Welcome to Rwanda

virunga mountain range

Rwanda is, quite simply, the best place in Africa to engage in what is arguably the world’s single most thrilling wildlife encounter: tracking mountain gorillas through the steep bamboo- and forest-swathed slopes of the Virunga Mountains. No two encounters are ever the same, but whether it’s a 200kg silverback chilling out on the forest trail, a curious mother staring questioningly into your eyes, or a youngster clumsily attempting to climb a liana, coming face to face with these most gentle of giants is invariably an awesome experience.

mountain gorilla in virunga

Mountain gorillas are the raison d’être for most tourist visits to Rwanda. But this small central African country has far more to offer outdoor enthusiasts. Scenically, there is the mountain-ringed inland sea that is Lake Kivu, the perfect volcanic cones of the Virungas rising to 4,000-plus metres above it, and the endless succession of steep cultivated mountains that have led to it being dubbed ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ and ‘The Switzerland of Africa’.

shoebill credit new statesman Shoebill | Credit: New Statesman

As for wildlife, the variety is startling. The Virunga Mountains are also home to the delightful golden monkey, while Nyungwe National Park - protecting an astonishing 1,000km2 of near-pristine montane rainforest - supports a full 13 primate species, ranging from a habituated community of chimpanzees to the lovely L’Hoest’s and Rwenzori colobus monkeys. Rwanda’s national checklist of 700-plus bird species, in an area smaller than that of its former coloniser Belgium, includes the 27 super-localised Albertine Rift Endemics protected in Nyungwe, along with such iconic species as shoebill, Ross’s turaco, great blue turaco and papyrus gonolek. And when it comes to more conventional safaris, the Big Five are all now protected - and quite easily seen - in the hilly savannah of what must surely be Africa’s most rapidly resurgent protected area: Akagera National Park. tea farming in rwanda Rwanda is the tea capital of Africa

Culturally and politically, the resurgence of Akagera might be seen as emblematic of Rwanda’s recovery from the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of one-eighth of its population, and forced almost twice as many to flee into refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Few could travel through Rwanda today and not be cognisant of these terrible events, or the many genocide that pay tribute to the massacred. But you will also be be struck by the energetic programme of reconstruction that has led to Rwanda reinventing itself as one of Africa’s most economically buoyant, ecologically enlightened and politically progressive countries. It is heartening experience.

Why would people keep coming back to Rwanda?

Rwanda is a small country, it lacks for a bona fide beach destination, and its rather limited circuit of major attractions can easily be explored fully over the course of a standard-length holiday. In other words, it doesn’t attract a great deal of repeat visitors, the main exception (apart from business travellers, or those with family connections) being primate junkies who return to see the gorillas again, and possible again.


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Safety in Rwanda

From a tourist’s perspective, Rwanda ranks as one of the most crime-free countries in Africa. Kigali is a very safe city, even at night, provided you follow the same kind of commonsense rules - avoid walking alone in unlit dark alleys, or overt displays of wealth - you would in any large city. Ideally you should leave any expensive jewellery at home, and avoid leaving valuables such as cash, mobile phones and electronic devices lying around openly in your hotel room. Padlocking your…

Kigali

Credit: Umulinga Founded as recently as 1907, Kigali served as a minor administrative centre in the colonial era, and had a population of fewer than 6,000 when it was selection as capital of newly-independent Rwanda due to its central location in 1962. Today, this strikingly neat and modern-looking highland city sprawls attractively across a series of hills spanning altitudes of 1,300-1,600m, and hosts a population well in excess of one million. Thanks in part to a longstanding…

Travelling to Rwanda

Almost all visitors from abroad fly. All flights currently land at Kibale International Airport, which lies less than 10km from central Kigali. Taxis are available to/from the city centre. Work on the new Bugesera International Airport, 40km south of the capital, commenced in August 2017. The national airline RwandAir operates intercontinental flights connecting Kigali to Brussels, London Gatwick, Mumbai, Dubai and Guangzhou. A rapidly expanding list of African destinations includes…


Popular Rwanda Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

Chimpanzee | The Primates of Uganda & Rwanda

Primates and wildlife of Uganda and Rwanda

See mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, golden monkeys and tree-climbing lions, take a boat cruise and visit Rwanda's genocide memorial ...

Gorillas | Gorillas and the Migration Combined (EA 11 days)

Rwanda gorillas and the migration, both sides of the Mara River

Enjoy two of Africa's most magnificent wildlife experiences – mountain gorillas and the Great Migration – on one unforgettable safari...

The Uganda Hills | The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

The complete East Africa experience

Enjoy East Africa's most celebrated highlights, from a snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, to sailing above the Serengeti in a hot-air balloon and meeting mountain gorillas...

Elephant Herd | Best of Africa Safari (EA 16 days)

Best of Africa safari

Experience the best of Africa, from the Okavango Delta – one of Africa's Seven Natural Wonders – to the endangered mountain gorillas and East Africa's Great Migration...

 | Nature, Romance, Exclusivity and Luxury - A Complete African Honeymoon

Nature, Romance, Exclusivity and Luxury - A Complete African Honeymoon

This exclusive African honeymoon through East and Southern Africa is the perfect way to celebrate the start of your new journey together...