02 April 2015 Written by 

What your safari consultant ought to tell you before travelling to Rwanda

In this country known as "Le Pays des Milles Collides" – Land of a Thousand Hills – one discovers fascinating wildlife, unparalleled natural landscapes, and a nation's warm and resilient people. Whether you seek adventure, wish to immerse yourself in cultural experiences or simply want to escape your everyday hustles and bustles to serenity, Rwanda's diversity has something to offer everyone.

Gorilla & Primate Tracking

It is estimated that there are only 780 mountain gorillas still in existence today. Rwanda, one of only three countries where these endangered primates live, shelters one third of the population within its Volcanoes National Park. These majestic mammals have settled into the park's bamboo forests. In addition to the famous gorilla treks, Rwanda offers the opportunity to hike with chimpanzee and golden monkeys. The golden monkeys are strikingly picturesque with their bright orange fur contrasting the green rainforests of the Virunga Mountains. Chimpanzee tracking can be done year-round in Nyungwe National Park – home of roughly 400 chimpanzee species. This experience differs from gorilla tracking as the chimpanzees are running around, so the sightings are a bit more sporadic and rushed.

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The Volcanoes National Park is a magnificent, unforgettable place where culture, adventure and conservation intersect. The park lies along the Virunga Mountains that has eight volcanoes shared by Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Near the park, the bustling and vibrant markets of Musanze are a place to immerse oneself into everyday Rwandan culture. Deep into the earth on a 1.2-mile long stretch are the Musanze caves. These caves date back 65 million years and lie within the volcanic region where lava flow layers, from the nearby Bisoke and Sabyinyo volcanoes, long ago created the Albertine Rift Valley. The caves are also home to one of East Africa's largest bat colonies. Iby'Iwacu Cultural Village, located just outside the park, is a living museum that highlights aspects of traditional Rwanda society. Thunderous drumming, joyful dancing, and the kind of hospitality that has permeated Rwandan society for centuries greet visitors.

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Nyungwe National Park is believed to be one of Africa's oldest and untouched natural rainforests filled with thrilling biodiversity. Hiking or biking the beautiful terrain, tracking the famous chimpanzees, experiencing the canopy walk, witnessing beautiful birds, relaxing by waterfalls, going for tea tours are just a glimpse of activities that Nyungwe offers.

  • The Canopy Walkway hanging 70 meters above the forest floor and 200 metres long provides a stunning bird's-eye view of the park's amazing wildlife and nature.
  • Nyungwe's steep landscape boasts an extensive network of numerous hiking trails for novice or experienced hikers. The trails have an amazingly diverse landscape and represent the most of the scenic forest views. Hikers navigate through varied landscapes such as rainforests, waterfalls, bracken fields and bamboo forests.
  • Tea is Rwanda's largest export. Major tea plantation tours take place around the park in Gisovu and Gisakura. Travellers see tealeaves covering the mountains sides, creating a stunning contrast to the blue skies, dirt roads and sunshine
  • Walking tours of Banda Village represent the perfect setting for learning about an area where people have lived for more than 50,000 years. The tours provide guests the opportunity to participate in normal everyday activities and if fortunate, maybe even attend a traditional wedding ceremony.

Birding

Rwanda has over 700 species of birds. Its location in the Albertine Rift makes an ideal and stunning landscape for bird enthusiasts. Rwanda has seven important birding areas these include the three National Parks, Rugezi Swamp, Akanyaru Wetlands, Nyabarongo and Cyamudongo. Rwanda's birds range from the common to the rare - all a delight to the eye. Birding tours are well suited to both bird enthusiasts and keen birders with a sense of adventure.

Boating

Rwanda is blessed with numerous lakes each with a variety of water sports. Most lakeside hotels have their own water sports equipment for rent. Booking and reservations can be made directly through the front desk. Boat safaris and fishing trips are available at Lake Ihema in Akagera National Park. Surrounded by magnificent mountains, the lakes have a seaside-like atmosphere and temperate climates that provide an enticing and relaxing atmosphere. Waterfront towns like Karongi and Rubavu make for ideal romantic lakeside recreation locales.

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The Akagera National Park with its labyrinth of forest-fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, savannah plains and rolling highlands is one of the most scenic of reserves anywhere in Africa. Due to its wide variety of habitats, it has exceptional levels of biodiversity and forms the largest protected wetland in central Africa. It combines well with the Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Parks to offer a great safari element as it is home to many large plains game species, exotic birds, as well as species restricted to the papyrus swamps making it a travellers dream.

Cultural Experiences

History, culture, music, dance and arts play an important role in Rwanda.

  • Musical performances range from demonstrations of bravery and excellence, to humorous dance styles and lyrics. Live dance performances can be seen at the Iby'Iwacu Cultural Village or the National Museum of Rwanda. The finest display of Rwanda's varied and dynamic traditional musical and dance styles is performed by the Intore Dance Troupes.
  • A distinctively Rwandan craft are the Imigongo (cow dung) paintings. Produced by a local co-operative in the Nyakarambi village near the Rusumo Falls that borders Tanzania. Dominated by black, brown and white whorls and other geometric abstractions, it is worth seeing how the paintings are reflected in local house decorations.
  • The genocide memorial is included on every city tour and is a must-see. Despite Rwanda's painful past, their impressive recovery story has turned her into an inspiration. The genocide memorial acts as a humbling reminder to those present and honours those lost.
  • Nestled along scenic hilltops Rwanda's bustling capital, Kigali, is a great place to begin or end any Rwanda safari. The city is clean and safe, with extremely welcoming people. Travelers will enjoy exploring the great cultural activities - including several award-winning museums, burgeoning music scene including a vibrant Cong-Rwandese nightlife, and some of East Africa's most memorable dining experiences.


Esther Gacheru

Esther Gacheru is an aspiring Business Analyst in Nairobi who is currently nurturing an agribusiness project. Her most indulged passions include listening to music, giving back to the society, travelling and writing about her travels.
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Twitter Handle: @mw_esther
Email: info@xplorato.com
xplorato-aboutWith a strong emphasis on sustainable travel practices Xplorato Ventures can provide you with anything from classic to luxury safaris.
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