Get to Know Rwanda

Home to rolling green hills, volcanoes, gorillas and other primates, a third of Africa's bird species and friendly people

Rwanda is a tiny country but it has two giant attractions: the endangered mountain gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, and the 1994 genocide memorial in Kigali. For a wider primate experience, you can combine gorillas with chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park or a visit to see the golden monkeys in the Volcanoes National Park.

During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the Hutus killed almost a million Tutsi people in just three months. Kigali's genocide memorial in Kigali provides a window on this genocide, as well as those of Albania, German-occupied Europe, German South-West Africa (Namibia), Bosnia and Ethiopia. It's a moving reminder of human cruelty and the shocking lack of reaction from the international community.


How it Works

1 View our recommended safaris for inspiration and get ready to plan your dream safari
2 Contact us or fill out an enquiry form and one of our travel experts will help you tailor make your perfect safari
3 Enjoy an authentic African experience, with peace of mind

Why Rwanda?

  • The Captivating Mountain Gorillas Of Rwanda
  • World-Class Hiking & Trekking
  • Kigali: The Heartbeat Of Modern Rwanda
  • The Cultural People Of Rwanda
  • Birding Paradise

Where to Go in Rwanda

Akagera National Park

akagera national park

The ideal complement to the primate-oriented wildlife-viewing offered at Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, Akagera is a classic savannah reserve that has undergone an ambitious recent rehabilitation programme to become a fully-fledged Big Five safari destination. As with Rwanda other national parks, the setting is spectacular: a chain of low grassy mountains that slope down to a tract of undulating most savannah hemmed in by an extensive wetland comprising a dozen lakes, extensive…

Akagera National Park

akagera national park

The ideal complement to the primate-oriented wildlife-viewing offered at Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, Akagera is a classic savannah reserve that has undergone an ambitious recent rehabilitation programme to become a fully-fledged Big Five safari destination. As with Rwanda other national parks, the setting is spectacular: a chain of low grassy mountains that slope down to a tract of undulating most savannah hemmed in by an extensive wetland comprising a dozen lakes, extensive papyrus swamps and a labyrinth of channels fed by the meandering Akagera River.

Having suffered heavily from poaching and encroachment since the 1990s, Akagera was placed under the dynamic stewardship of the non-profit African Parks Network in 2010. Since them the boundaries have been fenced, the range of tourist activities has been expanded to include guided walks, boat trips and night drives, and an ongoing programme of reintroductions has resulted in the return of lions and black rhino, meaning that all the Big Five (a lost that also includes buffalo, elephant and leopard) can be seen. Other wildlife is also abundant, and the birdlife is truly fantastic, making Akagera a superb add-on to gorilla tracking in the Virungas.

Highlights

elephant akagera national park

Akagera offers excellent Big Five game viewing. Buffaloes are plentiful and easily seen, elephants are quite common but more difficult to track down, and leopards are observed with increasing frequency on night drives. Lion and black rhino had both been poached to extinction by 2005 but both have since been reintroduced. Seven lions were flown in from South Africa in 2015, followed by another two in 2017, and more than a dozen cubs have now been born in the park May 2017 saw the arrival of 18 black rhinos, one if which has already given birth to a health calf.

defassa waterbuck Defassa waterbuck

Other wildlife often seen on game drives includes Maasai giraffe, Burchell’s zebra, warthog, olive baboon, vervet monkey and 11 species of antelope. Most common is the impala, which tends to stick to wooded savannah habitats. The grassy Mutumba Hills and plains to its north are the main stronghold of eland (Africa’s largest antelope), topi, Bohor reedbuck, oribi, roan antelope and the rock-hopping klipspringer. Defassa waterbuck, bushbuck and common duiker are all likely to be seen in the vicinity of the lakes, while the secretive semi-aquatic sitatunga is largely restricted to inaccessible swamp interiors.

leopard akagera

Organised night drives in an open-topped game-viewing vehicle offering a good chance of spotting several nocturnal hunters, among them leopard, spotted hyena, genet, civet and white-tailed mongoose. Other animals often seen on night drives include bushbaby, elephant-shrew and various species of owl and nightjar.

boating lake ihema

Boat trips on Lake Ihema offer a fabulous introduction to the park’s aquatic fauna. Crocodiles and hippo are all but guaranteed, and an abundance of water birds includes African fish eagle, African darter, open-bill stork, African jacana, malachite kingfisher, and papyrus specialists such as blue-headed coucal, papyrus gonolek and white-winged warbler and. A fantastic seasonal heronry is a breeding site for half a dozen species including the localised rufous-bellied heron and both types of night heron.

meyers parrot Meyer’s parrot

With an avian checklist comprising 480 species, Akagera offers the most diverse birdwatching in Rwanda, though it is perhaps of less ornithological importance than Nyungwe, since it doesn’t support any Albertine Rift Endemics or other forest birds. Particularly strong on raptors and waterbirds, Akagera also supports a host of colourful and conspicuous savannah and woodland dwellers, among them the gorgeous Ross’s turaco, Meyer’s parrot, double-toothed barbet, lilac-breasted roller and black-headed gonolek. The red-faced barbet, a localised endemic of savannahs between Lake Victoria and the Albertine Rift, is often seen in the car park and gardens of Akagera Game Lodge.

For many, the single most alluring bird resident in Akagera is the shoebill, a 1.5m-tall slate-grey papyrus dweller named for the hefty clog-shaped, hook-tipped bill which it claps together like outsized castanets when agitated. The exact status of the shoebill in Akagera is uncertain, but at last one pair inhabits the papyrus beds fringing Lake Birengero, and is often seen through binoculars from the roads along the western shore.

Practical Advice
  • Akagera National Park lies about 110km east of Kigali along a road that is surfaced to within 27km of the entrance gate. Allow three hours for the drive. High clearance and ideally 4x4 are required to drive within the park. Most people visit as an organised road safari out of Kigali. There are no flights and no public transport is available to the entrance gate.

  • Accommodation within the park includes a long-standing hilltop lodge scheduled for major renovations over 2018/9, a lovely exclusive tented camp on Lake Ihema, a non-permanent seasonal tented camp, and several campsites suited to self-sufficient campers.

Central and Eastern Rwanda

rolling hills of rwanda

Characterised by rolling green hills terraced with cultivation, Eastern and Central Rwanda is not so scenically spectacular as the western part of the country and it supports far less endemic wildlife than the Albertine Rift. That said, the region does incorporate the national capital Kigali, the starting point of most extended explorations of Rwanda, as well as the important cultural sites of Nyanza and Huye. Fort many, the biggest drawcard of eastern Rwanda is the country’s only…

Central and Eastern Rwanda

rolling hills of rwanda

Characterised by rolling green hills terraced with cultivation, Eastern and Central Rwanda is not so scenically spectacular as the western part of the country and it supports far less endemic wildlife than the Albertine Rift. That said, the region does incorporate the national capital Kigali, the starting point of most extended explorations of Rwanda, as well as the important cultural sites of Nyanza and Huye. Fort many, the biggest drawcard of eastern Rwanda is the country’s only Big Five safari destination, the beautiful and increasingly well-stocked Akagera National Park.

Highlights

skyline kigali credit the independent Kigali’s skyline | Credit: The Independent

The capital Kigali is a modern and well-tended city that sprawls across a series of hills and valley in the centre of Rwanda. It is the sole air gateway to this small country, and lies within a half-day drive of most sites of interest including Volcanoes, Nyungwe and Akagera national parks. Its outstanding point of interest for visitors is the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which commemorates the victims of the tragic events of 1994.

lion akagera national park

The Rwandan counterpart to the renowned safari reserves of Kenya and Tanzania, Akagera National Park offers the opportunity to see all the Big Five - lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and black rhino - in a beautiful hilly landscape that slopes down an extensive network of wetlands fed by the Akagera River. In addition to offering great all-round game viewing, Akagera is a wonderful destination for birders, with a checklist of 480 species that includes the likes of shoebill, rufous-belled heron, Ross’s turaco, red-faced barbet and papyrus gonolek.

rusumo falls Situated to the south of Akagera National Park, Rusumo Falls is a voluminous rush of white water formed by the Akagera River as it surges below the bridge between the Rwandan and Tanzanian border posts. In 1994, the bridge at Rusumo was the funnel through which an estimated 500,000 Rwandans – half of them within one 24-hour period – fled from their home country to refugee camps in northwest Tanzania.

imigongo art Unique Imigongo patterning

The small town of Nyakarambi lies in a part of Rwanda famed for its distinctively earthy geometric Imigongo (cow-dung) ‘paintings’, which are mostly used to decorate the interiors of houses. Most of the geometric Imigongo paintings and pottery you see in Kigali originate from the Cooperative Kakira, about 2km south of Nyakarambi, but it’s more fun, and cheaper, to purchase at source.

mount muhabura Mount Muhabura

Lake Nyagafunzo is one of the few substantial expanses of open water in the Rugezi Wetlands, a swampy 80km² headwater of the Nile listed as both a Ramsar Wetland and an Important Bird Area. Boasting a scenic location offering distant views to Mount Muhabura, the lake is best explored by boat, with the main draw for dedicated birders being the rather nondescript Grauer’s rush warbler, a very localised Albertine Rift Endemic. For more generalist visitors, highlights might include grey crowned crane, great white pelican, African spoonbill and breeding colonies of several heron species.

spotted necked otter Spotted-necked otter

Roughly 60km long but nowhere more than 5km wide, Lake Muhazi is a classic ‘flooded valley’ whose serpentine shape is broken by numerous tendrils along former tributaries. Lined with a few low-key resorts, it supports a rewarding birdlife and an unusually dense population of spotted-necked otter.

The colonial-era capital of what is now Rwanda, Huye (formerly Butare) is an attractive highland town noted as the site if the country’s oldest university and the National Ethnographic Museum.

nyanza hills Nyanza hills

Capital of the Rwandan monarchy from 1899 until its abolition in 1961, Nyanza Hill is now the site of an informative museum centred on an impressive reconstruction of a traditional thatched domed palace.

Practical Advice
  • Kigali is the site of the country’s only international airport, and it is linked to most other attractions in central and eastern Rwanda by good surfaced roads. Public transport runs from Kigali to Huye, Nyanza and Rusumo, but not to Akagera National Park, which is best visited on an organised safari.

  • Kigali has an excellent selection of accommodation, including several five-star hotels. There is also a good tented camp and lodge in Akagera National Park. Huye has a few adequate midrange hotels. Accommodation elsewhere in the region is more budget oriented.

Huye

huye

The self-styled ‘intellectual centre’ of Rwanda, Huye (formerly Butare) stands at a breezy altitude of 1,755m to the southwest of Kigali. During the colonial era, it was the second-largest town in the joint territory of Ruanda-Urundi (after the capital Bujumbura, which lies in modern-day Burundi) and it came as a surprise when it was overlooked as capital of Rwanda when the territories split at the time independence. Now only the fourth-largest town in Rwanda, it contains several…

Huye

huye

The self-styled ‘intellectual centre’ of Rwanda, Huye (formerly Butare) stands at a breezy altitude of 1,755m to the southwest of Kigali. During the colonial era, it was the second-largest town in the joint territory of Ruanda-Urundi (after the capital Bujumbura, which lies in modern-day Burundi) and it came as a surprise when it was overlooked as capital of Rwanda when the territories split at the time independence. Now only the fourth-largest town in Rwanda, it contains several colonial-era architectural relicts, and is also an important educational centre, home not only to the country’s oldest university but also to several technical and training schools and colleges. Huye is also the closest large town - and often visited in conjunction with - the fascinating former royal capital of Nyanza, which lies off the Kigali Road about 40km to the north, and now houses an impressive traditional palace and museum.

Highlights

national museum huye National Museum Huye

The country’s oldest institution of higher learning, the University of Rwanda was founded on the outskirts of Huye in 1963, though the Art Deco buildings at its centre originally formed part of a Catholic primary school for colonials. A troop of more than 50 vervet monkeys is more-or-less resident on campus, and the adjacent Ruhande Arboretum is a peaceful refuge whose collection of indigenous and exotic trees harbour plenty of birds.

A gift from King Baudouin I of Belgium, the National Ethnographic Museum of Rwanda opened in 1988 and its seven spacious halls document the traditional cultures and history of the country and its people. Key displays deal with the country’s earliest known hunter-gatherer inhabitants, the importance of cattle in Rwanda society, the royal Intore dancers, and traditional customs and beliefs. huye cathedral

Huye Cathedral is a huge red-brick edifice built in the late 1930s in memory of Queen Astrid, the 29-year-old Swedish wife of Belgium’s King Leopold III who died in a car accident in 1935. Try to time your visit to catch a mass or rehearsals to hear the 30-strong a capella choir in full voice.

