Rwanda; the “Land of a thousand hills” is a small land locked country in east & central Africa bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi & Congo geographically dominated by mountains and numerous lakes. Rwanda’s economy is based on Agriculture with major exports being Coffee and tea among other cash crops however the country’s leading foreign exchange earner is the fast growing tourism sector, Rwanda is regarded as a safe safari destination with lots of visitors traveling to Rwanda to visit the Virungas in a Mountain gorilla tracking adventure plus other activities like game viewing, bird watching, eco tourism, nature walks, city tours and cultural round trips. Rwanda was brutalized by a horrific genocide in 1994. In only 100 days one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were brutally butchered by the Interahamwe in one of the most savage genocides in the history of mankind. Nevertheless, despite the deep scars left by the massacre; Rwanda is optimistic and has succeeded in healing its wounds in such a short while. The country is now unified with elimination of tribalism that was the capital cause of the genocide.
Rwanda’s chief language is Kinyarwanda which is spoken by a reasonable number of citizens. However French and English spoken as the official languages. Rwanda’s population is mostly made up of young people. The country’s main cash crops are coffee and tea.
The government has advocated for ecotourism with its main objective geared towards the conservation of its vital resource the mountain gorilla. Shared by Rwanda and Congo, the Virunga volcanoes are home to some of the world’s surviving population of the mountain gorilla. Tracking the mountain gorillas remains the highlight of most African safaris.
Rwanda has 3 national parks Parc national des Volcans, Akagera national park and Nyungwe forest national park. Parc national des Volcans is Rwanda’s most visited park due to its possession of the mountain gorilla. Gorillas in Rwanda are much easier to track than the ones in Bwindi impenetrable forest. Observation in this habitat is also done with ease unlike the forested habitat in Bwindi. Gorillas can be seen and photographed in the open whilst in Bwindi they tend to hide in the vegetation. Golden monkeys have been fully habituated and are now accessible to tourists.
Nyungwe national park covers one of the oldest equatorial rain forests in Africa. This park inhabits 13 primate species most of which are chimpanzees and the rare Angolan colobus monkeys, 75 mammal species, 275 bird species most of which are forest birds, 120 butterfly species and over 1000 butterfly species.
Akagera national park is home to the greatest diversity of large mammals in Rwanda. A boat ride on Lake Ihema will expose you to the park’s marine life like the hippos. This park is suitable for the ardent bird watcher with a very wide selection of avian species since it lies along the Nile valley bird migration meaning you can spot over 525 bird species including over 40 raptors different and several endemics.
The Country’s unit of currency is the Rwandan franc. Other exchangeable currencies in most forex bureaus include the US dollars, British Pounds, Euros, Uganda shillings, Kenya shillings and Tanzania shillings.
Rwanda has a population of about 11.4 million with 3 different tribes of the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa(Pygmy forest dwellers). These tribes all speak the same language “Kinyarwanda”
The country’s main entry point is Kigali International Airport which is 10 Km from Kigali city. Operational airlines here include: SN Brussels, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Burundi and Rwandair Express. A valid passport with a visa is required for clearance by the Rwandan immigration. Nationals of the a few selected countries may visit Rwanda without visa for a period up to 90 days. Countries in this bracket include: USA, UK, Germany, Canada, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sweden, Mauritius, South Africa and Hong Kong. Visas can be applied for online from the Immigration website or bought upon arrival by filling in a form and fulfilling other necessary documentation.
The country’s climate is hot, warm or wet all year round thus its safe to travel any time of the year. The best season for gorilla tracking is in between the months of May to October since it is relatively dry then. Peak season is in July and August thus gorilla permits for these months have to be booked in advance.
Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday fall on variable dates.
Other public holidays in Rwanda include:
1 January (New Year’s Day);
1 February (National Heroes Day);
7 April (Genocide Memorial Day);
1 July (Independence Day);
4 July (National Liberation Day);
1 May (Labor Day);
15 August (Assumption Day);
1 October (Patriotism Day);
25 December (Christmas Day), and
26 December (Boxing Day).