The Land of One Thousand Hills
Rwanda is commonly referred to as the ‘land of a thousand hills’, an appropriate name for this small country with its stunning scenery of rolling verdant hills, picturesque mountains and some of Africa’s best inland beaches that are concealed by the shores of Lake Kivu.
While mountain gorilla trekking in the misty Virunga Mountains and chimpanzee trekking in the ancient Nyungwe Forest are the highlights of trips to Rwanda, the rich and singular cultural heritage of this small country is an experience not to be missed, particularly the highly choreographed Intore dance that is performed in communities across the country. Rwanda was fortunate enough to kick off 2021 with a Lonely Planet Best in Travel Wildlife Programme Award.
Rwanda is one of only 3 places where you can see Mountain Gorillas in the wild. The other two places being Uganda and Congo. The Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda live in Volcanoes National Park situated in the north-west of the country. The park is only 2.5 hours away from Kigali the capital city. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda has made it one of the most sought after tourist destinations and which has, in turn, won it recognitions such as Nr 4 in the Top 30 Travel Destinations to Visit in 2020 and the Visit Rwanda brand winning the top award for destination excellence in luxury and experiential travel at the 2019 Lux experience Awards in Sydney, Australia.
There will forever be an inextricable link between Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda and the famous American Primatologist Diann Fossey who pioneered Gorilla Conservation, Research and Anti Poaching in Rwanda during the late 1960s
Nyungwe Forest National Park in southwestern Rwanda is the primary place for Chimpanzee Trekking. There are around 500 chimpanzees in total in the forest with 2 habituated Chimpanzee groups in Nyungwe, one group has around 30 members and the other 60 members. Nyungwe Forest National Park is around a 4 and half hour drive from Kigali and is one of Africa’s oldest montane forests.
Chimpanzee Trekking can also be done in Gishwati National Park which is home to a group of 20 chimpanzees.
Rwandan history and culture are unique because unlike many other countries in Africa, Rwanda is populated by the Banyarwanda people who share the same language and cultural heritage which since pre-colonial times. Music, dance and storytelling are an integral part of Rwandan Culture and Heritage. They have always formed an integral part in ceremonies, festivals, social gatherings. The traditional Intore dance a highly choreographed dance which is performed throughout Rwanda. Drums are also very important in Rwandan culture, royal drummers have historically enjoyed high status within the cultural social hierarchy and play with a group of seven or nine.
Golden Monkey can only be found in five National Parks: Mgahinga National Park, Volcanoes National Park, Gishwati Forest National Park, Virunga National Park and Kahuzi-Biéga. They are restricted to highland forest, especially near bamboo. In Rwanda there are two groups which can be tracked, one on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi and the other in the bamboo forest on Mount Sabyinyo. This is also a standalone excursion, departing from the Kinigi headquarters once each day.
The only place to see the Big 5 ( Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo ) in Rwanda is Akagera National Park. The park is made up of woodland, wetland, savannah, low lying plains and lakes and is managed by African Parks. Akagera National Park has the Big 5 due to the reintroduction of two animal species, a family of lions from South Africa in 2015 which are breeding successfully and 18 eastern black rhinos in 2017.