Founded outside Huye in 1958, the Benedictine Gihindamuyaga Monastery was designed in the early 1960’s by the Belgian architect Lucien Kroll and selected as Rwanda’s entry in The Phaidon Atlas of 20th-Century World Architecture in 2012. The monastery is home to a jewellery workshop and boutique selling a small selection of hand-crafted silver and gold items.

In 1899, Nyanza Hill was selected by the recently enthroned Mwami Musinga Yuhi V as the site of the country’s first permanent royal capital, a role it retained throughout his reign, then that of his son and successor Mwami Rudahigwa Mutara III, until the traditional monarchy was abolished in 1961. Today it boasts two sites of great cultural and historic interest. The Rukari Museum comprises a Western-style palace that was built for Mwami Rudahigwa Mutara III in 1932 and now houses an excellent selection of exhibits chart the history of Rwanda from the 5th century onwards. Alongside it is a fabulous reconstruction of a traditional domed palace, built with poles and layered thatch, and furnished in period style. About 1km away, the Rwesero National Art Gallery, set in a house constructed for Mutara III Rudahigwa over 1957–59, hosts a fascinating collection of traditional and contemporary Rwandan artworks dating from the 1950s onwards.

Practical Advice
  • A good 130km surfaced road connects Kigali to Huye; private vehicles should get through in under three hours and there is also plenty of public transport.

  • Nyanza lies 2km west of the main road between Kigali and Huye, and can be reached by turning off at Kubijega junction, around two hours’ drive from Kigali and just 45 minutes from Huye.

  • There are plenty of midrange and budget hotels in Huye, but nothing more exclusive is available. For this reason, a lot of people explore the area as a day trip from Kigali, or en route to Nyungwe National Park.

Kigali

kigali Credit: Umulinga

Founded as recently as 1907, Kigali served as a minor administrative centre in the colonial era, and had a population of fewer than 6,000 when it was selection as capital of newly-independent Rwanda due to its central location in 1962. Today, this strikingly neat and modern-looking highland city sprawls attractively across a series of hills spanning altitudes of 1,300-1,600m, and hosts a population well in excess of one million. Thanks in part to a longstanding…

Kigali

kigali Credit: Umulinga

Founded as recently as 1907, Kigali served as a minor administrative centre in the colonial era, and had a population of fewer than 6,000 when it was selection as capital of newly-independent Rwanda due to its central location in 1962. Today, this strikingly neat and modern-looking highland city sprawls attractively across a series of hills spanning altitudes of 1,300-1,600m, and hosts a population well in excess of one million. Thanks in part to a longstanding nationwide ban on plastic bags, Kigali is widely regarded to be Africa’s cleanest city (in 2008, it became the first African town to be presented with the UN’s annual Habitat Scroll of Honour award). It is also the main port of entry to Rwanda, being the site if th country’s only international airport, and its central location makes it a useful base for exploration further afield.

Highlights

genocide memorial centre

The profoundly moving Kigali Genocide Memorial stands in Gisozi, the burial site of over 250,000 people killed in a three-month period during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. It is managed by the Aegis Trust, UK-based organisation dedicated to assisting widows and orphans of genocide victims, and educating a new generation about the dangers of prejudice. The memorial is home to the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, which includes photographs, official documents and geographical data relating to the genocide. A comprehensive audio tour is available in English and several other languages.

Another site associated with the tragic events of 1994, the Remera Heroes Cemetery contains the grave of Agathe Uwilingiyimana, who was less than a year into her term as prime minister when she was assassinated on 7 April of that year, at the outset of the genocide. It also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, whose anonymous occupant symbolises all those who died in the conflict.

Kandt House Museum is set in Kigali’s oldest building, an unassuming example of colonial architecture built in 1907 for the eponymous explorer and German governor. It opened as Rwanda’s natural history museum in 1907, but following the recent relocation of most of its exhibits to the much larger Museum of the Environment in Karongi, it will focus more on the history of Rwanda and the development of Kigali as capital when eventually it reopens. Until that happens, Kandt House is still worth a visit for the great views over the city.

nyabugogo market Nyabugogo Market | Credit: The New Times

The suburban Nyabugogo Market is Kigali’s busiest shopping area, with stalls and vendors selling offering everything from trendy trainers and shoes and the latest electronic equipment to fresh fruit and vegetables, and oven-warm baguettes. It is a fascinating, vibrant place to explore, but don’t take photos without the subject’s permission.

widowbird The Widow bird’s extravagant dance

The top birdwatching site in the city limits, the artificial Lake Nyarutarama frequently supports a variety of kingfishers, ducks, pelicans, herons and egrets, along with black crake, African jacana and pied and malachite kingfisher, while the surrounding grassland hosts a selection of widow birds, weavers, waxbills and seedeaters.

nyabarongo bridge credit rwanda rambles Nyabarongo Bridge is a site of remembrance for genocide victims | Credit: Rwanda Rambles

A more far-flung but rewarding goal for birdwatchers, Nyabarongo Bridge spans the eponymous river as it flows through swampy Bugesera District about 15km south of Kigali. The main attraction here is aquatic and papyrus-associated birds, which range from pelicans and moorhens to localised papyrus-dwellers such as papyrus gonolek, white-winged scrub-warbler, papyrus yellow warbler and papyrus canary.

Practical Advice
  • Rwanda’s only international airport is situated about 5km from central Kigali, but it will should soon be replaced by the modern Bugesera International Airport, 40km south of the city. Taxis are available to the city cente.

  • Kigali lies at the hub of the country’s impressive network of tar roads and it is also the hub of a public transport network - mostly comprising minibuses - that connects to all other towns of importance. Good roads and bus services also link it to border crossings with Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the DR Congo.

  • The city is well-supplied with tour operators able to arrange trips to the various national parks and other places of interest countrywide.

  • A good range of accommodation is available to suit all budgets and tastes. These include several world-class international chain hotels, a scattering of smaller and more characterful boutique hotels, and a good choice of budget guesthouses and hostels.

  • Kigali also now boasts a diverse restaurant scene. A French and Belgian influence predominates, but there are also plenty of more cosmopolitan options, from Indian and Chinese to Ethiopian and Ugandan.

Lake Kivu

lake kivu credit myafritrip.com Lake Kivu | Credit: myafritrip.com

Shared between Rwanda and the DR Congo, beautiful Lake Kivu extends for 2,370km² across the floor of the Albertine Rift, and hemmed in by a steep terraced escarpment that rises up to 1.5km above its surface. Ranked among the world’s 20 deepest and 20 most voluminous freshwater bodies, it is lined with pretty fishing villages and a trio of larger ports in the form of Rusizi, Karongi and Rubavu. The latter in particular has long served as a…

Lake Kivu

lake kivu credit myafritrip.com Lake Kivu | Credit: myafritrip.com

Shared between Rwanda and the DR Congo, beautiful Lake Kivu extends for 2,370km² across the floor of the Albertine Rift, and hemmed in by a steep terraced escarpment that rises up to 1.5km above its surface. Ranked among the world’s 20 deepest and 20 most voluminous freshwater bodies, it is lined with pretty fishing villages and a trio of larger ports in the form of Rusizi, Karongi and Rubavu. The latter in particular has long served as a popular weekend retreat for residents of Kigali, and as the most northerly point on the Rwandan lakeshore, it also forms a great place to chill out after tracking gorillas in nearby Volcanoes National Park.

Highlights

birding tour in lake kivu rwanda safari

The most southerly port on Lake Kivu, Rusizi (formerly Cyangugu) is split into a bland upper town perched 150m above the water and a smaller but more atmospheric lower town set alongside the Rusizi River as it exits the lake. A short ride on a local amato boat (comprising three dugouts bound together with bamboo poles) leads to the islands of Gihaya and Nkombo, both of which support an abundant birdlife.

karongi

The closest Kivu port to Kigali, Karongi (formerly Kibuye) sprawls prettily across a row of pine- and eucalyptus-planted hills interwoven with the arms of the lake. It is notable for its bustling Saturday market and the recently-opened Museum of the Environment, which incorporates a collection of stuffed animals and mounted butterflies, and s rooftop garden of well-labelled plants used as traditional medicine. Nearby Napoleon’s Island is shaped like its namesake’s hat and supports a massive colony fruit bats.

Situated at an altitude of 2,150m on the escarpment above the lakeshore, the 100m-high Chutes de Ndaba is most impressive in the rainy season and a rough footpath leads to the base from the main road between Karongi road and Rubavu.

colobus monkey in gishwati mukura rwanda

Rwanda’s newest conservation area, gazetted in 2016, the 35km² Gishwati-Mukura National Park protects two relict patches of the vast tract of montane rainforest that once covered the Rift Valley escarpment south of Nyungwe. The more interesting to tourists is the Gishwati Forest, which supports significant populations of chimpanzee, L’Hoest’s monkey and golden monkey, along with 120 bird species, including Albertine Rift endemics such as Ruwenzori turaco, strange weaver and red-throated alethe. the park is not yet open to tourists but a network of walking trails is planned.

rubona The lakeside village of Rubona

The most popular Kivu port with tourists is the leafy town of Rubavu (formerly Gisenyi), which lies just 60km from the gorilla tracking facilities at Volcanoes National Park. Rubavu’s lovely setting is capped by by the distinctive outline of Nyiragongo, the most active of the Virunga volcanoes, which lies on the opposite side of the Congolese border, and often belches out smoke by day and glows ominously at night. Tourist facilities are concentred 6km out of town at Rubona, a scenic lakeside village notable for its pretty beaches and fishing harbour.

biking along the congo nile trail rwanda Biking the Congo-Nile Trail | Credit: Bike Packing

The scenic Congo-Nile Trail runs roughly parallel to the eastern shore of Lake Kivu between Rubavu and Rusizi along 227km of existing roads and motorable tracks. Divided into ten stages, it takes ten days to complete on foot, five by bicycle and two or three by 4x4, sleeping at various lakeshore villages and towns.

Practical Advice
  • RwandAir operates a once-daily flight between Kigali and Kamembe airport outside Rusizi (formerly Cyangugu). Otherwise, main ports on Lake Kivu are most easily reached by road. Rusizi is about 220km/5 hours southwest of Kigali via Huye and Nyungwe National Park, whilst Karongi is 135km/2 hours west of Kigali and Rubavu is 155km/3 hours northwest via Musanze (the gateway town for gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park). A newly surfaced 200km road also connects the three main ports to each other, as does a twice-weekly ferry service.

  • A decent selection of budget and midrange accommodation is available at Rusizi, Karongi or Rubavu. For something more upmarket, you are best heading to Rubavu. Boat trips onlt othe lake can be arranged at all the ports.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

vervet monkey tracking

Sprawling magnificently across the elevated ridge that divides Africa’s two largest drainage systems, the Nile and the Congo, the 1,015km² Nyungwe Forest National Park protects East Africa’s largest tract of montane rainforest in Eastern Africa. The park is a remarkably rich centre of biodiversity, with more than 1,050 plant species recorded, among them 200 varieties of orchid, along with 85 mammal, 310 bird, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species. The main attraction for most…

Nyungwe Forest National Park

vervet monkey tracking

Sprawling magnificently across the elevated ridge that divides Africa’s two largest drainage systems, the Nile and the Congo, the 1,015km² Nyungwe Forest National Park protects East Africa’s largest tract of montane rainforest in Eastern Africa. The park is a remarkably rich centre of biodiversity, with more than 1,050 plant species recorded, among them 200 varieties of orchid, along with 85 mammal, 310 bird, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species. The main attraction for most visitors is the opportunity to track a habituated group of chimpanzees, but the park is home to a dozen other primate species, most conspicuously the acrobatic Ruwenzori colobus and striking L’Hoest’s monkey. Nyungwe is also highly alluring to birders, since it supports all but two of the 29 Albertine Rift Endemics that occur on the eastern rift escarpment, along with the dazzling great blue turaco, which is often seen in small flocks flapping clumsily across a road or forest clearing. It is also the site of East Africa’s only suspended canopy walkway.

Highlights

A rewarding goal for those with restricted time, a relict forest patch in a valley in the Gisakura Tea Estate supports a habituated and relatively easily photographed troop of Ruwenzori colobus along with various other monkeys. A road encircles the forest offering good views into the canopy and the opportunity to tick a good selection of forest fringe and woodland species including black-throated apalis, white-tailed crested flycatcher, Chubb’s cisticola, montane oriole and two species of crimsonwing. Tours of the tea factory are also offered.

enter image description here

Developed by USAID, the Uwinka Interpretation Centre and Canopy Walkway is the centrepiece of a network of six colour-coded trails that run through the territory of a habituated troop of 300-plus Ruwenzori colobus. The highlight is a 200m-long, 40m-high suspended metallic canopy walkway that offers superb bird’s-eye over a steep wooded valley run through by a small stream. enter image description here Credit: Emanuele Pavarotti

The usual site for chimpanzee tracking is Cyamudongo, an isolated patch of montane forest that has been annexe to the national park. Cyamudongo is home to a community of around 40 chimpanzees, which are generally less easily located and more restless than the mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park, but can be quite relaxed viewing subjects once found.

