Endless green valleys, the call of wild beasts under a rainforest canopy and the allure of a country to be explored – these are just some of the reasons to visit Rwanda. This east African country is small and often overlooked, yet is slowly making its way onto the bucket list of adventurous travellers from across the world. Not sure what to expect by this beautiful destination? We’ve compiled a list of why you simply need to go.
Gorillas and other primates
Big and small, Rwanda has the most spectacular primates that live within the borders of this country. Venturing out to seek and observe gorillas is often seen as one of the most amazing things that you could ever do. There are, approximately, only 880 gorillas left in the world, and to get the chance to see them in their natural habitat is something that not many can claim. In the north of Rwanda, near the Virunga Mountains, set your sights on the slopes of the dense jungle, with a hike that can last anywhere between 30 minutes and many hours. Expert guides are there to show you the way and you’re guaranteed to walk away with memories to last a lifetime. Rwanda is also where you can enjoy the sounds of chimpanzees, golden monkeys and black and white colobus monkeys in the national parks. These primates all share their jungle with each other and though there is a chance that you’ll spot one or two, you may just get lucky and see them all!
Rwanda is home to five volcanoes, strategically situated in a national park named after its namesake , Volcanoes National Park. The volcanoes themselves are mostly quiet but in recent years have been ‘waking up’. Mount Nyamuragira is so active that it erupts approximately once every two years! These natural and majestic attractions should only be explored with a guide and caution should always be visited around the active and less active volcanoes of Rwanda. Volcanoes National Park or Parc National de Volcans is known as ‘PNV’ by locals and is the base for many non-profit organisations that care and cater towards the conservation of the land.
The Big 5
If you’re going to visit Rwanda then make sure to set some time aside to see the Big 5! Akagera National Park has worked hard over the last few years to bring lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and black rhino together on its plains, giving its visitors the full Big 5 experience. The national park is located on the border of Tanzania and is one of East Africa’s most thriving natural reserves that covers more than 1140 square metres. Book a game drive and navigate swamps and savannah, spotting these majestic beasts as they roam the lands freely. Lions and rhinos were reintroduced into Akagera from South Africa, meaning that there’s a high chance you’ll be zooming in on your lenses as you admire them in their environments.
Much of Rwanda is covered by rainforest. This beauty is known as the ‘’land of a thousand hills’’, perfectly named as the jungle rises up to more than 2000 metres above sea level. You can enjoy the glory of this gift on Earth by crossing the highest tree canopy walk in Africa in the Nyungwe National Park. The guided tour is done 70 metres from the ground below and takes you deep into the rainforest interior. Those in search of adrenaline are also in the right place with Rukarara River. Enjoy some rafting down the steep rapids and bends of this enchanted river, said to be linked to the Nile. Of course, be prepared to come face to face with inquisitive wildlife as you make your way through the national parks of the country.
Walk the streets of Kigali and feel an underlying excitement in the air. Historically, Rwanda was plagued by the internal genocide that hit the country more than 20 years ago. Though twenty years may seem like a long time, picking up the pieces of the war was a long and ongoing process. But there is certainly a silver lining as it has brought the country together, stronger and more determined than ever to showcase their wonderful home to the world. Visit Rwanda to fall in love with raw beauty and up-and-coming national attractions. The people of Rwanda only add to its immensely wonderful atmosphere, and their welcoming handshakes and embraces make the country loveable in its own way.
Kigali: an authentic capital city
Kigali may not be your sparkling, skyscraper-ridden city, but what it has in its place is well worth the visit. The city is full of potential and with the government determined to open its doors wide to tourists, there is a growing number of fun and exciting things to enjoy in the city. Kigali is geographically located in the centre of Rwanda and is a gateway to all of the country’s natural locations. It is one of the safest capitals in Africa, so be sure to walk the streets. Art galleries, museums and coffeehouses are found on many corners and if you’re not sure where to look, just ask one of the locals. If you’re looking for views of the city as you enjoy a meal and relaxing drink, head to the rooftop café located inside a bookstore, and look forward to a menu that includes gluten-free desserts and superfood breakfasts. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is also located in the city centre and is home to three permanent exhibitions.
Rwanda is certainly on its way off from the pictured ‘off-the-beaten-path’ traveller’s guide and on its way to mainstream travel. The country has lots of potential and more and more, adventurers and luxury travellers alike are heading to its valleys for an unforgettable experience. Well-known hotels are making their way onto the city streets, and a world-famous 5-star hotel chain has recently made its mark with a stunning hotel on the edge of the Nyungwe Forest National Park. Nestled in the heart of dense forest, you can only imagine how captivating the sounds and sensations of this stay will be. Rwanda has also opened up its doors to European travellers, with direct routes from London to Kigali!
Are these reasons compelling enough to make you want to visit Rwanda? Pack your hiking gear and your camera and book that cheap flight to Rwanda for an unforgettable experience that you’ll still be telling your grandchildren about.