Nestled just south of the equator, Rwanda is commonly known as ‘Le Pays des Milles Colines’ or ‘The Land of One Thousand Hills’ and mystifies with its undulating luscious mountains and chain of seven volcanoes that punctuate Central Africa’s landscape. Although primarily known for its gorilla trekking, which offers one of the most emotional and spellbinding wildlife experiences known to man, there is so much more to explore and fall in love with in this beautiful and compact country.
Rwanda offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in Africa, be it the dramatic Virunga volcanoes bordering Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo or the forest of Nyungwe, one of the largest montane forests in Central Africa, home to chimpanzees and large groups of Colobus monkeys. Parc National des Volcans (Volcanoes National Park) is located in northwest Rwanda and is an area of thickly vegetated rainforest and bamboo providing shelter to endangered golden monkeys and approximately one third of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population. It is also where primologist Dian Fossey carried out her seminal work, and which was her adopted home and place of rest. Dian expressed the feeling of coming face-to-face with silverback mountain gorillas as "The expression in his eyes was unfathomable. Spellbound I returned his gaze - a gaze that seemed to combine elements of enquiry and acceptance." It is an experience only those who have lived can fully understand.
Deep within the thickets of Nyungwe lies another gripping wildlife encounter. Here chimpanzees crash noisily through the forests, and witnessing these distant relatives and their human-like behaviour is another highlight of any trip to Rwanda. Conservation also plays an important role in local tourism and there is a strong ethos of preservation of rare primates; many visitors find it rewarding to know that they are reinforcing the good work of the local organisations by contributing to park fees and permits.
Aside from the primate world, Lake Kivu is the largest lake in Rwanda, where the towns of Kibuye and Gisenyi afford terrific lake views. This idyllic lake is also home to some of the best inland beaches on the continent, remote island communities and there are ample activities such as canoeing and windsurfing on offer. With the widely documented problems of 1994 and the Tutsi genocide firmly in the past, Rwanda is a prosperous country and tourism has played a vital role in its recovery, which is evidenced in the heart-warming reception you will receive from Rwandans.
Due to its compactness, we recommend Rwanda to those who wish to track the endangered Mountain Gorillas in a shorter amount of time. With shorter connections than similar countries, such as Uganda, it is possible to see more in just a few days. If you do have more time, Rwanda works well combined with neighbouring Uganda, comparing these two countries, meeting the primates and exploring the savannah plains of Uganda, is a combination that is sure to fascinate any traveller.
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