The most remote Source of the Nile was recently identified to be in Nyungwe National Park, and it can be visited by advance arrangement, a walk that takes up to 60 minutes in either direction,

Not to be confused with the Congo-Nile Trail that runs along the Lake Kivu shore, the 42km Congo-Nile Divide Trail is the only multi-day trek in Nyungwe. It follows the spectacular ridge that forms the continental divide between the Congo and Nile watersheds, and includes ascents to several tall peaks. Allow at least 3 days to complete it.

rare grey-cheeked mangabey Rare Grey-cheeked Mangabey

Daily grey-cheeked mangabey tracking excursions are offered to seek out the only habituated troop of this rather baboon-like arboreal monkey. The best days to do this are Monday and Friday, when the troop is monitored by researchers.

The 6km/3 hour Kamiranzovu Marsh Trail leads to the park’s largest wetland habitat, which stands at a relatively low altitude within a caldera-like depression. The marsh hosts a rich variety of orchids during the rainy season, and is the best place to look for two swamp-associated Albertine Rift Endemics, the diurnal Grauer’s rush warbler and nocturnal Albertine owlet.

The circular 4.7km/3 hour Ngabwe Trail, which starts near the easterly Kitabi Entrance Gate, passes through a wide variety of vegetation zones en route to a spectacular picnic site at the summit of the hill for which is is named. Several types of monkey are likely to be seen and it can be extended to become an 8-hour walk through Kitabi Tea Plantation. enter image description here Giant lobilias

The Bigugu Trail ascends from the main road to the 2,950m Bigugu Peak, the highest point in Nyungwe National Park. It is about 7km in either direction and takes at least 6 hours. For birders, it is the best place to look for red-collared mountain babbler, a localised Albertine Rift Endemic, and it is also good for orchids, giant lobelias and other wildflowers.

Popular with birdwatchers, the 4km circular Karamba Trail offers a good chance of spotting several Albertine Rift Endemics along with Dent’s and red-tailed monkeys.

enter image description here

The 10km/4 hour Isumo trail, a favourite option for travellers without private transport, leads through a tea estate then a succession of tree-fern-covered ravines to a pretty but small waterfall. Monkeys are often seen along the way, and it is a good place to seek out Albertine Rift Endenics associated with forest interiors.

Practical Advice
  • Nyungwe is bisected by the surfaced trunk road between Huye and Rusizi and most people travel by car from Kigali, a 220km drive that takes up to five hours. It would also be possible to fly from Kigali to Rusizi and drive the 45km from there to the park, but this would need to be arranged in advance. It is easy to reach the forest on public transport from Kigali, Huye or Rusizi, but this will greatly limit which activities you are able to do.

  • Nyungwe is serviced by one world-class luxury lodge, one decent upmarket hotel, and a range of budget guesthouses.

  • Most activities in Nyungwe can be arranged on the spot, but the number of chimpanzee tracking permits is limited to eight per day, so advance booking is highly recommended.

Volcanoes National Park

Protecting the Rwandan sector of the Virunga Mountains, the 160km2 Volcanoes National Park is best-known as the place where Dian Fossey launched her pioneering study of mountain gorillas in the wild in 1966, and where the Oscar-nominated film Gorillas in the Mist was shot on location in 1988. It is one of Africa’s most scenic national parks, comprising a chain of six extinct and three active volcanoes whose steep forest-swathed slopes are linked by fertile saddles formed by solidified…

Volcanoes National Park

Protecting the Rwandan sector of the Virunga Mountains, the 160km2 Volcanoes National Park is best-known as the place where Dian Fossey launched her pioneering study of mountain gorillas in the wild in 1966, and where the Oscar-nominated film Gorillas in the Mist was shot on location in 1988. It is one of Africa’s most scenic national parks, comprising a chain of six extinct and three active volcanoes whose steep forest-swathed slopes are linked by fertile saddles formed by solidified lava flows. Straddling the border with Uganda and the DR Congo, the Virungas provide sanctuary to more than half the world’s mountain gorillas, and the Rwanda component is home to a dozen habituated groups for which a total of 96 tracking permits are issued daily. Other wildlife includes the nimble bamboo-guzzling golden monkey, elusive populations of elephant and buffalo whose spoor often litters the forest trails, and the likes giant forest hog, bushpig, bushbuck, and black-fronted duiker. Around 200 bird species are thought to inhabit the mountains, a list that includes at least 16 Albertine Rift Endemics. Tracking mountain gorillas is far and away the most popular tourist activity, but it is possible to extend a stay with other activities such as golden monkey tracking, hiking to Dian Fossey’s former camp at Karisoke, and hiking to four of the volcanic peaks.

Highlights

Tracking mountain gorillas in the Virungas ranks high on almost every traveller’s bucket list of must-do experiences. And the reality seldom disappoints. Gorillas are more closely related to humans than any animal other than chimpanzees, and the sheer bulk of these charismatic apes - a silverback might weigh 200kg - is deeply impressive. Meanwhile, the very fact that tourists can routinely approach gorillas to within a few metres pays testament to their remarkable peaceable temperament. True, the hike up can be hard work. You’ll be climbing steep slopes, through tangled vegetation, at an altitude of above 2,500m - and it isn’t called rainforest for nothing. But the reward, a magical hour spent in the company of nature’s archetypal gentle giants, is quite simply one of the world’s most exhilarating and emotionally charged wildlife encounters.

An Albertine Rift Endemic whose range is practically confined to the Virunga Mountains, the handsome golden monkey is named for the luxuriant orange-gold patches on its back and flanks. Daily tracking excursions run into the national park to visit a habituated troop of these delightful hyperactive monkeys, which generally frequent patches of bamboo - their primary diet - but also sometimes gather at fruiting trees.

A popular half-day round hike leads to the original Karisoke Research Camp, which was founded by the legendary primatologist Dian Fossey in 1967. Set an altitude of around 3,000m on a forested saddle connecting Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke, the camp had to be evacuated several times during the civil war, and it was eventually relocated to the town of Musanze at the mountains’ base. Nevertheless, it is profoundly poignant to visit the living quarters - now in ruins - where Fossey was murdered in 1985, and to pay tribute at her tomb, which stands alongside those of several gorillas killed by poachers during her tenure.

Guided hikes can be undertaken to four of the Virunga Peaks set within the parks. Most worthwhile is the day hike up the 3,711m Mount Bisoke, which is topped by a beautiful crater lake enclosed by slopes swathed in atmospheric giant lobelias and hagenia woodland. It’s a steep hike, gaining more than 1,000m from the trailhead to summit, and the descent can be treacherous after rain.

For dedicated hikers and summit baggers, the most alluring of the Virunga peaks is Mount Karisimbi, which stands at 4,507m, making it the tallest point in Rwanda and sixth-highest mountain in Africa. Karisimbi also boasts the greatest vegetation diversity of the Virungas, and the ascent rises through clumped bamboo and hagenia forest to the otherworldly Afro-alpine zone. It’s a steep hike even by the standards of the Virungas, and it entails camping overnight in near-freezing conditions.

Bordering the national park, Gorilla Guardians (better known by its former name of Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village) is the flagship for a community project that project that provides employment as niche farmers, beekeepers and the like to about 1,000 local villagers. It also offers tourists a fascinating and enjoyable programme that culminates in a traditional Intore drumming and dance routine set in a fantastic wood-and-thatch replica of a traditional Rwandan palace.

Practical Advice
  • All activities in Volcanoes National Park start at the park headquarters in the village of Kinigi, which lie 12km north of the substantial town of Musanze, and 110km from the capital Kigali. Gorilla tracking and other hiking permits are best bought in advance and participants must be at the park headquarters by 7am, or they risk invalidating the permit. There is no accommodation within the national park, but several lodges and hotels can be found along its borders, at Kinigi, and in Musanze.

  • The nearest international airport is in Kigali, so you need to travel by road from there. It is easy to get as far Musanze or Kinigi on public transport, but if you do this, you will need to charter a 4x4 with driver to get you to the trailhead in the morning. Technically it is possible to track gorillas as a day trip from Kigali, but it isn’t recommended as you would need to leave at around 4am to be sure of getting to the park headquarters in time.

Western Rwanda

lake kivu Lake Kivu

Rwanda’s main tourist attractions are concentrated in the far west of the country, and are mostly associated with the Albertine Rift, the well-watered arm of the Rift Valley that runs along the Congolese borders with Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. The dominant geographic features of western Rwanda are Lake Kivu, a vast inland sea set on the Rift Valley floor, and the range of magnificent volcanic mountains known as the Virungas. Further south lie two important…

Western Rwanda

lake kivu Lake Kivu

Rwanda’s main tourist attractions are concentrated in the far west of the country, and are mostly associated with the Albertine Rift, the well-watered arm of the Rift Valley that runs along the Congolese borders with Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. The dominant geographic features of western Rwanda are Lake Kivu, a vast inland sea set on the Rift Valley floor, and the range of magnificent volcanic mountains known as the Virungas. Further south lie two important relicts of the lush montane forest that once covered most of the Albertine Rift escarpment: the immense Nyungwe Forest National Park, which extends over an area of 1,015km², and the altogether more modestly proportioned Gishwati-Mukura National Park, which was gazetted in 2016.

nyungwe forest Canopy Walk, Nyungwe Forest

The forests of the Albertine Rift are some of the most ancient anywhere in Africa, since they were unaffected by the drier conditions that afflicted many lower-lying forests during the last ice age. As a result they support a large number of species that occur nowhere else in the world and are generally referred to as Albertine Rift Endemics. The most celebrated of these local specials is of course the mountain gorilla, whose total global population of around 1,000 individuals is split between the Virungas and one other mountain range in the Albertine Rift. Other primates endemic to the Albertine Rift include golden monkey, L’Hoest’s monkey and Ruwenzori colobus, all of which are quite easily seen in western Rwanda. In addition, all but 10 of the 37 bird species regarded to be Albertine Rift Endemics can be seen in Nyungwe Forest.

Highlights

gorillas volcanoes national park

The spectacular Volcanoes National Park is Africa’s premier gorilla-tracking destination. It protects the Rwandan portion of the Virunga Mountains, a chain of steep forest-swathed volcanoes that run along the border with Uganda and the DR Congo. Home to a dozen habituated gorilla groups, for which a total of 96 tracking permits are issued daily, this scenic park also offers a range of other exciting activities. These include tracking golden monkeys in the bamboo zone, a morning walk to Dian Fossey’s tomb at the abandoned Karisoke Research Camp, a day hike up 3,711m Mount Bisoke to see its beautiful crater lake, and an overnight ascent to the 4,507m summit of Africa’s sixth highest mountain Karisimbi.

lakes burera and ruhondo

Separated from each other by an ancient 1km-wide lava flow, Lakes Burera and Ruhondo are both erratically-shaped freshwater bodies whose shores follows the contours of the tall steep hills that enclose them. The lakes and their environs offer some fine birdwatching, whether you explore by car or boat, and the setting is particularly dramatic at sunrise and sunset, with the perfect volcanic cones of the Virungas standing tall on the western horizon.

volcanoes national park

The main urban tourist hub in the northwest, the medium-sized town of Musanze (formerly Ruhengeri) is a popular base for gorilla tracking in nearby Volcanoes National Park and visits to Lakes Burera and Ruhondo. Other activities include canoe trips on the Mukungwa River, birding in the pretty Buhanga Eco-Park, and a two-hour guided tour through the impressive Musanze Caves.

nyungwe-forest-national-park-chimpanzee

One of East Africa’s most important biodiversity hotspots, the 1,015km² Nyungwe Forest National Park offers visitors to track a habituated group of chimpanzees and hike to East Africa’s only suspended canopy walkway. A dozen other primate species are present, while a checklist of 310 bird species includes 27 Albertine Rift Endemics and numerous other rarities.

The closest thing to a seaside resort in landlocked Rwanda is the pretty port of Rubavu, which lies on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, 60km from Volcanoes National Park. Situated on the floor of the Albertine Rift, Kivu is one of the world’s 20 deepest and 20 most voluminous freshwater bodies, and the lovely lakeshore setting of Rubavu is overlooked by the the distinctive outline of Nyiragongo, the most active of the Virunga volcanoes.

lhoests monkey L’Hoest’s monkey

The recently gazetted Gishwati-Mukura National Park protects two relict forest patches that support chimpanzee, L’Hoest’s monkey, golden monkey and 120 bird species.

