Rwanda’s silverbacks have been drawing the attention of tourists for years but there’s more to the country than these magnificent animals
Rwanda is a nature lover’s dream come true. The tiny nation may have witnessed a violent past, but today it is both safe and booming with treats of its own. Rwanda is one of the three countries where mountain gorillas can be observed in the wild. In addition to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, gorillas also inhabit Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park. Bordering each other, the area that the gorillas call home is known as Virunga Massif. Rwanda may be popular for the gorillas, but there are many other aspects of tourism in this African nation.
Home to elephants and one of the largest hippo populations in East Africa, Akagera National Park stretches over 1,200 sq km. Hop on to a boat and do a trip across Lake Ihema and come across hippo pods, crocodiles and innumerable water birds, or go for a nocturnal drive to see the predators on the prowl. Another highlight of Rwanda is the Nyungwe National Park, which provides 70 per cent of the country’s water supply. Covering more than 1,000 sq km, this beautiful mountain rainforest is home to about 400 species of chimpanzees. The chimps are morning people! So, to catch them in their many playful moods, you will have to wakeup early. Apart from the chimps, Nyungwe also has more than 300 species of birds and over 75 species of mammals.
The Canopy Walkway at Nyungwe could be quite a challenge. At 60 metres above forest base between massive trees, the walk offers a spectacular view of the park’s diverse wildlife and nature. The canopy shakes like crazy when it’s breezy, and your heart is in your mouth quite often…but then when you witness those stunning views, standing in the midst of this forest, you realise that it’s completely worth it. Do include a boat cruise on Lake Kivu in your itinerary. One of the great African lakes, it lies on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. While on the boat, either listen to some music, or read a book, or write some poetry, or do nothing at all.
There’s no denying that Rwanda is beautiful, rich in biodiversity and extremely clean, green and fresh. But there is a chapter in the history of this country which is difficult to ignore, remove or detach. The Rwanda Genocide Memorial, located in the capital city of Kigali, brings alive those smallest of moments of the difficult past. You are informed about the genocide through a guided tour, videos, photos and write-ups.
Warm and welcoming
While the mountains, forests and the other scenic aspects of a country may lure your eyes, it’s the people of that place that will steal your heart. Being warm and polite, they greet you with a twinkle in their eyes, and serve you with a smile. Whether it’s the porters at the Gorilla Safari, carrying your bags, holding your hand and helping you at every step, or the guides at Nyungwe, or the serving staff at hotels, the people here are always smiling and make you better appreciate and enjoy the little things in life.
Words: Benaifer J. Mirza