Rwanda is warmly known as “the land of a thousand hills’’ is situated in East – central Africa and it lies 121 Km South (75 miles) of the equator in the Tropic of Capricorn, 1416 kilometers (880 Miles) west of the Indian Ocean and 1250Km (777 Miles) east of the Atlantic Ocean – literally the heart of Africa. Rwanda is bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. The country has a temperate climate, with two rainy seasons (March, April and May, November to January). Average temperatures range from 16-22 degree Celsius. Anyone visiting ‘the land of a thousand hills’ is in for a multitude of surprises: First is the personal safety, peace, security and stability enjoyed by both citizens and visitors of the country.
Second there is the beauty of this nation. The landscapes in this green country are truly breathtaking. Many visitors to Rwanda have remarked that the physical beauty of the country is without an equal on the African continent. Rwanda has five volcanoes, twenty-three lakes and numerous rivers, some forming the source of River Nile. Spectacular volcanoes and dense tropical forests dominate the north of the country, while gentle hills and valleys, calm lakes and turbulent rivers in both savannah and dense tropical vegetation dominate the rest of the country.
The high altitude forests of the Virunga volcanic mountains, in northern Rwanda are home to the world’s largest number of endangered mountain gorillas. Numbering in the hundreds, the gorillas live in protected areas, free from poachers. The gorillas can be viewed in their natural mountain habitats at a fairly close range.
Time in Rwanda
There is no time difference between winter and summer months in Rwanda; it’s always two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2).
Currency in Rwanda
Rwanda’s currency is the Rwandan franc (RWF). Currently (Apr 18), £1=Rwf 1,215, and US$1 = Rwf 871; you can check the latest exchange rates with www.oanda.com.
Rwanda’s International Dialing Code
Rwanda’s International Dialing Code is +250. Calling from Rwanda, you need to dial 0044 for the UK, or 001 for the United States, followed by an area code and local number. Calls can be made with Rwanda tel S.A., Rwanda’s largest company for telecommunications.
Food in Rwanda
The Rwanda food varies from mediocre to very good. Fresh fruit and the Belgian-inspired cuisine are usually good; otherwise, whilst hygiene standards are generally high, results can be variable.
The diet for most local Rwandese people consists mainly of sweet potatoes, peas, corn, beans, millet and fresh fruit, including avocados, mangos and papayas. Umutsima (cassava and corn), isombe (cassava leaves with eggplant and spinach) and mizuzu (fried plantains) are some of Rwanda’s traditional dishes. Drinks include local beer and ikigage, a locally brewed beer made from sorghum.
Travelling in Rwanda
With your own 4WD vehicle and driver, travelling in Rwanda is fairly easy. Although major arterial routes are tarred, some roads in the more rural areas are good condition.
Health in Rwanda
There are medical facilities of Western standards in Kigali; elsewhere facilities are rudimentary. It is generally wise to you are be up-to-date on vaccinations for typhoid, tetanus, polio and diphtheria. Many travelers also have the Havrix vaccine to guard against infection by hepatitis B and a yellow fever certificate is usually required for entry into Rwanda if you are passing through a yellow fever endemic country. Malaria is widespread throughout lowland of Rwanda, so malaria precautions are generally essential. It’s vital that you always check the latest recommendations with your own doctor or travel clinic before you travel. (The Scottish NHS site can also be a useful travel resource for medical information about Rwanda.)
Language in Rwanda
The main language spoken in Rwanda is Kinyarwanda (a Bantu language, also known as ‘Rwanda’ or ‘Ruanda’). French is widespread and English is also spoken by many people who are in contact with visitors.
Visas for Rwanda
We understand that travelers of all nationalities need to purchase a visa when travelling to Rwanda; currently (Apr 2018), this costs US $30 and can be obtained on arrival. However, always check with your local Rwandan Embassy for the latest regulations; UK nationals will find details on the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in London website.
Weather and climate in Rwanda
Rwanda presents visitors with a pleasant tropical highland climate, although rainfall is not uncommon. For more details, see our webpage on the climate and weather in Rwanda.
