The ‘land of a thousand hills’ is perhaps the ultimate African good news story – and that’s only one of many reasons to visit. The country has now put the 1994 genocide firmly behind it, and Rwanda has embarked on a remarkable journey of reconciliation and rebirth. In the process, it’s become an essential wildlife destination.
Rwanda’s most famous residents are probably the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. New, luxury safari lodges offer access to the gorillas’ misty mountain kingdom, and you can trek up through the forests for encounters with some of our closest relatives. Meeting our peaceful primate cousins can be a very moving and thrilling experience: the gorillas are not to be missed! Rwanda’s unique landscape consists of many small hills, dotted with villages and covered in a patchwork quilt of small fields and farm plots. You get the sense that life is going on all around you, and with Rwandans being such welcoming people, it won’t be long before you’re invited to participate.
Rwanda’s Central African location means that the wildlife here is quite different from other African countries you may have visited. As well as gorillas, there are opportunities to see golden monkeys and many different Rift Valley bird species.
Rwanda is a relatively small country – about the size of Michigan – and its excellent road network means that guided tours can get you to most highlights in just a few hours. On the far western side of the country, Lake Kivu holds many secrets in its depths – but does reveal fascinating insights into life in Rwanda today. Meanwhile, an ambitious conservation project has seen both lions and black rhinos reintroduced to Akagera, Rwanda’s flagship national park and now a Big Five destination.
To understand more about the history of Rwanda, the Genocide Museum in the capital, Kigali, offers a sobering reminder of man’s inhumanity to man – but it is also a testament to the power of forgiveness and the resilience of the human spirit. Emerging into the bright sunlight can be a little discordant at first, but the smiles and laughter of Rwanda’s young population will soon remind you that this dark chapter belongs in the country’s past. As a visitor, you’re helping build its future.
Gateway city: Kigali
Best time to travel: Year-round
Highlights: Volcanoes National Park, Lake Kivu, Nyungwe Forest National Park, Akagera National Park