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Rwanda: A Thousand Hills and a Thousand Experiences

Rwanda: A Thousand Hills and a Thousand Experiences

One of my favourite authors in the world, Paul Coelho, is quoted to have said, “Travel is never a matter of money but of courage.” Dear Paul, I love you a lot, but courage? I have a lot of courage, but I still haven’t been able to visit Rwanda, even though it has been on my bucket list since 2022. I love the country so much that my essay and presentation on it formed a part of my final assessment in my last semester as a student at Brigham Young University.

Cover page for my presentation

Since courage doesn’t pay the bills and I still obsess over Rwanda, I often daydream about its breathtaking scenery, rich culture, and incredible wildlife. Nestled in the heart of Africa, Rwanda blends natural beauty, historical significance, and a modern outlook to give its visitors an unforgettable adventure. Let me take you on a journey through this remarkable country and show you why it is my obsession and why it should be your next travel destination.

Let’s Gloss Over Some Facts

Rwanda hasn’t always been the “Rwanda” that we know today. From a dark period in 1994 when the country witnessed a genocide that killed over a million people, it has transformed remarkably, emerging as one of the safest places for tourists. In 2022, it was named the 6th safest place for solo travellers. So, if you have any apprehensions about travelling solo, you need not worry—Rwanda has got you. Not only is Rwanda a safe haven, but it is also the cleanest country in Africa, having embraced sustainability practices that ensure everyone puts hands on deck to see that the country shimmers and shines.

Home to Mountain Gorillas  

Gen Alphas, step aside, Gen Z and Millennials; here is your chance to shine. Remember watching "Baby’s Day Out" and seeing the caring gorilla caring for our little adventurer while those four annoying men chased him? That was my first introduction to gorillas, and I thought they were the coolest animals ever. As the home to mountain gorillas, Rwanda boasts the only world-class, permanent research centre dedicated to conserving gorillas and preventing their extinction.

In Volcanoes National Park, you can go on a once-in-a-lifetime gorilla trekking adventure. Imagine hiking through forest greens, guided by experienced trackers, until you meet a family of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The experience will be exciting, as it allows you to observe their behaviour, social interactions, and sheer majesty up close.

Rwanda's Natural Treasures

Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is famous for its mountain gorillas. Over the years, the Rwandan government has worked hard to preserve it in collaboration with local and international communities. Beyond gorillas, the park is home to golden monkeys, various bird species, and five volcanoes. 

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda: The Complete Guide

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of Africa's oldest rainforests known for its rich biodiversity, including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and over 300 bird species. As a tourist, you can go canopy walking and even primate tracking. These activities form part of community-based tourism initiatives to generate revenue which takes care of the park.

Akagera National Park

You’ve watched a lot of Nat Geo Wild, but the real action is at Akagera National Park. Located on Rwanda's east side, this savannah park offers a classic African safari experience. It is home to the Big Five (lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards, and rhinos) and other animals like giraffes, zebras, and hippos. At the park, you can enjoy a game drive through the savannah, take boat trips to see the crocs (not the shoe), and see other sea creatures. You can also go bird watching.

Gishwati-Mukura National Park

Gishwati-Mukura National Park is Rwanda's newest national park. It consists of two separate forests, Gishwati and Mukura. The park is home to chimpanzees, golden monkeys, and many bird species. One of my favourite aspects of this park is how hard the government and locals worked to restore the forest after it suffered deforestation and poaching. At the end of this article, remind me to send a box of puff puff to the Rwandan government house; they are doing incredibly well.

Let’s go to Lake Kivu

When my instructor asked where I would visit when I reached Rwanda, I didn't hesitate to answer Lake Kivu. I’ve seen so many videos of people kayaking on the serene Lake that I dreamed I was paddling and fell into the water (please don’t laugh). 

Lake Kivu is on the border between Rwanda and Congo. It's known for its crystal-clear waters, scenic views, and serene atmosphere so that you can have a relaxing paddle. The local fishermen are always on the lake; you get to say hi and tell them how much you admire their country. If you’re lucky, they will regal you with beautiful stories offering deeper insights into the culture and Lake Kivu itself.

Kigali City Tour

What’s a visit to Rwanda without the Kigali city tour? Kigali is a sophisticated city that showcases the traditions of its people and exquisitely displays the modern vibes of the rebuilt country. Begin your tour with a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, a site that honours the victims of the 1994 genocide and educates visitors about Rwanda's history and recovery.

You can also explore the markets to get an insight into the beautiful art and local craft of the people.  There are also restaurants and bars where you can taste their local cuisines. If you are offered jollof rice, please say no. We have to uphold the supremacy of Nigerian jollof continually.

We already talked about Rwanda’s cleanliness, and touring Kigali allows you to see clean streets with beautiful greenery. You can also visit more museums and art galleries. Cap off your tour with a visit to the Kigali Convention Centre, symbolising Rwanda’s progress and innovation.

Visit to the King's Palace Museum 

King's palace museum, Rwanda

Rwanda once operated a monarchical system of government, and for a long time, the king’s place was mobile until they finally chose to settle in Nyanza. Shaped like a beehive, the reconstructed building shows the pattern in which over 2000 inhabitants of Nyanza once built their houses.

King's palace museum, Rwanda

One of the highlights of the visit is the Inyambo or royal cows. With their big horns and majestic presence, they are a symbol of royal heritage and are treated with great care and respect. 

Inyambo cattle Rwanda

Adventure Awaits

Rwanda is a country built for adventure. From its thousand hills to museums, wildlife, and rich cultural heritage, you can go there with your curiosity and will not be disappointed–I say this as an online citizen.

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My favourite thing about the country is its resilient spirit. In the face of adversity, the Rwandan people have rebuilt their nation with determination and hope. Visiting the country makes you witness the strength and unity of a nation that has risen from its past to build a brighter future. So, as you plan your next journey, let Rwanda inspire you to embrace your strengths and the puff puff you will help me take to the government house. 

Ilaya Teejay

Ilaya Teejay

Ilaya Teejay is the Content Marketing Associate at Heroshe. She believes words can shape user experiences, and she's turning this belief into a career that helps people and businesses succeed.