We have travelled and explored extensively in Rwanda with the Rwanda Development Board and are so, so passionate about promoting travel to this stunning and diverse country. Please do note it is not just about the Gorillas here, so plan to not only visit Volcanoes National Park , but also its two sister parks - Akagera for wildlife including Lions, Elephant, Giraffe, Hippo and more; Nyungwe for the variety of primates including Chimpanzees and of course relaxing and exploring beautiful Lake Kivu . With plans to add a tourist lodge in Rwanda's newly established 4th National Park - Gishwati-Mukura National Park - conservation and tourism are thriving in Rwanda.
Mention the name Rwanda and most people remember the protracted civil war that escalated into a horrific genocide and claimed the lives of nearly a million people. However, over twenty years later this resilient and safe country is now truly thriving and has become one of the most economically vibrant and socially progressive on the continent. We do encourage our clients to explore Kigali, one of the friendliest and cleanest capital cities on the continent, and visit the Genocide Museum, to gain a background in this remarkable country to see how far it has come, and head off and explore as much as possible of this sensational country. We at Tailormade Africa love Rwanda!!
Geographically, it’s also one of Africa’s most remarkable countries. Labelled ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’, its verdant forests offer one of the top wildlife experiences on the planet: meeting the mountain gorillas studied by Dian Fossey in the Volcanoes National Park . It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event that should be on everyone’s ‘bucket list’.
Other Apes are on offer too: Rwanda is one of only three countries in the world where you can track both Gorillas and Chimpanzees. Found inside Nyungwe National Park – the largest and oldest montane forest in East Africa – this biodiverse park also shelters the endangered Golden Monkey endemic to the Virunga Mountains, the black-and-white Ruwenzori colobus and close to 300 species of bird.
To the east, you can explore the off-the-beaten-track savannah of Akagera National Park home to elephant, hippo and – after a 15-year absence – a newly re-introduced pride of lions and also rhino that are the subject of a fascinating conservation story led by the non-profit organisation African Parks .
You can hike to the summit of dormant volcano Mount Bisoke, pick up woven handicrafts from villages, watch tea pickers at work, and relax at a lakeside retreat on the shores of Lake Kivu – the eighteenth-deepest lake in the world – where Amato fishing boats ply the depths.
If you are travelling from the UK or mainland Europe there are various flight options: RwandAir flies directly to Kigali from London Gatwick three times a week alternatively Kenya Airways fly via Nairobi, KLM via Amsterdam and Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa, all from London Heathrow. Other airlines serving Kigali include Fly Dubai and Qatar Airlines.
Access into Rwanda is easy and all points are easily accessible due to the fact that Rwanda is a small country. Agakera National Park is roughly a 2-hour drive at 100 km from Kigali, Nyungwe is a 5 to 6-hour drive at just over 200 km and Volcanoes National Park is a 2.5 to 3-hour drive at just over 100 km. Lake Kivu is just over 100 km from Kigali: a 2.5 to 3-hour drive.
Mountain gorillas live at high altitude (1,700 metres) in the Virungas, Volcanoes National Park. There are currently 10 habituated gorilla families each of which can be visited by a maximum 8 visitors per day. Viewing time is limited and people are permitted to stay with the gorillas for a maximum of 1 hour only. Gorilla trekking involves walking long distances through thick vegetation and up steep, wet and muddy terrain which may prove a challenge for some visitors.
We recommend you pace yourself: walk slowly and drink plenty of water. On the track, carry as little as possible in a waterproof bag: hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, camera, etc. No one should, however, feel deterred from making this trip as mostly, average fitness levels will be sufficient for the treks. Porters are available to help you carry your daypack for a small fee. Children under 15 years of age are not permitted on gorilla treks.