Practical Advice
  • All the main attractions in Western Rwanda are connected to the capital Kigali, and to each other, by a good network of surfaced roads. Most visitors arrange to be driven around in a 4x4 on what is effectively a private safari, but public transport is available. Either way, distances are not that great, so you can get between any two points of interest in less than a day.

  • Luxury lodges are available at Nyungwe ad in the vicinity of Musanze and Volcanoes National Park. Decent upmarket accommodation can also be found at Rubavu on Lake Kivu. At the budget to midrange end of the scale, there is a lot more choice at these places, as well as in Musanze Rusizi and Karongi.

  • Most activities in Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Park can be arranged on the spot, but the number of chimpanzee and gorilla tracking permits is limited, so book as far in advance as possible.

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When is the best time to travel to Rwanda?

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Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Rwanda in January

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. January falls into the so-called short dry season and most parts of the country receives a medium precipitation (around 50-100mm). January is a good month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National…

Rwanda in January

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

January falls into the so-called short dry season and most parts of the country receives a medium precipitation (around 50-100mm).

  • January is a good month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, since conditions tend to dry out underfoot as the short rains subside, and the odds of being drenched by a shower are relatively low.

  • Because it falls into the short dry season, January is a good time to visit Akagera National Park.

  • For birdwatchers, resident species are boosted by a large number of Palaearctic migrants between November and April.

Rwanda in February

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. February falls towards the so-called short dry season and most parts of the country receives a medium to high precipitation (around 80-100mm). February is one of the best months for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes…

Rwanda in February

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

February falls towards the so-called short dry season and most parts of the country receives a medium to high precipitation (around 80-100mm).

  • February is one of the best months for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, since conditions tend to be dry underfoot and the odds of being drenched by a shower are relatively low.

  • For birdwatchers, resident species are boosted by a large number of Palaearctic migrants between November and April.

Rwanda in March

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. March marks the start of the main rainy season and most parts of the country receive rainfall in excess of 100mm precipitation. March is not an optimum month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be wet underfoot and there are…

Rwanda in March

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

March marks the start of the main rainy season and most parts of the country receive rainfall in excess of 100mm precipitation.

  • March is not an optimum month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be wet underfoot and there are frequent showers. That said, plenty of people do track gorillas in March and you’ve a better chance of a last-minute permit. Climbing the volcanic peaks of the Virungas will be tough at this time of year.

  • For birdwatchers, March and April are probably the best months to visit Rwanda, partly because resident birds are boosted by a large number of Palaearctic migrants, but also because it is the main breeding season, and several species are at their most colourful and conspicuous.

Rwanda in April

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. April is the middle of the main rainy season and the wettest month in many parts of the country. Monthly rainfall is around 150-200mm. April is possibly the worst month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be very wet…

Rwanda in April

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

April is the middle of the main rainy season and the wettest month in many parts of the country. Monthly rainfall is around 150-200mm.

  • April is possibly the worst month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be very wet underfoot and there are showers most days. That said, plenty of people do track gorillas in April and you’ve a better chance of a last-minute permit. Climbing the volcanic peaks of the Virungas will be tough at this time of year.

  • For birdwatchers, March and April are probably the best months to visit Rwanda, partly because resident birds are boosted by a large number of passage migrants, but also because it is the main breeding season, and several species are at their most colourful and conspicuous.

Rwanda in May

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. May falls within the main rainy season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is in excess of 150-200mm. May ranks among the worst month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be very wet underfoot and there are…

Rwanda in May

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

May falls within the main rainy season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is in excess of 150-200mm.

  • May ranks among the worst month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be very wet underfoot and there are showers most days. That said, plenty of people do track gorillas in April and you’ve a better chance of a last-minute permit. Climbing the volcanic peaks of the Virungas will be tough at this time of year.

  • For birdwatchers whose main interest is non-migrant species, May is a good month to visit Rwanda, because it falls into the main breeding season, and several species are at their most colourful and conspicuous.

  • The Kigali International Peace Marathon is held every May and starts and ends at Kigali’s Amahoro National Stadium.

Rwanda in June

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. June marks the start of the long dry season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is relatively low (below 50mm). Jun is an excellent month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks,…

Rwanda in June

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

June marks the start of the long dry season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is relatively low (below 50mm).

  • Jun is an excellent month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, since conditions tend to be dry underfoot and the odds of being drenched by a shower are as low as it gets in a rainforest.

  • Because it falls into the long dry season, June to August is the best time to visit Akagera National Park.

  • A highlight of the calendar at Volcanoes National Park is the annual Kwita Izina (Gorilla Naming) Ceremony held every June, when all baby gorillas born over the previous 12 months are given names.

Rwanda in July

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. July falls within the long dry season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is low (well below 50mm). July is an excellent month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, since…

Rwanda in July

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

July falls within the long dry season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is low (well below 50mm).

  • July is an excellent month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, since conditions tend to be dry underfoot and the odds of being drenched by a shower are as low as it gets in a rainforest.

  • Because it falls into the long dry season, June to August is the best time to visit Akagera National Park.

  • First held in 2014, the Ubumuntu Arts Festival is a music and dance dominated four-day event held in the amphitheatre at Kigali Genocide Memorial every July 2018. It attracts acts from all over Africa and further afield.

Rwanda in August

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. August is a dry month but the short rains may start towards the end of the month. Monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is low (under 50mm). August is an excellent month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes…

Rwanda in August

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

August is a dry month but the short rains may start towards the end of the month. Monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is low (under 50mm).

  • August is an excellent month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, since conditions tend to be dry underfoot and the odds of being drenched by a shower are as low as it gets in a rainforest.

  • Because it falls into the long dry season, June to August is the best time to visit Akagera National Park.

Rwanda in September

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. September falls within the short rainy season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is moderate to high (above 100mm). September is a good month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National…

Rwanda in September

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

September falls within the short rainy season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is moderate to high (above 100mm).

  • September is a good month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, and for other hikes in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, since conditions still tend to be relatively dry underfoot at the start of the short rains, but expect frequent showers.

  • One of Kigali’s premier cultural events since its inauguration in 2005 is the Rwanda Film Festival, which is now held every September and features the work of promising local filmmakers as well an international selection of Africa-themed movies.

Rwanda in October

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. October falls within the short rainy season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is high (100mm or higher). October is not an optimum month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be quite wet underfoot and there…

Rwanda in October

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

October falls within the short rainy season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is high (100mm or higher).

  • October is not an optimum month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be quite wet underfoot and there are frequent showers. That said, plenty of people do track gorillas in October and you’ve a better chance of a last-minute permit. Climbing the volcanic peaks of the Virungas will be tough at this time of year.

Rwanda in November

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. November is the peak of the short rainy season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is high (100mm or higher). November is not an optimum month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be quite wet underfoot and…

Rwanda in November

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

November is the peak of the short rainy season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is high (100mm or higher).

  • November is not an optimum month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be quite wet underfoot and there are frequent showers. That said, plenty of people do track gorillas in November and you’ve a better chance of a last-minute permit. Climbing the volcanic peaks of the Virungas will be tough at this time of year.

  • For birdwatchers, resident species are boosted by a large number of Palaearctic migrants between November and April.

Rwanda in December

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. December falls within the short rainy season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is high (100mm or higher). December is not an optimum month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be quite wet underfoot and there…

Rwanda in December

enter image description here

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night.

Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night.

December falls within the short rainy season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is high (100mm or higher).

  • December is not an optimum month for tracking gorillas and chimpanzees, since conditions tend to be quite wet underfoot and there are frequent showers, though this is less of a risk towards the end of the month. That said, plenty of people do track gorillas in December and you’ve a better chance of a last-minute permit. Climbing the volcanic peaks of the Virungas will be tough at this time of year.

  • For birdwatchers, resident species are boosted by a large number of Palaearctic migrants between November and April.

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Our Destination Expert

Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard

Meet the Team

Alice Lombard

Alice is Discover Africa’s Sales & Product Manager, responsible for managing the Discover Africa Sales Consultants as well as all the products and itineraries that we promote.

About Alice

What does Alice love about African travel?

The people, the culture, the diverse scenery, the wildlife and of course the food & wine.

What African countries have you travelled to?

Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls), Botswana (Okavango Delta, Linyanti, Chobe), Namibia (Southern), Zanzibar, Kenya (Mombasa and Malindi), Mauritius and South Africa.

What is Alice’s favourite place in Africa?

Victoria Falls and Cape Town.

Contact Discover Africa

Send us a message, to ask any questions, or request a tailor-made safari or experience.

Call Discover Africa on +27 (0)21 422 3498

Get in touch to find out more about the tours on offer or request a personalized no-obligations quote.

Megan Warrington Megan Warrington Megan Warrington Megan Warrington Megan Warrington Megan Warrington

Meet the Team

Megan Warrington

Megan is an Africa Concierge Expert at Discover Africa, she is responsible for compiling travel programs for people in search of their dream safari in Africa.

About Megan

What does Megan love about African travel?

There is always a new adventure around the next corner.

What African countries have you travelled to?

South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and Tanzania.

What is Megan’s favourite place in Africa?

Namibia

Contact Discover Africa

Send us a message, to ask any questions, or request a tailor-made safari or experience.

Call Discover Africa on +27 (0)21 422 3498

Get in touch to find out more about the tours on offer or request a personalized no-obligations quote.

Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard

Meet the Team

Alice Lombard

Alice is Discover Africa’s Sales & Product Manager, responsible for managing the Discover Africa Sales Consultants as well as all the products and itineraries that we promote.

About Alice

What does Alice love about African travel?

The people, the culture, the diverse scenery, the wildlife and of course the food & wine.

What African countries have you travelled to?

Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls), Botswana (Okavango Delta, Linyanti, Chobe), Namibia (Southern), Zanzibar, Kenya (Mombasa and Malindi), Mauritius and South Africa.

What is Alice’s favourite place in Africa?

Victoria Falls and Cape Town.

Contact Discover Africa

Send us a message, to ask any questions, or request a tailor-made safari or experience.

Call Discover Africa on +27 (0)21 422 3498

Get in touch to find out more about the tours on offer or request a personalized no-obligations quote.

Matthys van Aswegen Matthys van Aswegen Matthys van Aswegen Matthys van Aswegen Matthys van Aswegen Matthys van Aswegen

Meet the Team

Matthys van Aswegen

Matthys is Discover Africa’s Senior Travel Consultant, with over 13 years experience in the travel industry and a keen eye for photography.

About Matthys

What does Matthys love about African travel?

Diversity and abundance of landscapes, cultures, wildlife, beaches, food and everything you can think of.

What African countries have you travelled to?

South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mauritius and Tanzania.

What is Matthys’s favourite place in Africa?

Cape Town

Contact Discover Africa

Send us a message, to ask any questions, or request a tailor-made safari or experience.

Call Discover Africa on +27 (0)21 422 3498

Get in touch to find out more about the tours on offer or request a personalized no-obligations quote.

Adelle Bell Adelle Bell Adelle Bell Adelle Bell Adelle Bell Adelle Bell

Meet the Team

Adelle Bell

Adelle is Discover Africa’s Senior Travel Consultant and has been in the travel industry for the past 10 years. She is a FIT specialist and has extensive experience in planning and executing dream itineraries in luxury travel.

About Adelle

What does Adelle love about African travel?

You have not lived if you have not experienced an African Safari - the early morning safari drives with the African sun rising in the distance, the smell of morning freshness, coffee in the Bush. You have got to experience a morning in Africa!

What African countries have you travelled to?

South Africa (Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands and Phinda Game Reserve), Botswana and Mozambique.

What is Adelle’s favourite place in Africa?

Kruger National Park

Contact Discover Africa

Send us a message, to ask any questions, or request a tailor-made safari or experience.

Call Discover Africa on +27 (0)21 422 3498

Get in touch to find out more about the tours on offer or request a personalized no-obligations quote.

Antoinette Van Heerden Antoinette Van Heerden Antoinette Van Heerden Antoinette Van Heerden Antoinette Van Heerden Antoinette Van Heerden

Meet the Team

Antoinette Van Heerden

Antionette is a Travel Consultant at Discover Africa, with 5 + years experience in the travel and tourism industry. She specializes in luxury safari packages.

About Antoinette

What does Antoinette love about African travel?

Adventure combined leisure travel makes for the best trip!

What African countries have you travelled to?

South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

What is Antoinette’s favourite place in Africa?

South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

Contact Discover Africa

Send us a message, to ask any questions, or request a tailor-made safari or experience.

