National Park is the largest area of montane forest remaining in central east Africa and the largest protected forest in Africa. Also one of the oldest rainforests, Nyungwe is rich in biodiversity and spectacularly beautiful. Botanists and bird lovers will marvel at the 1,068 plant species, 140 orchids and 322 bird species. Primates include the owl-faced and colobus monkeys. There are 15 hiking trails to explore as well as the Canopy Walkway. This incredible 90 meter (295 foot) walkway is the only one of its kind in east Africa and brings one face to face with the array of butterflies, birds and monkeys.
Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes, a string of huge freshwater lakes which lie along Africa’s Great Rift Valley. It is surrounded by magnificent mountains, has deep emerald green water and many islands. Rubavu (also known as Gisenyi) is a large port on the northern edge of Lake Kivu. It is an hour’s drive from Volcanoes National Park and the perfect place to relax after gorilla trekking.
Best time to travel:
Rwanda can be visited all year round.
- March to May is the time of the long rains. Heavy and persistant
- June – September is the dry season and the best time to visit.
- October – November is the shorter rainy season
- December – February is the shorter dry season
During both the dry seasons, there is often light cloud cover and occasional showers. Gorillas are accessible all year but easier to track during the dry season.
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