Rwanda is often called ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ and of course famous for its mountain gorillas. While viewing gorillas in their natural habitat is truly an experience of a lifetime, this small, landlocked country is vibrant and lush and offers more than just gorillas.
Important to note, is that the 1994 genocide is something of the past and society today has committed to healing the past. Some people who are not as versed in travel to Africa, have apprehensions in visiting Rwanda, and the truth is that the country is thriving and the infrastructure is high caliber and ranks highest amongst East Africa.
Rwanda combines extremely well with Tanzania and Kenya safaris, but Rwanda itself does offer more opportunities than just gorilla trekking. People are able to track chimpanzees, golden monkeys, visit lakes, ride bikes, and also experience tribal cultures and traditions unique to this area.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in Rwanda – besides Gorilla trekking!
Golden Monkey Trekking
In addition to Gorilla trekking, Golden Monkey trekking is another highlight of Volcanoes National Park. The Sykes monkey is endemic to the high altitude forests of the Virungas. There are two habituated groups and as with gorillas, the trekking starts early. However, there are no restrictions on the number of visitors and permits can be obtained last minute at the park headquarters.
Mountain biking can also be arranged. Using good quality and well serviced mountain bikes, you can set out to explore the area. These rides are typically 1-2 hours, however, due to the hilly terrain, these rides do require a certain degree of fitness, but definitely open to beginners. This activity is also really enjoyable in the Lake Kivu area where road conditions are much more relaxed and very scenic.
Visiting the Iby’iwacu village is a great cultural excursion and one of our favorite things to do in Rwanda. The village convinced ex-poachers to turn their back on poaching and instead perform for visitors. The village is accessible via a leisurely walk and the community is open to photographs.
Visit Diane Fossey’s Grave
Hiking to Diane Fossey’s grave and original scientific base is available for those with an interest. The excursion begins at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters and you ate driven to the trek start point and then head out for 3-4 hours. The camp site is at an altitude of 9,000 ft at Karisoke (the saddle area between Mt Karisoke and Mt Karisimbi).
Hike the Twin Lakes
The twin lakes – Lake Bulera & Lake Ruhondo are fed by rivers in Uganda and are very scenic. Pristine dark blue waters are surrounded by steep farmed hills and the backdrop of the Virunga Volcanoes. The look out points can be reached by well maintained roads and walking is also available.
Gishwati Forest Hiking
Gishwati Forest hiking is relatively new and involves walking in a forest that is just beginning to see tourism. The highlight here is being able to see wild chimpanzees. The forest is part of the Congo-Nile divide, a mountain range that extends in a north-south orientation all along Lake Kivu.
Climb Mt Visoke
Climbing Mt Visoke at 3,700m, a perfect volcano with deep crater lake. For those interested in doing something a bit more physically demanding but certainly not limited to average hikers, this is a great adventure typically taking all day (or 5 hours). The vegetation on this hike goes from bamboo forests and then onto Hypericum forest and senecio bush (all very typical of this region). Porters can hired at the park headquarters. If you are wanting a bit more of a challenging hike, then climbing Mt Muhabura might be of interest. This hike is steeper but gets you into bigger views such as the ‘twin lakes’ and Mt Muhabura is the second highest peak in Volcanoes National Park.
Lake Bulera Cruise
Cruising Lake Bulera is a different type of activity whereby you can head out on a cruise with local fisherman in their dugout canoes and catch a sunset glimpse of the Virungas. This excursion can be combined with a scenic and peaceful hike to Russumo Falls, impressive waterfalls in a scenic valley.
Batwa Dancing Pots
Visiting the Batwa Dancing Pots is an excursion located close to Gisenyi to learn about the Batwa community and their culture as potters, dancers, and musicians. You will have the chance to participate in dance and playing musical instruments, and also do a pottery class. You can support the showroom by purchasing locally made pieces.