Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park, Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest Park, Canopy Walk, Wildlife Safaris in Rwanda Nyungwe Forest, Safari attractions in nyungwe forest park. Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in southwestern part of Rwanda, at the extreme border between Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The famous Nyungwe forest national park is one of the best preserved and conserved montane rainforest in whole of the East and Central Africa. The park lies at an elevation of 1,600 meters and 2,950 meters above sea level and its expansive network of well-maintained forest trails direct visitors to a number of waterfalls and viewing points.
Covering over 1000 square kilometers, Nyungwe Forest national park that was gazzetted in 2004 is surely one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine mountain rainforests. It’s believed to be one of Africa’s oldest forests, staying green even through the Ice Age, which explains its diversity.
It is strategic position in the landmark between the wonderful basin of the river Congo found on the western part of the park and the stunning basin of the world’s longest river Nile makes the park to be Rwanda’s primary water catchment area, sheltering more than two-thirds of all of its waters
Nyungwe forest park has wide range of wild life species hence giving it first priority for protection and conservation in the African continent. The forest is situated in a region where several large-scale bio-geographical zones converge and the variety of terrestrial biomes offer a great span of microhabitats for many different species of plants and animals.
Nyungwe is stated as “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda” by Bird-life International for its approximately 280 bird species, 25 of which are endemic. Nyungwe forests extend to altitudes covered by the few other forests in Africa; 1600-2950 meters above sea level. It is also home to myriad orchids, moths, butterflies, and other fascinating insects – all of which constitute the potential for a major, low volume, tourist destination in the making.
The area around Nyungwe national Park is inhabited by local people who are well diverse, with many examples of song, cuisine, dance, music, handicrafts and other artisan skills that make for a fascinating complement to the nature side of trip to this part of Africa.
Nyungwe Forest National Park at Glance
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Park at a Glance
Name: Nyungwe Forest National Park
Location: continent- Africa, region- eastern Africa, country- Rwanda, direction- south western direction from Kigali city capital of Rwanda.
Size: 1020sqkm year of designation: 2004
Responsible governing body: Rwanda Development Board
Climate of Nyungwe Forest National Park: tropical rainforest climate with 2 peak rain seasons between march- May and September- November
Attractions of Nyungwe Forest National Park: common chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, grey cheeked mangabeys, blue monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons
Activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park: forest canopy walk, chimpanzee tracking, nature walks, birding
Accomodations in Nyugwe Forest National Park: Nyugwe forest lodge, Nyungwe hill top view hotel, Uwinka visitor center camps, wilderness camping sites
Best time to visit Nyungwe Forest National Park: most convenient time to visit is during the dry season months of December- February and June- August.
Location and Historical Background of Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in Rwanda which lies in the eastern region of Africa. Nyungwe Forest National Park is found in the south western region of Rwanda bordered by lake Kivu and D.R. Congo in the west, Burundi in the south and the rest of Rwanda in the east and north.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is straddled or sandwiched between 2 very important watersheds of river Congo on its western boundary and that of river Nile at its eastern boundary hence making this forest national park a paradise for a wide range of wildlife bio-diversity. Nyungwe Forest National Park is therefore crucial to survival of this wildlife bio-diversity and this explains why the Rwandan government has made ensure that Nyungwe forest is one of the best preserved forest of any of the Albertine rift montane forests.
Tourist’s attractions in Nyungwe Forest national park
Flora of Nyungwe Forest Park
Nyungwe national park is home of the largest block of montane forest in East Africa and the Park boasts of more than 200 different types of trees and 140 species of orchids including eight that are endemic. The park contains numerous medicinal plants that have served as remedies for centuries, such as East African satinwood and California Bayberry.
Chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest Park
These are close relatives of humans with a 99% matching DNA to that of humans, there are two species of chimpanzees, Common chimpanzee species and the Bonobo species. Nyungwe forest national park has the common chimpanzee species. An adult Common chimpanzee can weigh between 40-60 kg with a height of 1.6 meters or 5ft3inches while an adult female can weigh between 32-47kg with a height of 1.3 meters or 4feet3inches. Common chimpanzees have coarse black hair except on their toes, face, fingers, palms of the hands and the soles of their feet. The chimpanzees have a firm grip because their thumbs and big toes are opposite to each other.
These chimpanzees live in communities usually between 10-100 individuals, chimpanzee communities are led by a dominant male called the alpha male. The alpha male might not be the strongest male chimp in the community but rather the most canning and political. Besides protecting the community from external invasion and internal bickering among the individuals, the alpha male also spends its time grooming the other young males in the community. The females on the other hand spend time taking care of the young ones. Chimpanzees reach puberty stage between 10-12 years and an adult female can produce between 4-6 babies throughout their lifetime. The chimps sleep in a different nest everyday which they build using a tree branches, twigs and leaves. Chimpanzees have a life span of up to 40 years in their natural habitat, this can increase to up to 50 years of age in captivity. The chimps have a gestation period of 8 months.
