Rwanda is one of the best places to see the gorillas, due to the vegetation being less dense than it is in Uganda, which means you get much better sightings and you can stand within touching distance of the gorillas when they’re out in the open. Watch your back on the trails though, as the cheeky juvenile black-back males can sometimes come up behind you and push you out of their way!
There’s no doubt that the chance to have this enchanting encounter with Rwanda’s gorillas is what draws most visitors to the country, but there is so much else to see besides this. Despite being sub-Saharan Africa’s most densely populated country, there are vast swathes of untouched rainforest to explore, and not only in the Virungas. A day’s drive south of Kigali is Nyungwe Forest, which is untouched by the ice age and as a result supports one of Africa’s most bio-diverse eco-systems, with some 1,000+ plant species, 13 primate species, countless bird species and more insect, reptile and mammal species than you can shake a stick at.
Nyungwe Forest offers fantastic chimpanzee tracking opportunities – even just hearing the chimps in the forest is a spine tingling experience, but to see them up close is certainly on par with encountering mountain gorillas, and quite a lot more thrilling at times due to their highly mobile nature. Nyungwe also offers countless walking trails, a 160-meter long canopy walk reaching a dizzying 70 meters in height at its peak, spectacular birding opportunities, and the chance to see a troop of 500 colobus monkeys. From there you can head to Lake Kivu, the world’s 14th largest lake and a beautiful place to relax and unwind, be it at Kibuye in the south or on the more popular beaches of the affluent Gisenyi in the north
Another big draw of Rwanda is the open savannah of Akagera National Park, which lies in the lower altitude regions to the east of the country. The park is rarely visited, possibly because of the depletion of wildlife during Rwanda’s difficult times, but at last Akagera is making a comeback. This is most notable with the trans location of 18 lions into the park from South Africa over the past few years. The pride have settled in well and reports suggest there may even be lion cubs… the first born in Rwanda for many years. Elephant, leopard, buffalo, giraffe, hippo and impala also reside in the park, making it the perfect safari add-on alongside gorilla tracking and other primate encounters.
Rwanda may be better known for its turbulent history than its beautiful landscapes and wildlife. Rwanda may also not always offer the height of luxury and first class service that its East African neighbours do. However, the charm of the people, the splendor of the landscapes, and the diversity of the wildlife will charm you and stay with you forever.