1.16.20 / Kigali / Rwanda

Beyond Mountain Gorillas: Exploring the Beauty of Rwanda

Visiting these primates only scratches the surface of what Rwanda has to offer

by Carolina Ramirez Herrera, AHL Africa Editor

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to cross off one (if not the) greatest trips off my bucket list: trekking for mountain gorillas in the jungles of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. There are approximately 880 mountain gorillas left in the wild (yes, let that sink in) scattered among the forests of Uganda and Rwanda. This number has been slowly but surely increasing since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when more than 1 million, mostly Tutsi, minorities were killed over 100 days by Hutu nationalists. A little over 20 years later, Rwanda has come a long way, surprising the global community with its resilience. I, for one, was truly impressed.

I started my trip in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, which was recently named the cleanest city in Africa. In 2008, still recovering from the economic and emotional devastation incurred by the genocide, the country banned the use of plastic bags. I expected the usual dusty roads and chaos that most capital cities in Africa welcome you with, but instead was greeted by palm-tree lined streets, traffic- law-abiding taxi drivers, and not a single piece of trash on the road. Turns out, this small but mighty country has far more than just gorillas. Its is definitely worth adding a couple days to explore beyond the volcanoes.

Visit Kigali’s Kimironko market to get custom made threads with local fabrics

Market mayhem

The man, the myth, the legend @umudozi

To get a taste of what a traditional East African market is like, look no further than the Kimironko market. Disclaimer: it can feel extremely overwhelming. Lucky for me, Melody Serafino, a good friend who founded No.29, gave me her go-to designer, Umudozi, and I went straight to the source. Slide into his DM and he’ll coordinate to have you visit, fitted and have items delivered to your hotel in 48 hours.

Get a bird’s eye view in East Africa’s highest canopy walkway at Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest [photo: Kate Webster]

Casual canopy walk

Located 4 hours from Kigali, Nyungwe National Park is Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest, world-renowned being one of the most biodiverse areas in Africa. Wear proper shoes (read: rain or hiking boots) and take the 2 hour magical hike along the Igishigishigi Trail where you can come across over 300 bird species, chimps, and 12 other species of primates including the Ruwenzori Black and White Colobus monkeys.

Kayak on Lake Kivu, Rwanda’s largest lake

Lake Kivu sunset [Photo: Kate Webster]

Kayaking on Kivu [Photo: Kate Webster]

Located on the border of Rwanda and Congo, Lake Kivu is a fresh body of water that is both crocodile and hippo free, making it a perfect stop between Nyungwe Forest and Volcanoes National Park. For Swiss family robinson vibes, have lunch at Cormoran Lodge, a family owned restaurant and lodge made up entirely of wood. Rent kayaks on site and take in the stunning views at sunset.

Visit Akagera National Park for a Big Five Game drive

Game drive ready

Rhino conservation at work

While Rwanda may not be as famous for safari as some of its African neighbors, Akagera National Park is worth a visit and located a mere 2 hours from Kigali. In 2009, the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks Network ( a conservation NGO supported by Prince Harry) signed a joint agreement to bring Akagera back to life as the once war-torn country slowly recovered. Lions were reintroduced to Akagera in 2015, and in 2017 the introduction of 18 critically endangered Eastern Black rhinos granted the once-ravaged Akagera the Big Five designation.

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