Angolan/ black and white colobus
The Angolan colobus monkeys have a black fur on their body. Their faces are also black and are surrounded by locks of white hairs. The shoulders of the Angolan colobus have a white haired mantle, and also have black or white long tails with a white tail ending. Their tails can measure up to 75cm in length which almost similar to their general body length which ranges between 50-70cm. These monkeys live in groups of 5-15 members led by a male, their weight ranges between 9-20kg. these monkeys have a thick fur since they live in high altitudes which experience cold temperatures. The black and white colobus are herbivores primates and mostly eat young and fresh leaves at the top of tree canopies. They have a gestation period of 4-6 months giving birth to completely white babies which will turn to resemble its parents when its 3 months old, with a lifespan of about 22 years.
These monkeys have a short, dark brown coat with a chestnut color across its back and a dark under belly. They have a pale moustache with light grey cheeks. their body length ranges between 32-69 cm, with a long hooked like tail that has a length of 48-99 cm, adult males weigh up to 6 kg while adult females can weigh up to 3.5 kg. the L’Hoest monkeys live in groups with many females and only one male which stays temporary with the group for mating. They have a gestation period of about 5 months and they maintain an herbivorous diet.
Grey cheeked mangabey
The grey cheeked mangabey can also be referred to as the white cheeked mangabey. This monkey is dark due to its thick brown coat that is almost black in its natural habitat the montane forest. This monkey is small in size and hairy like a baboon. The males usually have an average weight of 4.3kg and length of 1.1m and the females weigh in at2.9kg and body length of 99cm. these monkeys are dark in color with white or grey cheeks. The mangabeys have a gestation period of about 183 days and can live up to 30 years. they can live both in forests and swamp or primary forests, these monkeys live in groups of 5-30 individuals with no dominant male. The female mangabeys will always stay in their birth group while the males will live their birth group when they become sexually mature and join other groups.
This derives its name from its coat which is a shade of grey-green. At close range its coat is multi colored due to presence of yellow brown to black rings on its hairs. These primates have sexual dirmophism with a male olive baboon having a shoulder length of about 70cm or 28in while the female stands at 60cm or 24in. They have an average body length of about 85cm or 33in and a body weight that averages around 24kg or 53ib for males and 14.7kg or 32ib for females. These baboons have an elongated dog like muzzle. The tail of this baboon measures 38-58cm or 15-23in and for its first quarter this tail is erect but it suddenly drops down after that. These baboons live in large groups numbering from 15-150 individuals and they maintain a strict social hierarchy which is hereditary for females as daughters have almost the same social status as their mothers.
For male olive baboons, group dominance is competed for and when an older baboon is deposed from his title by a new and younger challenger, he is usually harassed by the younger ones and this might force the older baboon to move to a new tribe altogether. Females always stay in their natal groups for life but males leave their natal groups when they attain maturity and join other groups and as a result related females in a group form subgroups and usually tend to stay together and fight together in case of aggression within the group. Olive baboons usually forge friendships especially between a male and female baboon which is very long lasting and its quite beneficial to both animals as the male will be helped to easily integrate into the group when he has just joined and will also have high chances of mating with his female friend later on in life, the female baboon in returns gets a friend who helps her baby sit her baby as she forages freely without having a burden of carrying her baby all the time.
Females reach sexual maturity aged7-8years while it takes 10 years for males to reach sexual maturity. During ovulation, female’s anogenital area swells and develops a bright red or pink color, the irony is that a female with a very swollen anogenital stands high chances producing while she is younger and even produce more offsprings per year with a high chance of survival. Females during mating season may copulate with many males but it’s also possible for a male to monopolize a female during this period of copulation. When a baby is born its very frail and weak and it will largely depend on its mother’s support to put it on her back but by the end of its first week, its strong enough to keep itself on its mother’s back. These baboons usually don’t carry out allo-mothering but it’s possible for a female to look after a baby that’s not hers. This is done by female juveniles of a lower rank.
These baboons communicate with a wide range of vocalization and facial expressions. These vocalisations include a roar grunt made by adult males displaying to each other, “coughback” or cough geck” for sighted low flying birds and humans that aren’t known to them, a “wa-hoo” call for a sighted predator and many others. These baboons have adapted themselves to eating almost everything from leaves, fruits, flowers, seeds, tubers, grass, lichens, corms, rhizomes both on ground and in tree canopies. They also prey on insects, small rodents, hares, and foxes and this explains why this baboon species is successful in habituating in various areas that are different in terms of food availability.
These monkeys have an overall grizzled grey hair color with black face and white fringes of hair. These also exhibit sexual dimorphism with males being larger than females. Vervet monkeys stay in groups ranging between 10-70 individuals. When male vervet monkeys reach sexual maturity, they have to live their natal groups and move to neighboring groups but their sisters stay in the same group for life. Female vervet monkeys have a gestation period of about 165 days and they give birth to a baby with an average weight of about 300-500g.
