The East African landlocked country Rwanda is a rather small but densely populated piece of Africa and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. At the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, Rwanda was also a German colony for almost 30 years. Also politically and historically part of Rwanda, the restless and cruel years of the genocide that took place in this country. Today, however, travelers encounter a stable holiday destination that is worth visiting due to the original landscape, its wildlife and cultures with different ways of life and individual traditions. In terms of landscape, the land between Lake Kivu and Lake Victoria is predominantly in the form of highlands, the average height of which is 1,500 m and which is intersected by many watercourses. Through the hilly relief, which primarily characterizes the western part of the country geographically, Rwanda was given the nickname “Land of a Thousand Hills”. Landscape but also in the form of the extensive Nyungwe forest, in which one encounters a diverse flora and fauna, the Congo-Nile watershed, Lake Kivu with its shoreline characterized by deep bays and steep slopes, savannah, the Virunga Volcanic mountains, the Buberuka mountains and magnificent waterfalls such as the Rusumo Falls near Kibungu in eastern Rwanda. That region also belongs to the Kagera National Park, which, like the Akagera National Park, is ideal for nature exploration. Nature with a specialty in the Parc des Volcans in the west of Kagera, where the slopes of the volcanoes are covered by tropical rainforest and mountain gorillas still live. But it is recommended.
Boom town in Rwanda
Some see Kigali as a boom town – and the people in the capital of Rwanda are already dreaming of doing the same as distant Singapore in the future. The African metropolis on the equator has experienced an enormous economic boom in recent years, and the former kingdom has largely recovered from its colonial past and a bloody civil war. The “Kigali City Tower”, a mighty concrete tower, shapes the silhouette of Kigali, and numerous shops and cafes have established themselves at its feet.
A German founded Kigali
Germany also plays a certain role in the country’s history. The Poznan-born doctor and researcher Richard Kandt is considered to be the actual founder of Kigali. In the Rwandan Nyungwe Forest he discovered one of the sources of the Nile. During his time in East Africa, Kandt was appointed “Imperial Resident”. The memory of the city’s early years is kept alive in Kandt’s former house in Kigali in the form of a natural history museum.
A young and colorful city
The former representative of the German colonial power in Kigali is also respected because he succeeded in building a relationship based on respect with the then Tutsi king Musinga. At the time, no one could have known that much later, in 1994, the genocide between Hutus and Tutsis would occur in Rwanda. There is no trace of that in the City of Kigalis today. The city is young, colorful and life pulsates in the Nyamirambo district with its historic mosque and beautiful boutiques.
Galleries support street children
Anyone staying in Kigali should definitely see the shocking and impressive Genocide Memorial. The visit to Nyamata Church, where several thousand people were murdered, is also shocking. The clean city in Rwanda has also made a name for itself in Africa as the seat of numerous art galleries. Young artists from the country exhibit their works in the Inema Artcenter. And the Niyo Art Gallery uses its income to support the education of street children.
Volcanoes National Park
The volcano national park is located in the northwest of Rwanda and is approximately 13,000 hectares in size. The park, which emerged from the split of the Albert National Park in the 1960s, is best known for its mountain gorillas.
Gorilla Trekking – how does it work?
A day with the mountain gorillas is a memorable experience. Tourists wishing to visit the park will be picked up directly from their hotels and taken to the visitor center. This is where the groups are divided up and you get the first information. Here you also have to decide whether you want to do the easy, medium or difficult hike. The individual tours differ particularly in the altitude on which the mountain gorilla families are usually found, not necessarily in the duration of the tour. So the participants of the easy tour are sometimes longer on the road than the difficult ones. No more than ten hikes with eight participants each take place every day to ensure the protection of the mountain gorillas.
After all organizational information, the visitor groups are driven to the meeting point for the respective trekking tour. At the starting point, tourists can book a porter for 10 US dollars. Porters are locals who stay by the side of visitors on the tours and help out in difficult places. It is very worthwhile to hire someone. Not only because you may really need help on difficult hiking trails, you also support the local population and secure jobs. When you arrive near the mountain gorilla family, you only go armed with the cameras to these impressive animals. All groups are allowed to spend exactly one hour here and watch the animals play, eat, etc. It is an absolutely incredible and memorable experience for most visitors and time flies by. After the lesson, the tourists wander back happy about their encounter with these wild animals and are expected by the cars at the starting point of the hike. At the end, each participant receives a personal “Gorilla Trekking Certificate” with the date and name of the gorilla family they were allowed to visit on that day.
Dian Fossey Trail
on the trail of a legend
The volcano national park is one of the highlights of a trip to Rwanda. On the well-developed Dian Fossey Trail, the majestic mountain gorillas can be observed in the breathtaking nature of the mystical Rwandan mountain rainforest.
The life’s work of a great woman
Without Dian Fossey’s tireless commitment to the mountain gorillas, these fascinating great apes would hardly be found in the volcano national park. The American primatologist set up a research station and fought for the survival of the endangered species for 18 years. Her death in 1985 is still a mystery today. It is believed that she was murdered in her home by poachers who persecuted her mercilessly. Her life’s work has endured to this day. Almost 400 mountain gorillas currently live in the national park. The Dian Fossey Trail invites you to go on a safari to the gorillas in the footsteps of the researcher.
The hike takes several hours over a steep, often slippery path at 3000 m above sea level. M. to the former research station and Fossey’s grave. In addition to being in good physical condition, appropriate clothing including suitable footwear is required. The effort is rewarded by a breathtaking view of the up to 4000 meter high Virunga volcanoes as well as a unique flora and fauna. There is no guarantee that you will see mountain gorillas, but the local guide, which is included in the national park entrance fee ($ 75), knows how to interpret every crack in the branches.
Directions and accommodation
The drive from Rwanda’s capital Kigali to Kinigi at the park entrance takes two hours. From there a short drive is necessary to get to the starting point of the hike. The accommodation options in the region leave nothing to be desired and the staff is happy to arrange a rental vehicle including a driver.
The Dian Fossey Trail is a special kind of gorilla trekking. This uncrowded path gives a deep insight into the nature conservation of Rwanda and is also ideal for individual tourists and study trips.