Rwanda is one of the smallest land locked countries in East Africa bordering Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. The country covers an area of 26,338 square kilometers with a population of around 13 million currently.
The country is rugged with most of her land area covered by mountains and hills the reason she is called “land of a thousand hills”. The country is generally at a high altitude with her lowest point being at 950 meters at Rusizi and the highest point being at 4507 meters at Mt.Karisimbi.
The Country has two seasons, wet and dry season but the country is generally green through the year as there is little spell for dry season than the rainy season and there is no high temperature due to high altitude the country is at.
Rwanda has three ethnic tribes with the majority being the Hutu, then the Tutsi and the Bwatwa who form a smallest percentage of the population. For over the years, the minority Tutsi has been in the ruling class which saw the Hutu being marginalized yet were more in terms of the population. This led to enmity between the two tribes and generated into war in 1960’s that saw many Tutsis take refuge in neighboring countries. In 1993, the Tutsis in exile reorganized to go back to their country and liberate themselves from Hutu despotic leadership. This is what would later culminate into the infamous genocide in 1994 that lasted 100 days and saw over 800000 people dead majority of who were the Tutsi and a few sympathetic Hutus. The genocide was sparked by death of the then president as his plane was brought down as he entered Kigali returning from Arusha.
It was the 1994 genocide that brought Rwanda to world’s attention and people all over the world understand and have heard about Rwanda. But besides the genocide, Rwanda has great potential for tourist attractions and is a home to one of the world’s most tourist attractions, the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National park.
The gorillas are found in Virunga Mountain ranges which covers Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda and then the other half live in Bwindi impenetrable national park.
When one comes to Rwanda, there are more things one must see and some of them are highlighted below;
First and foremost, trekking for gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park is a number one adventure one must not miss. These gorillas are an endangered specie and can only be found in Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda, with more gorillas in Virunga Mountain ranges living in Volcanoes National park in Rwanda. There are 10 habituated Gorilla groups for tracking in Volcanoes national park and over 20000 tourists visit the park each year to see the gorillas. Gorilla tracking involves hiking through the forest and penetrating through shrubs in search of these gentle giants which share 98% DNA with humans, making them our closest cousins. The sight of these amazing apes is so fascinating as you take an hour observing them play and feed in their natural environment.
In addition to the gorillas in Volcanoes National park, there are golden monkeys in volcanoes national park and these are also rare monkey specie endemic to Virunga mountain ranges. When you visit Rwanda and Volcanoes National park, you must have a glimpse of these amazing monkeys which are so playful and leave in a group of 30 and above numbers. They are called golden monkeys because of their gold color on their head.
For adventure and hiking lovers, Rwanda has three mountains that form part of Virunga Mountain Ranges and these are Mt.Karisimbi, Mt.Sabinyo and Mt.Bisoke. A hike to any of these mountains is so fascinating and adventurous as it will offer you great sight of the virunga mountain ranges. The Crater Lake on top of Mt.Bisoke is itself so amazing to find a lake on top of a mountain! Mt.Karisimbi can be hiked in two days and Mt.Sabinyo and Bisoke can be hiked within a day.
The gorillas had for many years been under threat from the activities of the poachers. An American Primatologist came in to do research and protect the lives of the mountain gorillas, a mission she accomplished very well until she was assassinated by the poachers in 1986 and was buried at her research centre next to Digit, her favorite gorilla. If you love history and wish to pay pilgrimage to the person who ensured the gorillas lived for the new generations to see, then the hike to Dian Fossey grave site in Volcanoes National park is a must addition on what to see in Rwanda.
Rwanda has many bird species with over 700 bird species some of which are endemic. There are several spots for bird watching which includes Volcanoes National park, Akagera National park, Nyungwe forest national park and congo Nile trail. If you love bird watching, then you must add birding on your Rwanda’s to see list.
A trip to Akagera National Park which is located in eastern Rwanda, along the Tanzanian border will offer you great insight into the wildlife. Akagera NP is a Savannah park and when you visit the park, expect to see game as Giraffes, Zebras, Lion, Elephants, Bush Bucks, Buffaloes while on a game drive. You will also take a boat safari on lake Ihema which will reward you with view of game as hippos, crocodiles, as well as lots of Bird Species. Akagera National Park is therefore a great attraction not to miss on your Rwanda Safari.
Nyungwe Forest National park located in the southern part of the country is one of the largest tropical Rain Forest in Africa. The forest is so fascinating with lots of tourist attractions. Notably, there is a forest Canopy walk which is built on top of the forest. A walk on this canopy offers great scenic view of the forest and offers an eye level contact with the birds atop the forest.
Chimpanzee and colobus monkey tracking also offers great adventure in the forest. The chimpanzees are in Kyamudongo Forest which is an extension of Nyungwe Forest National Park and the Colobus monkeys will be seen in Nyungwe Forest NP near Uwinka. If you love to see more primates therefore, Nyungwe forest national park will offer you this opportunity and see other 10 primate species within this Forest.
Rwanda has many historical sites and memorial museums. Notably among these are Murambi Cultural Museum, Nyanza Palace, Iby’wachu Cultural Village, art galleries, Murambi genocide memorial, Gisozi genocide museum, Nyamata church, Ntarama church which are all genocide memorials. If you need to learn more about Rwanda’s history therefore, you must visit these sites to understand more the country.
Though Rwanda is a land locked country, there are beaches on the shores of Lake Kivu. Visit gisenyi and relax at the beach and also drive to Kibuye where you will relax on the hilly hotels with great view of the lake. You will also enjoy a boat cruise up to the hot springs and also kayaking on the lake.