13 Life-changing safari experiences in Rwanda: It is widely appreciated that Rwanda, also known as the land of a thousand hills, is gifted with stunning scenery and warm, friendly people. This combination offers exceptional experiences in one of the most remarkable countries in the world.
Rwanda is further endowed with extraordinary biodiversity and incredible wildlife living throughout its volcanoes, montane rainforest and sweeping plains.
From historical museums to the delicious meals that are prepared by some of Kigali’s celebrated chefs, one cannot go wrong by choosing Rwanda as a safari destination.
Below are 13 life-changing safari experiences in Rwanda that you can choose from;
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park
Trekking mountain gorillas in the misty jungles of Volcanoes National Park is one of the most exciting and heartwarming adventures in Rwanda.
These world’s most endangered apes, are found only in small portions of protected afro-montane forests in Northwest Rwanda, Southwest Uganda, and Eastern DRC.
Digging a little bit into the history of mountain gorillas, these apes were unknown to science until 1902, when two were first encountered by a German explorer and killed instantly.
For much of the time since, due to deforestation and poaching, it seemed that the mountain gorilla was going to become extinct. Not long after that, the species’ greatest champion, Dian Fossey ( the American zoologist) was killed in 1985.
Today nearly half of the world’s 700 remaining mountain gorillas live in the Virunga Mountains of Central Africa, at the intersection of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The trekking experience which lasts about half a day takes you closest to a habituated mountain gorilla family. You will get a chance to have a wonderful experience with these “human cousins”.
Attending the Annual Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Festival
If you are a lover of festivals and culture, the annual Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Festival that is usually held in September is a must on your safari list.. The festival represents ancient Kinyaranda customs and traditions of naming babies a few weeks after birth.
Rwanda hosts this week-long festival of cultural activities every September to raise wildlife conservation awareness and funds. The festival contributes to protecting the country’s mountain gorillas and expanding the gorilla habitat. It’s one of the world’s most respected conservation and sustainable tourism activities.
There are various activities that you would enjoy while at this festival. Some of them include traditional music, art, gorilla naming ceremony, dancing and performances from local students and artists. The cultural festival attracts thousands of visitors, including rangers, local communities, and conservationists. You might get a chance to interact with international dignitaries, celebrities and the country’s president.
Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Located on Rwanda’s southern frontier highlands is Nyungwe Forest National Park, an ancient biodiversity rainforest famous for hosting chimpanzees; the closest relatives to human beings. Additionally, this park is home to over 12 primate species, an incredible plant and animal collection, various hiking trails and the stunning Kamiranzovu waterfalls.
After searching for the chimpanzees, you are allowed to spend only one hour with these incredible primates.
Visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
Touring Rwanda’s Genocide Memorial in Kigali is an extremely emotional yet, fulfilling and rewarding experience. While at this place, you will get a glimpse of the horror and suffering that the Rwandan people went through during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
As you move through the museum, you will learn about the background to the horrific 100-day genocide, watch moving survivors’ video testimonies, and view exhibits of gruesome crimes that were committed against the Rwandan people.
One of the most horrifying sections is the one that pays tribute to the young children who fell victim to the killers’ machetes. You will come face to face with life-sized photos portraying in specific detail the victims’ best toys, last words, favourite food and fight to stay alive.
Almost 250,000 victims of the gruesome genocide are buried within the grounds of the Memorial. The Memorial tour educates visitors about the genocide horrors through three permanent exhibitions. Also, it serves as a meaningful tribute to those who perished in the 1994 genocide.
The Kigali Genocide Museum, and others across the country, feature giant wall displays, photos, archival documents, video footage and weapons encased in glass.
Beautiful and serene rose gardens and cascading fountains surround the centre, providing a haven for those needing time to contemplate and compose themselves after their visit. Mass graves lie peacefully in the lush garden, covered by giant concrete plates.
Enjoying your stay in Rwanda’s most luxurious eco-lodges
Staying in Rwanda’s most luxurious eco-lodges is one of those experiences that you can never forget. Imagine being in the land of endangered gorillas, chimpanzees and golden monkeys accompanied by luxurious and comfortable accommodation.
Some of the luxurious lodges that you could try out in Rwanda include Gorilla Nest, Virunga, Kwitonda and Bisate lodges.
These hotels offer comforts of the sparkling infinity pools, refreshing spas, fresh cuisines inspired by local seasonal produce and satisfying customer care.
An encounter with Africa’s big five at Akagera National Park
If you decide to visit Akagera National Park, you will get a golden opportunity to see
the famous big five animals; the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo in Rwanda’s only savannah national park.
You’ll easily spot the buffaloes and elephants during a game drive. Lions are remarkably relaxed but challenging to spot because of their few numbers. Guided night drives are the best way to spot leopards.
Besides the big five animals, you will be able to see other wildlife such as zebras, giraffes, warthogs, baboons and antelopes. Additionally, Lake Ihema is a home to sizable concentrations of hippos and large crocodiles.
Relaxation at Lake Kivu
In Rwanda, the best lakeside adventure activities happen alongside Lake Kivu including the Congo Nile Trail, which is popular with many cyclists and hikers. The 227-kilometre trail traverses rain forests, bracken fields and bamboo forests, taking about ten days. However, you could walk over small sections, giving you a chance to explore local meaningful experiences in Rwanda at a comfortable pace.
