Visiting Rwanda calls for considerable thought and preparation, including booking a gorilla trekking permit ahead of time as well as a hotel/lodge that you will stay in. For those who decide to pursue such a trip, the reward is a destination described as a “Place of a thousand hills” country of staggering rare natural beauty, with some of the world’s most amazing wildlife including over 300 hundred mountain gorillas. Many places in Rwanda are well-equipped for tourism with some destinations standing out as particularly interesting or attractive.
The capital of Rwanda, Kigali is a major trade and transport hub that sits alongside Lake Kivu in the eastern province, a welcome waterway in this landlocked country. While the conveniences of a capital city make Kigali an essential stop for visitors on their way to see the country’s natural wonders, it also has attractions of its own. Founded by Dr. Richard Kandt under German colonial rule in 1907, the town of Kigali has been the economic, cultural, and transport hub of Rwanda since it became capital at independence in 1962. The major tourist destinations here include the Gisozi genocide memorial museum, the First House, Local art and craft shops, Fruits market among others. 30 to 35km from Kigali we find Nyamata and Ntarama churches that were gazetted into genocide memorial sites.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in southwestern Rwanda, at the border with Burundi to the south, Lake Kivu, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Nyungwe protects the rainforest habitats with 13 species of primates including the Angola Colobus found in groups of 300-400 animals that is an attribute unique to Nyungwe, chimpanzees, and approximately 280 bird species, 25 of which are endemic. The village of Nyamagabe serves as a hub for park visitors, offering basic guesthouses and luxury accommodation. It is served by Rwandan air, offering a considerably more convenient alternative to reaching the park by road. It offers 9-13 flights a week (depending on the season) from Kigali to Kamembe International Airport. The latter is only 32 kms from the Nyungwe Forest Lodge. The Lodge will also arrange 35-minute helicopter transfers to/from Kigali Airport via Akagera Aviation.
Chimpanzee tracking is one of the most popular attractions here. Other tourist activities in Nyungwe National Park include Canopy walk adventure, Black and white colobus monkey tracking, bird watching, community walk, Tea harvesting, forest walk to waterfalls, and Congo Nile Guided Hike among others.
Accommodation around Nyungwe Forest currently includes the 5-star luxurious Nyungwe Forest Lodge, Nyungwe Hill Top View Hotel, Gisakura Guest House, and Peace Guesthouse located at Cyangugu, about 40km from Nyungwe park headquarters.
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is part of Virunga region shared amongst the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda. This corner or northwestern Rwanda is a breathtaking unforgettable place where culture, adventure, and conservation intersect. Volcanoes National Park has 5 out of the 8 volcanoes of the Virunga chain of Mountains, and these include Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Sabyinyo. These are covered in rainforest and bamboo. Many rivers such as flow-through Volcanoes National park support many animal species such as large mammals and primates such as mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, duiker, Forest Elephants, and buffalo, as well as some 178 bird species including at least 29 endemics to Rwenzori mountains and the Virungas. Examples of rivers include River Nyabarongo.
Mountain gorilla trekking is the major tourist attraction here. Travel writers believe that a safari in Africa is incomplete without tracking gorillas in the wild. If you have limited time for your African safari, you can choose the shortest gorilla trek for 1 day gorilla tour in Rwanda that leaves Kigali early at 4:00 am to return in the afternoon or evening after the trek on the same day to complete your safari in the true African wilderness. Among other activities include golden monkey tracking, Mountain hiking (Mt. Karisimbi that requires 2 days / 1 night, and Mt. Bishoke for only 1 day), forest walk, local community tours, and visiting cultural villages among others.
Accommodation options around Volcanoes National Park range from budget to Mid-range and luxury lodges and these include Virunga, Sabyinyo Silverback, Bisate Lodge, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Hotel La Palme, Villa Gorillas, Muhabura hotel and Kinigi Guest House directly benefiting the local community.
Activities Recommended in Rwanda
Enjoy one of fifteen habituated gorilla groups visit in Volcanoes National park – Remember a total of 120 gorilla permits are currently sold per day. Tourists report at the park head office by 7:00 am for a pre-tracking briefing. Once tourists meet the gorillas they spend an hour with them.
Golden monkey visits.
Climbing of Karisimbi volcano – this is a two-day trek with overnight camping at an altitude of 3,800 m.
Climbing of Bisoke volcano – one day.
Tour of the lakes and caves in Musanze including 1.25 miles long cave—home to a large bat colony.
Visiting the tomb of Dian Fossey–an American zoologist, primatologist, and anthropologist who undertook an extensive study of gorilla groups over a period of 18 years in Rwanda
Iby’Iwacu cultural village tour offers an opportunity to explore Rwanda’s history and cultural values, enjoy local music, dance and drama.
In addition to Rwanda gorilla safari, enjoy “Kwita Izina” in Musanze on the edges of Volcanoes national park, a ceremony on which Baby gorillas are given names. This takes place every year in June and attracts many tourists from different parts of the world.