Rwanda – the land of a thousand hills is known for its extensive biodiversity, volcanoes, lush green jungles and the infamous golden monkeys and gorillas native to the land. The country boasts beautiful sceneries, rich culture, and an emerging prosperous economy. Despite being a small and landlocked country, Rwanda stands out among its sister countries on the African continent as a developing tourist spot.
But behind this state of Rwanda becoming a beacon of hope for its sister countries, is a dark war-torn and genocidal past, the kind the neighboring countries have suffered from both openly and some low key, which makes this country all the more appealing. Its strength and struggle to bring an entire country out of the darkness and develop among many others its tourism industry is commendable.
Rwanda consists of many vastly spread grasslands, rivers and volcanic jungles which are known to house large biodiverse species of birds, animals, and fish. Since the colonial era, the African grasslands have perhaps witnessed the most massive amount of trophy hunting and poaching. Despite antipoaching and hunting organizations actively campaigning to prevent such activities, they continue to happen from time to time. We had witnessed the extinction of the Northern white rhino when the last male of the species died in March 2018 in Kenya.
This calls out the need to ensure responsible tourism which is the concept where negative social, economic and environmental impacts on the locals is minimized, and all aspects of their wellbeing are safeguarded.
How this relates to Rwanda and its tourism?
Well, Rwanda is famous for its species of gorillas, golden monkeys and elephants mainly along with many other species that have been a victim of poaching and mass trophy hunting. The more hype they receive, the more demand for poached goods in the international black-market increases. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to contain but recently, with the help of various foundations, NGOs and the people of the state, a self-proclaimed revolution has brought forth progressive changes. Responsible tourism is one of them. In the sentiment of further ensuring this trend, we have compiled a few activities that a tourist can choose from as a tailor-made tour other than just the safari, gorilla trekking and interacting with the local wildlife.
- The City of Kigali
The city boasts of rich culture and the fast-paced urbanization of the once war-torn area. Now it’s one of the safest places to travel whether for women or students. The bazaars and market places are the best to experience the taste and flavors of local food. Small handicraft stalls are a tourist attraction as well. A cup of coffee is an excellent way to start experiencing the local palette. The nightlife has been lately blooming as well with clubs opening around the city.
One of the most beautiful spots in Rwanda, Kibuye is a small town surrounding by soft hills with a beautiful lake Kivu in nestled in the center. The town hosts many hotels and lodges that offer beautiful picture-perfect views all around the shores of the lake. Boats are available to experience rowing through the sparkling still waters of the lake. The town also hosts a Catholic Church and a memorial to the Rwandan genocide.
- Lake Kivu
This lake deserves a separate mention of its own since its so far spread and connects various parts of the country. It is near impossible to visit everything it has to offer in a single trip. The lake has an area of 2,700 square kilometers and ranges from the Island of Ishwa in the south to Gisenyi in the North. On a boating journey, tourists can fish from it for sport. They’re able to spot local fishing villages along the shore, the traditional catamarans on the waters that have been in Rwandan tradition for a very long time and enjoy the beautiful sunset amidst the far set hills.
The last capital of the pre-colonial Rwanda, this city’s distinct attraction is the King’s Palace where the Rwandan monarchs lived and ruled. It is an ode to the Rwandan history, tradition, and culture preserved through all that it has been through. The city also is home to Rwesero Art Museum. This is perhaps the best and most prestigious museum in Rwandan history.
The holy land for all coffee lovers out there. Gisuma is Rwandan coffee’s chief producer. It’s a small town in the foot of the valleys. The quality of coffee beans produced is high, and they’ve made their mark in all renowned coffee shops all over the world. The import of these coffee beans has increased Rwanda’s GDP. A visit to this town will definitely earn one a mug of freshly brewed coffee worth remembering a lifetime and even if one’s not a coffee lover, Gisuma itself is a beautiful place to behold.
National Park spread over an area of 940 square kilometers, is the Nyungwe National Park which is a reserve unlike any other on the entire continent and perhaps in the world. Strong laws protect forests and wildlife. Furthermore, the park boasts of thick montane forests with a very famous bridge that hangs high above the canopies of trees between two cliffs. Crossing the bridge is no less than a thrill ride itself. Trekking through the park is another great attraction and if one’s lucky enough, one might come across one of many inhabitants of this reserve.
Another small city to indulge in with the locals. Not as advanced as Kigali but it offers all the keystones a tourist might be looking to experience in Rwandan lifestyle. Tourists can participate in cultural practices such as dressing up like the locals and the local cuisine is delicious. For anyone looking to trek through a city and take all the unique culture in, this one is definitely it. The rivers although have crocodiles and hippos in them so might as well steer clear of them.
A city situated in the district of Muhanga offers interactive experiences with the locals. Many local tourist organizations hold activities where tourists whether students, women or men, all can take part in rural life. Activities involve traditional cooking, local crafting, coffee brewing, pottery, imigongo (cow dung art), banana juice making, living in huts, pottery, etc. It is a great way to experience a completely different lifestyle and culture by letting the locals themselves teach one the essence of everything.