Where to visit in Rwanda
Where to visit in Rwanda
Our Guide on Where to Visit in Rwanda
There are four national parks in Rwanda – Akagera, Nyungwe, Gishwati-Mukura and the Volcanoes National Park. From the largest national park in the country (Akagera), to the oldest rainforest in Africa (Nyungwe), each park is special in its own right and warrants a visit. The great thing about Rwanda is that, although it is a relatively small country (26,338 km2), so you can combine multiple destinations in a driving itinerary. We can organize private driver/ guides to take you between the parks, stopping as much as you like on route, to admire or photograph the views.
For those who want to see the mountain gorillas, then a few nights in the Volcanoes National Park is a must. The park is home to around 350 mountain gorillas and, although the highlight is to come face-to-face with these incredible and humble animals, the national park boasts a biodiversity of flora and fauna. Whether you are hiking through the forest or sitting on your balcony in the lodge, be sure to take in all that this forest offers. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime destination.
If you’re looking for a forest that offers a little bit of everything, definitely consider Nyungwe National Park. Located in the south of the country, this is one of Africa’s oldest rainforests and is everything you’d envision for a tropical forest. The lodges offer guided walks and hikes through the forest for the opportunity to see the 13 species of primate and an array of birdlife. For those wanting to find out more about the local Rwandan culture, Nyungwe is home to many tea plantations and local communities, which you can also visit. There is plenty to do here but most of all, it is a great place to sit back and appreciate the smaller things – the flora and fauna that lives here in abundance.
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Best places to go in Rwanda
Akagera National Park
Although this is the largest national park in Rwanda, it is still relatively new in the safari world. Twenty years ago, this park was on the verge of being lost forever as its fragile ecosystem suffered from the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. There was no – or very little – protection or conservation-focus on the park. That has changed dramatically and today, the park is almost recognizable – in the best way possible. Incredible teams like African Parks have taken control of the park and are constantly monitoring and working on ways to improve the ecosystem and biodiversity. In fact, recently southern white rhinos were successfully translocated from Phinda Reserve in South Africa. Although only a couple of years into the project and monitored constantly, the project was incredibly successful and they are thriving in Akagera National Park. This was the largest single translocation to date. Although in terms of game viewing, this park is not comparable with the likes of other East African destinations (like the Masai Mara or the Serengeti for example), however, this rhino project just goes to show that there is hope and optimism for Akagera National Park.
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is located in the northwest of the country and is one of the most recognized and renowned parks in Rwanda. The park is named after the chain of dormant volcanoes that form this area. The Virunga Massif is a collection of mountains and ecosystems that spreads across three countries – Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Each country has its own name for their part of the Virunga, and the Volcanoes National Park is therefore, the Rwandan part. The landscape of the Volcanoes is simply breathtaking, from with soaring mountains to expansive crater lakes. Although the landscape is enough to warrant a visit here, the main draw to the park is to see the habituated mountain gorillas. These huge and humble animals are endangered, and there are less than 1,000 left in the world today. A guided trek through the forest can take anywhere between 30 minutes and 6 hours (typically 2-4 hours) and when you find the family of habituated gorillas, you are allowed to spend one hour with them. It’s a truly humbling experience and one that is on many safari bucket lists.
Although the capital, and the largest city in Rwanda, most people are often surprised by Kigali. It is rated one of Africa’s cleanest cities and the local people certainly take pride in that. With regular cleaning patrols, the streets are kept clean and there is a safe and welcoming feel to the city. There is no denying that Kigali has been through horrific events and, although the genocide of 1994 was less than 30 years ago, the people of Kigali are extremely open and honest about the history of the city. In fact, many local people and guides want to talk about it, because their attitude and optimistic mind-set today reflects so beautifully on Rwanda – and the type of people that Rwandans are. The city is also booming in art and architecture, with spaces like the Kigali Cultural Village emerging for local artisans and tourists alike. From a logistics point of view, you will likely start and finish your stay in Kigali, so we can help book any excursions or accommodation here in the city.
Located in the southwest of Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest or Nyungwe National Park is probably one of the best preserved montane rainforests in Africa. It is also one of the oldest on the continent. The forest is rich with flora and fauna and its biodiversity is truly impressive. Inside this lush, green ecosystem are 13 species of primates including the chimpanzee, the golden monkey, the blue monkey and the velvet monkey among others. These can be seen on guided walks or hikes through the forest. Other animal species that can be seen include a variety of antelope (klipspringer, impala, and bushbucks among others), forest hogs and bush pigs, genets, mongoose and larger mammals like buffalo and elephant. There are a collection of beautiful lodges and properties in this densely montane forest and a great park to combine with other Rwanda destinations.
Bordering between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Kivu is on the Great African Lakes. Because of its location, it is surrounded by mountains and dormant volcanoes, making this area extremely picturesque. Kivu is the largest lake in Rwanda and, at a size of 2,700 km2, it is Africa’s sixth largest lake. There are some popular areas along the lake to relax and spend a couple of days soaking up the African sunshine. For those looking to be more active, there are also activities on the lake like canoeing, as well as bike and hike trails around the lake to use at your leisure. For those who want to spend a few days to relax after your exhilarating Rwanda safari, Lake Kivu could be a good option if you do not want to fly to a beach spot.
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