The people of Rwanda
Nothing describes Rwanda’s culture better than the affectionate hospitality of its people, the thrill of its intore culture dancers and singers as well as the usual determined ethic for work and industry. Little wonder some have referred to Rwanda as a land of a million smiles. The country has a population of 9.1million people. Over 85% of the Rwandans live in rural areas. Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa, with a sole common language and culture. Many people who have had a chance to visit Rwanda have been amused if not intrigued by the actuality that Rwandans are harmoniously living together after the Genocide that threatened to ruin the social fabric and destroy the centuries of long interactions among them.
Today, not only are Rwandans living together but they also share the common aspirations as it used to be. Music and dance plays a central role in the tradition of Rwandans. The Rwandan people have a diversity of music and dance with an assortment of acts that express epics celebrating excellence and bravery, humorous lyrics and hunting roots. Intore Dance Troup is the finest model of Rwanda’s varied and dynamic traditional musical and dance style. A wide range of traditional handicrafts is produced in rural Rwanda, ranging from ceramics and baskets to traditional and contemporary woodcarvings.
Attractions in Rwanda
Rwanda is a landlocked east African country boasting majestic volcanoes, lush, dense greenery, imposing mountains and spectacular wildlife, nicknamed the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, Rwanda has suffered a turbulent history in recent years, but is now entering an economic and environmental resurgence sure to elevate it as a top tourist spot for natural beauty. Where else can you reach dizzying peaks, wade through plush vegetation and monkey around with gorillas? Here’s our definitive guide to the best national parks and reserves in Rwanda.
Parc National des Volcans
The Parc National Volcans is the highlight of any trip to Rwanda. It remains one of the best places in East Africa to track silverback gorillas, a rare species that inspired the Hollywood blockbuster Gorillas in the Mist. Gorilla tracking is now the third-biggest attraction for visitors to Rwanda, and thanks to the work of renowned zoologists like Dr. Dian Fossey, it is possible to now know more about these incredible mammals than ever before. Also home to the endangered golden monkey, Parc National Volcans is comprised of five magnificent volcanoes steeped in bamboo and lush rainforest, of which Karisimbi is the tallest, standing at over 4,500 meters high. Climbing the volcanoes is often seen as one of the most exhilarating experiences of any trip to Africa, and can be done for an affordable price here.
The mountainous and volcanic region of the Virungas is also situated within the park, and is a popular draw for visitors wishing to traverse the stunning landscape, offering various hikes and trails with differing levels of difficulty. Parc Nacional Volcans became a national treasure after Belgian colonists recognized the need to protect the area and its precious endangered species, an idea which came to fruition as early as 1925. The park was reopened for tourism in 1999, after an extensive period of closure during the devastating civil war.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
In Southwestern Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park resides as the country’s largest and most important area of spectacular biodiversity. Boasting over 1,000 plant varieties, hundreds of bird species and 75 types of mammals, not to mention 13 varieties of primates, Nyungwe Forest is home to a rich and incredible array of natural wildlife, flora and fauna. Having survived the last Ice Age, the park covers an area that is home to Africa’s oldest rainforest systems. Here visitors can track chimps and rare monkeys, including the 400 Angolan Colobus monkeys that are frequently seen swinging enthusiastically in the trees of the forest. It is one of the best areas for hiking too, with over 20 km of well-preserved walking trails winding through the rainforest vistas, waterfalls and marshlands. And if you’re up for a trek, you can spot more than monkeys and gorillas here; walk along the Nile and the Congo to witness the various water springs that lead to the headwaters of the Albertine Nile. Although the area was once far more impressive, before it was decimated by banana plantations and deforestation plans, the Nyungwe Forest National Park is still a sight to behold. Furthermore, with increased conservation efforts, it is quickly making an ecological comeback, and is becoming a remarkable Rwandan success story.