The newly born baby will receive a lot of love from all the family members as female monkeys in the group have been recorded taking turns in touching or sniffing the baby, these monkeys practice allo-mothering where female juveniles will take care of the baby as a way of practicing to take care of their own when time comes, this in return enables a mother shorten her inter-birth period as she decreases the amount care and attention she gives to the baby as time goes on. These monkeys follow a strict hierarchy and juveniles are likely to easily look after a baby that belongs to a mother of a higher social status in the group.
Vervet mothers have been recorded to recognize screams of their own babies in case the baby screams, its mother takes the shortest time to look towards the direction where the scream came from and stay in that position longer to ascertain what’s happening to its baby, it has also been recorded that other mothers in the group will look at the mother whose baby has made a scream. These monkeys feed mostly on fruits, flowers, seeds and seed pods but they can also be carnivorous preying on grass hoppers termites and infants of cattle egrets.
These monkeys also preyed on and their biggest predators include leopards, eagles and African rock pythons and as a result they developed alarm calls to warn others of the loaming danger. It is believed that these monkeys have about 30 different distinctive alarm calls to warn themselves of the different predators approaching.
Wildlife in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest has a wide diversity of animal species, making it a priority for conservation in Africa. The park is home to habituated chimpanzees and 12 other primates’ species including a 400-strong troop of habituated Ruwenzori Black & White Colobus, and home to 75 different species of mammal. Many of these animals are restricted-range species that are only found in the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion in Africa. In fact, the number of endemic species found here is greater than in any other forest in the Albertine Rift Mountains that has been surveyed. The forest, which reaches its maximum altitude of 3000 meters above sea level, is of particular interest for the presence of colonies of chimpanzees.
Other animals besides primates comprise of the leopard, golden cat, serval cat, side-stripped jackal, Genet, African civet, slender and the marsh mongoose which represent the carnivores. There are also three species of duikers, two species of flying squirrels, tree hyrax, and Congo clawless otter.
Described by Birdlife International as “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda,” the Nyungwe National Park is home to roughly 310 bird species, 27 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Although actually spotting birds in the park’s forests may be challenging, the bird songs you’ll hear during the trek will surely make it more enjoyable. If you would like to learn about birds you might see and hear, book a guide for $50 U.S. at the headquarters of the Rwanda Development Board. The guides so knowledgeable about birdlife in Nyungwe they can identify birds by ear, such as the rwenzori turaco, grey-chested kakamega, Purple-breasted, Blue-headed, the Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill. Ruwenzori Apalis Apalis ruwenzorii, Ruwenzori Batis Batis diops, Stripe-breasted Tit Parus fasciiventer and Ruwenzori Nightjar Caprimulgus ruwenzorii, Dusky Crimson Wing Cryptospiza jacksoni as well as Archer’s Robin-chat Cossypha archeri among others.
Tourist Activities in Nyungwe Forest national park
Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Being home of roughly 400 species of chimpanzees, Nyungwe is the one of the parks of East Africa’s with intact populations of Chimps. The park boasts of two wild chimp communities in Cyamdungo and around Uwinka area. Thus, it’s not surprising that chimpanzee tracking is a popular activity in Nyungwe especially when the park’s trees are in full bloom during the summer. A beautiful hike through the forest will lead you to these fascinating creatures where you can see them up close.
The highly rewarding activity Starts very early in the morning, chimps are tracked in groups of eight trekkers, you will have just one hour in their company once they’ve been located. Sightings aren’t as reliable or as clear as gorillas however, since they often remain in dense forest, but their engaging playfulness and human-like characteristics make the long day worthwhile experience.
Chimpanzee tracking can be done year-round in Nyungwe Forest, and while it is never guaranteed that you will see them, sightings are very common and guides are skillful in tracking them.
Described by Birdlife International as “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda,” the Nyungwe National Park is home to roughly 310 bird species, 27 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Although actually spotting birds in the park’s forests may be challenging, the bird songs you’ll hear during the trek will surely make it more enjoyable. If you would like to learn more about birds in Rwanda, the best place is Nyungwe National Park. you might see and hear.
Black and White Colobus Trekking
There are large troops of black and white colobus monkeys residing in Nyungwe Forest. These primates often travel in groups of over 300 individuals. It is possible to purchase a permit to trek these animals. Walking through a montane rainforest and being surrounded on all levels by these active and cheeky monkeys is not to be missed.
Visitors to Nyungwe National Park can experience the rainforest from a new perspective: the Canopy Walkway. Hanging 60 meters above the forest floor between giant trees and towers is East Africa’s only Canopy Walkway that provides a stunning view of the park’s amazing wildlife and nature. The Walkway is accessible as part of a specialized guided tour along the Igishigishigi trail.
Conducted year-round, the Canopy Walkway Tour is highly rewarding with the splendid views of the unique sceneries around Nyungwe National Park. All participants must be at least six years of age and children must be accompanied by adults. This activity lasts 1-2 hours depending on how often you stop enroute. You walk to one end of the walkway and return the same way. It is important to note that the walkway does sway and if you have a fear of heights, you might not find this activity enjoyable.
