Dubbed “The Land of A Thousand Hills” Rwanda is a country that I had always wanted to visit, for reasons I don’t quite know. So when I was looking through the Dragoman brochure and saw a trip to East Africa that spent a few days in Rwanda visiting Kigali and seeing the Mountain Gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park I jumped at the chance.
I’m glad I visited Rwanda – the scenery is beautiful and I had a great time. The country definitely lives up to its thousand hills nickname as I don’t think I saw a piece of flat land in the country. The entire country is covered with coffee and tea plantations, mountainous woodland with lakes and towns mixed in for good measure.
The trek to see the Mountain Gorillas is the single biggest travel expense I’ve ever had, excluding flights, but it was worth it. There are only three places in the world where you can trek to see these endangered creatures and Rwanda is one of them. I had such a great experience, and even got grabbed on the leg by a Gorilla, and since then have been raising money for The Gorilla Organisation – a charity based in the UK that raises money for conservation projects in Rwanda that aim to protect these amazing creatures.
Except for the Mountain Gorillas, and a few animals in the same national park, Rwanda isn’t as much of a wildlife destination as other countries in the region like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania but it’s a worthwhile country to visit if you’re looking for a country that combines natural beauty with a rich but troubled history where you’ll learn a lot as well.
The country wasn’t as welcoming as neighbouring Uganda but I never felt unsafe in the country. I think it’s a case of if you take care you will be fine, just like in any other country around the world. Many people in the tourism centres such as Ruhengeri and Kigali speak English due to a push by President Paul Kagame but French is the main foreign language that is spoken in Rwanda so I found it useful to brush up on my basic French before visiting.
August 30th – September 2nd, 2009 [view blog]
A short visit to Rwanda during an overland trip around East Africa with Dragoman where we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and trekked to spend some time with the endangered Mountain Gorillas.
I wish I had been able to spend a couple of days in Kigali as I’ve read so much about the city and you could easily stay here while exploring the area. You could also use it as a base for exploring other areas of Rwanda such as the Akagera National Park, Gitarama or Lake Kivu – all places that I would like to visit if I’m ever able to get back to Rwanda again.
As Rwanda is such a small country you won’t need to spend as much time here as you would in neighbouring countries but the time you do spend here will be well spent. It’s a beautiful country that is starting to open up more to foreign visitors but you can still get away from the tourist trail during your time here. It seemed a fairly safe country and I saw a few western families in the country during my time there so it’s well worth a visit if you’re able to get here. Make sure you read up on the history of Rwanda before you visit, especially if you plan to visit the Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali, as you will be able to relate to what you learn. I recommend reading “An Ordinary Man”, the book which Hotel Rwanda was based on, and also “Shake Hands With The Devil” which was written by the commander of the UN forces in Rwanda at the time of the genocide.