Rwanda is a small mountainous country in central Africa and is bordered to the north by Uganda, to the East by Tanzania, to the south by Burundi and to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country is divided by great peaks of up to 3000m (9842ft), which run across from north to south. Rwanda has good climate, vegetation, and it is no wonder that Rwanda is commonly referred to as ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’. Rwanda’s tourism sector has rich and beautiful attractions. Among these are the Akagera and Nyungwe National parks, forests, various flora and fauna, and the famous Silverback Mountain Gorillas found in the Parc Nationale des Volcans or the Volcano National Park.
The Virunga volcanoes, which are home to the world’s most endangered and famed Mountain Gorillas, rises steeply from Lake Kivu in the west, sloping down first to a hilly central plateau and further eastwards to an area of marshy lakes around the upper reaches of the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile, where the Akagera National Park is situated. Dominated scenically by the labyrinth of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, this is archetypal African savannah landscape of tangled acacia woodland interspersed with open grassland.
Extending for 1,000 square kilometres across the majestic hills of southeast Rwanda, Nyungwe National Park is the largest block of montane forest in East or Central Africa, and one of the most ancient, dating back to before the last Ice Age. Nyungwe is most alluring for its primates, home to 13 species in all, including humankind’s closest living relative the chimpanzee, as well as the handsome L’Hoest’s monkey and harbours almost 300 bird species of which two dozen are restricted to a handful of montane forests on the Albertine Rift.
The Parc des Volcans protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range – home of the rare Mountain Gorilla – and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.
The bustling market town of Ruhengeri has a memorable setting at the base of the Virungas. On the outskirts of town, the natural bridge at Musanze – a solidified lava flow – is a fascinating relic of the volcanic activity that shaped this scenic area. Also within easy day tripping distance of Ruhengeri, are the seldom visited but lovely Lakes – Burera, Ruhondo and Karago. Ruhengeri offers a good selection of reasonably-priced small hotels and guest houses, including the newly renovated hotel, Gorilla’s Nest. Visitors could also base themselves in Gisenyi or Kigali and – with an early start – head to the Parc des Volcans and Ruhengeri as a day trip.