Forest Walks in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe’s forested landscape makes it an ideal destination for forest walks – whether they’re novices or experienced – as the park boasts an extensive network of hiking trails. The trails are blessed with an amazingly diverse landscape and represent the most scenic way of exploring the forest. The ones listed below are a must for travelers seeking a challenging, yet enjoyable forest walk experience.
Congo-Nile Divide Trail-As the name suggests, you’ll get acquainted with two of the world’s most iconic rivers as this multi-day, 227 km trek curves alongside the Congo and the Nile. Geared towards experienced hikers, you’ll navigate through varied landscapes such as rainforests, bracken fields and bamboo forests during this trek.
For those going on a multi-day trek, you don’t have to reserve a campsite (areas along the trail have been set aside for camping) but you do have to bring your own camping equipment. In addition, a number of shops that supply food and snack have been set up along the trail and there will be nowhere during the trek that you won’t be within 5-10 kilometers of refreshments.
Igishigishigi Trail-A comfortable trek for novices, this 2.1 km hike will amaze you with its majestic views of the Canopy Trail and dazzling wildflowers. The Igishigishigi Trail can also be combined with the longer Imbaraga or Umoyove Trails.
Karamba Trail -Another relatively easy hike, the Karamba Trail – located on the former site of a gold mine, market and army camp – is considered one of the best spots for birding in Nyungwe as it is flanked by numerous fern trees.
Umugote Trail-This hike provides marvelous views of numerous ridges, rainforests as well as stunningly beautiful flowers and on a clear day, the Kibira National Park in Burundi. The trail is also a prime location for primate viewing and birding.
Umoyove Trail-Also known as the Mahogany Trail, you’ll relax by a waterfall, take a strolll under some of the park’s tallest trees and savor the scent of aromatic leaves during this trek. In addition, the Umuvoye Trail provides access to several side trails used for chimpanzee viewing.
Uwinka Trail-Although considered a difficult hike, this trail that takes you through rather lovely ravines is the perfect place to listen to early morning bird calls.
Irebero Trail-This trail loops around two of the highest peaks in the park and provides views of Lake Kivu in Rwanda.
Imbaraga Trail-Geared toward experienced hikers, the trail rewards hikers with the sight of four scenic waterfalls – any of them will be refreshing after trekking a little less than 10 km.
Bigugu Trail-The highest peak in the park, this trail offers incredible flora and – on a clear day – views of Lake Kivu as well as hills and islands belonging to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Isumo Trail-This trail takes you through verdant tea fields, a steep rainforest ravine and to top it off, the biggest waterfall in the Nyungwe National Park.
Kamiranzovu Trail-Water enthusiasts will love this trail it features the park’s largest wetland, an acient swamp and brilliant waterfalls.
Muzimu Trail-A relatively easy hike in the remote northeastern part of Rwanda takes your through pine and eucalyptus forests.
Ngabwe Trail-Two paths lead hikers to the summit, which is a lovely picnic and camping site.
Rukuzi Trail-This exhilarating hike provides outstanding chimpanzee spotting locations as well as views of Banda Village, from where you can hear children’s voices carrying up the mountainside.
Cultural encounter in Nyungwe Forest National Park
As wonderful as exploring the diverse ecosystem of the Nyungwe National Park is, you really won’t get a feel for the area until you discover its rich culture. The region’s song, dance, music and cuisine are all integral parts of Nyungwe’s culture and walking tours of Banda Village – located 15 km down the mountain from the Uwinka Visitors Centre – represent the perfect setting for learning about an area where people have lived for more than 50,000 years. The tours provide guests the opportunity to participate in activities such as local food tasting and basket weaving and if you’re fortunate, you might able to attend a traditional wedding ceremony and learn about traditional medicine.
How to get to Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe National Park is located in southwestern part of Rwanda 225kms about 6 -7 hours’ drive from Kigali Capital City.
To get to the park, one can take a bus out of Kigali from Nyabugogo Bus Park towards Ruzizi and hop off at Uwinka Center. The bus ride to Nyungwe will be closer to 8 hours or longer.
The main entrance is at Uwinka on the main Cyangugu – Huye road. It’s about 55km from Cyangugu and 90km from Huye. The road is mostly in good condition. There are regular buses along the route and hitching is also an option. Buses are often full when the reach here and therefore travellers planning to use a bus should board at the Bus Park.
Accomodation places in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest lodge-Luxury
Nyungwe Forest Lodge is situated in Gisakura, a working tea plantation, on the edge of the Nyungwe National Park. The lodge is the only five star hotel offering luxury services to visitors on their Safari tour to Nyungwe national park.
Spanning on beautiful natural environment of Nyungwe forest, the lodge was carefully designed to fit harmoniously within its unique natural surroundings of Nyungwe forests.
