Known as ‘Pays des Mille Collines’, meaning ‘Country of a Thousand Hills’ in French, Rwanda is a tiny landlocked country dwarfed by its neighbours.
However its majestic mountains, rolling hills and lush grassy lowlands and progressive people create a beautiful wild and spellbinding piece of Africa.
Safari itineraries to Rwanda invariably include a visit to the home of the rare mountain gorillas, an incredible wildlife moment filled with both adventure and tranquillity. To do this you travel to the north of the country and to the home of half of the world’s wild gorilla population, Parc National des Volcans. Be prepared to trek up to altitudes of 3,000 km and for five hours a day through thick vegetation, mud and regular rain showers. But encountering a troop, watching these rare, captivating gentle giants in the peaceful atmosphere of the jungle is a truly outstanding reward for your hard work.
By no means a spontaneous or bargain holiday, with permits costing $750 and selling out months in advance, it’s all worth it when face-to-face with the gorillas building their nest for a midday rest, collecting fruit and cuddling their young.
However Rwanda has so much more to offer its visitors. Despite the terrible events of 1994, Rwanda has prospered into a calm, hopeful and charming country eager to welcome and host guests. Built along a hillside with incredible views, the sophisticated capital Kigali is a remarkably safe city to explore. A visit to the Genocide Memorial Centre is a powerful and heart-wrenching experience but important to remember the tragedies which happened not too long ago and to appreciate how much the country has recovered.
In the Southwest the Nyunga National Park's mist-swaddled rainforest is alive with 13 species of primate and 300 species of birds including the strange and exquisite Rwenzori Turaco.
To the east the rolling plains of the Akagera National Park are another ornithological hotspot, while to the west Lake Kivu's ribbon of startlingly blue water ringed by white sand offers some divine R'n'R.
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Rwanda is leading Africa’s digital revolution. The Smart Kigali initiative allows access to free wireless internet on public buses, in hospitals, taxi parks, commercial buildings and restaurants.
- On the last Saturday of every month, every Rwandan (including the President) participates in Umuganda, a day of national community service. Rwandans have built schools, medical centres, hydroelectric plants and cleaned their cities, towns and villages – Kigali is one of the cleanest cities in Africa. Rwanda does not allow plastic bags
- Rwanda has the world’s highest representation of women in parliament. 64% of Rwanda’s members of parliament are women.
- Female mountain gorillas produce young beginning at the age of 10. They carry one or two babies at a time and give birth after a 8.5-month gestation period. They will bear between 2 and 6 offspring in a lifetime.