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Honeymoon in Rwanda

Discover a new African dawn in Rwanda: gorillas, volcanoes, rainforest...

Where To Go

Akagera National Park

Set at a relatively low altitude on the border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park could scarcely be more different in mood to the breezy cultivated hills that characterise much of Rwanda. Dominated scenically by the labyrinth of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile, this is an archetypal African savannah landscape of tangled acacia woodland interspersed with open grassland. Akagera is, above all, big game country!

Herds of elephant and buffalo emerge from the woodland to drink at the lakes, while lucky visitors might stumble across a spotted hyena or even a stray lion. Giraffe and zebra amble through the savannah, and more than a dozen types of antelope inhabit the park, most commonly the handsome chestnut-coated impala, but also the diminutive oribi and secretive bushbuck, as well as the ungainly tsessebe and the world's largest antelope, the statuesque cape eland.

Camping alongside the picturesque lakes of Akagera is a truly mystical introduction to the wonders of the African bush. Pods of 50 hippopotami grunt and splutter throughout the day while outsized crocodiles soak up the sun with their vast jaws menacingly agape. Magically, the air is torn apart by the unforgettable high duetting of a pair of fish eagles, asserting their status as the avian monarchs of Africa's waterways. Lining the lakes are some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds, while the connecting marshes are the haunt of the endangered and exquisite papyrus gonolek, and the bizarre shoebill stork - the latter perhaps the most eagerly sought of all African birds.

Nyungwe National Park

Africa’s Mountain Rainforest

Intact mid-elevation forests (1600-2000M) like Nyungwe are rare in Africa, but they are important habitat for many species. Nyungwe is one of the last places in Africa to maintain this type of crucial forest.

At over 1000 km2, Nyungwe is Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest.

Nyungwe is the source of Africa’s great rivers. Rain that falls on the east side feeds the Nile and on the west runs to the Congo. The Congo-Nile Divide is a mountain range that runs north to south through Rwanda.

Nyungwe receives more than 2000mm a year of rain.

Recently, Nyungwe opened a canopy walk, the only one of its kind in East Africa. This is a wonderful vantage point to view the incredible biodiversity of this rare forest.

The canopy walk opens at a time when Rwanda is being recognized as a top 10 global travel destination (Lonely Planet, 2009.)

Volcanoes National Park

“In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat," wrote the eminent primatologist Dian Fossey, "are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest - the Virungas". Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, the Volcanoes National Park protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range - home of the rare mountain gorilla - and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.

An exhilarating trek through the cultivated foothills of the Virungas offers stirring views in all directions. Then, abruptly, the trail enters the national park, immersing trekkers in the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest, alive with the calls of colourful birds and chattering of the rare golden monkey, and littered with fresh spoor of the mountains’ elusive populations of buffalo and elephant. Through gaps in the forest canopy, the magnificent peaks are glimpsed, easily accessible and among the highest in Africa, beckoning an ascent.

The bustling market town of Musanze has a memorable setting at the base of the Virungas. On the outskirts of town, the natural bridge—a solidified lava flow—is a fascinating relic of the volcanic activity that shaped this scenic area. Also within easy day tripping distance of Musanze are the seldom visited but lovely Lakes Burera, Ruhondo and Karago. Musanze town offers a good selection of upper-range and mid-range hotels as well as reasonably-priced small hotels and guest houses.

Rwanda Lakes

Lake Kivu is the largest of numerous freshwater bodies that shimmer in the valleys of Rwanda. The lake is a favorite get-away for Rwanda’s residents relaxing days on the beach, water sports including kayaking, canoeing and windsurfing, and beach volleyball are among the activities that families and friends enjoy. Take a leisurely ride along the western shoreline of the country on the “Munezero” tourist boat from Gisenyi to Kibuye to Cyangugu, a trip you surely will never forget. Lakes Burera and Ruhondo, close to the gorilla-tracking centre of Ruhengeri, are oft-neglected gems, deep blue waters ringed by steep hills and tall waterfalls, with the nearby Virunga Volcanoes providing a spectacular backdrop.

Lake Muhazi, a mere hour and a half away from Kigali, is one of the country’s scenic treasures. This tranquil cove in the eastern province of Rwanda is ideal for a day trip away from the bustle of the city where you can eat fresh fish while watching the sun set over the small boats dotting the lake. Akagera National Park has ten lakes, some watering holes for the animals and others havens for birdwatchers—the rare shoebill stork calls Akagera’s lakes home.

Away from the main resorts, Rwanda's lakes offer visitors rewarding glimpses into ancient African lifestyles. Here, fishermen ply the water in dugout canoes unchanged in design for centuries, while colourfully dressed ladies smoke traditional wooden pipes and troubadours strum sweetly on stringed iningire (traditional 'guitars'). And, the birdlife is fantastic: flotillas of pelicans sail ponderously across the open water, majestic crowned cranes preen their golden crests in the surrounding swamps, while jewel-like malachite kingfishers hawk silently above the shore.

Major cities

Kigali

Located at Rwanda's geographical heart, the rapidly growing city of Kigali is not only the national capital, but also the country's most important business centre and main point of entry. Serviced by an efficient international airport and connected to neighbouring Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi by surfaced roads, Kigali City boasts a range of hotels catering to all tastes and budgets, and an assortment of fine restaurants whose menus reflect a variety of both traditional and international cuisines.

Despite such concessions to modernity, Kigali City retains the feel of a garden city, with a satisfyingly organic shape dictated by the verdant slopes over which it sprawls. The compact, low-rise city centre surrounds a busy, colourful commercial district within which various shops and souvenir stalls displaying a wide range of lovingly executed local crafts can be found.