Nyungwe Forest Lodge consists of 22 luxury rooms distributed in 6 wooden villas of four rooms each. The lodge also has two presidential suites in separate villas with one of these having a Jacuzzi. All the rooms in the hotel are characterized by features like Air conditioning, Private deck, Electronic safe, Hairdryer, En-suite bathroom with indoor shower, WiFi access, Flat LCD screen and digital satellite channels, Fire place, International electric adaptors among others.
The dining areas in the luxury lodge are built up with a wood-fenced area containing tables and chairs around an open fire which provides a great location for outdoor dining and sundowners. The restaurant is designed with private terrace, a tea lounge and a bar.
Hotel Facilities which are offered to the visitors include a Swim in the heated rim-flow swimming pool with views into the rainforest .At the pool side people can socialize while enjoying the sights of the green lush forest species. The lodge has treatment rooms and Jacuzzi pool where visitors can relax and refresh their bodies.
The lodge also has spacious conference room with nice facilities which favor business meetings and events, get together parties, birth day parties among others.
As one might expect, the lodge also organizes excursion activities and among these include chimpanzee trekking, Guided walks in the Nyunngwe National Park, black and white colobus monkey trekking, grey – cheeked mangabey trekking and the Kamiranzovu Swamps and Waterfall walks. Bird watching and cultural tour.
Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel- Mid-Range
Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel was opened in February 2011 and it has the most beautiful views in the Nyungwe Forest area. Located five minutes’ drive off a main road, up a very rough and steep dirt track, it is set on top of a hill with views across numerous tea plantations, and close to the headquarters of Nyungwe National Park.
The main areas at Nyungwe Top View consist of a large, two-tiered rondavel with a phenomenally high roof. Although a rondavel is a traditionally built round house, this building offers a rather more modern take on the theme. The ground floor, where one will find the reception, is sparsely furnished with a few modern angular sofas and walls adorned with traditional Rwandan murals. Circular wicker lights hang from the ceiling and dark tiled stairs lead you up to a mezzanine balcony.
The Lodge‘s dining area is located in the second floor, with tables and chairs set on a rather out-of-place black-tiled floor, and a expansive veranda with tables and chairs of steel and moulded plastic.
Glass doors at the front of the rondavel open onto Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel’s beautifully kept lawn. On each side of this is a row of six red-brick cottages. Each of these double or twin cottages houses a small lounge area at the front, with terracotta-tiled floors, a sofa chair and coffee table, and a fireplace which can be lit for you on cold evenings. Although the furniture is different in every cottage, it is always angular and modern, and not of great quality, so it appears to be wearing quite quickly.
The bedrooms are quite sparse, furnished only with a bed and some hanging space for clothes, but they have plenty of space and were spotlessly clean. There are no fans or air conditioners but the team here will put hot-water bottles in your beds on cooler nights.
The tiled bathrooms each have a sink, toilet and shower and some also have baths. Towels are provided but toiletries are not.
The activities organized at the lodge include Chimpanzee trekking colobus monkeys trekking, birding walks, and adventurous canopy walk.
Gisakura Guest House- Budget
Gisakura guest house is a small, friendly accommodation facility that is situated 2km from Nyungwe National Park near the Gisakura tea estate on the road from Cyangugu.
Gisakura guest house is a comfortable and affordable place to stay for travellers to Nyungwe National Park. The accommodation rooms at the Guest house have hot water and showers. Gisakura guest house’s location is ideal for canopy walks in Nyungwe, birders to this birder’s dream location and for visitors wishing to track chimps and the rare colobus monkeys in Nyungwe forest. Gisakura guest house is close to ORTPN reception chimp tracking offices and to Uwinka interpretation Center
The staff working at Guest house is friendly and welcoming and huge meals can be prepared with a couple of hours’ notice.
Visitors who wish to stay in the guest house are requested to book their rooms earlier and confirm one week before travelling because it gives an assurance of the availability of rooms or other service needed.
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Volcanoes National Park dubbed the safe haven for the mountain gorillas is situated in northwestern part of Rwanda and it’s bordered by national parks like Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The park is home to five of the eight stunning volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains namely: Karisimb volcano, mountain Bisoke, Mountain Muhabura, Gahinga Volcano and mountain Sabyinyo which are covered in rainforest and bamboo vegetation that dominate Volcanoes national park.Spanning on a 160sqkm area in the northern part of Rwanda, Volcanoes national park is the oldest national park in Africa. It was initially a small area around Karisimbi. Read More
Rwanda Travel Information
Location of Rwanda
The Republic of Rwanda is a land-locked country located in central Africa. It is bordered on the east by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with which it shares the shores of Lake Kivu; on the north by Uganda; on the west by Tanzania; and on the south by Burundi. Rwanda is a small country with an area of 26,338 square kilometers (10,169 square miles). Comparatively, Rwanda is about the size of the state of Maryland. The capital city of Kigali is in the center of the country.
Climate-The average daytime temperature is around 24°C, except in the higher mountains, which take up a lot of the country, where the range is 10°C to 15°C. Rwanda can be visited at any time of year. The dry season from mid-May to mid-October is easier for tracking mountain gorillas, but the endless hills are barren, a contrast to the verdant greens of the wet season. Peak season for gorilla tracking is July and August; travelling outside this time means it is easier to arrange a permit.
