GETTING OFF-THE-BEATEN TRACK IN RWANDA
For many people, Rwanda is still synonymous with the horrors of the 1990s genocide that saw hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and Hutus killed across the country. But more than 20 years later, the country is remarkably peaceful and has transformed into one of Africa’s most captivating destinations. It combines magnificent rural landscapes and sparkling lakes with lush jungles where mountain gorillas roam, not to mention one of East Africa’s friendliest capital cities.
Affectionately known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills”, Rwanda is reinventing itself as a must-visit destination, with a cultural history that is deeply moving and people whose resilience is admirable. So if you’re thinking about skipping this country on your East African travels, here are just a few of the reasons you should visit.
Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre
While the main purpose of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre is to remember the horrific events of the 1990s, it’s also designed to promote world peace and educate the wider community about how ethnic divisions can result in such atrocities. The exhibitions detail the events that led to the genocide, with photographs of many of the victims and their personal stories also on display. Visiting is a deeply moving experience, with the entire centre having been built around a mass grave and with poignant memorials where the family members of loved ones can grieve and come to terms with their loss.
“Photos of victims of the Rwandan Genocide on display at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre”
Straddling both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Kivu is nestled within a stunning landscape of agricultural fields and terraced slopes. Its sparkling waters serve as an important transport network for locals, with charming villages and towns dotted along the shores. You can base yourself at the popular beach resort of Gisenyi that’s for its hot springs or head to the quieter town of Kibuye where a Genocide Memorial Church features a moving “Never Again” display. Either explore Lake Kivu and its numerous islands during a boat trip or embark along the famous Congo Nile Trail that hugs the eastern shores through some of Rwanda’s most spectacular scenery.
“Looking across the sparkling waters of Lake Kivu from Kibuye”
Volcanoes National Park
If you’ve ever wanted to see mountain gorillas in the wild, then follow in the footsteps of Dian Fossey by visiting the lush jungles of Volcanoes National Park. It was here that the renowned zoologist conducted her significant research projects and today it’s one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Join expert guides and armed scouts on a once-in-a-lifetime trek to come face-to-face with these majestic creatures, with strictly-capped visitors numbers and regulations to ensure their long-term survival. Aside from mountain gorillas, the Volcanoes National Park is also home to endangered golden monkeys, spotted hyenas and more than 170 recorded bird species.
“Getting up close to mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park”
Another of Rwanda’s must-see wildlife destinations is the Nyungwe Forest National Park in the far south of the country, which encompasses the best preserved montane rainforest in Central Africa. It’s home to large numbers of chimpanzees and colobus monkeys, with guided treks through the high-altitude rainforest to witness these impressive primates in their natural habitat. A highlight of the national park is the elevated Canopy Walkway that swings high above Nyungwe’s valley floor and forms part of the famous Igishigishigi Trail.
“A colobus monkey munching on leaves in the Nyungwe Forest National Park”