Call Discover Africa on +27 (0)21 422 3498

Get in touch to find out more about the tours on offer or request a personalized no-obligations quote.

One of the most memorable trips. Thank you Discover Africa Team for all your knowledge and assistance

Sharan

01 Dec 2016

Great set up and trip!

MelissaMH

18 May 2017

Very good

Benno

16 Nov 2019

There are not words for this marvelous and exciting trip

Griselda Woo

20 Sep 2019

Great tour operator!

Nirmalendu Pal

19 Sep 2019

Amazing safari in Sabi sands game reserve

Flyingbee

06 May 2019

Amazing

Karen O’Connor

24 Apr 2018

Hard working, patient, persistent and thorough

David

09 Aug 2021

Your support and planning was amazing. We will come back

Danny Meadows-Klue

01 Dec 2013

Outstanding customer service from my trip facilitator Alice Lombard

Dr. Darrin Porcher

20 Sep 2021

Thank you for all your help Discover Africa

Lisa and Niall Shapiro

01 Feb 2013

See Rwanda in Your Comfort

Budget Safari in Rwanda

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Options for budget travellers are limited. Rwanda has consciously implemented attract a low-volume, high-cost tourism strategy that reflects the scarcity value of its main attraction: mountain gorillas. Tracking gorillas in Rwanda costs more than twice as much as it does in neighbouring Uganda, and other activities in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks are also relatively costly. Akagera National Park and Lake Kivu are better geared to travellers on a budget, as are the towns and…

Budget Safari in Rwanda

enter image description here

Options for budget travellers are limited. Rwanda has consciously implemented attract a low-volume, high-cost tourism strategy that reflects the scarcity value of its main attraction: mountain gorillas. Tracking gorillas in Rwanda costs more than twice as much as it does in neighbouring Uganda, and other activities in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks are also relatively costly. Akagera National Park and Lake Kivu are better geared to travellers on a budget, as are the towns and cities, but it seems fair to say that few people would select Rwanda as a holiday destination unless their primary interest was gorillas and other forest wildlife.

Affordable Safari in Rwanda

enter image description here Credit: Beard and Curly

Rwanda has a low-volume, high-cost tourism strategy, and tracking gorillas in particular can hardly be referred to as offering good value-for-money when it costs more than twice as much as it does in neighbouring Uganda. Other activities in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks are somewhat more affordable: the hikes up the three main Virunga peaks represent far better value than a Kilimanjaro climb, for instance, and chimpanzee tracking is also quite…

Affordable Safari in Rwanda

enter image description here Credit: Beard and Curly

Rwanda has a low-volume, high-cost tourism strategy, and tracking gorillas in particular can hardly be referred to as offering good value-for-money when it costs more than twice as much as it does in neighbouring Uganda. Other activities in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks are somewhat more affordable: the hikes up the three main Virunga peaks represent far better value than a Kilimanjaro climb, for instance, and chimpanzee tracking is also quite reasonably priced. Eating out is generally quite inexpensive unless you actively seek upmarket restaurants. Wine is almost all imported and tends to be disproportionately expensive compared to local beers.

A Luxury Safari in Rwanda

enter image description here Credit: One&Only Nyungwe House

Rwanda now offers good amenities to people seeking a luxury holiday. The three main national parks are al serviced by exclusive world-class lodges and/or tented camps comparable to the very best in the likes of Kenya and Tanzania. There are also rather luxurious hotels in the capital Kigali and the popular lake port of Rubavu. Distances between main points of interest are relatively short so there isn’t much in the way if a domestic flight network,…

A Luxury Safari in Rwanda

enter image description here Credit: One&Only Nyungwe House

Rwanda now offers good amenities to people seeking a luxury holiday. The three main national parks are al serviced by exclusive world-class lodges and/or tented camps comparable to the very best in the likes of Kenya and Tanzania. There are also rather luxurious hotels in the capital Kigali and the popular lake port of Rubavu. Distances between main points of interest are relatively short so there isn’t much in the way if a domestic flight network, but the roads are mostly very good, so the country can comfortable be explored by car or 4x4. Rwanda is not, however, a resorty kind of destination and it is best suited to mobile and outdoorsy travellers. No matter how luxurious your accommodation and transport, gorilla tracking and other activities in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Park come with a high chance slipping on muddy footpaths, being caught in a tropical downpour, and/or having to clamber through dense or low vegetation.


Holiday Styles and Options in Rwanda

An Adventure Safari in Rwanda

enter image description here Credit: Bloomberg

Rwanda is a great destination for adventurous travellers. Gorilla tracking in the Virunga mountains is one of the world’s most thrilling - and physically demanding - wildlife encounters. More hardcore still are the steep day or overnight hikes to four of the volcanic Virunga peaks, most notably the 4,507m Mount Karisimbi, which is not only the tallest point in Rwanda but also the sixth-highest mountain in Africa, and the 3,711m Mount Bisoke, which is topped by a…

An Adventure Safari in Rwanda

enter image description here Credit: Bloomberg

Rwanda is a great destination for adventurous travellers. Gorilla tracking in the Virunga mountains is one of the world’s most thrilling - and physically demanding - wildlife encounters. More hardcore still are the steep day or overnight hikes to four of the volcanic Virunga peaks, most notably the 4,507m Mount Karisimbi, which is not only the tallest point in Rwanda but also the sixth-highest mountain in Africa, and the 3,711m Mount Bisoke, which is topped by a beautiful crater lake and slopes swathed in giant lobelias. A diverse selection of hiking trails also traverses the densely forested slopes Nyungwe National Park, while Akagera National Park ranks among Africa’s least crowded Big Fave safari destinations.

Rwanda Honeymoon

Rwanda would have to rank as a pretty offbeat choice for a honeymoon or romantic holiday destination. That said, active outdoors-oriented couples might find it an ideal place to combine activities such as gorilla tracking, mountain hiking and game drives.

Rwanda Nature

While Rwanda has a strong sense of adventure, it also has a high level of luxury. In that sense, it’s a true safari destination. Couples may cuddle up in wonderfully private lodges and camps located in stunning surroundings with…

Rwanda Honeymoon

Rwanda would have to rank as a pretty offbeat choice for a honeymoon or romantic holiday destination. That said, active outdoors-oriented couples might find it an ideal place to combine activities such as gorilla tracking, mountain hiking and game drives.

Rwanda Nature

While Rwanda has a strong sense of adventure, it also has a high level of luxury. In that sense, it’s a true safari destination. Couples may cuddle up in wonderfully private lodges and camps located in stunning surroundings with fauna, unlike anything you’ll find stateside—not to mention Pinterest-worthy décor and superb cuisine—on this bucket-list excursion.

Romantic Lunch in Rwanda It’s extraordinarily green, and not just in terms of the hues you’re surrounded by. The country is a global leader in sustainable development, employing a variety of intelligent approaches to safeguarding the planet’s resources.

The Most Romantic Resorts in Rwanda for your Honeymoon

Eco safari accommodations, luxury lodges in the foothills of volcanoes, and lakeside retreats are all available for on a Rwanda honeymoon. With so much to see and do in this unique country, here are five of the most romantic Rwanda honeymoon resorts that every newlywed couple should consider visiting.

  1. Governors’ Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
  2. The Sabinyo Silverback Lodge is a five-star hotel located near to the Volcanoes National Park. The lodge’s gorgeous mountaintop position is romantic, calm, and peaceful, making it the ideal place to stay while gorilla tracking.

    Sabinyo Silverback Lodge scenic view

    The isolated rooms are equipped with modern comforts, and the service goes above and above with morning coffee and tea room service, an all-inclusive meal plan, and truly individualized care for your Rwanda honeymoon safari experience.

  3. Kigali Serena Hotel
  4. The five-star Kigali Serena Hotel is designed around a polished granite atrium that highlights the best of Rwandese cultural art and is conveniently positioned on one of Kigali’s most picturesque boulevards.

    Kigali Serena Hotel Pool Area

    The hotel’s Executive Lounge and Bar, which opens onto a large sundeck overlooking the freshly renovated swimming pool, is relaxed yet sophisticated.

  5. Virunga Lodge
  6. Virunga Lodge is a Volcanoes Safari-run hotel in Musanze, within an hour’s drive from gorilla tracking. Thatched roof buildings, massive stone walkways, and roaring fireplaces lend a delightful Rwandan feel to the rooms and communal areas, which overlook the gorgeous twin lakes and volcanoes. Virunga Lodge Exterior view The hotel also offers nature hikes, boat cruises, massages, and other activities in addition to gorilla tracking. With a good book and a bottle of wine, curl up close to the fireplace or on the picturesque porch on your Rwanda honeymoon.

  7. Mount Gahinga Lodge
  8. Mount Gahinga is a private Uganda adventure lodge nestled in the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes, with a spectacular backdrop of three of the volcanoes themselves. Its rustic appeal creates an enthralling aura of peace and history. The main structure has a rustic living room with a warm central fire, which is great for unwinding at the end of the day, with the terrace outside and a big sunroom adjoining the living room complete the tranquil and open atmosphere.

    Mount Gahinga property

    Each banda has been completely rebuilt to provide unrivalled honeymoon luxury in the region. Each room has a fireplace and an en-suite bathroom with showers and flush toilets, and they are all accessible through a short stroll through the lodge’s lovely gardens.

  9. Mountain View Gorilla Lodge
  10. Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is located in Kinigi, northern Rwanda, near the endangered Mountain Gorillas National Park. The lodge is nestled on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi, one of the Virunga Massif’s volcanic volcanoes. The resort is 10 minutes from the Volcanoes National Park’s main entrance, where gorilla trekking begins. Mountain View Gorilla Lodge Mountain Gorilla View Lodge has 30 cabins. The ecolodge was built with locally sourced materials to minimize environmental impact. Each hut features a fireplace and a tea/coffee maker. The ecolodge supports the local rural communities by serving farm-fresh products in its restaurant.

Photography in Rwanda

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Rwanda offers some superb opportunities for wildlife and scenic opportunities. The mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park are wonderful laidback photographic subject and the speeds attainable by modern cameras mean you would have to be very unlucky not to come back with some awesome pictures, even in gloomy conditions. The more restless chimpanzees of Nyungwe National Park tend to be less cooperative photographic subjects, but the same national park’s monkeys are often very…

Photography in Rwanda

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Rwanda offers some superb opportunities for wildlife and scenic opportunities. The mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park are wonderful laidback photographic subject and the speeds attainable by modern cameras mean you would have to be very unlucky not to come back with some awesome pictures, even in gloomy conditions. The more restless chimpanzees of Nyungwe National Park tend to be less cooperative photographic subjects, but the same national park’s monkeys are often very easy to photograph in situ. Finally, a safari in Akagera National Park offers the opportunity to photograph the so-called Big Five (lion, leopard, black rhino, elephant and buffalo) along with the likes of giraffe, zebra, hippo and various antelope and birds.

Wildlife photography requires faster and higher-magnifications lenses than most other subjects. For gorillas, a 70-200 or similar lens should be more than adequate, possibly supplemented by a 28-70 or similar for wider angle pics. Elsewhere, a zoom that goes up to 300 is ideal, possibly supplemented by a a fixed 400 or 500 lens, with a fastest f-stop of 4 or better 2.8.

A tripod can be useful to stabilise your camera in forests and for scenic shot. If you visit Akagera, bring a beanbag upon which to rest your lens to minimise the risk of camera shake; to save weight you can carry it empty to Rwanda and fill up with rice, beans or a similar instance after you arrive.

enter image description here Credit: secretcompass.com

Rwanda’s mountainous scenery makes for great scenic shots. The perfect volcanic outlines of the Virungas are highly photogenic, especially day dusk and dawn, as are lakes such as Kivu and Burera. If you want to photograph people in Rwanda, it is important culturally to ask permission first.

Relaxed Holiday in Rwanda

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Rwanda isn’t suited to a chill-out kind of holiday. It requires some effort to make the most of the country’s main highlights, and overall it is best suited to relatively active travellers. The closest thing to a real beach resort is Lake Kivu, but this is more the sort of place you would tag on to a longer visit than a reason to visit Rwanda in its own right.

Relaxed Holiday in Rwanda

enter image description here

Rwanda isn’t suited to a chill-out kind of holiday. It requires some effort to make the most of the country’s main highlights, and overall it is best suited to relatively active travellers. The closest thing to a real beach resort is Lake Kivu, but this is more the sort of place you would tag on to a longer visit than a reason to visit Rwanda in its own right.

