When you think of Rwanda what comes to mind? Impossibly green rolling hills and mountains? Brilliantly rich national parks? Bamboo forests and the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas? Or, chimpanzees, golden monkeys, and olive baboons?
Probably you’ve thought all of the above and more. But did you know that Rwanda is also ranked as one of the safest countries in the world? Its capital, Kigali is the safest capital city in Africa. And you probably never knew that Rwanda is the cleanest country in Africa. Its citizens all participate in a monthly clean-up program called Umuganda, which means “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome”.
But there’s so much more happening here culturally and environmentally – Rwanda is a world leader in eco-green development – the first country to ban single-use plastic bags. The Rwandan people are committed to increasing their forest acreage to cover 30 percent of the country, and they’ve created three additional national parks. All of this to protect the natural biosphere and ensure a safe place where wildlife can thrive.
This sense of community and pitching in for the common good typifies today’s Rwanda, whose citizens have taken a huge and faithful leap into the future to build a green, prosperous, and peaceful country and society.
Rwanda is finally living up to its potential as a haven for tourists with its lush treasure of volcanic mountains, bamboo forests, inland beaches, and layers of montane rainforest. Hidden within these forests you’ll find rare but fascinating mountain gorillas along with a wonderland of captivating primates – chimps, monkeys, and baboons. And overhead you’ll be enchanted by rainbows of luminous birds and butterflies.
But Rwanda is blessed with plains type wildlife as well – the savannah here will show off its bounty of zebras, impalas, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, and sometimes elephants and lions.
This is an enterprising nation, its goals reflected in the busy capital of Kigali. Secure and orderly, it still resonates with a busy nightlife scene. Leave it to the engaging Rwandans to tell you all about their beautiful country and its incredible advances. It is an unbelievable story of drama, conflict, and rebirth… complete with a very happy ending.
Rwanda’s Special Parks
Many if not most travel to Rwanda to get a glimpse of the endangered mountain gorillas and rare chimpanzees in the wild. What they may not expect to find is the diversity or the breathless beauty of the wildlife parks they will discover.
Volcanoes National Park – the mountainous Virunga volcanoes are spellbinding with their deep emerald carpet sweeping over the five majestic peaks. Tucked away in these hills and rainforests live the elusive mountain gorillas, one of the last spots on the planet where you’ll find them.
Coming upon a family of these endangered apes, sitting together, perhaps grooming each other and looking back at you is an emotional moment you’ll never forget. Your trek through the park may also bring you in contact with troops of golden, colobus, owl-faced, and blue monkeys.
Nyungwe Forest National Park – a great swath of biodiversity presented in equatorial rainforest. The highlight here is the opportunity to track chimpanzees. You may come upon them foraging for food and building their nests. There are troops of other primates found here as well – Dent’s monkeys, olive baboons, vervet monkeys, and more.
For an exciting and unusual perspective of the park’s rich diversity, ascend the canopy walkway amongst the treetops for sky-high views of butterflies, birdlife, and orchids dotting the landscape.
Akagera National Park – but not all the parks of Rwanda are mountainous. Akagera offers savannah, marsh, low hills, and forest that support topis, zebras, impalas, giraffes, rhinos… even elephants and lions. Thanks to conservation efforts, the number of animals is increasing here, and sightings are becoming more common.
Surprisingly, Rwanda also offers wonderful inland beaches and other unexpected attractions.
Rubona Peninsula – take a drive from Kigali to discover the Rubona Peninsula and the lovely shores of Lake Kivu, which border steep hills and local homesteads. Small pristine beaches are a delightful surprise here as are flotillas of fishing boats plying the lake in the early morning.
Gorilla Guardians Village – this is a cultural experience showcasing Rwandan village life. Step into this re-enacted scene to watch how villagers shoot bows and arrows, grind seeds and other aspects of daily life. You can join in a traditional intore dance and the performance marriage of a king and queen.
The proceeds of admission go to the local communities, and it’s a nice complement to your time trekking in the parks.