Rwanda is a landlocked East African country whose green, mountainous landscape has earned it the nickname “Land of a Thousand Hills.” Its renowned Volcanoes National Park is home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Bordering Congo and Uganda, the park encompasses 4,507m-tall Mt. Karisimbi and 4 other forested volcanoes. Kigali, the nation’s sprawling capital, has a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene.
Rwanda is mostly covered by steep hills and deep valleys with its highest point being Karisimbi (14,187 ft. 4,324 m) in the Virunga Mountains. Although well known for the horrible history of the genocide, Rwanda is a nice country, with magnificent people, amazing lakes, mountains, a great climate, good roads, a nice standard of living with cheap things ranging from food to accommodation and lots of other things. Rwanda is a small country and almost all its attractions of nice places are next to each other. Here are the top reasons why you should go on safari to Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills;
- The Gorillas in the Virunga Mountains
The Rwanda gorillas in the Virunga Mountains are shared with countries like Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These three countries share the few remaining gorillas in the world. People frequent Parc National Des Volcano to track these humble giants that have endured civil and world wars. People come from all over the world to spend one hour with these great apes. Looking through the eyes of these humble giants (Gorilla) gives you a feeling that triggers a question in your mind that goes “Why, why, why, not protect” they are really exhilarating.
- Visit Genocide memorials
The memorials found throughout the country are moving testimonies in memory of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and the people who lost their lives. Inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi is where 259,000 victims have been buried.
This memorial also serves to educate about how the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi took shape and examines genocide in the 20th century. There are two genocide memorials outside Kigali. One is Ntarama church that is about 5 km down a right-hand fork that branches off the Nyamata road, roughly 20 km outside Kigali.
This church has been left empty just as it was after removing the bodies with scraps of personal items like clothes on the floor. Next to this church is a building where other people seeking safety were massacred. The other church is just is at Nyamata 30 km from Kigali which was a site of horrible massacres. The bodies were also removed although blood stains remain on the walls. A courtyard was dug outside the underground chamber and that’s where the skulls of many victims are being displayed.
- Kabgayi church museum
3 km from Gitarama along Butare road lays the massive cathedral of Kabgayi. This is the oldest in the country dating back to 1925. This was the first settlement area of the Catholic Bishop. With a huge size and peaceful interior, the church is worth a visit and there is a small museum beside it.
- Akagera National Park
Named after the Akagera River running along its eastern boundary, Akagera National Park is warm and low-lying with undulating plains supporting a cover of dense broad-leafed trees with acacia woodlands and grasslands.
The park harbours over 20 mammal species. The eastern side is wet and it is known to harbour almost the largest number of hippos in Africa. Other animals to view on the lakes on the eastern side are crocodiles, Lions, leopards, and black rhinos which are present in small numbers. You can go for boat trips on Lake Ihema to view some of these animals. For birders this is another paradise on earth, the birdlife is extraordinary: not only the rarities that will have passionate birdwatchers in ecstasy but also Africa’s most inspiring concentration of big waterbirds. A visit to this park is truly rewarding.
- Nyungwe Forest
It is a montane forest that is remarkably rich in biodiversity with 75 mammal species, 120 butterflies, 275 birds, and over 100 varieties of orchids. The forest is well known for its primates and chimpanzee tracking can be arranged at a short notice and at a small fee. Other primates in this forest include several other varieties of monkeys. The roads to the forest are good and with excellent rent houses and campsites to provide the necessary services to you while in the forest. A nature walk through this forest can be truly rewarding.
- Musanze cave
Formed by centuries of geologic activity centered around the Virunga volcanoes next door, the 1.25-mile long Musanze caves are located just outside of the town they share a name with and are only a 90-minute drive from Kigali. With an enormous opening (and an equally huge number of the bats resident inside), the greenery outside spilling over into the twilight within makes for a fantastic photo op. Though today they’re a tourist attraction, the caves were used as a shelter during wartime for many centuries leading right up into the modern era, and as such, it’s an important site to local people. Thus, out of respect for the area’s residents, access is limited to guided visits. Expert guides lead every tour, and they explain the history of the caves from their formation to the present day. The tours make an excellent add-on activity for the afternoon after you’ve seen the gorillas. The tours take about 2.5 hours and can be done at any time throughout the year.
- Hotel des Milles Colline
This is a hotel in Kigali that is attracting people’s attention recently due to the “Hotel Rwanda” movie and its contribution to Rwanda. The Hotel is known to have housed and protected over 1,268 people under the management of Paul Rusesabagina. Paul took over management of this hotel a few days after the start of the genocide and this was after the European managers had been flown out. Paul and his wife used to bribe the Hutu Interahamwe Militia with money and alcohol to keep them from killing the refugees.
- Rusumo Falls
The falls are located in the Eastern part of Rwanda at the border with Tanzania. It is amazing and spectacular falls that are a part of the distant headwaters of the river Nile. It’s not worth missing while crossing the border of Rwanda with Tanzania.
