East Africa has a gem in Rwanda with its rare mountain gorillas. Travellers going here can tramp through the forest in search of these intelligent and adorable creatures. Its natural attractions offer more than the fuzzy gorillas, though. Rwanda has a variety of nature spots that promote a thriving wildlife in the country such as Lake Kivu and a number of national parks. Extensive biodiversity also features a large number of trees and other types of flora, which makes ecotourism opportunities abound in the country.
Those going to Rwanda will learn of its tumultuous past, however, as conflict erupted when the Hutus went after the minority of Tutsis in 1994. This systematic ethnic cleansing resulted in more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The massacre stopped only on July 1994, with the defeat of the extremist Hutus making them flee to Zaire, which eventually became DR Congo. Rwanda's relation with its newly named neighbour became strained when Laurent Kabila failed to deport the Hutu extremists. Tension mounted between the two countries, as Rwanda sought to help the rebels overthrow Kabila's government.
What to see & do
Travellers going to Rwanda will find a variety of sights to appreciate the rural environment of this East African country. The prime destination here is Volcanoes National Park, which features five volcanoes – Karisimbi, Sabinyo, Gahinga, Bisoke, and Muhabura. Those going here can hike up to the high reaches of Karisimbi, the highest peak at 4,507 metres, to get a panoramic view of the area. After taking in the view, tourists can make their way back to the forest to look for the endangered mountain gorilla. There are also rare golden monkeys living here, which present such a contrast with its bigger primate cousin.
Those on the lookout of great views of the Rwandan countryside can venture to the Akagera National Park. Hikers will find the terrain challenging due to the mountainous course with altitudes that reach nearly 2,000 metres in the Mutumba Hills region. Views from these highlands let one see over the wide expanse of lakes and swamps. From here, one can check out Lake Kivu, one of the huge freshwater lakes in Africa's Great Rift Valley. Gisenyi, also known as Rubavu, makes a nice destination due to its waterfront lined with fading old mansions, hotels, and bars. There is also Kibuye to see, which is regarded as the prettiest of the towns near Lake Kivu. Its lush tropical environment is dominated by eucalyptus and pine trees, which can pass through to get a view of the lake especially at sunset.
After a tour of the countryside, one can go back to Kigali to look at the various establishments featuring the history and culture of Rwanda. The Kigali Memorial Centre features a comprehensive background on the genocide, as well as accounts of the survivors and the refugee situation of the country at the end of the conflict. Going up to the second floor of the building will set the Rwandan conflict with the genocides in other parts of the world. From here, one can visit the State House Museum, which displays a few exhibits and other relics. One will also find here the wreckage of the presidential plane, which became a rallying point for Hutu extremists.
How to get around
In Rwanda, travellers can get around on the minibuses. They serve passengers from early in the morning until nightfall, and leave the terminals after all the seats are filled. Taxis can also be found in Kigali and the main cities, which can make the commute more convenient for those who need to hurry. Car rental services are also available in Rwanda, but not as well established. Tourists can enquire with tour operators and travel agents about one, however. A simple car can do for a sojourn in the cities, but it is better to hire a 4WD when going to Lake Kivu or outback destinations in the Akagera. Boats can also be found plying on Lake Kivu, but they can be pricey to rent.
How to get there
Travellers going to Rwanda can schedule trips to Kigali International Airport. Airlines serving here include Brussels Airlines, Coastal Aviation, Ethiopian Airlines, flydubai, Kenya Airways, KLM, Qatar Airways, RwandAir, and Turkish Airlines.