The atmospheric Muslim quarter of Nyamirambo next to the city centre is well worth a visit, and one can also explore the network of leafy avenues that wind out of the town centre into the surrounding residential suburbs. The upscale neighbourhoods of Nyarutarama and Gacuriro offer stunning views of Kigali's numerous hills as well as the pristine Nyarutarama Golf Course.

Among the safest and friendliest of African capitals, Kigali City is blessed with a moderate high altitude climate that belies its tropical location, and is conveniently located within three hour' drive of the main tourist sites. The Rwandan capital provides both a comfortable and welcoming introduction to this land of a thousand hills and an ideal springboard from which to explore this magical country.

Huye

Huye (former Butare) was the largest and most important city in Rwanda prior to 1965 when the more centrally located Kigali 135km to its north, became the capital of independent Rwanda. Today as the site of the country's largest university, the National University of Rwanda, home of the National Museum of Rwanda, and a main stopover point en route to the nearby Nyanza Royal Palace, Huye is regarded as the intellectual and cultural pulse of Rwanda. It is also an attractively compact and sedate town with shady avenues emanating from a main street lined with comfortable small hotels and breezy terrace restaurants.

Gisenyi

Three resort towns Gisenyi, Karongi and Rusizi sit along the littoral of Lake Kivu at the western edge of the country. Gisenyi is the most developed of the three and lays less than an hour's drive from Volcanoes National Park. It is set on a sandy beach lined with swaying palms, modern and colonial-era hotels that exude an atmosphere of tropical languor. Tourists enjoy leisurely strolls along the main beach; local cuisine overlooking the water and the cityscape on the verandas of the numerous hotels; delicious freshly caught fish and evening bonfires at the Paradis Malahide hotel; and volleyball games and water sports, or for those in need of relaxation, a private massage all on the beach of the Lake Kivu Serena. Munezero, a luxury tourist boat can be boarded in Gisenyi to guide tourists along Lake Kivu's shores.

 

Musanze

One of the largest cities in Rwanda, Musanze is a bustling city hosting almost all tourists visiting the world famous mountain gorillas. Musanze has long been the base point for gorilla visits and is cradled against a stunning backdrop of Karisimbi, Bisoke, Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes. The city is also only a 45-minute drive away from Gisenyi and the stunning Lake Kivu. The main street of Musanze is characterised by the large active market in the centre of town and throughout the city residents are often dressed in bright, vibrant fabrics in sharp contrast with the dark volcanic rock that typifies the city's roads. Located near Lake Burera, Musanze is known for its jagged landscape, crisp cold air and spectacular views.

What to do

Gorilla Trekking

When visiting the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, one should not miss out on the magnificent opportunity to visit Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park (PNV) consisting of 125 km2 of mountain forest and home to the six Virunga Volcanoes and the world famous mountain gorillas. Protected within the PNV, the lushly forested slopes of the mountains form an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is arguably the most poignant and memorable wildlife experience in the world: gorilla trekking.

The exhilarating climb to the gorilla’s natural habitat of shady bamboo forest offers fantastic views in all directions, before the trackers are immersed in the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest, alive with the calls of colourful birds and the chattering of rare golden monkey. Nothing can prepare one for the impact of encountering a fully-grown silverback gorilla, up to three times the size of an average man, yet remarkably peaceable and tolerant of human visitors.

Arts and Culture

Music and dance plays an important role in the traditions of Rwandan people.

Performances range from demonstrations of bravery and excellence, to humorous dance styles and lyrics, to artistry based in traditional agricultural roots. Traditional songs are often accompanied by a solitary lulunga—a harp-like instrument with eight strings. More celebratory dances are backed by a drum orchestra, which typically comprises seven to nine members who collectively produce a hypnotic and exciting explosion set of intertwining rhythms.

Live dance performances can be seen at the Iby’ Iwacu cultural village in Musanze or at the National Museum of Rwanda. The finest display of Rwanda's varied and dynamic traditional musical and dance styles is performed by the Intore Dance Troupes. Founded several centuries ago, the Intore—literally 'The Chosen Ones'—once performed exclusively for the Royal Court, but today their exciting act can be arranged at short notice through the National Museum in Huye. A more modern form of Rwandan music is the upbeat and harmonious devotional singing that can be heard in any church service around the country. Rwandan pop stars are also developing a name for themselves in the country and in the region, winning regional competitions and performing and recording throughout East Africa.

A wide range of traditional handicrafts is produced in rural Rwanda, ranging from ceramics and basketry to traditional woodcarvings and contemporary paintings. Rwanda’s traditional Agaseke baskets have become famous the world over and a visit to Gahaya Links Gifted Hands centre will allow any guest to witness the weaving of these baskets first hand and purchase the high quality baskets directly from the centre. A good selection of painted and handcrafted artefacts can be viewed in craft villages, shops and numerous art galleries in Kigali.

Excellent places to peruse and purchase modern art work in Kigali are CAPLAKI Craft Village, Ivuka Arts, Inganzo Gallery, African Gift Corner, Ishyo Cultural Centre, ATRAC Craft Village and Uburanga Art Studio to name a few.

A distinctively Rwandan craft is the Imigongo or cow dung paintings that are produced by a local co-operative in the village of Nyakarambi near the Rusumo Falls border with Tanzania. Dominated by black, brown and white whorls and other geometric abstractions, these unique and earthy works can be bought in Kigali, but it's worth diverting to the source to see how the paintings are reflected in local house decorations.

Source: www.rwandatourism.com

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