Parc National de l’Akagera
Originally constructed in 1934, Parc National de l’Akagera was created to protect the area surrounding the Kagera River, and was once one of the best wildlife reserves in Africa. However, political violence and civil unrest took its toll on the area in the late 1990s, and refugees emigrated in mass numbers, causing much harm to the environment. It thereafter spanned a significantly reduced area, and as the park was only a fraction of its former glory, it became a region of concentrated charity efforts, which saw various groups including the African Parks Network (APN) and the Akagera Management Company (AMC) dedicate time and money into transforming the park into a natural haven once more. And this exertion proved fruitful; the park has recently become Rwanda’s fourth largest source of economic revenue, and is now renowned again as one of the most scenic savanna reserves in Africa. The bird watching here is unparalleled, with plenty of eagles, raptors and other birds of prey regularly soaring through the sky. It is one of the only places on the continent where visitors can watch a zebra roam wild, and the area is brimming with buffalo and elephants. Poaching issues have recently been broached and tackled, allowing for the re-introduction of both lions and black rhinos. And best of all, this park still largely remains a best-kept secret of Rwanda, with many tourists distracted by the gorillas of Parc National Volcans; take a trip here to experience a piece of tranquil, untouched African paradise.
Lake Kivu is one of Africa’s Great Lakes of the Rift Valley. It lies in a beautiful region on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lake Kivu is one of Africa’s Great Lakes of the Rift Valley and one of my favorite places on the continent. It lies in a beautiful region on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lake Kivu is divided into two fingers that run along the Democratic Republic of Congo’s border with Rwanda and is home to the world’s 10th-largest inland island and is a beautiful place where the color of sea and sky are often, to close that it is impossible to discern a horizon. On visit to Lake Kivu, a tourist can engage in various activities that include the following, Visiting beach, A visit to coffee tour, Boat trip on Lake Kivu, Swimming on Lake Kivu.
Mukura Forest Reserve
Mukura Forest Reserve is one of the few remaining montane rainforests in Africa. With an average altitude of 2,600 meters, it is one of the highest, most extensive and continuous areas of forest in Rwanda. Lying high on the Rift Valley Wall, there are over 150 recorded animal species here, including over 1,000 varieties of bird and 293 species of reptiles and amphibians. Presently the reserve is not properly developed for tourism, however, it is still accessible for visitors via the road which connects Karonhi to Mukaga, a path heading north at Nange. Following a dirt road that leads close to the forest’s edge, visitors will reach the outer perimeter of the forest, a lush green spectacle bursting with the sounds of wild animals. Although still a breathtaking sight, the vegetation here has decreased rapidly in the last 50 years, by nearly 50%. The biggest reason for this is the growing population of villages emerging around the outskirts of the forest, settlements which are dependent on the reserve as a means of income and resource. With this post-genocide resettlement it is difficult to predict how long the beauty of the reserve will last, but if possible, Rwandan travelers are urged to visit this natural treasure if they can.
Gishwati Forest Reserve
Gishwati Forest Reserve should really be called the vanishing forest reserve, having lost approximately 99% of its original expanse, now only a small patch of about 2,500 acres remains of the formerly vast 250,000 acre area. Although human intervention is the main cause of this, natural disasters in the form of landslides and soil erosion have played their part in decimating the biodiversity of the reserve. However, since 2001, efforts have gone into reforesting the area, an activity which has increased the area of the park by 1,000 acres in only a few years. As devastating as the reduction in size is, Gishwati is still one of the most stunning areas in the country, illustrating why Rwanda is rightly called the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills.’ Here you’ll find these undulating, charming hills, and you’ll also be able to visit a number of idyllic tea plantations which dot the edges of the reserve. Eco-tourism, as well as the work of the Gishwati Forest Conservation Program, is two important factors integral in bringing this reserve back to life. The Rwandan Ministry of Lands and Environment has plans to build a 10,000 acre corridor to connect Gishwati to the Nyungwe Forest National Park, an idea which just might be able to make the Gishwati Forest Reserve Africa’s most amazing comeback kid.