An Active Adventure Holiday in Rwanda

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Rwanda is a perfect for active travellers. Highlights include gorilla tracking in the Virunga mountains, chimp tracking in Nyungwe National Park, and canoeing on the Mukungwa River. There are also the steep day or overnight hikes to the volcanic Virunga peaks, most notably the 4,507m Mount Karisimbi and the 3,711m Mount Bisoke. A diverse selection of hiking trails traverses the densely forested slopes Nyungwe National Park. Then there’s the scenic 227km Congo-Nile Trail, which runs…

An Active Adventure Holiday in Rwanda

enter image description here

Rwanda is a perfect for active travellers. Highlights include gorilla tracking in the Virunga mountains, chimp tracking in Nyungwe National Park, and canoeing on the Mukungwa River. There are also the steep day or overnight hikes to the volcanic Virunga peaks, most notably the 4,507m Mount Karisimbi and the 3,711m Mount Bisoke. A diverse selection of hiking trails traverses the densely forested slopes Nyungwe National Park. Then there’s the scenic 227km Congo-Nile Trail, which runs roughly parallel to the eastern shore of Lake Kivu, and takes ten days to complete on foot, five by bicycle, and two or three by 4x4.

Malaria-Free Safari in Rwanda

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Malaria is prevalent in many parts of Rwanda and it would be difficult to holiday there without some risk of exposure. That said, Volcanoes National Park and the associated gorilla-tracking trailheads and lodges all lie at too high an altitude for malaria to be much of a risk, as does Nyungwe National Park, though in both cases you would need to pass through medium- to high-risk areas to get there from Kigali. The risk of malaria is far higher in the relatively low-lying Akagera…

Malaria-Free Safari in Rwanda

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Malaria is prevalent in many parts of Rwanda and it would be difficult to holiday there without some risk of exposure. That said, Volcanoes National Park and the associated gorilla-tracking trailheads and lodges all lie at too high an altitude for malaria to be much of a risk, as does Nyungwe National Park, though in both cases you would need to pass through medium- to high-risk areas to get there from Kigali. The risk of malaria is far higher in the relatively low-lying Akagera National Park and along the shores if Lake Kivu.

Walking Safari in Rwanda

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Rwanda is well-suited to organised walking holidays as all the most popular and iconic activities are undertaken on foot. This includes gorilla tracking and hikes the 4,507m Mount Karisimbi and the 3,711m Mount Bisoke in the Virunga mountains, as well as chimp tracking and other forest walks in Nyungwe National Park. For dedicated walkers, the 227km Congo-Nile Trail, which runs roughly parallel to the eastern shore of Lake Kivu, and takes ten days to complete on foot, is highly…

Walking Safari in Rwanda

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Rwanda is well-suited to organised walking holidays as all the most popular and iconic activities are undertaken on foot. This includes gorilla tracking and hikes the 4,507m Mount Karisimbi and the 3,711m Mount Bisoke in the Virunga mountains, as well as chimp tracking and other forest walks in Nyungwe National Park. For dedicated walkers, the 227km Congo-Nile Trail, which runs roughly parallel to the eastern shore of Lake Kivu, and takes ten days to complete on foot, is highly recommended.

If you plan on walking a lot, bring suitable footwear and a few pairs of thick socks. A walking stick can be useful on the steep slopes if the Virungas and Nyungwe.

Big Five Safari in Rwanda

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Akagera National Park is Rwanda’s only Big Five destination, which means that it hosts populations of lion, leopard, elephant, black rhino and buffalo. It is also at present a rather underrated safari destination, but rapidly recovering from years neglect following the reintroduction of lions in 2015 and black rhino in 2017. Big Five aside, the park offers great general wildlife viewing, with the likes of Maasai giraffe, Burchell’s zebra, warthog, olive baboon, vervet monkey and…

Big Five Safari in Rwanda

enter image description here

Akagera National Park is Rwanda’s only Big Five destination, which means that it hosts populations of lion, leopard, elephant, black rhino and buffalo. It is also at present a rather underrated safari destination, but rapidly recovering from years neglect following the reintroduction of lions in 2015 and black rhino in 2017. Big Five aside, the park offers great general wildlife viewing, with the likes of Maasai giraffe, Burchell’s zebra, warthog, olive baboon, vervet monkey and 11 species of antelope are all regularly seen on game drives. Easily explored by boat, the lakes of Akagera also host plenty of hippos and crocs, and a wide variety of waterbirds including the iconic shoebill.

Birding in Rwanda

enter image description here Ruwenzori turaco | Credit: Rwanda Tourism

Rwanda is one of Africa’s most alluring birding destinations, with in excess of 700 species recorded in an area half the size of Scotland. Birdwatching is rewarding everywhere in the country, and a well-planned two-week itinerary is likely to result in a trip list of 300-plus species.

A notable feature of its diverse avifauna is the presence of 27 of the 37 forest and swamp-associated species regarded to be endemic to the the eastern and…

Birding in Rwanda

enter image description here Ruwenzori turaco | Credit: Rwanda Tourism

Rwanda is one of Africa’s most alluring birding destinations, with in excess of 700 species recorded in an area half the size of Scotland. Birdwatching is rewarding everywhere in the country, and a well-planned two-week itinerary is likely to result in a trip list of 300-plus species.

A notable feature of its diverse avifauna is the presence of 27 of the 37 forest and swamp-associated species regarded to be endemic to the the eastern and western escarpments of the Albertine Rift, Many of these species can only otherwise be seen in logistically inaccessible parts if the DR Congo and one or two sites in Uganda. Outside of the Congo, Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park supports the world’s greatest diversity of Albertine Rift Endemics, a list that includes such stunners as handsome francolin, Ruwenzori turaco, red-faced woodland warbler, collared apalis, mountain masked apalis, regal sunbird, blue-headed sunbird, purple-breasted sunbird, dusky crimsonwing and strange weaver. With around 310 species recorded, Nyungwe is also strong when it comes to more widespread forest species (there’s no better place, for instance, to see the astonishing great blue turaco) and it is well serviced by birding trails and knowledgeable local guides.

enter image description here Double-toothed barbet

The ideal complement to Nyungwe is Akagera National Park, whose checklist of 480 species includes most aquatic, savanna and grassland species that occur with Rwanda, along with a good variety of raptors. Boat trips on Akagera’s Lake Ihema often throw up the likes of African fish eagle, African darter, open-bill stork, African jacana, papyrus gonolek and rufous-bellied heron. Conspicuous savannah and woodland birds include Ross’s turaco, double-toothed barbet, lilac-breasted roller and red-faced barbet. Akagera’s Lake Birengero is also quite a reliable site for the enigmatic and eagerly sought shoebill.

Foodie Holiday in Rwanda

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Rwanda is not a dedicated foodie destination, but there are plenty of opportunities to eat well in Kigali, and to a lesser extent Rubavu. French- and Belgian-influenced cuisine tends to dominate, but there are also plenty of good Indian, Italian, Chinese, fusion and even Ethiopian restaurants in Kigali. Elsewhere, upmarket tourists will tend to eat most meals at their lodge or camp, where standards vary from mediocre at to world-class.

Throughout Rwanda, local restaurants serve…

Foodie Holiday in Rwanda

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Rwanda is not a dedicated foodie destination, but there are plenty of opportunities to eat well in Kigali, and to a lesser extent Rubavu. French- and Belgian-influenced cuisine tends to dominate, but there are also plenty of good Indian, Italian, Chinese, fusion and even Ethiopian restaurants in Kigali. Elsewhere, upmarket tourists will tend to eat most meals at their lodge or camp, where standards vary from mediocre at to world-class.

Throughout Rwanda, local restaurants serve homegrown favourites such as goat kebabs (brochettes), grilled or fried tilapia fish, and bean or meat stews. These are normally eaten with ugali (a stiff maize meal porridge), matoke (stewed plantain), chapatti (flat bread) or boiled potatoes (often referred to as Irish potatoes), rice or fries.


Who is Travelling to Rwanda with you?

Solo Travel in Rwanda

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Rwanda is well suited to solo travel. Independent travellers using public transport will find that locals are very friendly and keen to engage in conversation with single foreigners. On more upmarket visits, all the national parks are serviced by the sort of small exclusive tented camps and lodges that encourage interaction between guests and offers a hand-on personalised service.

Highlights

The top highlight for solo travellers is tracking gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. This…

Solo Travel in Rwanda

enter image description here

Rwanda is well suited to solo travel. Independent travellers using public transport will find that locals are very friendly and keen to engage in conversation with single foreigners. On more upmarket visits, all the national parks are serviced by the sort of small exclusive tented camps and lodges that encourage interaction between guests and offers a hand-on personalised service.

Highlights

The top highlight for solo travellers is tracking gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. This is undertaken in groups of up to eight people, none of whom might necessarily know each other in advance, so it is straightforward for solo travellers to participate. Other highlights include chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe National Park and safari activities in Akagera.

Travel Tips
  • Sociable solo travellers might think about joining a group tours, Failing that, try to stay at lodges and camps that offer all-inclusive packages with group activities and encourage guests to eat together at one large table.

  • For younger or more adventurous travellers, there are backpacker hostel in Kigali and outside Musanze (near Volcanoes National Park) with communal areas where it is easy to meet other travellers, and to put together groups to go on activities together.

  • There are no risks specific to travelling in Rwanda, but single women should apply the usual commonsense precautions - i.e. don’t walk alone after dark - when exploring cities and larger towns such as Kigali.

A Couple Safari in Rwanda

enter image description here Comoran Lodge, Lake Kivu

Rwanda is well suited to active couples whose idea of shared quality time entails forest hikes, game drives, engaging in cultural activities, and so on. It is not particularly suited to quiet romantic beach getaways, though lovely Lake Kivu provides a fair substitute for a bona fide beach resort.

Highlights

The top highlight for couples - as with most other travellers to Rwanda - is tracking gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. Other highlights include…

A Couple Safari in Rwanda

enter image description here Comoran Lodge, Lake Kivu

Rwanda is well suited to active couples whose idea of shared quality time entails forest hikes, game drives, engaging in cultural activities, and so on. It is not particularly suited to quiet romantic beach getaways, though lovely Lake Kivu provides a fair substitute for a bona fide beach resort.

Highlights

The top highlight for couples - as with most other travellers to Rwanda - is tracking gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. Other highlights include chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe National Park and safari activities in Akagera. For very active travellers, the hikes up Mount Bisoke and the other Virunga Peaks in Volcanoes National Park are fantastic, but hard work. The beaches of Lake Kivu offer couples the opportunity to unwind for a few days after all the hiking and safari activity.

Travel Tips

Most couples are happy to spend plenty of time alone together, but it can be fun to break things up with the odd night at a more sociable venue such as a backpacker hostel or intimate private lodge.

Family Travel in Rwanda

enter image description here Credit: Mini Travellers

Rwanda is not a particularly family-friendly destination. It has no attraction that caters specifically to youngsters, and gorilla tracking, the most popular activity for adults, is off-limits to children aged less than 15. In addition, the threat of malaria might be deterrent for families with young children. Most children will enjoy a few days on safari in Akagera National Park or hanging around the beaches of Lake Kivu.

Highlights

The highlight for most…

Family Travel in Rwanda

enter image description here Credit: Mini Travellers

Rwanda is not a particularly family-friendly destination. It has no attraction that caters specifically to youngsters, and gorilla tracking, the most popular activity for adults, is off-limits to children aged less than 15. In addition, the threat of malaria might be deterrent for families with young children. Most children will enjoy a few days on safari in Akagera National Park or hanging around the beaches of Lake Kivu.

Highlights

The highlight for most travellers is tracking gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, followed by chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe National Park. This is true for families too, provided that all members are aged 15 or older, and reasonably fit and outdoorsy. Children will enjoy safaris in Akagera National Park, which hosts all the Big Five and offers boat trips as an alternative to game drives.

Travel Tips
  • Do not enter malarial areas with children not yet old enough to safely take prophylactic drugs or be able to clearly communicate any malarial symptoms to their parents.

  • Parents of younger children should check whether their hotel offers babysitting services and/or activities suited to children.

  • Children must be aged 15 or more to participate in gorilla and chimp tracking activities, along with most other forest hikes in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks.


