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Top 8 things to see & Do in Rwanda

Known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” Rwanda is associated with death and tragedy which occurred during the genocide against Tutsi in 1994. More than 800000 lost their lives in a civil that lasted 100 days and the economy was destroyed. But, the country has rebuilt itself for the last 29 years and much more realistic about becoming a technology hub in East Africa. Technology and innovation is almost applicable in every area especially environmental conservation and travel and transportation which has made life simple, safe and hustle free for people. Whether you want to visit Kigali capital city for business or go on safari to the national parks, Rwanda is a great emerging destination to add to your travel list whilst visiting Africa. For a moment to help you plan a safari, here are the top 8 things you should see and do in Rwanda.

Kigali Genocide Memorial
The resting place for 250000 victims of the genocide, Kigali genocide memorial also known as Gisozi is the largest of the 10 Rwandan genocide sites including churches and schools. Touring the cemetery can be done with a guide or on your own with the aid of audible sounds of the survivors as they discuss how the tricks the murderers used to attack, torture and kill people. The visual displays feature images and profiles of those buried which allows people to visit mourn and pay respect to their fallen friends and relatives. Rwandans are open and willing to share if you ask you will learn a lot about the genocide including how some of the refugees survived as they sought shelter at the Hotel des Milles Collines. The story of what happened there was put into a movie titled Hotel Rwanda. Though shot in South Africa, the movie gives a detailed account of the carnage that went unnoticed for 100 days in Rwanda. Some of the scenes include how people survived on drinking swimming pool water.

Visit mountain gorillas
Visiting gorillas in Volcanoes National Park is one of the top 8 things to see and do in Rwanda. Because gorillas are endangered species that don’t survive in captive zoos, visiting them therefore contributes revenue that’s necessary for their conservation. Rwanda gorilla trekking permit cost is $1500 per person available for booking through Mantis Africa Safaris or Rwandan Development Board (RDB). The permit offers opportunity to spend 1 hour with one of the 12 gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park. This park is part of the Virunga massif covered in bamboo and tropical forests. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda due to the nature of terrain isn’t difficult therefore suitable for people that come from the flattest countries of the world. In addition, you get breathtaking views of the Virungas which you can hike including Mount Karimbi (4507m) the tallest of all, Mount Gahinga (3474m) and Mount Bisoke (3711m).
Rwanda is so keen at conserving gorillas and their habitat. Therefore, you should take part in activities that support the local communities especially the ex-poachers at the Gorilla Guardian’s Village located outside the park. There you will meet and interact with the local people and get to experience Rwandan culture through traditional Intore dance performances. The center offers several activities suitable for those traveling with children. For instance learning how to shoot a bow and arrow, dressing as king and queen in a marriage ceremony, walking tour through the crop fields as well as preparing traditional cuisine. The village also offers accommodation in huts with en-suit amenities. Besides, there are several ways to support rural communities. In fact, most of the lodges around volcanoes offer tree planting in their package.

Hiking and mountain biking
Places to look out for hiking or biking trip in Rwanda are Virunga volcanoes, Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo, the Congo-Nile Divide trail, Lake Kivu and Nyunwe Forest National Park. Depending on the kind of adventure you intend to have and the number of days at hand, Mantis Africa Safaris will help you to choose the best place to visit. If you want to bike where there are no cars, go for the Congo-Nile trail. There are short and multiday cycling trips that start in Gisenyi and Karongi resort towns on the shores of Lake Kivu. Hiking trips in Rwanda is available in Volcanoes National Park with a full day Bisoke volcano hike. Climbing Mount Karisimbi takes 2 days with camping on the volcano. Both of these hikes start at Kinigi the headquarters of the park and visitors must have a guide. Alternatively, the Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo located outside Musanze town offer several activities such as hiking, canoeing and boat rides. Those intending to spot wildlife or go birding whilst hiking in Rwanda should go to Nyungwe Forest National Park. There are over 13 hiking trails that give access to the interior of the forest. Mount Bigugu trail the highest point of the park takes 3-6 hours roundtrip. Along this trail you might spot some of the Albertine Rift valley endemics such as the stripe breasted tit, the red collared mountain babbler and the strange weaver.

