Rwanda is an African country whose name will always be tinged with tragedy but also known for fabulous destination for wildlife and adventure. Better still, as of now, Rwanda is more accessible from the UK than ever before. Reasons to go? Try these.
It has very big and very famous animal.
In popular perception, the key reason to visit Rwanda is its mountain gorilla population. And rightly so. These glorious creatures haunt Volcanoes National Park, in the far north-west of the country. Access is, of course, carefully controlled but, 10 gorilla groups can be glimpsed by tourists, with 80 passes available per day.
Here be lions, too.
Rwanda is rarely considered a classic safari destination, but for those seeking things that roar and growl in the night, Akagera National Park (akageranationalpark.org) is home to a full quota of the Big Five (lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo, leopard). Spreading out on the east flank of the country, shaped by the border with Tanzania and the River Kagera, this verdant enclave of savannah and wetland suffered during Rwanda’s turbulent Nineties, when poaching and subsistence hunting robbed it of most of its inhabitants. But it has regathered itself considerably since 2009, when it was taken under the wing of rescue and rehabilitation group African Parks. Seven South African lions were introduced in 2015, and 20 black rhinos were brought in as recently as last month. These are still faltering baby steps, but Akagera is walking a road to recovery.
The country has moved on from its darkest hours.
And they were dark indeed. The Rwandan Genocide of April-July 1994 was one of humanity’s most desperate episodes – a horrifying period of bloodshed when up to one million members of Rwanda’s Tutsi population were massacred by the majority Hutu government. This was one of the consequences of the Rwandan Civil War and, in turn, caused the displacement of two million more (largely Hutu) people. Bleak and depressing stuff – and if you find yourself in the capital Kigali, you should surely acknowledge it. The city’s Genocide Memorial Centre (kgm.rw) cradles the remains of some 250,000 victims of this ethnic cleansing, and makes as difficult and as disgusted a statement on man’s inhumanity to man as any similar landmark amid the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia or the concentration camps left behind by Nazi Germany.
is also pretty safe
While travellers in sub-Saharan Africa should always take the standard precautions when it comes to drinking water, personal security and other such fragments of common sense, Rwanda is a country which can be explored with reasonable confidence. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a few words of warning on parts of the borders with the DRC and Burundi, but otherwise reassures would-be visitors that “Rwanda is generally safe and crime levels are relatively low.” Full details via gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/rwanda.
There is no sea, but there is plenty of water
Defiantly land-locked, and kept away from the life-giving depths of Lake Victoria by 100 miles of Tanzanian landscape, Rwanda nonetheless has a shoreline to call its own. This is on Lake Kivu, which defines some of the frontier with the DRC. It is ranked as the second smallest of the African Great Lakes – 56 miles long by 31 miles wide at its fullest dimensions – this liquid-blue puddle on the map is worth an afternoon or several of any traveller’s time. It makes for a perfect place to pause en route between Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Parks – perhaps in the town of Gisenyi (also known as Rubavu), where resort hotels dot the water’s edge, and broad sunsets await each evening.
also see Rwanda