What You Need To Know

Welcome to Rwanda

virunga mountain range

Rwanda is, quite simply, the best place in Africa to engage in what is arguably the world’s single most thrilling wildlife encounter: tracking mountain gorillas through the steep bamboo- and forest-swathed slopes of the Virunga Mountains. No two encounters are ever the same, but whether it’s a 200kg silverback chilling out on the forest trail, a curious mother staring questioningly into your eyes, or a youngster clumsily attempting to climb a liana, coming face to face with these…

Welcome to Rwanda

virunga mountain range

Rwanda is, quite simply, the best place in Africa to engage in what is arguably the world’s single most thrilling wildlife encounter: tracking mountain gorillas through the steep bamboo- and forest-swathed slopes of the Virunga Mountains. No two encounters are ever the same, but whether it’s a 200kg silverback chilling out on the forest trail, a curious mother staring questioningly into your eyes, or a youngster clumsily attempting to climb a liana, coming face to face with these most gentle of giants is invariably an awesome experience.

mountain gorilla in virunga

Mountain gorillas are the raison d’être for most tourist visits to Rwanda. But this small central African country has far more to offer outdoor enthusiasts. Scenically, there is the mountain-ringed inland sea that is Lake Kivu, the perfect volcanic cones of the Virungas rising to 4,000-plus metres above it, and the endless succession of steep cultivated mountains that have led to it being dubbed ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ and ‘The Switzerland of Africa’.

shoebill credit new statesman Shoebill | Credit: New Statesman

As for wildlife, the variety is startling. The Virunga Mountains are also home to the delightful golden monkey, while Nyungwe National Park - protecting an astonishing 1,000km2 of near-pristine montane rainforest - supports a full 13 primate species, ranging from a habituated community of chimpanzees to the lovely L’Hoest’s and Rwenzori colobus monkeys. Rwanda’s national checklist of 700-plus bird species, in an area smaller than that of its former coloniser Belgium, includes the 27 super-localised Albertine Rift Endemics protected in Nyungwe, along with such iconic species as shoebill, Ross’s turaco, great blue turaco and papyrus gonolek. And when it comes to more conventional safaris, the Big Five are all now protected - and quite easily seen - in the hilly savannah of what must surely be Africa’s most rapidly resurgent protected area: Akagera National Park.

tea farming in rwanda Rwanda is the tea capital of Africa

Culturally and politically, the resurgence of Akagera might be seen as emblematic of Rwanda’s recovery from the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of one-eighth of its population, and forced almost twice as many to flee into refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Few could travel through Rwanda today and not be cognisant of these terrible events, or the many genocide that pay tribute to the massacred. But you will also be be struck by the energetic programme of reconstruction that has led to Rwanda reinventing itself as one of Africa’s most economically buoyant, ecologically enlightened and politically progressive countries. It is heartening experience.

Why Would People Keep Coming Back to Rwanda?

Rwanda is a small country, it lacks for a bona fide beach destination, and its rather limited circuit of major attractions can easily be explored fully over the course of a standard-length holiday. In other words, it doesn’t attract a great deal of repeat visitors, the main exception (apart from business travellers, or those with family connections) being primate junkies who return to see the gorillas again, and possible again.

Rwanda vs Uganda

golden monkey in volcanoes national park Golden monkey in Volcanoes National Park

Rwanda and Uganda host a broadly similar set of attractions. Foremost among these mountain gorilla tracking, and while neither country could be said to offer a definitively better tracking experience than the other, our experience is that the more open nature of the forest in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park makes it slightly more reliable for photography than Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. For those with limited time, it is…

Rwanda vs Uganda

golden monkey in volcanoes national park Golden monkey in Volcanoes National Park

Rwanda and Uganda host a broadly similar set of attractions. Foremost among these mountain gorilla tracking, and while neither country could be said to offer a definitively better tracking experience than the other, our experience is that the more open nature of the forest in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park makes it slightly more reliable for photography than Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. For those with limited time, it is also far quicker to reach Volcanoes National Park from the Rwandan capital Kigali (3-4 hours) than it is to reach Bwindi Impenetrable National Park from Uganda’s main air gateway Entebbe (a long one-day drive, but better split over two days). In Uganda’s favour, tracking gorillas there is a lot cheaper than in Rwanda, and overall it boasts a more diverse selection of other national parks, scenic landmarks and cultural attractions.

Rwanda vs Kenya

great migration river crossing masai mara The Great Migration Mara river crossing in Kenya

Rwanda offers several attractions not found in Kenya or indeed in most other safari destinations other than Uganda. Foremost among these is the opportunity to track mountain gorillas in the Virunga mountains and chimpanzees in the Nyungwe National Park. Rwanda offers far greater diversity than Kenya when it comes to forest primates, Furthermore, although its checklist of 700 bird species theoretically compares poorly with the…

Rwanda vs Kenya

great migration river crossing masai mara The Great Migration Mara river crossing in Kenya

Rwanda offers several attractions not found in Kenya or indeed in most other safari destinations other than Uganda. Foremost among these is the opportunity to track mountain gorillas in the Virunga mountains and chimpanzees in the Nyungwe National Park. Rwanda offers far greater diversity than Kenya when it comes to forest primates, Furthermore, although its checklist of 700 bird species theoretically compares poorly with the 1,000-plus recorded in Kenya, it is far stronger on forest birds that are difficult to see elsewhere in eastern and southern Africa. However, Kenya is well ahead of Rwanda when it comes to plains wildlife and Big Five sightings, and there is nothing in Rwanda to compare with the Indian Ocean beach resorts such as Diani and Watamu. Kenya is also a more visibly diverse and interesting country when it comes to traditional cultures, be it the pastoralist Maasai and Samburu, or Arab-influenced Swahili people of the coast.

Wildlife in Rwanda

Rwanda has three main wildlife destinations, Volcanoes National Park, Nyungwe Forest National Park and Akagera National Park, each of which host a quite different fauna to the others. Birdwatching aside, wildlife viewing opportunities outside these national parks are limited.

giant forest hog The Giant forest hog can reach a length of between 1,3 and 2,1 metres

Volcanoes National Park is best known for its population of several hundred mountain gorillas. This includes a dozen habituated groups for…

Wildlife in Rwanda

Rwanda has three main wildlife destinations, Volcanoes National Park, Nyungwe Forest National Park and Akagera National Park, each of which host a quite different fauna to the others. Birdwatching aside, wildlife viewing opportunities outside these national parks are limited.

giant forest hog The Giant forest hog can reach a length of between 1,3 and 2,1 metres

Volcanoes National Park is best known for its population of several hundred mountain gorillas. This includes a dozen habituated groups for which a total of 96 tracking permits are issued daily. Other wildlife includes the golden monkey (also endemic to the Albertine Rift Endemic), elephant, buffalo, giant forest hog, bushpig, bushbuck, and black-fronted duiker. Around 200 bird species have been recorded, a list that includes at least 16 Albertine Rift Endemics, but logistically it is not an easy site for birdwatching.

potto in rwanda The unusual potto

Nyungwe Forest National Park is the most biodiverse site in Rwanda. It protects at least 1,050 plant species, along with 85 mammal, 310 bird, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species. Thirteen primate species are present: chimpanzee, Ruwenzori colobus, L’Hoest’s monkey, silver monkey, owl-faced monkey, red-tailed monkey, Dent’s monkey, crowned monkey, vervet monkey, olive baboon, potto and at least two species of bushbaby. The only member if the Big five extant in Nyungwe is leopard, but they are very infrequently observed. Antelope include bushbuck and three types of duiker. The tree hyrax is a seldom-seen guinea-pig-like animal whose blood-curdling screech is often heard at night. Nyungwe is one of the top forest ornithological sites in Africa and a must-visit for dedicated birdwatchers. akagera national park elephant

Akagera National Park is a more conventional Africa savannah reserve where all the Big Five might be seen. Buffaloes and elephants are most common, but leopards are observed with increasing frequency on night drives, and lion and black rhino - respectively reintroduced in 2015 and 2017 - are also quickly growing in visibility. Other wildlife includes Maasai giraffe, Burchell’s zebra, warthog, olive baboon, vervet monkey, hippo, impala, Defassa waterbuck, bushbuck, common duiker, eland, topi, Bohor reedbuck, oribi, roan antelope, klipspringer and the secretive semi-aquatic sitatunga. Spotted hyena, genet, civet, white-tailed mongoose, bushbaby, elephant-shrew and various species of owl and nightjar are often seen on night drives. Around 480 bird species have been recorded in Akagera, and it is particularly strong on raptors, waterbirds, and savannah and woodland species.

Visa Requirements for Rwanda

All visitors must present a passport upon arrival at their port of entry. This must be valid for at least 6 months after the end of their intended stay, and must have at least one full blank page available for entry and exit stamps.

Technically, visitors should also have a return or onward ticket, and be able to demonstrate access to sufficient funds to cover day-to-day expenses for the duration of their stay, but these requirements are seldom enforced.

Most visitors require a visa to…

Visa Requirements for Rwanda

All visitors must present a passport upon arrival at their port of entry. This must be valid for at least 6 months after the end of their intended stay, and must have at least one full blank page available for entry and exit stamps.

Technically, visitors should also have a return or onward ticket, and be able to demonstrate access to sufficient funds to cover day-to-day expenses for the duration of their stay, but these requirements are seldom enforced.

Most visitors require a visa to enter Rwanda. This includes nationals of practically all European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and North or South American countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand. As of 2018, citizens of all countries can purchase a 30-day single-entry tourist visa on arrival for US$30 at the airport or any land border with no advance application. A 30-day, single-entry visitor e-visa can also be bought in advance through the official website https://irembo.gov.rw/. Multiple-entry and non-tourist visas must be applied for through a Rwandan embassy or high commission abroad.

An East Africa Tourist Visa, also available online, allows multiple-entry visits to Rwanda, Rwanda and Uganda, but not to Tanzania or Burundi.

Travelling to Rwanda

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Almost all visitors from abroad fly. All flights currently land at Kibale International Airport, which lies less than 10km from central Kigali. Taxis are available to/from the city centre. Work on the new Bugesera International Airport, 40km south of the capital, commenced in August 2017.

The national airline RwandAir operates intercontinental flights connecting Kigali to Brussels, London Gatwick, Mumbai, Dubai and Guangzhou. A rapidly expanding list of African destinations includes…

Travelling to Rwanda

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Almost all visitors from abroad fly. All flights currently land at Kibale International Airport, which lies less than 10km from central Kigali. Taxis are available to/from the city centre. Work on the new Bugesera International Airport, 40km south of the capital, commenced in August 2017.

The national airline RwandAir operates intercontinental flights connecting Kigali to Brussels, London Gatwick, Mumbai, Dubai and Guangzhou. A rapidly expanding list of African destinations includes Johannesburg (South Africa), Nairobi and Mombasa (Kenya), Dar es Salaam, Mwanza and Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Entebbe (Uganda), Bujumbura (Burundi), Juba (South Sudan), Accra (Ghana), Lusaka (Zambia), Harare (Zimbabwe), Brazzaville (Republic of the Congo), Libreville (Gabon) and Lagos (Nigeria).

Other operators that fly directly to Kigali include Brussels Airlines, Ethiopian Airways, Kenya Airways, KLM, South African Airways, Turkish Airlines and Qatar.

It is possible to enter Rwanda overland from the neighbouring countries of Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the DR Congo, but you’d only be likely to do so as part of an extended overland trip through Africa or if you were doing a multi-country safari.

Travelling in Rwanda

enter image description here Credit: MVMT Blog

Most people explore Rwanda on a bespoke safari or tour arranged through any of innumerable international and local operators.

Trunk roads are surfaced and well maintained, so self-drive is an option, provided you have a valid international license and are prepared to adjust to relatively reckless local road mores. Driving is on the right side of the road, as in the USA and mainland Europe, which may require some adjustment for drivers accustomed to driving on the…

Travelling in Rwanda

enter image description here Credit: MVMT Blog

Most people explore Rwanda on a bespoke safari or tour arranged through any of innumerable international and local operators.

Trunk roads are surfaced and well maintained, so self-drive is an option, provided you have a valid international license and are prepared to adjust to relatively reckless local road mores. Driving is on the right side of the road, as in the USA and mainland Europe, which may require some adjustment for drivers accustomed to driving on the left.

Most major attractions, including Nyungwe, Volcanoes National Park and the various ports on Lake Kivu, are more or less accessible on public transport, which generally consists of minibuses that leave when full and tend to quite recklessly driven. An exception is Akagera National Park, which isn’t accessible on public transport.

Changing Money in Rwanda

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The Rwandan franc (RWF) trades against most international currencies at a favourable rate. Major international credit/debit cards (for instance Master and Visa) can be used to draw local currency at 24-hour ATMs in most cities and towns, but not in the national parks. Many vendors do not accept cards, however, so it’s a good idea to carry a few hundred dollars’ worth of hard currency cash as a fall back. The Euro is the most readily accepted hard currency bit US dollars and to a…

Changing Money in Rwanda

enter image description here

The Rwandan franc (RWF) trades against most international currencies at a favourable rate. Major international credit/debit cards (for instance Master and Visa) can be used to draw local currency at 24-hour ATMs in most cities and towns, but not in the national parks. Many vendors do not accept cards, however, so it’s a good idea to carry a few hundred dollars’ worth of hard currency cash as a fall back. The Euro is the most readily accepted hard currency bit US dollars and to a lesser extent British pounds sterling are also widely recognised.

