Rwanda - "The Land of a Thousand Hills." Combining the staggering scenery of this beautiful country with the wonderful people who call it home makes Rwanda a magical destination.
Although Rwanda's tragic history is widely known, and the country makes no effort to hide it, the country has been pulling its way back strongly into the tourism market, thanks largely to the lovely locals, astonishing scenery, and the majestic mountain gorillas which live along the slopes of the volcanoes.
With the location of the Volcanoes National Park being so close to Kigali, Rwanda is the perfect add-on to any safari itinerary in Africa, in order to complete your holiday with an exciting gorilla trek.
Travelling to Rwanda you will be blown away by the distance the country has moved in the 18 years since 1994, and are hugely excited about promoting Rwanda as more than just a gorilla trekking destination.
Ideally positioned in the centre of Rwanda, Kigali extends across several hills and valleys, with good road links to the rest of the country. The verdant capital city is pleasantly low key yet dynamic and progressive, with just over one million inhabitants.
First-time visitors to the bustling and colourful centre often remark how clean the streets are, a matter of pride across every community throughout the country.
Kigali is a relatively new city. It was founded as an administrative outpost in 1907, and became the capital of the country at independence in 1962, shifting focus away from Huye.
The city’s wide tree-lined boulevards and immaculate squares are safe to stroll, where outsiders are generally left to their own devices unless they need assistance, in which case they will be greeted with warm hospitality.
There is a burgeoning art scene, as well as a growing number of options to dine out and have a few drinks, many with charming panoramic views. The Kigali Cultural Village offers a dedicated space for local artisans and food vendors to exhibit and trade their goods.
Kigali is developing rapidly, with new shopping malls, office buildings and a world-class convention centre built in the style of the King’s Palace of olden days, which lights up the night sky atop of one of the many hills.
The central business district covers Nyarugenge Hill while the government and administrative quarter is further east on Kacyiru Hill.
Nyarutarama Lake, or Lover’s Lake, borders an 18-hole golf course in one of the main valleys. The track around the lake is remarkably peaceful and makes for an excellent urban nature walk, with the chance to see some of Rwanda’s incredible birds.
No visit to Rwanda would be complete without a visit to the Kigalin Genocide Memorial, which, through education and peace-building, honours the memory of the more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994. The three permanent exhibitions and burial gardens form part of a meaningful tribute to those who perished, and provide a powerful educational tool for visitors.
Forming the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Kivu is a stunningly beautiful body of water, which adds to the enchantment and excitement of any holiday in Rwanda.
The typical rolling hills of Rwanda are complemented by the views over to the DRC, where the mountains of this central African country rise above the horizon.
The main tourist town of Gisenyi, which is only a 2 hour drive from Volcanoes National Park, is a bustling trading centre which supports the neighbouring town of Goma, across the border in the DRC. The country border separating the two towns is a volcanic rock wall, while Mount Niyragongo, an active volcano, guards over them with its smoldering peak.
At night, the red glow of the volcano can be seen, while the drive from Volcanoes National Park allows fantastic views of smoke rising into the African sky.
One of the oldest rainforests in Africa, Nyungwe is rich in biodiversity and spectacularly beautiful. The mountainous region is teaming with wildlife, including a small population of chimpanzees as well as 12 other species of primate, including the L’Hoest’s monkey endemic to the Albertine Rift.
With 15 trails, along with various other activities, visitors can choose to sample the delights of the forest or indulge themselves for a week or more in one of Africa’s most stunning forests.
Primate trackingtops most visitor’s list, but it’s worth lingering a little longer for those with time to relax and take in the primal atmosphere.
Botanists will marvel at the 1,068 plant species and 140 orchids. The birdwatching is among the best in Africa with 322 birds species including Red-collared Babbler and 29 other Albertine Rift Endemic species. Butterflies are also a common sight, with at least 120 species.
There are 75 known mammals in Nyungwe, such as the cerval cat, mongoose, congo clawless otter and leopard to name but a few. Many tend to be shy so sightings are luck of the draw.
Memorable and photogenic moments include walking up to the Isumo waterfall or along the canopy Walk suspension bridge. Tea plantations border the edges of the park, with a habituated troop of Ruwenzori colobus monkeys at Gisakura as well as forest fringe birds.
With plenty of rainfall, Nyungwe is also the major catchment area in Rwanda, and supplies water to 70% of the country.
A ridge running through the forest forms a watershed between the drainage systems of the Nile and the Congo. A spring on the slopes of Mt Bigugu is said to be the most remote source of the Nile, the world’s longest river.
“In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat, are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest - the Virungas".
That description of the location, given by the primatologist Dian Fossey, explains what to look forward to when planning a visit to the Volcanoes National Park.
Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, the Volcanoes National Park protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range - home of the rare mountain gorilla - and the rich mosaic of montane eco-systems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.