- Akagera national park
Akagera National Park is located in the north east of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. Although founded in 1934, much of the park was re-allocated as farms and in 1997 the park was reduced in size from more than 2,500 sq km (nearly 10% of the surface area of Rwanda) to its current extent of 1,122 sq km. Since 2010, a joint venture with African Parks has seen Akagera return to its former glories.
It is named after the Akagera River that flows along its eastern boundary and feeds into a labyrinth of lakes of which the largest is Lake Ihema. The forest fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, savannah plains and rolling highlands combine to make Akagera amongst the most scenic of reserves anywhere in Africa. It has exceptional levels of biodiversity and forms the largest protected wetland in central Africa.
Akagera combines well with Nyungwe and the Volcanoes NP to offer a great safari element as it is home to many large plains game species as well as species restricted to the papyrus swamps such as the Sitatunga and the sought-after Shoebill Stork. Notable plains game include elephant, buffalo, topi, zebra, waterbuck, roan antelope and eland. Other antelope are duiker, oribi, bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, bushbuck and impala. Of the primates, olive baboons, vervets and the secretive blue monkey are seen during the day, with bushbabies often seen on night drives.
Of the larger predators leopard, hyena, side-striped jackal and lion, which was re-introduced last year are present. Plans are underway for the reintroduction of the black rhino too, and this will restore Akagera’s ‘Big 5’ status
Due to its wide variety of habitats, Akagera is an important ornithological site with nearly 500 bird species. The rare and elusive shoebill shares the papyrus with other rarities such as the exquisite papyrus gonolek and countless other water birds that inhabit the wetlands in large numbers.
Activities: Game drives, Boat trips and swimming, Birding, Scenic viewing
- Volcanoes national park
The “Parc National de Volcans” (or PNV as it’s known by locals) lies along the Virunga Mountains, with 8 ancient volcanoes, which are shared by Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Just a short two hour drive from Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, the park is a central location for exploring some distinctly Rwandan experiences. While a visit to the mountain gorillas is often at the top of visitor, the dramatic landscape also offers thrilling hiking and visits to the fascinating golden monkeys.
PNV is also one of Rwanda’s conservation epicenters, where many non-profit organizations base their operations. Visitors can pay homage to the legendary scientist and gorilla advocate Dian Fossey with a hike to her tomb or a visit to the Dian Fosse Gorilla Fund that continues her legacy of research and advocacy to this day.
Near the park, the bustling and vibrant markets of Musanze are a place to immerse yourself into everyday Rwandan culture. Go deep into the earth with Musanze’s caves – one of the area’s newest attractions.
Activities: Primate tracking, Hiking, Musanze caves, Buhanga Eco park, Iby’Iwacu cultural village
- Lake Kivu/ Rubavu
Rubavu (also known as Gisenyi) is a waterfront town located on the shores of Lake Kivu, one Africa’s great bodies of water. At only an hour away from Volcanoes National Park, Rubavu is a great way to unwind after trekking adventures.
Rubavu marks the beginning of the Congo Nile Trail, which extends 227 km to Rusizi, and has plenty of biking and hiking trails to fulfill those who crave the some more adventure. Rubavu is also known for its agrotourism experiences, with many tea and coffee plantations nearby.
Lake Kivu is stunningly beautiful lake and an incredible place to visit. With no hippos or crocodiles and crystal clear, clean water, it is also one of the safest lakes in Africa. So come and explore, discover and journey along its interesting coastline. Watch unique fishing boats plying the water and find interesting villages as well as amazing birdlife set amongst true peace and tranquillity.
- Nyungwe national park
Covering over 1000 square kilomtres, Nyungwe is surely one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine mountain rainforests. It’s believed to be one of Africa’s oldest forests, staying green even through the Ice Age, which explains its diversity.
Home to habituated chimpanzees and 12 other primates species (including a 400-strong troop of habituated Ruwenzori Black & White Colobus), it’s also a birder’s paradise with over 300 species, including 16 endemics, and is home to 75 different species of mammal.
This majestic rainforest is filled with nature and wildlife experiences for you to emerge yourself in. Hiking or even biking the beautiful terrain, tracking the famous chimpanzees, experiencing the canopy walk, witnessing beautiful birds, relaxing by waterfalls are just a glimpse of activities that Nyungwe offers.
Sounds and views collaborate to create a one-of-a-kind wildlife experience. Exploring through the forest, travellers will witness the lush green mountains and cooling mist in a landscape that won’t be soon forgotten. Cultural activities are also available around the forest.
