In the heart of Africa lies the country of Rwanda, rich with cultural heritage and incredible wildlife – including the opportunity to go on an incredible gorilla tracking experience through the lush national parks of Rwanda. However, this popular pastime isn’t the only gem this country offers its visitors. Get ready to read on and find out all the adventurous things to do in Rwanda and why Rwanda should be on your 2020 bucket list.
While I was sad I didn’t’t get to visit on my epic Cork to Cape Town adventure, I’m hopeful I’ll make it to the gorgeous country of Rwanda real soon.
Unique Things To Do in Rwanda
First up, of course, is Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda as it’s one of the best countries in the world to spot these incredible primates in the wild and is by far the top thing to do in Rwanda for most people visiting.
So what is Gorilla Trekking exactly? Well, Gorilla trekking is like a walking safari but for primate spotting. Gorilla Trekking is easily one of those bucket list travel items on many of our lists, but here’s why you should head to Rwanda to see these beautiful creatures in the wild.
First of all, the trekking terrain in Rwanda is more open than in the neighbouring country of Uganda, meaning you’re more likely to get a good view. Speaking of good views, the Rwanda landscape is dusted with volcanoes, meaning the views you’ll experience are breathtaking.
Rwanda is also a relatively easy country to travel around, with roads that are in a generally good state of repair. This great accessibility means you can focus more of your time on seeing gorillas than on navigating dodgy roads.
Like other African nations, if you want to go Gorilla trekking in Rwanda you will need a permit. The government of Rwanda has implemented rules to limit Gorillas exposure to humans and keep their environments safe. Some of the money even goes towards financing patrols to stop poachers.
These permits can be expensive as each national park only issues 10 per day per family of Gorillas. A permit for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda currently costs $1500. You should book your permit online ahead of time either from the Rwanda Development Board or by booking through a reliable tour operator.
So what is the trekking experience actually like? Your trek will start early in the morning, where you will be transferred to a ranger station. Here the rangers monitor the gorillas on a daily basis and should have a good idea where they are, which will make trekking to try and find them that little bit easier.
Then it is time to get out into the wild and onto the trekking, which can take anywhere from 45 minutes to over 8 hours. Gorillas are wild animals after all and they like to move about.
To limit the gorilla’s exposure to humans, you will only have 1 hour to marvel at the beautiful creatures, take photos and really just enjoy the whole experience. The fantastic rangers will be able to tell you all about the gorilla family you’re visiting. After your time is up, you’ll trek through the jungle back to your meeting point.
Hike Breathtaking Volcanoes
The Virunga Mountains is a chain of Volcanos that runs through the East African counties of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Five of the main eight volcanos that make up this chain are in Rwanda. This means that Rwanda is a great place to experience a volcano hiking adventure.
For nature enthusiasts, the Virunga Mountains offer a real jungle paradise full of lush green forests and wildlife such as elephants, monkeys, birds and buffaloes.
For Volcano trekking, one of the best places to visit is Volcanoes National Park. Here you’ll find Mount Bisoke standing at an impressive 3,700 meters above sea level. You don’t need any previous hiking experience to climb the mountain. The only requirement is that you are physically fit due to the length it takes to climb and the high elevation. The trek lasts for roughly 7-hours and once you reach the top, you’ll be greeted with fantastic views of the other five volcanoes, and the stunning Twin Lakes, the crater lakes at the top of Mount Bisoke.
A Coffee Discovery Experience
The lush, fertile volcanic ground of Rwanda, paired with its temperate climate, makes it the perfect place for growing both tea and coffee. Rwanda exports both these products all across the world and you can see just how it’s grown.
In Gisenyi, there are farmers cooperatives and washing stations that offer tours, explaining the entire coffee growing process to visitors and allowing them to see the lush coffee plantations. You’ll also be greeted with a generous tasting, getting to see just how awesome Rwanda coffee is!
The best way to book onto a Coffee discovery experience is through the Rwanda Development Board or tourist agency.
Bike or hike the Congo Nile Trail
This stunning lakeside trail offers 141 miles of natural landscapes ready for you to bike or hike. The Congo Nile Trail runs along the coast of Lake Kivu, which then continues all the way across northern Rubavu district, then to the southern Rusizi district, which then passes through Rutsiro, Karongi, and Nyamasheke.