It rains more frequently and heavily in the northeast, where the volcanoes are covered by rainforest. The summit of Karisimbi (4507m), the highest peak in Rwanda, is often covered with sleet or snow.
Language-In addition to the indigenous language of Kinyarwanda, French and English are official languages. French is widely spoken throughout the country. In the capital and other tourist centres, many people speak English.
Economy-Primarily a subsistence agriculture economy, Rwanda nonetheless produces for export some of the finest tea and coffee in the world. Other industries include sugar, fishing and flowers for export.
Hiking and biking-The fine road network, with little traffic, offers wonderful opportunities for long bicycle trips across the verdant hills and valleys. Mountain biking and hiking can be enjoyed on the thousands of kilometres of fine rural trails linking remote villages, criss-crossing the entire country.
Religions-The majority of Rwandans, about 65%, are Roman Catholic, with another 9% Protestant. Only about 1% of the population is Muslim. About a fourth of Rwandans are adherents of indigenous beliefs. However, these numbers and divisions are not clear cut. Many Rwandans practice both their traditional religion and Christianity at the same time.
Public Holidays-Good Friday and Easter Monday, which fall on variable dates, are recognized in Rwanda. Other public holidays are:
1 January (New Year’s Day); 1 February (National Heroes Day); 7 April (Genocide Memorial Day); 1 May (Labour Day); 1 July (Independence Day); 4 July (National Liberation Day); 15 August (Assumption Day);1 October (Patriotism Day); 25 December (Christmas Day), and 26 December (Boxing Day).
The Rwandan Franc (Frw/Rwf) is the legal currency in Rwanda. American Dollars and Euros are accepted in some hotels and restaurants however expect to receive your change in Rwandan Francs.
What is the Geography of Rwanda?
Rwanda is a landlocked republic in Equatorial Africa, situated on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift, a western arm of the Great Rift Valley, on the watershed between Africa’s two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Much of the country’s 26,338 km2 is impressively mountainous, the highest peak being Karisimbi (4,507m) in the volcanic Virunga chain protected by the Volcanoes National Park. The largest body of water is Lake Kivu, but there areother numerous lakes around the country, notably Burera, Ruhondo, Muhazi and Mugesera, some of which have erratic shapes following the contours of the steep mountains that enclose them.
Getting to Rwanda
Getting to Rwanda
The main airport in Kigali is the Kanombe International Airport. It is located 10 km east of the Kigali centre.
Kigali currently receives direct flights from Nairobi, Entebbe, Bujambura, Addis Abeba, Kilimanjaro, Brussles, Amsterdam, Dar es Salaam, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Juba, Lagos and Dubai via Mombasa.
It is also possible to take a bus from neighboring countries.
Rwanda has possibly the best roads in East Africa. Most visitors who have booked through our company will be provided with good private vehicles, usually 4-wheel drive. All of the major centers are connected with local and luxury bus services. Air charter services are available anywhere in the country. Short distances within cities can be travelled either on foot or by taxi-velo (bicycle taxi). These are relatively inexpensive.
Motorcycle taxis (taxi moto) are the most popular in Kigali. These taxis can be identified by their jerseys and they always have an extra helmet. Most drivers speak basic English or French. Laws require moto-bikes to use helmets, and Rwandans abide by this. Taxis are common and can be found at taxi stands in Kigali and provinces and they have specific bus stops. One may hire a special taxi or by calling them or if at any hotel, one may get the hotel reception calling taxi as most of hotels have a taxi station near them. They are more expensive than motorcycle taxis and other public buses.
“Matatus” are the white with green or yelow minibuses that travel across the country. Rwanda has a good local transportation system for inter-region connectivity, good road system, and has plenty of well-maintained and modern minibuses. Cars and drivers can be hired from Kigali, and most of the roads are well maintained. To make your trip more interesting, if consider driving from Kigali to other provinces of Rwanda, eg. Along lake Kivu, it is recommended that you get a 4×4 and travel with someone who knows the area or use the public transport (Matatus) as from the regional cars parking at Nyabugogo, each 30 minutes there are buses from different transport agencies linking Kigali to other cities of the country. Back country driving is perfect for anyone with a sense of adventure.
How to Communicate in Rwanda
Rwanda has an excellent cell phone network covering almost the entire country. International phone calls can be made easily. Appropriate SIM cards for the network are readily available everywhere, even in remote towns, and cell phones can be purchased or rented from major shops in Kigali. Most towns of any size will have several Internet cafes and computer centers.
What time zone is Rwanda?
The entire country of Rwanda is in Central Africa Time Zone (UTC+02:00)
Is Rwandan Visa Required when under taking Safari to Rwanda?
A Rwanda Visa is required for all visitors except for nationals of the UK, Germany, Sweden, Canada, USA, Hong Kong, Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa Tanzania and Uganda (for a duration of less than three months).
