Over the last two years, Rwanda has seen a tremendous boost in tourism. We give you reasons to explore this hidden gem. By Shikha Pushpan

 

  1. Rwanda Has Some Really Big Animals

The mountain gorillas—which share 98 per cent of our DNA—are the world’s most endangered apes. Only 700 of them exist on the planet and can be found in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo. The Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda has the largest concentration of the mammals, and offers limited access to tourists, making it a super-exclusive experience for discerning wildlife enthusiasts. The mountain gorillas are found mainly on land and not trees, unlike other primates. They roam in groups of 30, and if lucky, you can spot as many as 10 gorilla groups in a day. Only 80 passes, priced at INR 80,000, are available in a day. These can be booked through the Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office of the Rwanda Development Board.

 

  1. Here, You Can Conquer An (inactive) Volcano

Rwanda is home to five of the eight volcanoes that give the ridgeline of the Virunga Mountains its lava-borne grandeur. Mount Karisimbi, at a height of 4,507 metres, is the highest of these volcanoes, and it can take one up to two days to hike upwards. Once at the white-capped summit, enjoy views of the barren volcanic core and dense forest below, besides coming across species such as golden monkeys along the way.

 

  1. Or, Go On The Big Five Safari

The Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda offers sightings of the Big Five of Africa—lion, rhino, buffalo, leopard, and elephant—minus throngs of tourists you’d find at the more popular Kruger National Park in South Africa. Akagera had lost a sizeable number of its inhabitants during the turbulent nineties. However, the national park recently brought in seven lions and 20 rhinos from South Africa and is on its road to recovery.

 

  1. Indulge in Some Lakeside Luxury

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Rwanda is a landlocked country. However, the small country makes up for this with its pristine lakes. The largest of these lakes, Lake Kivu, shares its border with Congo. It is a popular destination among locals for activities such as kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, boat rides, etc. The best way to explore the lake is by staying at Lake Kivu Serena Hotel, which offers the best views. Other popular options are Lake Muhazi, Lake Rweru, Lake Burera, Lake Ruhondo, and Lake Mugesera.

 

  1. Stay at A Barefoot Forest Lodge

If your idea of staying at a forest lodge is that of spotting elephants and other wild animals from your window, Rwanda offers plenty of wilderness hotels where you needn’t compromise on creature comforts. Located close to the Nyungwe rainforest, Nyungwe Forest Lodge is arguably the best luxury outpost in Rwanda at present. Here, all rooms and suites open out to views of the forest, while residents wake up to sounds of the nature and its wild inhabitants. Virunga Safari Lodge and Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge are two barefoot luxury accommodations.

 

  1. Visit A Genocide Site

As many as 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed in 1994 mass slaughter of the Tutsi tribe by the members of the Hutu government. The Millennium Villages in Mayange was the epicentre of this genocide. At present, the area has developed to become a centre for honey production, pig and poultry farming, knitting cooperatives for women etc. Organisations, such as New Dawn Associates and EOS Visions, hold community tours to the villages where you can visit mass graves to get an idea of the scale of the massacre, or simply visit the public health centres and schools to study how far Rwanda has come from its turbulent past. You can also visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial to get a better understanding of the country’s history.

 

  1. Explore Rwanda’s capital, Kigali

Kigali sits right at the centre of Rwanda; therefore, it makes for an excellent base to explore the various offerings of the country. Marked by its several ridges and valleys, Kigali has brought in a wave of cosmopolitanism to the country with its streets bustling with attractive restaurants and bars. The Heaven Restaurant is a highlight of the Kigali nightlife and offers an open-air deck bistro with international cuisine. Sundowner (KG 625 St, Kigali, Rwanda) is another popular option to spend the day savouring local Rwandan dishes.