Rwanda is publicly known as the Republic of Rwanda, it is an independent state found in the central and east Africa. Rwanda is Located a few degrees south of the Equator, it’s bordered by countries like Uganda in the north, Tanzania, Burundi in the south and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the west. Rwanda is in the African Great Lakes region and is highly elevated; Rwanda is geographically dominated by mountains in the west that’s why some times it’s known as “The land of a Thousand Hills” and savanna to the east, with numerous lakes throughout the country. The climate of the country is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year. Rwanda’s capital and largest city is Kigali which serves as a marketing centre, with an incredible variety of flowering tress and shrubs from various points on the ridge and the city is located within the heart of Rwanda.
Rwanda is known among the few countries the other one are Uganda and Congo where mountain gorilla tracking can be done safely and Rwanda only host a population of over 400 individuals out of 900 gorillas world wide and tracking these giant gorillas is regarded as one of the major tourist activities done in Rwanda (volcanoes national park). Not only gorillas but Rwanda is also gifted with a number species of primates coupled with chimpanzee our close relative, other primates include baboon, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkey, among others and they can be tracked at Nyungwe forest national park. Rwanda also has one third of Africa’s bird species and it is known as a bird’s paradise plus various species of wild animals including big five such as leopard, lion, elephant, buffaloes and others include various species of antelopes, warthogs to mention but a few. Rwanda has volcanoes, game reserve, resorts and islands on the expansive Lake Kivu, graceful dancers, artistic crafts and friendly people; really this makes Rwanda the best destination safari, please don’t hesitate to visit this wonderful country.
Size of the country
The country Rwanda has a size of 26,338 square kilometers. It is located 1270km away from the Indian Ocean on the western side and 2000km east of the Atlantic Ocean.
Geographically Rwanda is dominated by mountain ranges and it is also known as the ‘’land of a thousand hills’’, Karisimbi is regarded as the highest peak at 4,507on the Virunga Volcanic ranges and the lowest point in Rwanda is the Ruzizi River, at 950 m (3,117 ft) above sea level. the Republic of Rwanda as it’s publically known is primarily rural, it’s one of the world’s most densely populated countries; additionally, its population density is one of the highest in Africa. The central and western part of the country is dominated by a portion of the Albertine Rift Mountains that give way to forests, savannahs, plains and swamps as you move eastward. Rwanda has various parks that mark the country landscape, with Lake Kivu being the largest and making up most of Rwanda’s western border. Lake Kivu is one of the 20 deepest lakes in the world, and has a maximum depth of 1,575ft (480m). Other famous lakes include: Burera,Ruhondo, Muhazi,Rweru and Ihema.
The average daytime temperature is 24oc with a possible maximum of 30oC; accept in the higher mountains, where the day time range is 10o to 15oC. There are four noticeable seasons, moist and wet-dry, the long rains is from mid March to mid May, the long dry from mid May to September, Even during the dry season, there is occasional light rainfall in Rwanda. The short rains from October to mid December and short dry from mid December to mid March
It rains more frequently and heavily in the northeast, where volcanoes are covered by rainforest. The summit of Karisimbi (4507m), the highest of these volcanoes, is often covered with sleet or snow. The best time to visit Rwanda is either June through to mid October, or early December through to end of March. For gorilla and monkey tracking the best time is the dry season, while they can also be seen and tracked during the rainy season if you don’t mind getting wet. The dry season is also wonderful if you want to watch a variety of games in Akagera National Park because dryness will draw the animals to the watering holes to get water for drinking. And also during the dry seasons the roads are less dangerous and the risk of malaria is also lower. The wet season is the best time to see chimpanzees and is also the, most time when the place is at its most lush and green
People and culture
Rwanda is a country of mainly three groups of people these are the Hutu, Tutsi, and the Twa. The Hutu dominates other groups with over 84%, the Tutsi with 15% and the Twa 1%. The culture of Rwanda is diverse. Not like many countries in Africa, Rwanda has been a joined state since pre-colonial times, inhabited by the Banyarwanda people who share a single language and cultural heritage.Eleven regular national holidays are observed throughout the year, with others occasionally inserted by the government.
The country’s native language is Kinyarwanda which is regarded as the most used language in the country. Apart from Kinyarwanda, French is widely also spoken and English is mainly used in Kigali, these two are also known as official languages and even in other tourist centers in the country. English and Swahili are useful for Rwandans when dealing with their main trading partners in east Africa. Rwandans appreciate it to the best when visitors speak a few words in their mother tongue of Kinyarwanda some words include‘Muraho’(good day) or ‘ amakuru’(how are you?)Will bring a smile to their faces.
