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You have already hit all the best-loved Safari destinations… or maybe you are the kind of traveler who tries to avoid following in other’s footsteps…

Now you want to know where you should travel next.

And we have the perfect answer.

Because Rwanda is that magnificently happy find of a country. You know, one of those places that sound a little forbidding and seem shrouded behind mists of unreachability but actually turn out to be unbelievably easy on the travel bones? Rwanda is the ultimate prize.

10 Reasons to visit Rwanda

1.     Location, location, location

Isn’t it lovely when a travel destination just happens to be the incredibly cool kid within a very illustrious neighborhood? Rwanda’s neighbors include one of Africa’s most famous Safari destinations with Tanzania in the East as well as Burundi in the south, Uganda in the north and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. So, if you want to add on to your Safari in Rwanda you have an embarrassment of easy access options to choose from. Reach Nairobi, Zanzibar, Addis Ababa, and the Serengeti. Very adventurous travelers could consider crossing into the Democratic Republic of Congo to hike the Nyiragongo Volcano and see the largest active lava lake on Earth.

2.     Monkeys in the Mists

Volcanoes National Park (forming a giant cross-border expanse of forests as it borders both Virunga National park in the DRC and Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park) is a place where access is carefully controlled and you may book an audience with mankind’s closest relatives. We share 98% of our DNA with Mountain gorillas and Rwanda has one of the largest natural populations of the approximately 1,000 remaining on earth, in residence in the high-altitude cloud forest. The treks top out at around eight visitors a day and the Rwanda hike requires less vigor than a gorilla trek in the DRC or Uganda.

In Nyungwe Forest National Park you can visit 25% of all primates including chimpanzees within the realm of a primordial jungle. Take a canopy walk 196 ft (60 m) above ground to appreciate the environment and spy some of the 300 species of birds that share the park with its primates.

3.     Breath of Fire

In the Land of a Thousand Hills, five volcanoes lie within Virunga. The inactive Mount Karisimbi is high enough to be capped with snow during the dry season (June-August). You can take a two-day hike to the peak to be rewarded with incredible views.

4.     Akagera Big Five

If you prefer not to cross too many borders during one trip you can find every member of the famous African Big Five in Akagera National Park (bordering on Tanzania and the Kagera River). It is an incredibly beautiful enclave of savannah and wetland that has gone from strength to strength since it was taken under the rehabilitation wing of African Parks in 2009.

5.    Into Dark History

During the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, an estimated one million people were massacred and two million displaced. It remains a bleak and horrific reiteration of the outcome of ethnic cleansing. Visiting Kigali’s Genocide Memorial Centre will never be easy but the hopeful country that has risen from the bloodshed can be better acknowledged through an attempt at a full understanding of the fate of the 250,000 victims whose remains continue to speak over two decades later.

It is particularly encouraging to see the Genocide against a backdrop of Rwanda today. A country that has somehow survived to tell the tale and is trying hard to learn from its mistakes.

6.    Don’t Drink the Water and Pack your Common Sense

Rwanda is relatively safe and crime rates are quite low. It is also fabulously clean (Kigali is rated one of the cleanest cities in the world) and the people of Rwanda are very friendly and helpful. Violent crime is near nonexistent, and the terrorist threats that have plagued other East African destinations have not affected Rwanda.

7.    Do Drink the Coffee

The high altitude and rich volcanic soil provide the perfect home for coffee plantations and Rwanda’s top quality coffee is second to none. The tea is pretty great too… and the food is fresh, good, and cater to every taste.

Rwandan Specialties

Brochette (Grilled meat or fish on a stick)

Potatoes and plantains

Sambaza (small fish)

Urwagwa (fermented banana beer)

Kigali’s International Food Scene

Expect high-quality sushi, excellent bibimbap, cheesy pizzas, and homemade ice cream.

8.    Take Home the Art

In Butare, you will find artists and co-ops producing work ranging from painting to metal and basket art.

And at the Inema Arts Center in Kigali promising young painters debut their best work.

Our top shopping picks

Fashion from Mille Collines

Handmade baskets

Colorful Chitenge fabric

Coffee

9.    Can We Talk About the Weather?

Rwandan weather is like the final bowl of porridge from the fairy tale. Not too hot and not too cold. The rainy season turns the country into a mudbath from October to November and between February and May but makes up for the lack of ease of movement with carpets of green dotted with flowers.

10.  And a Very Exciting New Camp

Magashi Camp is opening in Akagera, overlooking Lake Rwanyakazinga. Close to Tanzania the grassy plains and woodland setting is very different from Volcanoes National Park and allows guests to enjoy a savannah safari with gorilla trekking. A sister camp to Bisate Lodge, we are excited about the enhanced Rwandan experience on offer. Magashi Camp will have six tents on the shores of a lake that boasts one of Africa’s highest hippo densities, very large crocodiles, the rare sitatunga and over 520 bird species including the elusive shoebill and the near-endemic red-faced barbet. Plains game, a healthy lion population, black rhino and a good density of leopard … all without the hordes that frequent other Safari hotspots makes Akagera a rare find.

We are also heartened to hear about the camp’s sustainable conservation economy and model of responsible ecotourism that contributes positively to conservation and community empowerment in Akagera National Park.


Images via Dana Allen, CrookesandJackson, Wikimedia Commons

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