- National Museum
This is located in Butare city in Huye and it is known to be the most tourists’ attraction in Butare. The museum is known to have probably the finest ethnographic collection in the whole of East Africa. It has spacious rooms that allow the exhibitions to be appreciated and enjoyed. Exhibitions provide information not only on pre-colonial history but also on the process of development of the country (Rwanda) to her modernity today. At the museum, you can organise for the Notre dancers to entertain you with the traditional dances of Rwanda.
- Lake Kivu
Located in the Albertine rift and a part of the Great Rift Valley, Kivu is a large freshwater deposit that marks the western border with DR Congo. This lake is a tourist center with fresh waters safe to swim in. It has nice beaches with splendid landscapes and the sunset is usually astounding. You can spend a weekend on one of the beaches. Rubavu (also known as Gisenyi) is a waterfront town located on the shores of Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s great bodies of water. At only an hour away from Volcanoes National Park, Rubavu is a great way to unwind after trekking adventures. Rubavu marks the beginning of the Congo Nile Trail, which extends 227 km to Rusizi, and has plenty of biking and hiking trails to fulfill those who crave some more adventure. Rubavu is also known for its agrotourism experiences, with many tea and coffee plantations nearby.
- Congo Nile Trail
The Congo Nile Trail is a trail along Lake Kivu that extends from Rubavu and continues through Rutsiro via the Karongi, Nyamasheke districts and ends at Rusizi District, a
227 km stretch of beautiful rolling hills and clear water. The entire trek can be completed in a 10- day hike. However, the trip can be done in sections if travelers do not have the time to complete the entire trail. Trails give stunning views of the Lake Kivu coastline and offer adventurous travelers an exciting way to discover Rwanda. Biking the Congo Nile Trail can be completed in 5 days, with rich views and immersive cultural experiences along the way. This trail appeals to adventure travelers and is a great way to experience Rwanda. The trail can also be split up if visitors do not have the time to commit to the 5 days journey. However, it is an experience worth selling to those who crave an off the beaten path adventure.
- The source of River Nile
Over the years, many countries and locations have laid claim to having the ‘source of the Nile’! In 2005 – 2006 a team called ‘Ascend the Nile’ set off from Egypt to trace the entire length of the Nile and eventually they found their goal at the head of the Rukarara River in Rwanda, which is a tributary of the Akagera which flows into Lake Victoria. It is now possible to walk to the Source of the Nile, which is actually located in the northern section of Nyungwe Forest National Park. Treks can be booked from Gisovu Tea Factory in advance and a guide will take you there. The trail takes around 45-60 minutes in each direction and is an easy walk.
- Nyange High School
3 years after the genocide in Rwanda, groups of rebels kept infiltrating into Rwanda from Congo to destabilize the new government, and carried out massacres, mostly against Tutsis. On the night of 18th March 1997, they raided Nyange Secondary school in the North West of the country. The rebels surrounded the school dining hall and classes when all students were doing their night studies. Students in class 6 were made to lie down and asked to separate themselves into two groups: Hutu and Tutsi. They refused. This is the story of those students – whose refusal to separate cost many of them their lives, among them, a girl named Marie Chantal who was the first to say those magic words, have later honoured as national heroes.
- Kigali City
Kigali is the dynamic capital at the heart of Rwanda. Peacefully nestled along picturesque hilltops, Kigali is a thriving African city immediately notable for its cleanliness, orderliness, and hospitality. Kigali is a great place to begin or end any Rwanda journey as it is conveniently located in the geographic center of the country. The city is clean and safe, with extremely welcoming people. Travelers will enjoy exploring the great cultural activities – including several award-winning museums, burgeoning music scene, and some of East Africa’s most memorable dining experiences.
- Camp Kigali Belgian Monument
A small museum in Kigali City lies at the site of the massacre of 10 Belgian UN Blue Berets. At the onset of Genocide under the command of General Dallaire, they were deployed to guard the house of Prime Minister Agatha Uwilingimana. When the genocide began, Presidential Guard soldiers invaded the home, disarmed the Belgians, and transported them to Camp Kigali where they killed them. The ten stone pillars memorialize the ten soldiers killed.
- Enjoy watching & knowing about the national treasures
To have a tryst with the national treasures of all the Rwanda Destinations, you just have to go for a stopover at the Butare National Museum which is considered as one of the best museums in East Africa. The Museum features numerous things belonging to Rwandan histories such as traditional forms of housing, musical instruments, tribal art, and other artifacts. This museum also rewards visitors with a great grounding in Rwandan history and culture.
- A treasure chest of Birds to be found in Rwanda
You won’t be able to believe that Rwanda is also known as one of the unique destinations for watching birds. It is home to an estimated 650 species of birds. Hence, it is one of the best places in the world to watch for avian fauna in the world. Here, you are going to watch birds like a white-tailed blue flycatcher, red-faced barbet, Cinnamon bracken warblers, red-throated wrynecks, white-tailed blue flycatchers, and black-and-white manikins.
The top ten attractions of the Rwanda Safari will not only help you rejuvenate yourself by taking a break from the stresses of life but through this adventure, you will also get the long-lost peace and connect with nature the way, you always wanted.