Over two-thirds of Rwandans are Christian, mainly Catholic who consist of over 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventists 11.1%, Islam 4.6%, Indigenous beliefs 0.1%, none1.7% though smaller evangelical churches are becoming more popular. And many Rwandans still hold to traditional beliefs. These centre around a supreme being called the Imana. People often hold informal ceremonies asking for the Imana’s blessing.
Rwanda’s population is estimated at 12,012,589 (July 2013 est.). By now Rwanda is one of the most densely-populated countries in Africa; Rwanda’s population is growing at a rate of 5 percent annually, according to the U.S. State Department. At this rate the population is expected to reach 15.2 million by 2016, despite the fact that huge numbers of Rwandans are dying from AIDS-related illnesses.
Rwanda is two hours (+2) ahead of Greenwich Mean Time
How to get to Rwanda
Rwanda can be accessed by air and there various airline that fly directly to Rwanda to mention them include air Uganda, Rwanda airline, British airline, Kenya airline, SN Brussels KLM, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Burundi, Air Tanzania, South African Airways. Its major international airport is known as Kigali international airport where big plan land. Rwanda can also be reached through the use of other means from the nearby countries like the road transport, using the public transport of buses, and coaches at a very law price or can also use private cars crossing the borders of Katuna and Cyanika from Uganda; one can also enter Rwanda from Burundi and Congo,
Visas for Rwanda
When visiting Rwanda, Travelers with British passports, as well as American citizens, normally do not need to acquire a visa; nationals of, Germany, Canada, Burundi, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, South Arica, Uganda, Sweden, and Hong Kong may visit the country without visa for a period up to 90 days. Currently (Jan 2013) passports are just stamped on arrival. However, always check with your local Rwandan Embassy or contact Maranatha tour and travel for the latest regulations; UK nationals will find details on the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in London website.
What to bring and Wear
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen and when you are traveling. Ounce you plan your safari to Rwanda You should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won’t be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb. In terms of dressing you are advised always to dress humbly and we suggest the emphasis is on comfortable clothing. It is often warm on the plains and at lower altitudes but cold in the hilly and mountainous areas of Uganda and Rwanda; a rain jacket, fleece and good quality walking shoes/boots and long trousers and skirts are really necessary.
All travelers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully in there selected safaris always seek medical advice from your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. You are advised to carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical necessities (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. As our tour guides are not allowed to administer any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared before you travel.
Before travelling to Rwanda you must also check with your doctor well in advance about the yellow fever as a valid international certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever is required before entering Rwanda. You may need to present this on arrival at the airport or border crossing. You will not be allowed to enter if you are unable to present your certificate. It’s also quite common for your home country to request a Yellow Fever certificate on your arrival back home.
Food & Water:
Food differs from destination to destination. And bear in mind that we try to use camps, lodges and hotels that use local produce which supports the local communities. Do not be frightened to try local produce it is part of the experience! You can do try Ugali (stiff maize porridge) or Matoke (cooked plantains) the staples of the area. However, the restaurants of Kigali and other towns will generally serve grilled meat with French fries and sometimes rice with spicy stews.
And in case of any thing please ask your guide for guidance. We propose that you only drink bottled water and we also provide bottled water on all our vehicles in Rwanda for your use. For local people this is not a problem as their bodies are used to this and can cope, but for visitors drinking the tap water can result in illness. Normally this isn’t very serious, stomach pain being the only symptom, but this only can spoil a day or two of your holiday. Rehydration salts, motion sickness tablets, and diarrhea blockers are available from many pharmacies.
International Visa cards are acceptable at Eco bank Head office in Kigali and at Kigali airport. They can also be used at Access bank head office in Kigali. But these ATM cards are affected by power cuts. Although it’s advised to travel with US dollars, some banks won’t accept sterling. Cash is easily changed at exchange bureaus and they generally offer the best rates. Please note, you are advised to carry us dollar notes older than 2000. We recommend large bills in good condition, 2006 series onwards only. Any damaged or old notes may not be accepted.
Credit cards are widely used and are accepted at only largest hotels and lodges in Kigali (Visa, MasterCard are generally accepted). Kindly note that credit cards are not widely accepted and most organizations reserve the right to levy a surcharge on credit card transactions. MasterCard and Visa cards are the favorite cards.
These are widely accepted in Kigali, though it may be difficult to change traveler’s cheques outside Kigali.
Usually the banking hours are 0800-1700pm on Mon-Fri, and on Saturday 0800am-1200pm. Rwanda banks include equity bank (Rwanda), Stambic bank, Crane bank, and Eco bank among others.