The trail is an incredible way to experience the way of life in the local communities. You may also tour a historic church, watch the making of a fresh local cup of coffee or swim on the lake shore.
The hiking experience along the lake’s fringes via Rwanda’s lush hills is challenging but totally rewarding.
With regards to accommodation, there are campsites and guest houses that provide a place to rest and refreshments.
Exploring Rwanda’s Vibrant Markets
Rwanda, just like other East African countries, is known for its busy, colourful, and unique markets. Whether you’re exploring the countryside cities or the beautiful city of Kigali, visiting the local markets is one of the most exciting experiences in Rwanda.
Kimironko Market, which is located near Kigali, is the busiest and most preferred market in Rwanda. There, you will find vendors selling produce from all over East Africa and locals from across the country. The market is a hot spot for fruits, vegetables, fabrics, shoes, clothing as well as general household necessities.
Another interesting place to visit is the Kigali Cultural Village. This village is a traditional market space where food vendors and local artisans exhibit and sell their goods. It also hosts regular workshops, events, festivals and music.
Hiking in The Virunga Volcanoes
Rwanda’s North Western frontier within Volcanoes National Park hosts a range of five extinct volcanoes spanning altitudes of 2,400m to 4,507m. The park is famous for mountain gorillas.
If you prefer a shorter challenge to the straneous summit challenge, you may take the scenic hike on Mount Bisoke to Lake Ngezi. The 3-hour adventure experience through the meadow is relatively easy-going with the possibility of viewing some exciting wildlife. But if you’re keen to summit Mount Bisoke, the 10-hour trail to the crater lake at the top is breathtaking.
Alternatively, you can hike Mount Karisimbi and experience the frequently white-capped cloud cover at the 4,507-meter summit.
You can opt for a simple hike which is along the saddle area between Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke to Karisoke Research Centre and Dian Fossey’s grave. It’s about an 1 and a half hour walk with heartwarming insights into Fossey’s jungle life.
Some of the other exciting hiking experiences in Volcanoes National Park include Mount Muhubura (4,127m), Buana Eco-Park, the caves in the Buhanga sacred forest, and Mount Kabuye at 2,700 meters.
The taste of delicious Rwandan coffee
When you visit Rwanda, one of the things that you cannot miss out on is tasting the delicious Rwandan coffee.
Rwanda is known for its traditionally wet-processed Bourbon coffee with more complex, sweeter flavors and a rich taste.
You can even spend a day at the green tea fields and experience how tea in Rwanda is picked, dried, fermented, packed and made ready for drinking.
In Kigali, some of the best coffee spots include Question Coffee, Inzora Rooftop Cafe, and Bourbon Cafe.
Question Coffee has an airy roastery on a huge cast-iron Giesen Roaster, where faintly caramel, slightly sweet coffee beans are roasted in house. The cafe offers a variety of pour-over and speciality espresso drinks. This spot also stocks other packages such as small-batch distilled liquors (made with their own coffee beans).
The Bourbon Cafe serves coffee with a signature sweet taste with heavy overtones of caramel, cane sugar, cloves, and cinnamon. You can also various fruit flavors such as lemon, orange, cherries, grapes, blueberries, and raspberries.
Visiting Rwanda’s Tea Plantations and tea tasting experience
Rwanda’s countryside comprises of vast tea plantations covering rolling hills. While at the plantations, you will enjoy the stunning view of the rich green, the blue skies, the dirt roads and the dazzling sunshine. During your visit, you may head to the Gosovu, Gisakura, or Sorwathe tea plantations for a guided tour, lunch and a chance to taste some of the region’s best tea. You will also learn about the harvesting, processing and brewing of tea.
Experiencing Rwanda’s delicious cuisine
One of the best ways to experience Rwanda’s culture is by meeting the locals and enjoying dishes unique to this beautiful country.
Your food discovery can start with exploring Kigali’s street food which is prepared with fresh, simple ingredients and fantastic flavors. Taste the local favorites such as ‘rolex’ (an omelette-stuffed chapatti), goat or beef brochettes, samosas, spicy beans, and grilled bananas.
As you settle into the lodge of your choice in Rwanda, you will be served with mouth watering meals prepared by professional chefs that work closely with local farmers to get a healthy supply of local ingredients.
Additionally, lodges that are located near the parks have their own plant nursery and vegetable garden, which supply the chef with fresh produce on a daily basis.
Aerial view of the land of a thousand hills
It is indeed difficult to fully exhaust the beauty of Rwanda without having a glimpse from above. You can best appreciate the stunning terrain of this gifted country through the windows of a flying helicopter. This is one of those meaningful experiences in Rwanda that will leave you wanting more of the views.
Since you will be using helicopters for this experience, you will be able to view the landscape from a closer perspective and take in all of the beautiful details.
Also, helicopters can hover in one spot, so you can linger at specific points long enough to fully appreciate all that the view offers. Scenic aerial tours range from 30 minutes to two and a half hours.
If you are interested in booking a Rwanda safari with Pamoja Tours and Travel, feel free to contact us and trust us to give you an exceptional and memorable safari experience.
We also handle safaris in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Democratic Republic of Congo.