Activities: Chimpanzee tracking, Birding, Canopy walk, Hiking and cultural encounters
Even though it’s only slightly more than 40 kilometres east of Kigali, the winding shores of Lake Muhazi see few visitors (and of these, most tend to be locals and expats escaping the city for a weekend), but the region has a laid-back, subtle charm all its own, and with such easy access from Kigali, there’s really no reason not to explore the winding shores and placid waters of Lake Muhazi.
Long and shallow, Lake Muhazi twists and turns its way through a flooded valley for more than 40km before reaching its eastern shore, not far from the northern exit of eastern Rwanda’s crown jewel, Akagera National Park. The east end of the lake sits right along the road to Nyagatare, and makes for a perfect place to break the journey for a meal and a cold drink after long hours spent bumping along the park’s dirt roads. If you stick around after your fresh-caught lunch and let the lake breezes guide you, you’ll quickly find that the live music at the lakeside bars, dozens of traditional villages along the shore, and the fantastic birding and fishing on offer will keep you here well longer than expected.
The hilltop town of Gahini sits just opposite the lake’s east end and is a great place to soak up a bit of small-town Rwandan life, especially if you’re here on a Sunday, when services at the historic Gahini Anglican Cathedral can be heard from all around. Most people in Gahini and other villages around the lake are either farmers or fishers, so don’t be surprised to see herds of the long-horned Inyambo cows around every bend. No trip to the lake is complete without getting out on the water, and any of the low-key guesthouses that dot the lakeshore can help set up fishing and birding expeditions up and down the lake.
Wildlife lovers should keep their eyes out for a glimpse of the Spotted-necked otter, while dedicated ornithologists can expect to check off the African fish eagle, Malachite kingfisher, Pied kingfisher, Swamp flycatcher, and many more.
Though it’s only some 50km long east to west, there are more than a dozen meandering offshoots branching north and south of Lake Muhazi’s wide central valley, and there are miles and miles of tranquil agricultural villages and green, unspoilt coastline on either side of the lake simply waiting to be explored. If you’ve got a 4×4, the little-travelled dirt roads north of the lake take you through a lacustrine agricultural Eden, where the terraced hillsides tumble down to the water’s edge, and there’s a lake vista around every bend.
The two largest towns near the lakeshore are Gahini and Rwesero, and both have a couple guesthouses where you can arrange a variety of aquatic activities. Fishing, birding, and boating trips are a highlight of any trip to Lake Muhazi, but there’s always plenty of space for a cool dip just offshore if you don’t have time to get out on the water. Back on dry land, there’s no shortage of hot food, cold drinks, and irresistible hammocks to keep you occupied. Religion and history buffs won’t want to miss the brick-built Gahini Anglican Cathedral either. It dates to 1975 and still towers over the low-slung rooftops of Gahini, drawing in thousands of parishioners and pilgrims every year.
Peacefully nestled along picturesque hilltops, Kigali is a thriving African city immediately notable for its cleanliness, orderliness, and hospitality.
Kigali is a great place to begin or end any Rwanda journey as it’s conveniently located in the geographic center of the country. The city is clean and safe, with extremely welcoming people. Travelers will enjoy exploring the great cultural activities – including several award-winning museums, burgeoning music scene, and some of East Africa’s most memorable dining experiences.
Kigali Genocide memorial
The people of Rwanda embrace peace and reconciliation. They are committed to fight the ideology of genocide. The memorials found throughout the country are moving testimonies in memory of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and the people who lost their lives. Inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi is where 259,000 victims have been buried. This memorial also serves to educate about how the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi took shape and examines genocide in the 20th century.
Camp Kigali Belgian monument
A small museum in Kigali City lies at the site of the massacre of 10 Belgian UN Blue Beret. At the onset of Genocide under the command of General Dallaire, they were deployed to guard the house of Prime Minister Agatha Uwilingimana. When the genocide began, Presidential Guard soldiers invaded the home, disarmed the Belgians and transported them to Camp Kigali where they killed them. The ten stone pillars memorialize the ten soldiers killed
Nyamirambo walking tour
Nyamirambo is a bustling multi-cultural commercial district in Kigali. This unique experience brings you right into the heart of the colours, noises and smells of urban Rwanda. Guided by the charming women of the Nyamirambo Women’s Center (NWC), the tour allows visitors to experience the local market, West African tailors, hair salons, a recording studio with its local rap music, butcher and the Muslim quarter with its Arab influences. A delightful traditional Rwandan lunch in a home of one of your hosts is an optional extra.
Bwiza is a small village in the neighborhood of Ndara. During this visit you can see how the government has helped to bring new housing to this community along with their local arts and crafts. This is a community of potters, basket makers and wonderful dancers.
Agahozo shalom youth village
An independently funded boarding school, in the Eastern Province where they house and educate 500 children aged 15 to 21 who come from all over Rwanda. You will visit the school and farm then enjoy time interacting with students over lunch