Rwanda may be one of the smallest countries on the African mainland, but what it lacks in land size, it makes up for in experiences.
While this East African country is well known for its rare mountain gorillas, Rwanda holds many more treasures to discover. With a geography dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east and numerous lakes throughout the country, the diversity in what travellers can experience is just as amazing.
A land of a thousand hills, Rwanda also has a thousand experiences to be had. Here are some of the must do and see experiences in Rwanda beyond the gorillas.
Spot Big 5 in Akagera National Park
Located in North Eastern Rwanda, at the country’s border with Tanzania, is Akagera National Park. A common view around Rwanda, the mountainous scenery surrounding Akagera National Park is quite simply beautiful. The landscape inside the park ranges from low, wide, plains dominated by grass and cactus-like Euphorbia candelabra shrub that morphs into both thick and thin forests amongst rugged terrain that is so characteristic of Rwanda. It is here you can experience the Big 5, and more, in Rwanda. The game drive experience is a scenic one, with wildlife like elephants, rhino, buffalos and antelope species, including elands and topis. There are also Maasai giraffes, monkeys, savannah birds, civets, leopards, hyenas, as well as serval cats. While you can self-drive around the park (staying on the designated roads), it is recommended you hire a guide who is so knowledgeable about the flora and the fauna that is found in the park.
Visit Akagera National Park on a 2 Day Fully Inclusive Safari with Heritage Safaris starting from USD810 per person/twin share
Learn about the country’s history at the Kigali Genocide Memorial
A visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial provides a better insight into Rwanda’s harrowing past. The memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi. It is a place for remembrance and learning. While there are several memorials around the country, the Kigali Genocide Museum is the most popular to visit. A tour of the entire memorial takes approximately one hour and thirty minutes. The memorial is open seven days a week, however on the last Saturday of every month, the memorial is open from 1:00pm to 5:00pm due to Umuganda, when all Rwandans meet to undertake community work. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is a guided experience. Visitors can choose to be guided by one of the staff witnesses or purchase the KGM digital guide which provides an audio-visual tour of the memorial. Costs start from USD$15.
Hiking in Nyungwe Forest National Park
The largest tropical afro Montane rainforest east or central Africa, Nyungwe forest is probably the most preserved forest in Africa. Nyungwe Forest National Park was established as a national park in 2004 and some say it is the most important site for biodiversity in Rwanda. It is home to over 1000 species of creation after all. Nyungwe is located near Cyangugu town in South western Rwanda, about 225km and a 4-5 hour drive from Kigali. It is bordered by the Rwanda-Burundi border in the South. Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo lie on the west side of the park. It covers an area about 1020 sq.km and has an elevation of 1600-2950m above sea level. Roads that wind over hills and through tea plantations lead you to Nyungwe forest national park. Here you can experience Kamiranzovu swamp, hiking trails through out, the forest canopy walk, birding, primate tracking and more.
Visit Nyungwe National Park on a 3 Day Fully Inclusive Package with Heritage Safaris starting from USD1040 per person/twin share
Pick Tea in Gisenyi
Visiting a tea plantation may not be the most obvious of things to do in Rwanda, but in the province of Gisenyi, one of the best activities to partake in is just this. During the rainy season Pfunda plantation‘s tea production is in full swing, and a tour of the premises allows visitors to amble amongst the surrounding crop fields and soak in some knowledge on the art of tea making, from picking and drying, to cutting and shipping. Pfunda is one of the most sustainable tea companies in the region, employing local community members to ensure that the region feels the direct benefits of the business.
Hear the Singing Fishermen of Lake Kivu
Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s largest lake and located on the country’s western border. The atmosphere around the lake is relaxed and communal. The two biggest towns on the Rwandan side of the lake are Kibuye and Gisenyi, and both are excellent locations for solo excursions. Gisenyi, the bigger of the two towns, shares a border with the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and thus has a larger selection of restaurants, bars, and general activities. However, kayaking, hikes, boat rides, and more are available from both towns. Buses run from Kigali to Kibuye and Gisenyi fifteen times a day, leaving from the Nyabugogo Bus Terminal every thirty minutes starting at 7 am. It is here you can see the famous Singing Fishermen of Lake Kivu as they head out in their three-hulled fishing boats. With characteristic long poles attached to their bows and sterns, these fascinating boats become slowly silhouetted against the darkening sky. In small groups, they seek the deep water a few kilometres out into the lake from where they cast their nets and fish throughout the night.
Get involved in a cultural experience at Gorilla Guardians Village
In Musanze you will find the Gorilla Guardian Village
(formerly known as Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village), an award-winning venture that
was founded in 2004 and is owned entirely by local communities.
Since its inception, the Gorilla Guardian Village has significantly helped in improving the livelihoods of communities living near the Volcanoes National Park, which houses the mountain gorillas. The venture offers employment to hundreds of former poachers and potential poachers, thereby curtailing human pressure on the Volcanoes National Park. Set in a replica of the traditional Rwandan palace, here you’ll be regaled by Rwandan Intore dancers and drummers, Batwa pygmies will showcase their bow and arrow skills, while a little village walk will introduce you to the local community’s way of life.
Visit the Palace and the King’s Cows
The King’s Palace, located in Rwanda’s Nyanza ya Butare district, was the traditional seat of Rwanda’s kingdom. This historical location was of key importance during the colonial era. The ancient palace has been reconstructed in Rukari and visitors can now explore the replica King’s Palace, built using traditional materials and methods. Learn about the evolution of farming and building through the centuries, and then venture into the grounds to meet the long-horned cows, known as Inyambo. They’re beautiful to look at, with a stately elegance you don’t generally expect from cows, until you learn they’re part of the royal heritage, used in many important ceremonies. You can find out about the breeding techniques and listen to the amahamba songs the shepherds sing as part of the grooming process.
Heritage Safaris have all inclusive packages ranging from day tours to 9-day tours. The entire range of packages for 2020 can be viewed here.
For travel in March to May 2020, there are special promotions on select packages. These can be viewed here.
Travellers looking for tailor made packages can contact Heritage Safaris for a quote via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Heritage Safaris
Heritage Safaris a Rwandan owned and operated company, with representation in Australia. Heritage Safaris is a specialist safari tour operator offering travellers a wide range of group tours and tailor-made itineraries in Rwanda and the rest of East Africa region (Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya). Their commitment is to low-impact tourism that gives-back to the communities they interact with. Heritage Safaris is a member of Rwanda Tours and Travel Association (RTTA) and have professional tour guides who have extensive knowledge of tour destinations. For more visit www.heritagerwandasafaris.com