For the rest of the unmentioned countries, the cost goes for about USD60, depending on the place of issue. For fly in travelers, visas of recent are being issued at Kigali airport on arrival, and you can also usually buy visas at overland boarders.
Nationals of countries without an embassy can also obtain a visa on arrival by prior arrangement with their hosts, who can arrange a facilitate de’ entrée.
In case you plan on hiring a vehicle while in the country, do organize an international driving license (via one of the main motoring associations in a country in which you are licensed to drive), which you may be asked to produce together with your original license.
For Identification and security concern, just in case the worst comes to the worst, it’s advisable to detail all your identification information, make copies of it and distribute a copy into your luggage, your money-belt and definitely give some to close relatives and friends; make sure it includes; travelers cheque numbers and refund information, travel insurance policy details and 24-hour emergency contact number, passport number, details of relatives or friends to be contacted in an emergency, bank and credit card details, camera and lens serial numbers.
Importantly, include also email and contact information of your destination, company, organization or friends and family.
What are the recommended Vaccinations one must take before traveling to Rwanda?
What are the recommended Vaccinations one must take before traveling to Rwanda?
The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to Rwanda. All travelers should visit either their personal physician or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before departure.
Recommended Vaccinations and Preventive Medications
|Types of Diseases||Travellers|
|Hepatitis A||Recommended for all travelers|
|Typhoid||Recommended for all travelers|
|Yellow fever||Required for all travelers greater than one year of age|
|Meningococcus||Recommended for all travelers|
|Polio||One-time booster recommended for any adult traveler who completed the childhood series but never had polio vaccine as an adult|
|Hepatitis B||Recommended for all travelers|
|Rabies||For travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, or at high risk for animal bites, or involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats|
|Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)||Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given
|Tetanus-diphtheria||Revaccination recommended every 10 years|
How to stay healthy while on Rwanda Safari
Wash your hands often with soap and water or, if hands are not visibly soiled, use a waterless, alcohol-based hand rub to remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and help prevent disease transmission. In developing countries like Uganda, drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.
Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your health care provider for a prescription.) To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, even on beaches. Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Protect yourself from mosquito insect bites: Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats when outdoors. Use insect repellents that contain DEET (N, N-diethylmethyltoluamide). If no screening or air conditioning is available: use a pyrethroid-containing spray in living and sleeping areas during evening and night-time hours; sleep under bed nets, preferably insecticide-treated ones.
What you are supposed to do while on your Gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda.
- Do not eat food purchased from street vendors or food that is not well cooked to reduce risk of infection (i.e., hepatitis A and typhoid fever).
- Do not drink beverages with ice
- Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
- Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis.
- Do not handle animals, especially monkeys, dogs, and cats, to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague). Consider per-exposure rabies vaccination if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas.
- Do not share needles for tattoos, body piercing or injections to prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B.
- Avoid poultry farms, bird markets, and other places where live poultry is raised or kept.
Do I need Malaria Medicine?
Even though less prevalent than other African countries, Malaria does exist in Rwanda. While there is no vaccine against malaria, prophylactic drugs along with prevention will significantly reduce the risk of getting it. We recommend you consult your doctor on malaria medicine prior to traveling to Rwanda.
What kind of insurance/guarantee is there in case of any risk during safari?
We do our best to minimize or eradicate risks in all safaris organized by Africa Adventure Safaris. Nevertheless we encourage you, before commencing your safari, to seek travel insurance cover in respect to delays and unexpected cancellations; loss of baggage, etc. We advise our prospective guests to contact reliable Insurance companies such as World Nomads & Worldwide Travel Insurance for excellent coverage Some of our safaris in East Africa may require proof of vaccinations, medical coverage or evacuation coverage before we allow you to proceed with confirmation of your safari.
Which currency do i need when traveling to Rwanda?
Which currency do i need when traveling to Rwanda?
The Rwandan franc (FRW, and possibly RF o RWF) is the Rwandan currency. It is subdivided into 100 centimes. A proposal exists to introduce a common currency, a new East African shilling, for the five member states of the East African Community. The Rwandan exchange rate was last updated on October 22, 2013 from Yahoo Finance. The RWF conversion factor has 5 significant digits. Banknotes and coins are both used as legal tender for Rwanda. You can exchange money in the several exchange bureaus in Kigali city, right from the airport. However it is advisable to exchange foreign currency outside Kigali city.
Most Banks open from 08.00 am – 8.00pm on weekdays (Monday to Friday) and on Saturday 8.00am 1.00 pm; on Sundays 10.00 am to 6.00pm. On the Umuganda Day banks in Kigali open from 2.00 to 6.00pm. Credit cards are acceptable at most supermarkets, restaurants and accommodation in Kigali. In the rural areas it is only money in Rwanda Francs that they can comfortably accept. Most banks in East Africa have difficulty accepting MasterCard. In Kigali counter service for withdrawals at Ecobank and Access Bank accept MasterCard withdrawals at a price.
Which banks in Kigali accept Visa cards?
