Rwanda is fast growing as a tourism destination offers something different from the usual big five safaris in Africa. After about two decades of the terrible and unforgettable tragedies of the 1994 Rwandese genocide, the land of a thousand hills is greatly rebranding her tourism industry and the general economy. Today Rwanda is one of the upcoming tourism destinations with unique wildlife species that mainly include the rare mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, birds and many other exclusive attractions like local cultural traditions.
Top Things to See
Mountain gorillas are the leading tourists attractions in Rwanda inhabiting Volcanoes National Park located in the northeastern part of the country. Volcanoes national park has two of the five series of the Virunga volcanoes (Mount Bisoke and Karisimbi) and shares the other three (Mount Muhabura, Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga) with Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla Park located near the Ugandan border with Rwanda. Volcanoes national park has nearly half of the world’s 900 mountain gorillas on the planet that freely move around their habitats in the jungles of Virungas.
Most travelers visit Volcanoes National Park to experience close gorilla encounters, the most popular primate watching adventure in Africa. There are ten habituated gorilla groups within the PNV and are open year round for tourism. Tourists going for gorilla safaris go through the dense forested slopes that are even sometimes hardly visible because of the permanent mist and clouds especially in the early morning hours. The first remarkable experiences one gets is listening to the sounds of birds and other forest dwellers in search for the mountain gorillas.
At about 2,500 meters on the foothills, several footpath trails lead to the dense forests, which has many other wild animals like buffalos, monkeys and forest elephants that can be occasionally sighted on the trail.
Gorilla trekking takes time ranges between 30 minutes to 5 hours and every encounter of a gorilla group is not usually the same. You trek the forest until you get to your allocated gorilla group, which spend an hour with after finding it.
The hour features keen observation of the mysterious animals and taking photographs however a reasonable distance is recommended. Just looking in the eyes of the mountain gorillas gives you a lifetime experience that you never get anywhere else on the planet. The gorilla experience in the volcanoes national park is very touching, so satisfying and very sensitive.
Rwenzori Colobus Monkeys
The black and white colobus monkeys live in the jungles of Nyungwe forest – the largest montane forest in east Africa. These impressive primates have white fur from their checks down the chest and belly while the rest of the body being covered in black fur. Such impressive colors to have!!
These monkeys live in groups as the move from one part of the forest to another while looking for food. They mainly feed on fresh leaves, forest fruits and shoots. These impressive primates can be trekked in the forest for remarkable tourism experiences.
Dian Fossey Memorial Site
Dian was an American zoologist who risked her life to live in the jungles of the Virungas fighting for the lives of the mountain gorillas that were being poached at a very high rate.
She arrived in Rwanda around the late 1960’s and established a research base at Karisoke – Karisoke research center in the jungles along the slopes of mount Karisimbi. While here, she studied a number of gorillas and wrote a number of books about these incredible animals that exposed them to the international scene.
Dian was later murdered and buried near the grave of her favorite gorilla- Digit. Dian Fossey will always be remembered in the history of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda mainly because of her great conservation works.
This located in southwestern Rwanda and it’s the largest montane forest in east Africa. Nyungwe forest has unique biodiversity of various tree species including some of the oldest trees in east Africa, a number of birds (about 327 birds 27 of which are endemic to the Albertine region), about 13 primate species like the L’Hoest monkeys, Rwenzori colobus monkey, chimpanzees among others.
The forest has well developed tourist’s trails that can enable tourists to go for various tourist activities like primate tracking, birding and nature walks. Nyungwe also has a canopy walk way at about 50 meters above enabling easy accessibility of the wildlife species in the top canopy layers.
Akagera National Park
This stretches towards the eastern border with a number of big game wildlife species. Akagera national park has a number vegetation types consisting of the savanna grasslands, swamp vegetation especially around the rivers and lakes and acacia woodland with scattered trees. These are homes to a number of wildlife animals that include buffaloes, zebras, hippo, elephants, giraffes, elands, sitatungas and a number of birds that even include the rare shoebill stork.
All tourists interested in game drives in Rwanda should just think of Akagera national park. Boat trips are also made along the Kagera River for great hippo views as they relax in the shallow waters along the riverbanks.
It’s the largest lake in Rwanda located on the western side along the Rwanda- democratic republic of Congo border. This fresh water body has beautiful towns along the shores with well-developed resorts and hotels that offer standard hospitality services to the visitors.
Lake Kivu is hippo and bilharzia free thus making it a suitable swimming environment to enable tourists to cool down.
With fine sand beaches stretching along, a tourist after a swim in the lake can relax while sun bathing and enjoying the cool environment of the beautiful country that is greatly gifted by nature.