Good Friday and Easter Monday are variable dates and are also respected and taken as public holidays
For Gorilla & Chimpanzee Tracking
Ounce you book your safari in Rwanda for mountain gorillas or chimpanzees tracking you are recommended wearing strong clothing to help protect against the challenges you might meet when tracking; a long trouser or sleeve shirt, and a good pair of lightweight walking boots are highly very important. A pair of protective leather gloves or gardening gloves is also useful, as well as a pair of gaiters. Due to the fact that the temperature is erratic and weather conditions can change; we also recommend taking a fleece or light jumper and lightweight breathable waterproof jacket/trousers or poncho. A small bag is useful to carry your camera, binoculars water and pack lunch. Walking sticks are available at the park head quarters in case you need one as are porters (it is worth taking a porter as it provides local people with employment and they will give you a helping hand on any steep terrain).
Natural parks and reserves
Due to its small size Rwanda has a small net work of national parks of which the most popular protected area and the focus of most visits to Rwanda is volcanoes national park, it’s famous because of its rare mountain gorilla’s and Rwanda is regarded as the top most safari destination, it host over 400 out of 900 individual and they can be tracked at a cost of US$750. The park also offers other various activities such as nature/cultural walk, golden monkey tracking, visiting the Diane Fossy grave yard,Hike the Volcanoes, watch various species of birds, visit lake Kivu to mention but a few.
Nyungwe forest national park is a tropical montane forest which is one of the richest primate destinations not only in the east but also in the central. The park is found in the southern part at the border of Burundi, the forest covers an area of approximately 1000km². It is a home to over 13 species of primates coupled with chimpanzee about 400 individuals and is (chimps) regarded the closest relative of man sharing almost 95% of human DNA make up. Watching chimps while doing their daily activities in their natural setting is regarded as thrilling, other primates that the park host includes black and white colobus monkey, Blue Monkey, Mona Monkey, L’Hoest’s Monkey, Red-tailed Monkey, Owl-faced baboons, vervet monkeys. Not only primates, but the park is also a home to over 300 species of birds and some times Rwanda is known as a birders paradise. Chimp tracking is possibly at USD$ 90 per person, and they can be tracked at any time of the year depending on client’s interest, please don’t hesitate just book with us we shall arrange you safari you will never forget in your life.
Akagera national park is a third protected area and sadly but a shadow of its former self, as many animals fled across the border into Tanzania during the civil war of the early 1990s.the park is located in the east of the country at the border of Rwanda & Tanzania just a few kilometers from Kigali Rwanda’s’ capital and it’s largest city. It is a home to variety of species of animals ranging from the big five mammal which are worth viewing such as lion, large herds of elephant, leopard, buffaloes and hyenas, others small mammals include various species of antelopes, water bucks, warthogs, oribi, zebra to mention but a few, hippos and crocodiles can only be seen at akagera river when you take a boat ride on river Lake Ihema. Park entry fee is at USA$30 and game drive is at USA$15 per person
Tips & Gratuities
During your stay in Rwanda, tipping is totally at your concern. There is no responsibility to pay a tip to either our staff or your guides. However, if you wish to tip no problem. However If you are happy with the services provided a tip – though not compulsory – is appropriate. it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
Unlawful drugs will not be abided on our trips. Not only possessing but also using drugs is not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking opium and marijuana is against the laws of Rwanda and Intrepid travellers.
After your wonderful stay at the land of Rwanda, we want to hear from you! Whether the safari has been excellent, good or fair, we rely on your feedback. We are on face book, Twitter; we read your feed back so carefully. They help us be aware of what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers. We thank you in advance
What to do in Rwanda
Distance Between Cities/towns in Rwanda
RWANDA GENOCIDE MEMORIAL SITES
Rwanda is well known for its 1994 genocide which happened between the Hutus and the Tutsis where over a million people where killed for only a period of 100 days and a thousand of survivors where left nursing wounds due to injuries left on them and many took refuge to the neighboring countries like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo among other countries. There are 8 known genocide memorial sites in Rwanda. These memorial sites were put in place as a remembrance of this hazardous Genocide war. Major Genocide sites in Rwanda include.