Safety in Rwanda

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From a tourist’s perspective, Rwanda ranks as one of the most crime-free countries in Africa. Kigali is a very safe city, even at night, provided you follow the same kind of commonsense rules - avoid walking alone in unlit dark alleys, or overt displays of wealth - you would in any large city. Ideally you should leave any expensive jewellery at home, and avoid leaving valuables such as cash, mobile phones and electronic devices lying around openly in your hotel room. Padlocking your…

Safety in Rwanda

enter image description here

From a tourist’s perspective, Rwanda ranks as one of the most crime-free countries in Africa. Kigali is a very safe city, even at night, provided you follow the same kind of commonsense rules - avoid walking alone in unlit dark alleys, or overt displays of wealth - you would in any large city. Ideally you should leave any expensive jewellery at home, and avoid leaving valuables such as cash, mobile phones and electronic devices lying around openly in your hotel room. Padlocking your luggage will not prevent a determined thief from slashing it open, but it is a strong deterrent to casual light fingers.

It’s a good idea to carry a scan and/or electronic version of all important travel documents, in case they are lost or stolen. You might also want to email all such backups to a webmail address you can access anywhere on the road.

At your Lodge in Rwanda

enter image description here Ruzizi Tented Lodge, Akagera National Park

  • Never walk unaccompanied after dark in the bush or an unfenced camp or lodge.

  • Don’t feed the wildlife – not only does it encourage it to become dependent on handouts to survive, but it may also foster problem animals.

  • Don’t leave cash or other valuables lying around in the room.

  • Do cover up in the evenings, spray exposed skin with repellent, and sleep under a net or fan to discourage mosquitos and other biting insects.

  • Don’t freak…

At your Lodge in Rwanda

enter image description here Ruzizi Tented Lodge, Akagera National Park

  • Never walk unaccompanied after dark in the bush or an unfenced camp or lodge.

  • Don’t feed the wildlife – not only does it encourage it to become dependent on handouts to survive, but it may also foster problem animals.

  • Don’t leave cash or other valuables lying around in the room.

  • Do cover up in the evenings, spray exposed skin with repellent, and sleep under a net or fan to discourage mosquitos and other biting insects.

  • Don’t freak out if you find lizards in your room or frogs in the basin – they are not vermin but rather harmless contributors towards insect control.

  • Don’t make any unnecessary noise when wild animals are in the vicinity, or you might scare them off.

  • Do carry sunblock and a hat on all game drives.

  • Do assume that any large animal that enters camp is wild – respect its space and give it a wide berth rather than walking up to it to be photographed with it and chasing it away or provoking attack.

  • What should I know about local food and tipping practices in Rwanda?

  • Tipping is not standard at eateries or bars catering mainly to a local clientele, but that doesn’t mean a small something won’t be appreciated by the recipient.

  • Tourist-oriented restaurants operate on a similar basis to those in Europe. A 10% tip to the waiter is standard, depending on the quality of service.

  • Hotel porters usually expect a tip equivalent to around US$1 per item of luggage.

  • Tip in local currency where possible; it may be quite difficult for locals to exchange small amounts of hard currency into Rwanda francs.

  • It is customary to tip guides on national park activities such as gorilla tracking or hikes. If you require a porter, ask your guide about the fee and add a small tip if they perform satisfactorily.

  • In game lodges that offer guided activities, drivers and guides should be tipped. Many such lodges have guideline in the rooms; failing that ask management for a directive.

Food and Tipping in Rwanda

enter image description here Kigali Serena Hotel

Tipping is not standard at eateries or bars catering mainly to a local clientele, but that doesn’t mean a small something won’t be appreciated by the recipient.

Tourist-oriented restaurants operate on a similar basis to those in Europe. A 10% tip to the waiter is standard, depending on the quality of service.

Hotel porters usually expect a tip equivalent to around US$1 per item of luggage.

Tip in local currency where possible; it may be quite difficult for…

Food and Tipping in Rwanda

enter image description here Kigali Serena Hotel

Tipping is not standard at eateries or bars catering mainly to a local clientele, but that doesn’t mean a small something won’t be appreciated by the recipient.

Tourist-oriented restaurants operate on a similar basis to those in Europe. A 10% tip to the waiter is standard, depending on the quality of service.

Hotel porters usually expect a tip equivalent to around US$1 per item of luggage.

Tip in local currency where possible; it may be quite difficult for locals to exchange small amounts of hard currency into Rwanda francs.

It is customary to tip guides on national park activities such as gorilla tracking or hikes. If you require a porter, ask your guide about the fee and add a small tip if they perform satisfactorily.

In game lodges that offer guided activities, drivers and guides should be tipped. Many such lodges have guideline in the rooms; failing that ask management for a directive.

Shopping in Rwanda

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Kigali is equipped with a fair selection of well-stocked (but often quite pricey) western-style supermarkets and malls. Shops in smaller towns are less varied and more poorly stocked, but most everyday goods likely to be required by tourists will be available.

A wide range of handicrafts is sold countrywide and there’s great scope for browsing, especially in Kigali. The city’s biggest craft market is the Caplaki handicrafts co-operative, which comprises at least 30 wooden huts…

Shopping in Rwanda

enter image description here

Kigali is equipped with a fair selection of well-stocked (but often quite pricey) western-style supermarkets and malls. Shops in smaller towns are less varied and more poorly stocked, but most everyday goods likely to be required by tourists will be available.

A wide range of handicrafts is sold countrywide and there’s great scope for browsing, especially in Kigali. The city’s biggest craft market is the Caplaki handicrafts co-operative, which comprises at least 30 wooden huts and stalls that collectively sell a huge variety of goods - from hand-carvings, weaved items, batik cloth, pottery and the like to semi-precious stones, musical instruments and various novelties. Other Kigali galleries and outlets worth checking out include the Inema Arts Centre, Ivuka Arts, Niyo Cultural Centre, Association des Artistes Rwanda (ASAR), Amahoro ava Hejuru and the Abien Arts Collective. Throughout the city, you’ll also find street vendors selling most kinds of small handicrafts. Other towns that have a good selection of handicraft outlets include Musanze, Rubavu and to a lesser extent Huye and Karongi.

Languages in Rwanda

Unusually for Africa, Rwanda is essentially a mono-linguistic state, with the first language of practically all citizens being Kinyarwanda. In addition, most Rwandans speak a little of at least one international language. Historically, French was the most widely recognised European language, thanks to almost 50 years of Belgian colonisation. These days, however, English probably has the greater presence, partly because so many long-term exiles who returned after the genocide were…

Languages in Rwanda

Unusually for Africa, Rwanda is essentially a mono-linguistic state, with the first language of practically all citizens being Kinyarwanda. In addition, most Rwandans speak a little of at least one international language. Historically, French was the most widely recognised European language, thanks to almost 50 years of Belgian colonisation. These days, however, English probably has the greater presence, partly because so many long-term exiles who returned after the genocide were educated in Uganda, Kenya or Tanzania, partly because it replaced French as the international language of education in 2009. In rural areas, KiSwahili, a coastal Bantu language that has come to serve as the lingua franca of East Africa, is still more widely understood than either English or French. From a visitor’s perspective, it is pretty easy to get around in either English or French, both of which are recognised as an official language alongside Kinyarwanda, but English is undoubtedly the primary language of the tourist industry.

Packing list for Rwanda

It is highly recommended visitors to Rwanda take anti-malarial drugs. Seek advice a few weeks before you travel to determine the most suitable regime, and bear in mind you may need to start on the course a couple of weeks before you arrive in Rwanda. At the same time, check whether any vaccinations require updating. Most common over-the-counter medication is available at pharmacies in Kigali, Huye and other large towns, but not in smaller towns or the likes of Akagera and Nyungwe…

Packing list for Rwanda

It is highly recommended visitors to Rwanda take anti-malarial drugs. Seek advice a few weeks before you travel to determine the most suitable regime, and bear in mind you may need to start on the course a couple of weeks before you arrive in Rwanda. At the same time, check whether any vaccinations require updating. Most common over-the-counter medication is available at pharmacies in Kigali, Huye and other large towns, but not in smaller towns or the likes of Akagera and Nyungwe National Park, so it is worth stocking up in advance with any prescription drugs or others that you use regularly. Essentials such as sunblock and insect repellent can also be bought locally but still it is easier to deal with this kind of thing at home. Travellers often find that their eyes are more irritable in the tropical heat and dust, so contact lens users might want to bring glasses as a backup.

Vaccinations for Rwanda

Rwanda is free of yellow fever, so no vaccination is required for those coming directly from Europe or North America. However, you may be asked to produce a vaccination certificate if you enter the country from from elsewhere in the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America, a list that includes several neighbouring or near-neighbouring countries e.g. Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Make sure you are up-to-date on tetanus, polio and diphtheria shots. Also worth…

Vaccinations for Rwanda

Rwanda is free of yellow fever, so no vaccination is required for those coming directly from Europe or North America. However, you may be asked to produce a vaccination certificate if you enter the country from from elsewhere in the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America, a list that includes several neighbouring or near-neighbouring countries e.g. Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Make sure you are up-to-date on tetanus, polio and diphtheria shots. Also worth consideration are vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, rabies, typhoid, cholera and tuberculosis.

Medical Requirements for Rwanda

The biggest medical threat to visitors to Rwanda is malaria, with the risk of transmission being greatest at lower altitudes and during the rainy season. A variety of oral prophylactics against malaria is available, so before you travel, you should seek up-to-date advice about the most suitable option from a travel clinic or doctor.

No prophylactic is completely effective, so try to avoid being bitten by the nocturnal Anopheles mosquitoes that transmits the disease. Cover up in the…

Medical Requirements for Rwanda

The biggest medical threat to visitors to Rwanda is malaria, with the risk of transmission being greatest at lower altitudes and during the rainy season. A variety of oral prophylactics against malaria is available, so before you travel, you should seek up-to-date advice about the most suitable option from a travel clinic or doctor.

No prophylactic is completely effective, so try to avoid being bitten by the nocturnal Anopheles mosquitoes that transmits the disease. Cover up in the evening, by wearing a long-sleeved shirt, trousers and socks, and apply a good insect repellent clothes to any exposed flesh. When you retire, sleep under a net, or failing that in an air-conditioned room, under a fan, or with a mosquito coil burning.

Malaria usually manifests within two weeks of being bitten, but can take months, so if you display flu-like symptoms after you get home, get to a doctor and ask to be tested immediately. Travellers with young children or who prefer not to take medication might consider visiting a malaria-free safari destinations elsewhere in Africa.

Medical Emergencies in Rwanda

If no other assistance is at hand, emergency numbers are 111 for the fire department, 112 for ambulances and medical emergencies, 113 for traffic accidents and 999 for the police. Superior private hospitals in Kigali include the King Faisal Hospital (tel: 0252 588888) and Polyclinique du Plateau (tel: 0252 578767 or 0788 301630. A recommended pharmacy is the Pharmacie Conseil (tel: 0252 572374 or 0788 303655.

Medical Emergencies in Rwanda

If no other assistance is at hand, emergency numbers are 111 for the fire department, 112 for ambulances and medical emergencies, 113 for traffic accidents and 999 for the police. Superior private hospitals in Kigali include the King Faisal Hospital (tel: 0252 588888) and Polyclinique du Plateau (tel: 0252 578767 or 0788 301630. A recommended pharmacy is the Pharmacie Conseil (tel: 0252 572374 or 0788 303655.

Healthcare in Rwanda

The public healthcare system exists is underfunded and doesn’t meet international standards. Private medical facilities are also available but are not always to the standard you’d expect in Europe or North America. On the plus side, local doctors are inexpensive and highly experienced when it comes to diagnosing and prescribing appropriate treatment for common tropical diseases such as malaria.

Healthcare in Rwanda

The public healthcare system exists is underfunded and doesn’t meet international standards. Private medical facilities are also available but are not always to the standard you’d expect in Europe or North America. On the plus side, local doctors are inexpensive and highly experienced when it comes to diagnosing and prescribing appropriate treatment for common tropical diseases such as malaria.

Medical Travel Insurance for Rwanda

Go for fully comprehensive medical travel insurance, inclusive of air evacuation where required. Read the small print before you sign, in the knowledge that many policies will not cover injuries sustained during recreational activities deemed to be hazardous, or in areas subject to travel warnings by the British FCO or US state department.

Medical Travel Insurance for Rwanda

Go for fully comprehensive medical travel insurance, inclusive of air evacuation where required. Read the small print before you sign, in the knowledge that many policies will not cover injuries sustained during recreational activities deemed to be hazardous, or in areas subject to travel warnings by the British FCO or US state department.