what to do in rwanda besides gorillas
Incredible Things To Do In Rwanda (Besides Gorilla Trekking)
If you’re planning to visit Rwanda, you’re probably going for one reason: gorilla trekking. The chance to spend a life-changing hour among the gentle giants, with whom humans share 98% of the same DNA, tops nearly every wildlife lover’s bucket list. And Rwanda is arguably the best place in the world to go gorilla trekking. Over the last two decades, the country has implemented strong conservation practices to help the gorillas (and the humans who live near them) thrive.
Gorilla trekking is certainly the biggest draw of Rwanda. However, it’s not the only thing to do in the country. Rwanda has come a long way from the devastating 1994 genocide, transforming itself into a united, welcoming destination with a diverse array of attractions and experiences for travelers willing to make the long journey.
Come for the gorillas, then stick around to explore everything else this up-and-coming destination has to offer. Here are seven things to do in Rwanda (besides gorilla trekking!).
Go on safari in Akagera National Park in Rwanda
Can you go on safari in Rwanda? Yes! Just a short 2.5-hour drive from Kigali brings you to Akagera National Park, Central Africa’s largest protected wetland. The park’s 440 square miles of preserved land brim with wildlife, including a plethora of birds, antelope, zebra, hippos, elephants and giraffe.
You may even see some of the other Big Five animals—if you’re lucky. Increase your chances of spotting rare wildlife by hiring a local guide, which can be arranged ahead of your safari by calling the visitor’s center.
Visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial
As you travel through Rwanda, it’s impossible not to think about the relatively recent Rwandan Genocide, in which more than 800,000 people died in just 100 days. The tragic event changed the course of history for the country, as well as the lives of everyday people who lost countless friends and relatives just a couple of decades ago.
Travelers can begin trying to understand the incomprehensible event at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Through halls of photographs, artifacts and informative stories, the museum explains the build up to the genocide, what occurred during those 100 horrific days and how Rwanda has worked to unite as a country in the wake of the devastation.
It also includes an exhibit on the youngest victims of the genocide, with life-size photos and touching personal details about these children’s short lives. Visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial is equal parts heartbreaking and insightful, but without a doubt essential to understanding the complex country of Rwanda.
Experience the only canopy walkway in East Africa
Hiking on the ground of Nyungwe Forest National Park is rewarding. But walking on a bridge suspended 200 feet above the park’s ancient treetops? Sublime. The canopy walkway is a 60-90 minute walk from the Uwinka Visitor Center along the Igishigishigi Trail, brimming with incredible umbrella trees, blooming orchids and lush greenery.
Listen carefully, and you may hear beautiful birdsong and calls from the 13 species of primate that live in Nyungwe. Your views change substantially once you reach the series of three suspension bridges that compose the canopy walkway. The safe, albeit wobbly walk gets your adrenaline pumping, and the views of the tree canopy and Uwinka Ridge at sunset make your heart soar.
Learn how to pick tea leaves in Rwanda
After trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park, you might be eager to relax with a cup of tea. Fortunately, tea plantations blanket the area around the park, offering not only dreamy scenery, but the chance to learn the art of cultivating the caffeine-laced leaves. Gisakura Tea Estate invites tourists to experience a couple of hours in the life of a tea leaf picker.
The pickers will let you wear their backpack-basket and show you the delicate technique of plucking tea leaves with just three fingers. It’s harder than it looks! Then, you’ll watch as their impressive hauls are weighed and trucked to the factory for processing. Tours can be arranged with the Rwanda Development Board.