The Kigali Genocide Memorial site (Gisozi) is the top known and most visited memorial site in Rwanda because of its easy accessibility. It is situated in the Gasabo district about 3 km from the Kigali city center. It is the only memorial site in Kigali and it was created by a joint partnership of the Kigali City Council and the UK based sponsorship Trust. Tourists who make it at the Kigali International Airport find it very easy to drive from the airport or from one of the many hotels located in and around Kigali to go visit this site. Kigali genocide memorial contains over 258,000 people who have been gathered from different districts of Kigali and were buried in the cemetery of this memorial site. The site contains human bones, and skulls, weapons used during the genocide like machetes, clubs swords etc. it also contains objects like rosaries since many where killed in churches, identity cards, shoes and clothes. For a real, heart-in-your-throat experience, as you watch people’s bones laid down on the floor. The memorial site is divided into different parts like: the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, Three exhibition spaces, an education center for peace, a library, a documentation center, and reconciliation, memorial gardens and mass graves.
Nyamata memorial site
This memorial site is situated in the Bugesera district of Rwanda just about 35 km from the capital city of Kigali, many people used the Catholic Church as a refuge camp during the genocide. Although, due to very many testimonies given by survivors of this terrible war, on April 10th 1994 over ten thousand people were murdered in and around the area of the Catholic Church. People who gathered within the church locked all the iron doors with padlock to protect themselves from the marauding killers. How ever they where over powered and Tutsis killed them in such big number. The Majors and Bishops to the nearby technical schools thought that they will be protected by the French troops which did not work out .this church and its contents are a reminder of the horrifying violence that took place at this site during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. It was decided that a single monument/ burial place should be created, where the victims could be laid to rest with pride.
Bisesero Memorial site
This site is situated in Karongi District, in the Western Province of Rwanda. Within this site only, More than 30,000 victims of genocide were buried here in a single graveyard. The victims were killed after a brave and long resistance and self protection until when they were betrayed by French soldiers. And that they were fighting with sticks against well-armed and trained soldiers. This site is composed of nine small buildings which represent the nine communes that formerly made up the province of Kibuye. The place where the memorial has been constructed is now called “Hill of Resistancebecause of the brave resistance mounted by the people of Bisesero against their assassins. You can’t fail to shed tears ounce you visit this site it is so hearting.
Ntarama Memorial site
This site is located about 30 kilometers south of the capital city of Kigali in bigesera. It is just an hour drive from the capital Kigali city which is Rwanda’s largest city, this church and its contents are a reminder of the horrifying violence that took place at this site during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Approximately 5000 people where killed with in the church during this war. It is from here where most terrible killings of the 1994 Rwandan genocide took place. As many people took refuge here since it was the sole safe place to be. The floor of the Church at Ntarama has not been completely cleaned since the slaughter as you can still find more bones; amalgamate with bits of clothing, shoes, pots, wallets, ID cards and many more. You can easily recognize parts of skeletons: vertebrae, mandibles, fibulas, and ribs. This church was not tamper with and today it is a display site. Ounce you visit this site you can’t fail to feel tears in your throats
Nyarubuye Memorial Site
This is also a recognized site where over 20000 people where seriously murdered and even buried most especially the Tutsis as they attempted to escape to Tanzania. The remnants were reserved inside the convent for memorial and in 2003 the school was renovated and presently operating with a number of students. Nyarubuye memorial site was recognized as a convent as well as a school
Gisenyi Memorial site
Gisenyi memorial site is located in Gisenyi edge. You will take a taxi to see the grave of Madame Carr, an American who ran an orphanage for genocide orphans called Imbabazi. And also within here over 12000 remains of victims killed in the 1994 genocide are kept here. It’s recognized as the very first memorial site established through the help of Ibuka. The ministry of youth, sports & culture in addition made a very great contribution. The Bodies buried at this site were collected from Nyundo and the area of Corniche and the road brocks which where organized by the Hutus.
Murambi Genocide Memorial Site
It is said that over 2700 individuals were murdered within and out side this school, majorly the Tutsis and few Hutus who tried to hide. This project is centered on the main building in Murambi, a school that has been left vacated since the genocide in 1994. It was the site of a massacre during the 1994 Rwanda genocide. When the killing started the Tutsis tried to hide in the church but latter they where over powered by the Hutu after being sent by the Bishops and mayors to the near by technical school thinking that they will be protected by the French troops they were killed in mass number. It was certain that a single burial place should be created, where the victims could be laid to rest with dignity. You will be guided around by some of the survivors who will narrate to you their disheartening experience.
Nyanza memorial site
Approximately 2000 people where killed within this school. The school was found in Nyanza called ETO and it was governed by the United Nations (UN). These UN officials had come to provide security and protection to the Rwandese before the genocide. Bit when the war began, they returned to their country and all the individuals who had come for refuge here were killed since they where un protected making it very difficult to escape the angry Hutus who had better weapons than there’s. Most of the people were actually Tutsis and just a few Hutus. Each year on 11th April, a memorial ritual is conducted to remember the victims of this cold blood murder.