Although you can take on any length of this trail you choose, to complete the entire thing would take 10 days to hike or five days to bike.
The trail can be completed either independently or by booking a customised experience with a tour agency.
Explore Rwanda’s capital, Kigali
No trip to Rwanda is complete without a visit to its bustling capital city, Kigali.
Embrace local food and get acquainted with East African delights such ad Mandazis, which are like little triangle doughnut pillows, and the delightful deep-fried flatbread, chapatis.
One of the best places in the city to experience Rwanda’s foodie culture is at Kimironko Market, the busiest market in the city. The market is bursting with fresh produce to tantalise your tastebuds, but its also a great place to pick up other items such as fabrics and clothing.
When visiting Rwanda, it’s important to be mindful of the countries history, that includes the darker sides of its past. Paying a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre is an opportunity to learn about and remember the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Today, Rwanda is a country rebuilt. The nation has come a long way in the last several decades. Kigali is a growing city, with good infrastructure, modern building and is one of the cleanest cities in Africa.
Enjoy Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s great lakes
On the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo lies Lake Kivu, the sixth largest lake in Africa. The natural beauty of this area of Rwanda is spectacular, but the highlight of visiting this area of the country is getting to explore the towns that lay on the banks of this freshwater lake.
The large town of Gisenyi (which is also known as Rubabu) was one a colonial beach town. The waterfront is lined with ageing mansions and some pretty nice hotels. Here you will find a public beach, the perfect place to chill out on a hot day.
If you travel 100 km south from Gisenyi, you’ll reach the town of Kibuye, often thought of as the prettiest town on the banks of Lake Kivu. One of the best things to do whilst visiting is to actually take a boat ride to the nearby Napoleon Island. There you will discover its unique colony of fruit bats. Watching hundreds of bats fly out in ritual and cover the sky in one of natures great spectcales is certainly worth the 30-minute boat ride to the island.
Visit Rwanda’s stunning national parks
Just like other countries in Africa with spectacular wildlife experiences, Rwanda is a haven for wildlife, and the best places to really experience the natural wonders of this African nation are at its national parks. Alongside the Volcanoes National park mentioned earlier, with its towering volcanoes and plethora of primates, there are plenty of other parks to explore.
Akagera National Park is the perfect place to enjoy a safari, in the hopes of spotting the Big Five. The Rwanda government has worked to introduce lions and rhinos back to this area, which is full of savannah, wetlands and lakes.
Explore one of the oldest rainforests in Africa at Nyungwe National Park which boasts an impressive 13 species of primate. There are 15 different trails that take you through the lush forests of the park. This is also an excellent location for birdwatches, with 322 different bird species living here.
Gishwati Mukura National Park is home to a group of 20 chimpanzees. The park has seen an ambitious restoration programme after the area was nearly depleted thanks to illegal mining and livestock farming. Now the park has seen a completely new lease of life, and as of this year, exciting activities have even been introduced for visitors to enjoy. These include guided primate trekking, bird watching and waterfall excursions.
There are so many reasons why Rwanda should be on your 2019 bucket list. The incredible wildlife experiences and breathtaking natural enviroments are just the tips of the iceberg – there really are so many unique things to do in Rwanda for the adventurous traveler!
Its resilient people and vibrant culture are the beating heart of this African nation. There are towns and cities to discover, tasty dishes to try and local traditions to learn about. So what are you waiting for?
Hi! I’m Janet Newenham, an Irish-born digital nomad and blogger. My blog, Journalist On The Run, is a journal of my travels and career hurdles, as well as a “bucket list for life.” In my youth, reading inspired me to create and achieve goals for my future.
My long list of goals took me to places I could never have dreamed of, each one inspiring me toward the next. Along the way, I picked up a few awards like “Digital Media Travel Journalist Of The Year” in both 2017 and 2019 while simply doing what I love.
Now, well into my 30s, I’ve seen so many of the world’s alcoves that it would be wrong not to share my experiences with you. This blog is my way of taking you around the world with me, and I hope you enjoy the ride.
My goal was to visit 50 countries before I hit 30. I never imagined that at 37, I could proudly say I’ve seen 101 of the world’s beautiful countries. Of course, no matter how much you think you’ve traveled, there is still so much left to see, and I look forward to going on the run with you.