Let me start this Rwanda travel blog by saying that my trip to the country of the thousand hills was my best travel ever. Below you will find things do in Rwanda aka not to miss as well as some practical informations to prepare your trip.
Things to know before your trip to Rwanda
Is Rwanda safe?
The first question people ask me when I said that I am going or that I was traveling to Rwanda is : is Rwanda a safe country? I know why people ask me this. When thinking of Rwanda, most people associate it with the civil war (Genocide of Rwanda) that happened in 1994 and shocked the entire world. Since then, the country has been reconstructed and people live there peacefully. So to answer your question, you should not be worried about your security in Rwanda. It is not more dangerous than Paris, or London. It is actually, in my opinion, safer but obviously like everywhere, you should be aware of your surroundings and act accordingly!!! Rwanda were always so kind and so welcoming, it actually often moved me to tears to see such kindness <3
Do I need to be scared of malaria in Rwanda?
Yes and no. If you ask the Rwanda, they will tell you that there is no malaria in the country. If you ask expats they will tell you that yes, malaria is real and you should take prophylaxis.
I didn’t plan to take my malaria medications but with what I heard and the fact that we were there in the rainy season I decided to take them. Be sure to pack a deet mosquito spray though, there are many mosquitos, tsetse flies included!
What should I pack for Rwanda?
While in Rwanda you will probably do a lot of hikes. So I would say, good hiking shoes for sure, hiking and waterproof clothes. Gorillas and chimpanzees hikes will take you off tracks so you might also want to have gardening gloves to protect your hands from thorny bushes.
Avoid military prints, it is not well seen in Africa in general!
For safari, anything can do, avoid bright colours and don’t forget binoculars!
Things to do in Rwanda – Safari in Akagera national Park
If you wish to see the big 5, Akagera National park, situated around 3,5 hours away from Kigali, is your destination. There are different ways to visit the national park. We visited it with Wilderness safaris as we stayed in their camp : Magashi National Park. They have programs to go on a game drive or on a boat safari with rangers who will educate you on the wildlife.
You also have the possibility to visit the park in your own car. In this case you will only be allowed to drive through certain areas of the park and follow the pathway. Also with this option, it is quite difficult to know where animals are, so I would definitely advise to book a safari with a ranger. It cost around 40 dollars for the day.
A boat safari like we did, is also possible to be booked for 35Euros for one hour. It is a bit more expensive if you decide to take a sunset cruise.
A last option is to go on a walk in the park with a ranger.
For those who would like to know more about Akagera National park you can visit the visitors center museum that will teach you about how the park reintroduced animals and fought poachers over the past decades. If you are into conservation, you can also take a behind the scene tour where you will meet the people working in the park and learn about conservation programs.
Where to sleep in Akagera
While a lot of people go to Akagera on a day trip from Rwanda, there are a few camps inside the park where you can sleep as well as some camp sites!
Price to enter Akagera national park is 40Euros per person and 10Euros per car.
What to do at Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe National Park is definitely a must visit in Rwanda. It is Africa’s oldest rainforest and has got a large flora and fauna. It kind of remembered me of Jurassic Park, it stays one of my highlight of my trip to Rwanda.
Hiking and canopy walk
While at Nyungwe National Park, we took a 45 minutes hike (2 hours back) to the famous canopy walk. Adrenaline junkies will be happy, the bridge is very long and very high! For the people who are scared of height, it is the moment or never to fight it!!
If you wish to take a longer hike, there are 13 different hiking trails in the park during which you can walk up to 8 hours!
Colobus monkey and chimpanzee trekking
Monkey trekking are definitely one of the most famous things to do in Rwanda. In Nyungwe National Park, you can see two species of primates, the chimpanzee and the colobus monkey. The most famous trek is definitely the chimpanzee trekking during which you will have much chances to see also the colobus monkey. We did the chimpanzee trekking. It is not the easiest trek to be honest as it was super steep ut luckily it was not wet and slippery. You might have less luck!
Chimpanzee sighting is guaranteed. Indeed, some rangers follow the monkeys during the day so that when a trek starts, the guide always knows where they are (moving).
Bird watching at Nyungwe National Park
We didn’t do bird watching during our trip to Rwanda but Nyungwe National Park is home to over 300 bird species!
Where to sleep at Nyungwe National Park?
If you would like to have direct access to the Nyungwe National Park, your best bet is definitely the One and Only Nyungwe House. It is super luxurious and you can enjoy tailored experiences in the park. We slept at Tiloreza Volcanoes Eco lodge. We stayed an hour away from the national Park at Emeraude Kivu resort. Less luxurious but the food was very good and the resort faces lake Kivu.
Enjoy lake Kivu
Lake Kivu is one of the great lakes of Africa. On one side is Rwanda, on the other side is Congo and in between, emerald green waters, and a lot of small islands. Its is truly beautiful!
Lake Kivu is also the place where Rwanda like to spend some days off, by the beach. There are a few beach resorts along the lake where you can relax and sandy beaches and go for a swim. It is indeed, one of the few lakes in Rwanda where you can swim, here, no hippos, crocodiles, etc
For the most active, Lake Kivu is also the perfect place for kayaking, sailing, water-skiing, etc FUN!
*We stayed at Rushel Kivu Lodge
Volcanoes national park
As the name already says, there are volcanoes to see in the Volcanoes national park : Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. It is possible to climb Karisimbi.
Gorilla trekking at Volcanoes national park
But the most famous thing to do in Rwanda is at Volcanoes national park. It is gorilla trekking. You have to know that gorillas are endangered and therefore, gorilla trekking is highly regulated. A gorilla permit is US$1500 per person in Rwanda and is to booked months in advance before your trip to Rwanda. The money collected is used for conservation and to help local communities.
Once you have a permit, you have to know that you may have to walk a very long time before meeting the gorillas as they live in high altitude. Also, since the national park is not a zoo, you might need to go through thick vegetation. This and the altitude make the trek quite difficult. Be sure you have the physical capacities to go on such a hike!!
If you are, it is a truly once in a lifetime experience. You can observe the gorillas for an hour from VERY close! Indeed, unlike most people think, gorillas are not dangerous if they don’t feel menaced!
Golden monkey trekking
If you cannot get a permit for the gorilla trekking, or simply if you enjoy trekking and would like to see more animals of Rwanda, you can go a the golden monkey trekking. It is a short trek and the golden monkeys are the cutest monkeys I have ever seen. I would definitely recommend to go for it if you are already in the area!
Visit Kigali, the capital of Rwanda
Kigali is definitely not THE most exciting place to visit in Rwanda but since you will probably come into the country from there, you will also maybe want to spend a day or two in the capital. Do not miss the genocide museum, it is very interesting and you HAVE to know about the history of the country to be able to appreciate it even more! Also it is the opportunity to visit one of the many café and try Rwandan coffee, one of the best in the world, catch up the vibe at Kimironko market, one of the biggest in Kigali, and the perfect place to buy the famous Agaseke basket!
Fazit – Rwanda travel blog
As you can see there are many things to do in Rwanda and many things to do. Rwanda is definitely an active destination with hikes, watersports, etc. so you won’t be bored. It is important to know that traveling to Rwanda is not cheap. But this goes hand in hand with the fact that the country tries to preserve it’s amazing flora and fauna. Tourism in Rwanda is in full development and I am curious to see if it will keep it’s goal of being East Africa’s leading ecotourism destination. It would definitely be interesting to come back in 10 years or so, to see how much it changed.