Landlocked Rwanda might be small in size, but it is big on wildlife, rolling green hills, and welcoming people. Add to that the chance to bear witness to history as the country rapidly forges ahead on a new path, while embracing and honoring its painful past, and travel to Rwanda has an even deeper significance. By Rina Chandarana
Go For the Gorillas
Dubbed the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda’s fertile landscape is dotted with farms and soaring jungle-covered mountains that are home to a wide array of primates. Half of the world’s gorillas reside in Volcanoes National Park. Famously, world-renowned researcher Dian Fossey studied these magnificent creatures here, inspiring generations of travelers. Undoubtedly the most popular park in Rwanda, it remains a draw for adventure-seekers wanting to spot baby gorillas around the breathtaking Virunga Volcanoes. Make the trip in the wet season when the gorillas are found on lower elevations, making treks easier. Look up when you can — golden monkeys also live in the park, munching on bamboo and performing leaping air acrobatics from tree to tree.
See it all from Bisate Lodge, located within an extinct volcano valley. Villas are thatch-covered and large windows bring in unrivaled views of the mountain habitat. Emerald green chandeliers mimic the leafy forests and fresh meals are prepared with produce plucked straight from the on-site garden.
Find More Green Space
On the other side of the country, Akagera National Park is a symbol of successful conservation efforts. The wildlife population was reduced by half after the Rwandan Civil War, but since then, the government has implemented strict laws to preserve this savannah landscape laced with swamps, forests and jagged mountains. And what an achievement it has been. A colorful troupe of characters makes the wildlife viewing top notch. Strolling elephants, herds of buffalo, massive hippos, curious monkeys and baboons are all part of nature’s parade.
Still, Rwanda’s shining stars will always be the primates. Travel to Rwanda to identify one of the 14 species — and some 25 percent of Africa’s primate species — found in the mist-laden Nyungwe Forest National Park. Colorful birds fly through the lofty foliage and butterflies flutter, their iridescent wings shimmering in the sunlight. The dense and lush area is one of those rare places that feels incredibly remote and untouched by humans.
Nyungwe House, a partner of One&Only, is the perfect outpost for this African adventure. Nestled between a working tea plantation and rainforest, the 22-room and suites property boasts delicious cuisine and awe-inspiring views from private decks. Immaculate interiors are inspired by Rwandan crafts.
In the middle of the country, Lake Kivu shines. Row to the middle and feel embraced by the green, terraced tea plantations rising over its shores. Fisherman sing as the sun sets on the glistening waters. From this vantage, Rwanda is magical.
See History in the Making
Kigali is considered a safe and clean capital city, far removed from the tragedy of the 1990s. Today its winding boulevards, flowering trees, and bustling eateries are a beacon of hope for an evolving nation. A visit to the Genocide Memorial Center pays homage to the nearly one million who lost their lives. It’s a past that is laid bare, so as not to be repeated, and it’s a solemn, chilling reminder of how far the country has come.
Sip on a cup of local Rwandan coffee grown in the fertile plantations, where the locals demonstrate how the bold and strong flavor is softened by milk and sugar. Rwanda’s people want to share their progress and natural treasures with the rest of the world. Get a further sense of this burgeoning generation of openness during a school visit, arranged by Ker & Downey. The enthusiasm of the children echoes the hopeful feeling of modern Africa.
Pro Tip! Bring a canvas shoe bag to store dirty hiking shoes. – Cherie Tann, Luxury Travel Expert
Travel to Rwanda with Ker & Downey. To start planning your journey, contact your luxury travel expert.