Rwanda is a small country that packs a big punch, delivering on incredible landscapes, equally incredible wildlife, and welcoming people. We love it so much; we’ve named it the destination of the year for 2021. We think you’ll love it too. Within this Rwanda travel guide, you’ll find all the information you need to start planning your trip to the land of a thousand hills.
A Snapshot of Why We Love Rwanda
- A full safari and primate experience in one of Africa’s cleanest countries. It’s not just an “add-on” destination to see the gorillas anymore.
- Intimate properties owned by some of the biggest stars in sustainable luxury tourism
- Akagera National Park – one of the most diverse eco-systems in all of Africa, with the archetypal African savannah landscape (it shares a border with the Serengeti), immense swamps filled with forest-fringed lakes (think Okavango Delta in Botswana), and chains of jagged mountains
- An uncrowded and up-and-coming Big Five safari destination with the recent successful rehabilitation of lion and rhino in Akagera National Park
- Privately guided drives through some of Rwanda’s most beautiful countryside
- Flights directly to Rwanda from major International Airports
Rwanda Travel Guide – What to Do in Rwanda
Gorilla trekking is the obvious draw to Rwanda. However, there are a number of other primate species that reside within the parks, including golden monkeys and chimpanzees. Plan to spend a few days between Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park trekking to see the incredible primates.
Additionally, Rwanda is no longer just an add on for safaris in other countries. With the introduction of rhino and lions in Akagera National Park, you can have a Big 5 safari and a primate safari together in Rwanda.
Beyond safaris, Kigali is a capital city that begs exploration. Winding boulevards, flowering trees, and bustling eateries are a far cry from the tragedy of the 1990s. At the same time, Kigali isn’t running from its past. Rather, it pays homage to it at the Genocide Memorial Center, a powerful memorial to the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their lives over the 100-day Rwandan genocide in 1994. It’s a chilling reminder of how far the country has come, and well worth a visit.
And in the middle of Rwanda, you’ll find one of the great African lakes – Lake Kivu. The shining freshwater lake is one in a string of lakes in Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Take a boat out to the middle for views of green, terraced tea plantations rising over the shores, mountains, and outcrops of rocks. In the small villages on the shores of the lake, dip your toes in the water, watch fishermen bring in their daily catch, and taste Sambaza in Gisenyi (a local delicacy of fried sardines).
A Travel Guide to Rwanda’s Parks
Volcanoes National Park
Half of the world’s remaining gorilla population resides in Volcanoes National Park, where Dian Fossey spent 20 years researching the beloved primates. Currently, there are 10 habituated families of mountain gorillas in the park that are specifically tracked for visitor interaction. As you can imagine, gorilla treks are high on many adventure traveler’s buckets lists. However, limited numbers of daily trekking permits make it imperative to book well in advance.
Another once-in-a-lifetime primate interaction in Volcanoes National Park is trekking to see habituated golden monkeys. Similar to trekking gorillas, a special permit is required for a private guided hike. But an up-close and personal view of the monkeys in their natural habitat is an adventure you’ll never forget.
Gishwati-Mukura National Park
The highly anticipated Gishwati-Mukura National Park is opening to visitors by the end of the year. Just 20 years ago, the park was on the fast track to extinction, including its wildlife and primate residents. But thanks to conservationists, the Gishwati-Mukura ecosystems were granted joint national park status. It is now a thriving forest, with plans to create a wildlife corridor connecting it to Nyungwe Forest. While there aren’t any accommodations in the park yet, you can visit it as a detour on the road between Nyungwe National Park and Volcanoes National Park. It’s famous for its L’hoest’s monkeys and various bird species. There are also about 20 chimps that reside in the park.
Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is a symbol of Rwanda’s successful conservation efforts after the Rwandan Civil War reduced its wildlife population by half. Within the last five years, it has undergone massive rehabilitation, successfully bringing in lions and rhinos. Additionally, Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park spills over into Akagera at the Tanzania-Rwanda border. Because of that, you can have a Big Five safari experience without the crowds of the Serengeti.
Akagera National Park Safari
Nyungwe Forest National Park
While Volcanoes National Park might take top billing in Rwanda for its gorilla trekking, Nyungwe Forest National Park is an essential stop on any primate itinerary in Rwanda. The park shelters more than 25-percent of Africa’s primate species within 370 square miles of mountainous rainforest, lush grassland, and swamps. A trek through the park offers a chance to see 14 different species of primates, including the L’Hoest monkey, owl-faced monkey, black and white colobus, and chimpanzee. A dense butterfly population thrives in the park, as well as a number of endemic plants and animals not found anywhere else in Africa. A must-do while in the park is the Nyungwe Forest National Park Canopy Walk. The 295-foot bridge, suspended 130 feet above the ground, brings you eye level with the different primate species and various birdlife hidden within the tree canopy.
Custom Trips to East Africa
Ready to embark on a luxury Rwandan safari experience? Contact Donna Salerno Travel to help customize your own journey! Time is your ultimate luxury; spend it wisely.
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Courtesy K & D