Bank of Kigali (In Town)
ATMs at bank of Kigali accept international visa cards. They offer 2 options: either Rwanda francs or Dollars. However they are inconsistent as they are on and off. Many times, one has to walk to the bank counters with a visa or MasterCard, Pin number and the passport to be helped though at a small cost.
Access Bank (Inside UTC 2nd Floor)
To withdraw money from your debit or credit card, one has to go to the counter and show a passport.
Fina Bank ATM (In downtown past the Gorilla roundabout towards Serena Hotel)
Note: – ATM withdrawals have a limit of $700 a day.
Be aware that plastic bags are strictly not allowed in Rwanda. Ensure you use paper bags for packaging.
Which airlines are operating in Kigali airport?
Which airlines are operating in Kigali airport?
Kigali airport is a small but well organized airport by international standards. There are several international flights operating in this airport including:-
Daily flights from Entebbe
3 flights daily from Nairobi
2 flights a week Mon and Fri Kilimanjaro
From Bujumbura 5 flights a week Tue, Thur, Fri, Sat, Sun
Rwandair, the national carrier, has several daily flights to various African destinations, as well as Dubai in Middle East.
Ethiopian Airlines operates daily between Addis Ababa and Kigali
- Brussels 3 flights a week Tue, Thurs and Sat
- Johannesburg 3 flights a week Wed, Fri and Sun
- South African airways has daily flights between Kigali and South Africa
- Turkish Airlines begun flights to Kigali from Istanbul in May 2012
Prime Safaris and Tours can help you to book flights for you.
It is advisable to have a Yellow Fever certificate before boarding any plane to destinations such as Tanzania and South Africa. Immigration Officials at the airport will not hesitate to request for it. Some announcements are not loud enough. So as you sit in the café at the airport be very attentive as most times there are over-bookings on some airlines whereby you may end up left at the airport.
Electrical tips for Rwanda travelers
In Rwanda, the electrical sockets (outlets) used are the “Type C” Euro plug and the “Type E” and “Type F” Schuko. Often times we advise our guests to travel with plug adapters since many of our guests to Rwanda end up crossing to Uganda as well where the sockets are also different.
The Rwanda electrical sockets (outlets) supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you are to plug in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then you need an adapter.
Travel plug adapters do not change the voltage. The electric current coming through the adapter has to be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. United States of American sockets supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts, far much lower than in most of parts of the world.
What is the best month to undertake safari to Rwanda.
Rwanda is mountainous country in nature. Owing to her closeness to the Equator, Rwanda enjoys a tropical temperate climate. Her average annual temperature ranges between 16 and 20°C. In the Volcanoes national park area the temperature may at times get as low as 0°C. In the intermediary altitude (the lowland East and West), average temperatures vary between 19 and 21°C. Winds are normally around 1-3 m/s. Rainfall is quite enough despite some irregularities at times. Rainfall ranges from about 900 mm in the east and southeast to 1500 mm in the north and northwest volcanic areas of Ruhengeri.
Rainfall is generally well distributed throughout the year, with some spatial and temporal variability. Eastern and southeastern regions are the most affected by prolonged droughts while the western and northern areas receive heavy rainfall that at times culminate into soil erosion, landslides and flooding. The spatial variability is due to the complex topography and the existence of large water bodies within the Great Lakes Region.
Rwanda travel advice: safety information for travelers to Rwanda
Rwanda travel advice: safety information for travelers to Rwanda
Is Rwanda a safe country for tourists?
Rwanda is a very safe country to visit.
Although Rwanda has lived through a turbulent history, the country is safe, stable and welcoming. Rwandan’ hospitable nature is legendary! You will be warmly welcomed wherever you go by the country’s friendly residents.
If you are unsure about the safety of travel to Rwanda, please contact Prime safaris and Tours Ltd. At Prime Safaris and Tours, your safety is our absolute priority and you can be rest assured that we will always give you the best Rwanda travel advice.
Is Kigali City a safe city for tourists?
Kigali is one of the safest capital cities in (East) Africa – although, as anywhere, petty thieves may try and take advantage of people who leave phones and valuables unattended. Your driver guide will give you all the information you need to make sure your trip is safe and incident-free. Feel free to ask questions!
Tipping in Rwanda
It is customary to tip for service in restaurants and bars. A tip of 5% is very acceptable and a tip of 20% is very generous. It is also customary to tip your driver/guide at the end of a safari or hike, as well as the cook and/or porter that may accompany to you. Tipping is not at any fixed amount and may depend on personal wish.
Is it safe to take water in Rwanda?
Unfortunately, it is not recommended to drink the tap water during your time in Rwanda. It is important to stick with bottled water, even when brushing teeth.
Can i use internet in Rwanda?
Wifi is available in most hotels, free of charge. It is quite easy to find Cafés in Kigali with wifi, but it is not always guaranteed so it is best to check beforehand if you are planning on using internet. The lodges in the countryside are also equipped with wifi, however, cafés and restaurants outside of Kigali generally do not.