7 Day – Resplendent Rwanda
Located a few degrees south of the Equator in the Great Rift Valley, the small, landlocked nation of Rwanda has plenty of untouched beauty that is yet to be explored. Its high elevation (1,500 to 2,500 metres) has earned it the sobriquet ‘the land of a thousand hills” and Rwanda’s geography is dominated by savannahs in the east, mountains in the west and numerous lakes that flow throughout the country. Its capital and largest city, Kigali, is the nation’s economic, cultural and transport hub and is also the starting point of our itinerary.
Today, Rwanda is considered one of the safest African nations. Kigali is one of Africa’s cleanest cities ever since it banned the use of plastic in 2008. A home of four beautiful national parks and a variety of primates, Rwanda is bursting at the seams with colour, culture and exciting locations steeped in both beauty and history.
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Arrival in Kigali
Fun fact: Did you know 64% of Rwanda’s parliament members are women? Warm and friendly, Rwandans are respectful of their traditions but also embrace a modern way of life to keep up with the real world. This fast-developing nation is committed to becoming a major tourist and investment hub and is on its way to becoming the Singapore of Africa.
After a long flight into Kigali, you’ll be taken to your accommodation where you’ll get the chance to rest, relax and set gears in motion for a quiet yet exhilarating adventure that will have you looking at the continent of Africa in a whole new way. Fair warning: this tour is all about the “monkey business”- the variegated species of primates you’ll see and learn about cannot be put into mere words; it’s an experience that MUST be lived.
Helpful traveller’s tip: Rwanda is a subtropical nation with two wet and dry seasons. We advise you to travel light and choose to wear airy fabrics such as cotton and linen to make your trip a comfortable one.
Day 2 & 3
Kigali city tour + flight to Volcanoes
When in Rwanda, live the Rwandan way of life and dig into the nation’s café culture. Since the country’s biggest exports are tea and coffee, you can’t afford to miss out on them because the tea sourced from Rwanda is low in tannins and the coffee is absolutely delicious. We’re positive you’ll be taking home a few bags of the country’s coffee to enjoy long after this trip has ended.
Begin your day with a tour of Kigali city. A hub of architectural design, art and history, we recommend that you do pay a visit (and your respects) to the Kigali Genocide Memorial where the names of the lives lost are displayed on a plaque. Kigali is home to a variety of museums that are filled with relics and artefacts about Rwanda’s history and is also a favourite spot for lovers of arts and crafts. We’re sure you’ll love every one of them but do ask your guide about the must-sees. Feed your inner shopaholic with trips to the Kimisagara and Kimironko Markets.
At Kimironko, you can roam the fabric markets and get yourself a new outfit stitched within one hour! Kimisagara Market on the other hand, is a food lover’s paradise. Sample the local cuisine or pick up some fresh fruit for your onward journey – this market is your key to learning more about the local lifestyles.
From Kigali city, we proceed to Volcanoes National Park that is named after the chain of dormant volcanoes making up the Virunga Mountains that are shared by D.R. Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. Home to the endangered mountain gorilla and the Dian Fossey Research Base, this national park comes alive with the calls of over 200 species of colourful birds and the chattering of the rare golden monkey. A walk into the lush forests comprised of bamboos, open grassland, swamp and heath is sure to reinvigorate your soul and senses.
During your two day-stay in the Volcanoes National Park, you’ll be given a presentation by the gorilla doctors at your accommodation detailing their experiences with the gorillas. You’ll gain a fabulous insight into the lives of these magnificent creatures, listen to some anecdotes and learn a lot before you head out the next day for a gorilla trekking experience with a park ranger. The unique opportunity to see gorillas in their natural habitat is unforgettable, some even say life changing.
Helicopter to Nyungwe National Park
Rwanda’s rhythm is palpable. Whether you’re exploring urban settlements, gazing at silverback gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park or taking a stroll along Nyungwe National Park’s Canopy Walkway, the underlying pulse of community, love and connection allows you to effortlessly blend in with your surroundings. Our next stop is Africa’s oldest rainforests Nyungwe National Park which is located in the southwestern part of Rwanda along the border with Burundi.
The National Park features 15 exploration trails alongside a host of other activities for visitors to engage in such as the Kamiranzovu or Isumo Waterfall Walk and Chimpanzee trekking. While there are approximately 1,068 plant species to be found in Nyungwe, the park is a birdwatcher’s paradise with nearly 322 bird species to gaze the skies for – butterflies are also a common sight with at least 120 species being identified in the past. In addition to a chimpanzee trek, you can delight in taking a relatively easy walk to see the colobus and the endemic L’Hoest’s monkeys. For first-timers and return visitors, Nyungwe National Park is a must-see since it receives plenty of rainfall during the two wet seasons and is a source of water for about 70% of the country’s population.
Day 5 & 6
Onward to Akagera National Park
The final stop before heading back into urban city life is the Akagera National Park – a property that was severely degraded by poachers and refugees of the 1994 genocide, but received a new lease of life thanks to a massive and innovative conservation effort. Bordering Tanzania, the Akagera National Park is named for the Kagera River that flows along its eastern boundary and is home to the “Big Five” – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and the African buffalo, olive baboons, vervet monkeys and 490 different bird species.
Akagera National Park can only be explored using a vehicle – whether you choose to drive yourself or are part of a safari team, the best way to see this 1,122 km2 forest is to have a tour guide accompany you. It’s a great way to learn facts about the different mammals and birdlife that are park residents. Another highlight of the Akagera National Park is a boat trip on Lake Ihema where you can spot hippos, Nile crocodiles and waterbirds. Some of the birdlife to look for are the most sought after Red-faced barbet, Grey-crowned cranes, shoebills and several Nightjar species. Conservation efforts have meant that the game has been allowed to flourish within Akagera so game drives are warranted when visiting East Africa. A fantastic destination to soak in the vibe of Rwanda before heading home, Akagera National Park appeals to the novice and seasoned explorer and nature lovers alike.
To Kigali and onward
After your stay at Akagera National Park, it’s time to head back into human civilization and make your way home (or to another tourist destination) from Kigali. Safe and secure, Rwanda is arguably the best place for African montane birding while simultaneously exploring more species of primates than you ever knew of. It’s not just the flora and fauna that satiate the soul – the Rwandan culture, people and way of life really makes you appreciate the little things.
From Intore dancing to Imigongo, every experience of Rwanda is difficult to be had in a single visit. If you’re leaving Kigali on the last Saturday of the month, you’ll see the locals engaged in ‘Umuganda’ – a ritual which sees all able-bodied people coming together to work for the good of their neighbourhood and nation as a whole. Locals will set about giving their time and effort to public service projects such as litter clean-up, tree planting, building houses for the vulnerable and more. It’s no wonder that Rwanda is Africa’s cleanest nation!
With a wealth bank of photographs, stories, anecdotes and other memories, we at IE would like to say ‘Urakoze’ (thank you) and ‘Urabeho’ (goodbye). We hope that Rwanda’s magic has inspired and coaxed you enough for another visit to ‘Le Pays des Mille Collines’.
The official languages of Rwanda are French, Kinyarwanda, English and Swahili.
The currency used throughout the country is the Rwandan franc. Mastercard and Visa are accepted at major hotels and restaurants.
The best time to travel to Rwanda is between December and February or June to September. These periods are when temperatures are more moderate and there is less rain. As an equatorial country with gorilla habitat, rain can be expected daily.
1,500 USD per person
Rwanda may be difficult for those travelling with young children as one of the main attractions, gorilla trekking, is not permitted for those under the age of 15.