Tiny Rwanda lies encircled amongst the landscapes of the African Great Lakes region of Central and eastern Africa.
Once known as ‘Le Pays des Milles Collines’ (the land of a thousand hills), its lush landscapes are dominated by rolling hills and verdant plantations of tea and coffee.
To the north-west lie the towering volcanic peaks of the Volcanoes National Park, home to a third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas and Rwanda’s big draw card. But this stunning country has more than just volcanoes and gorillas to offer. Its picturesque Parc National Nyungwe has the most extensive montane rainforest in the region, whilst the pristine shorelines and untouched islands Lake Kivu are teeming with birdlife.
Since the tragic genocide of 1994 thrust Rwanda into the public eye, the country has taken great strides towards recovering its pride and identity, striving to make the country a safe and thriving destination for tourists. The events of the recent past are never far from people’s minds though, and tributes to the dead in the form of memorials and museums are a constant reminder for generations to come. But visitors to this resilient and remarkable country will find an African success story, filled with scenic and cultural beauty that will leave a refreshingly optimistic view of hope for the future.
AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
Akagera National Park covers 1,200 km² in eastern Rwanda, along the Tanzanian border. One of the oldest National Parks in Africa, it is named for after the Kagera River which flows along its boundary feeding into several lakes the largest of which is Lake Ihema. The complex system of lakes and linking papyrus swamps makes up over one third of the park and is the largest protected wetland in central Africa. In the north you'll find large swathes of savannah grasslands, with rolling hills and valleys found further east. While its wildlife is not on the same scale as better-known African parks, there is still plenty to see on an Akagera safari in some very beautiful and diverse scenery.
VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Home to the famous mountain gorillas, Volcanoes National Park consists of a dramatic chain of seven misty volcanoes, with a rich mosaic of mountain ecosystems and bamboo forests that open onto vast verdant grasslands. With only a mere 700 mountain gorillas left on Earth, the opportunity to get so close to these miraculous creatures in their natural habitat is an unforgettable experience. There are also a variety of other activities, including tracking the golden monkeys, climbing one of the Virunga volcanoes or visiting the remains of the Dian Fossey Research Centre, who pioneered research in gorilla behaviour in their natural habitat.
Running for almost 100km along the Congolese border, Lake Kivu is the largest freshwater lake in the valleys of Rwanda. The irregular shores form numerous inlets, peninsulas and myriad forest-fringed waterfalls. There are three main resort towns of which Gisenyi, in the North, has by far the best and most varied facilities, due to its proximity to the popular Volcanoes National Park. Further south, Kibuye has the advantage of being closer to Kigali, while Cyangugu can easily be visited in conjunction with Nyungwe National Park and Butare. Each town offers a variety of water sports, boating to the numerous islands, and fantastic opportunities for bird watching.
One of Africa's best kept secrets, this 1000 sq. km. jungle in the south of Rwanda is the largest and most ancient Afro-Montane forest remaining in East & Central Africa, dating as far back as the last ice age. The forest boasts 13 rare primate species, the world's largest ever recorded arboreal troop of black/white colobus monkeys, over 300 species of birds and an astonishing variety of orchids and butterflies. Upon entering the park visitors are immediately faced with dense jungle and the first 50km of road tightly hugs the steep forested slopes, offering magnificent expansive views over dense hills that roll towards the remote Burundi border.