The Land of a Thousand Hills ("Le Pays des Milles Collines")
....aptly named, for this scenically stunning little country is blessed with endless mountains and idyllic lakes. Nowhere are the mountains more pronounced and awesome than the majestic peaks of the Virunga volcanoes in the north west of the country and the borders with Uganda and the Congo (Zaire).
Hidden amongst the slopes and the dominating rain forests are some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Tracking these beautiful creatures through the bamboo forests and equatorial jungle is the highlight of many people’s visit to Africa.
Since it is less popular and less populated than its neighbours to the east, Rwanda’s wildlife parks and other attractions appear to be never crowded.
It cannot compete with Kenya and Tanzania in the terms of density of game, but it is home to the Big 5 (buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino).The largest variety of mammals is found in the little visited Parc National de L’ Akagera in the east of the country. But the mountain gorillas and myriad other primates are the main reason to visit Rwanda. There are also at least 525 species of birds, 100 species of butterflies and many orchids and other tropical plants and trees.
Lake Kivu, with its awesome mountainous backdrop, has some of the most beautiful beaches in Africa, and Gisenyi has been likened to a Mediterranean resort. This engages the possibility of the popular African vacation of relaxing at a beachside resort after an invigorating trek seeking mountain gorillas and chimps.
The capital city of Kigali is home to almost a million inhabitants. It is an attractive city of lush hillsides, flowering trees, boulevards and bustling streets. Compared to the choking congestion of Kampala and the forbidding edge of Nairobi, Kigali is more like a mountain village perched on the brim of carefully cultivated and terraced countryside.
Rwanda is a beautiful country which is now at peace and is stable following the awful genocide witnessed in 1994. It is relatively crime free compared to other African countries and perhaps more cosmopolitan and sophisticated.
What To See & Do
- Parc des Volcans for stunning scenery and above all for trekking mountain gorillas and other primates.
- Parc National de Nyungwe for trekking through steamy rainforests in search of colobus monkeys and chimpanzees.
- Parc National de l’ Akagera for a more traditional style African safari.
- Lake Kivu and Gisenyi for beach towel relaxation and resort sophistication.
- Kigali for French and Belgian cafe culture and fine dining and some tourist friendly nightlife.
When To Go
- There are long rains from mid March to early June and short rains during November and December.
- It rains more heavily in the north east where the volcanoes are covered in verdan rain forest.
- The summit of Karisimbi (4507m or 14,786 feet), the highest of the volcanoes, is generally covered in snow.
- The dry season from mid May to the end of September is the easiest time to track mountain gorillas.
- Peak season is July and August, during which time there is more pressure on the availability of obtaining gorilla tracking permits.