Being a rainforest, Virunga Volcanoes experiences a changeable climate and you can generally expect rain or sunshine, or both, on any day of the year. At 1,700m above sea level, it is also generally quite cold, especially in the mornings and evenings. Warm clothing is therefore recommended. Please bring sturdy, waterproof walking shoes or hiking boots, gators (if possible) and a light raincoat. We recommend long, thick, waterproof trousers and a long-sleeved top to protect against stinging nettles. A pair of thick gloves is helpful when you are grabbing for holds in thorny vegetation. If you feel safer with a walking-stick, pack a folding one. The park can provide wooden walking sticks if necessary.
To minimise the possible transmission of human diseases you are required to maintain a distance of 7m (22 ft) from the gorillas. If you are unwell with a cold, flu or any other contagious illness please do not visit the gorillas. Spitting in the park is strictly prohibited. Should you need to cough please cover your mouth and turn away from the gorillas. Eating and drinking near the gorillas and smoking anywhere within the park is strictly forbidden. Photography is permitted, but you may NOT use flash. Please keep your voice low when with the gorillas and do not make any rapid movements that may frighten them. Should a gorilla charge or vocalise towards you, do not be alarmed. Stand still, look away from the gorilla and follow your guide’s directions. The safety of visitors is of the highest priority for the park guides and there is no need for concern about your personal security. To enhance your enjoyment make sure you carry at least 1 litre of drinking water with you. You are permitted to bring small snacks to eat during your hike but do not litter.
Fees for mountain gorilla tracking permits are US$1500 per person for foreign non-residents, foreigner residents in East African countries, foreigner residents in Rwanda and for Rwandan citizens - this is inclusive of park entrance fees. Tracking only takes place in the morning and always starts at the Volcanoes National Park HQ in Kinigi at 0700 hrs every day. Many of the park’s team of trackers and anti-poaching officers speak English or French.
Rwanda is a destination for all seasons, however, visiting Rwanda to trek the mountain gorilla is best during the drier season from June to September. This is also the optimum time for tracking chimpanzees. Temperatures hardly vary throughout the seasons due to Rwanda's position just south of the Equator. Days are warm and nights are cool, especially at altitude.
Rwanda is an elevated country in the African Great Lakes region of the continent. The geography of the country is dominated by mountains in the west and savannah to the east with numerous lakes throughout the country.
The population of Rwanda is young and predominantly rural with a density amongst the highest in Africa. Rwandans are drawn from one cultural and linguistic group called the Banyawanda although within this group there are three subgroups: the Hutu, the Tutsi and the Twa. The country has been governed by a strict administrative hierarchy since pre-colonial times and there are five provinces delineated by borders which were introduced in 2006. Rwanda is one of only two countries with a female majority in the national parliament.
Since the genocide of 1994, when Rwanda's economy suffered greatly, the country has now strengthened. The economy of Rwanda is based mostly on subsistence agriculture and coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export. Tourism is a fast-growing sector and is now the country's leading foreign exchange earner. Rwanda is one of two countries in which mountain gorillas can be visited safely. Music and dance are an integral part of Rwandan culture: particularly drums and the highly choreographed intore dance. Traditional arts and crafts are produced throughout the country including imigongo: a unique cow dung art.
On the last Saturday of every month from around 8.00am to 12.30pm all Rwandans, from all walks of life, take a break from their everyday chores and come together with neighbouring communities and villages to work together for the benefit of the whole society. Work often includes chores such as general cleaning, breaking fallow ground for farming, unblocking trenches and roadside drains and sweeping streets. Once the work has been completed, communities hold a short meeting to discuss society issues and then head home. Their afternoon is then free to continue their daily lives and revert back to personal engagements.
Due to a combination of tropical location and high altitude Rwanda enjoys a year-round temperate climate. Temperatures rarely stray above 30 degrees Celsius during the day and 15 degrees Celsius at night through the year. The upper slopes of the Virunga mountains can be cooler however generally, variations in temperature throughout the country are insignificant.
Most parts of the country receive in excess of 1000mm of precipitation annually with the wettest months being February to May and the driest months being July to September.