Lake Kivu
One of the 7 African Great Lakes, Lake Kivu is situated 187 sq.km (3-hours drive) of Kigali city. The lake has beautiful islands which are accessible by boat ride from the resort towns of Gisenyi and Karongi with a wide range of accommodations. Day trips from both of these towns include boat cruise excursion, biking along the shores and visiting the fruit bat islands. At night the chanting local fishermen gather around the lake for their fish catch.


Chimpanzee trekking and Nyungwe Forest Canopy Walk
Another great thing to see and do in Rwanda is to visit Nyungwe Forest National Park for chimpanzee trekking and canopy walk. Spanning 1019 sq.km, Nyungwe is an afro-montane tropical forest located 328 sq.km (about 5-hou drive) south-west of Kigali city. The park can also be reached by air through the Kamembe airport in Rusizi town near Lake Kivu. The forest protects rich biodiversity for wildlife enthusiasts to explore including 12 primate species including chimpanzees and troops of over 400 black and white colobus monkeys known to be the largest in East and central Africa. Guided primate walks offer visitors opportunity to track both primates. The Nyungwe forest canopy walk tour is a nice activity for keen photographers with breathtaking views of the entire forest. Additionally, bird watching in Nyungwe is excellent with over 300 species of birds of which 16 are Albertine Rift Endemics (AREs) such as the dusky crimson wing, stripe breasted tit, strange weaver and the great blue turaco. Surrounding the park are the green tea plantations in Gisakura you can visit for community experience. The Kitabi eco center and camping site offers midrange accommodation as well as restaurant and unique tea and coffee tours.


Big Five safari in Akagera National Park
For classic game drive safaris in Rwanda go to Akagera National Park. The River Akagera meanders through the savanna plains creating several swamps and lakes beneath the rolling hills. A rich diversity of wildlife thrives in the park including over 20 lions and 40 black rhinos which were restored in 2015 following their extinction during the genocide of 1994. Along with buffaloes and elephants Akagera guided game drives offers opportunity to spot the Big Five mammals as well as Masai giraffes, zebras and several antelope species such as impala, waterbucks, bushbucks, topi and oribi. There are over 500 species of birds and birding in Akagera National Park can be done by boat safaris on Lake Ihema. You might spot hippos, Nile crocodiles, Sitatunga and species of water birds such as shoebill stork.
King’s Palace Museum Nyanza
Most people say that the influence of foreign aid to a larger extent is replacing the rural Africa way of living in Rwanda. This is mostly in Kigali capital city and Musanze town where modern housing is predominant. However, not all things traditional are lost and Rwanda has been keen at preserving its ancient monarch system. The King’s Palace is a replica of Rwanda’s last king Kigeli V Ndahindurwa (1936 – 2016) and how life was in an African society before colonialism. A tour of King’s Palace museum will give you a feeling of rural Africa despite the fact that it’s gradually diminishing in Rwanda. The museum is situated in Nyanza about 89 sq.km (1-hour drive) south of Kigali city and easy to reach by day trip.


The Ellen DeGeneres Campus
The Ellen DeGeneres Campus was built in honor of Dian Fossey who established Karisoke research center in 1967 and introduced active conservation methods to protect mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. The practice was later approved in the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) to protect mountain gorillas and their habitat. Now its called ranger monitoring through which researchers, gorilla doctors, wildlife rangers and trackers monitor gorilla families both habituated and wild on a daily basis. To ensure continuous research on the ecology and behavior of gorillas amidst ever increasing threats such as emergency of diseases including Covid-19, the Ellen Campus was set up for that reason. The campus features state-of-the-art facilities including living laboratories, libraries, and interactive exhibits. It tells the story of a courageous Dian Fossey who sacrificed her life to save gorillas. Visitors can walk in her footsteps through the hike to her tomb in Volcanoes National Park.

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