Rwanda – An intro to the wildlife and nature lover’s paradise

Rwanda is referred to as the land with 1000 hills.  Unfortunately, I only saw a small part of the country on the road from Kigali to the Volcanos National Park, but what I saw has me itching to experience more.

picture of the world map with a pin to show the location of Rwanda

The pin on the worlld map shows where Rwanda is located.  
It is a is a small country in East Africa (see bottom left).
Kigali is almost in the center of the country (circled in red on the bottom right picture) and Volcanoes National Park is on the Northern country boundary (also circled in the map on the bottom right).   The mountain range spreads through Rwanda, Uganda, and The Democratic Republic of Congo.

Map of Africa with Rwanda highlighted
A map of Rwanda with the city of Kigali and Volcanoes National Park highlighted

The sights that drew me in also make me want to learn landscape photography because everywhere you looked, it had hundreds if not thousands of green hues and the textures abounded from the different farm produce and foliage.  The farm terraces meandering up the hills were mesmerizing. 

We didn’t stop for photos, so a few iPhone clicks out the window of a moving land rover was all I could manage.  Even had we stopped for photographs, I knew my skills would never have done the beauty justice.

a picture of the green hills of Rwanda
kids hanging onto a truck to get up the hill



The hills were steep in some places, so the kids (and young adults) would use trucks to help pull them up.   The man in orange on his bike is holding onto the truck (it's hard to see in this picture).

The trip to Rwanda was to trek and photograph mountain gorillas.  I’ve done it before and remember with vivid clarity how much the experience moved me and I was excited to do it again.

a mama gorilla keeping an eye on her baby

It is impossible to describe what it is like to be on the ground with nothing between you and the gorilla except lush vegetation.  The feeling that encompasses you when you get a sneak peek into their lives can move you to tears.  

The experience stays with you long after the 1 hour time limit expires.  In fact, my first 2 gorilla treks were about 35 years ago in Zaire and I still remember the names of the 2 silverbacks I “met”.  (Naninja and Moshamooka for the record).  But that’s a story for another day.

close up portrait of a mountain gorilla

Rwanda is a country with a tumultuous and violent past.   A visit to the genocide museum is really a must see for all visitors and I strongly believe every world leader should learn the history of what happened in this country.  Many books have been written and there is no way to do it justice in this short article, so I won’t write the details here but you can search Rwanda genocide to read about this incredibly tragic past.   

entrance to the Kigali Genocide museum

As a visitor, you would never guess the violent past.  Many will talk of their own personal experience if asked but the country is incredibly peaceful and clean and very safe for tourists and citizens alike with an incredibly low crime rate.  I felt incredibly comfortable as a tourist in Rwanda.

The people were amazingly kind and friendly.  Music and dancing is a love for them.

Another fabulous stop is the Diane Fossey Research Center.   The center was very informative with pictures, videos, and information posters all about the mountain gorillas and the work being done to save them.

A picture of the thank you sign at the gorilla research center
Picture of me standing next to the height measuring stick of a gorilla

Visiting Rwanda, even now, during Covid, was quite easy.    They asked for a vaccine card (but at the time a vaccine was not mandatory) and a negative PCR test.   Upon arrival in Kigali, we had to get another test which cost an additional $50.   As the entrance requirements are constantly changing all over the world – be sure to check to see the current requirements to leave yourself enough time if quarantines are mandated.

The biggest tourist draw to Rwanda is the mountain gorillas.   But Rwanda also has many beautiful wildlife parks that I have yet to visit.   I plan on extending my next trip here so I can visit some of the other areas of Rwanda.  I have heard great things about the other parks and if you visit the other parks, you can get a discount on your mountain gorilla permit (which at the time I visited in October 2021, the fee was $1500).  Again, be sure to look at the current requirements and rates as these things tend to change rapidly.

I highly recommend a visit to Rwanda.  If you are a nature lover, it must go on your bucket list.  Like all tourist destinations around the world, Rwanda was hurt by the pandemic and are now welcoming tourists with open arms.   Go as soon as you can!!


SAFARI TIPS

  • Rwanda is normally an add-on destination to a safari in Kenya or Tanzania

  • Rwanda is trying to promote it's other parks to be a destination on it's own - I haven't visited the other locations so I don't have an opinion but talk to an African Safari Specialist is you are considering that as an option!

  • You can also see mountain gorillas in Uganda but my understanding is the trekking is much more difficult (it is less money).   I plan on visiting Uganda in the next few years.

  • You can also see mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo - personally, I would not go there at this time for safety reasons

  • Gorilla trekking is not usually a first-time safari goers trip but it can be and I highly recommend seeing the gorillas!

  • Be sure to work with an AFRICAN SPECIALIST with experience in both countries so they can give you the correct advice for your specific desires



Visit my Youtube channel for the hotel review of the Kigali Serena Hotel 

The lodge review for Mountain View Lodge is coming soon!

The articles about my mountain gorilla experiences are coming soon!

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