Rwanda is one of the most riveting destinations that should never be missed by any nature-loving tourist on an African adventure. Due to its small size, one wouldn’t expect much from such a country but the moment you arrive before even your tour in Rwanda, you will be impressed beyond words and have everlasting memories of your trip. From the exceptional mountain gorillas, genocide sites, big five animals to bird species, Rwanda is just magical.
Akagera National Park
Many times, tourists think that the only thing to do in this country is gorilla trekking but there is more to Rwanda than just mountain gorillas within the Volcanoes National Park.
Akagera National Park, Rwanda’s only savannah Park can definitely not miss on this list due to its abundant wildlife and bird species as well as spectacular beauty.
Akagera was established in 1934 and is currently home to the continent’s largest Protected Wetland and undeniably the last remaining habitat to several savannah adapted species in the country.
Its vast 1122 square kilometers of land offer shelter to roaming famous wildlife species such as big five animals (elephants, buffaloes, lions, rhinos and leopards), antelope species and giraffes among others while the different ecosystems are habitat for the country’s highest bird species in addition to jaw-dropping activities including birding, boat cruises, game viewing, nature walks, fishing and many others that await tourists.
A two-hour drive east from Rwanda’s capital of Kigali towards the Tanzanian border, lovers of big game and small birds can find safari heaven in the 433 square-mile reserve. It is one of Africa’s oldest reserves and the largest protected wetland in Central Africa, featuring a dozen papyrus-lined, swampy lakes.
The park shelters a large hippo herd, more than 520 bird species, a healthy lion population and critically-endangered Eastern Black rhinos.
Akagera’s only private area opened in 2019; it’s now home to Magashi camp wilderness safaris, a luxury tent lodge. The camp overlooks Lake Rwanyakazinga, making it an ideal place for birders. The night safaris have a track record of leopard sightings.
Volcanoes National Park
Not making Volcanoes National Park the first destination in Rwanda is a disservice to its honor and beauty. The road trip of 2-3 hours through the rolling hills and tarmacked road leads you to the 160 square kilometer Park, the former home of Dian Fossey (the American primatologist that spent over 18 years conserving the giant apes that were at the time facing extinction).
Because the Park is home to the endangered mountain gorillas, it is the best place and number one reason why thousands of tourists visit the country. In addition to the mountain gorilla trekking which is obviously the star activity of the show in the Park, Volcanoes National Park boasts of a number of breathtaking attractions that include the endangered golden monkeys, several bird species, the famous Dian Fossey graveside, and many others.
The park is characterized by thick forest and mountainous terrain that can make gorilla tracking strenuous but Rwanda tours adventurous. Since Dian Fossey pitched camp in the Volcanoes national park, the country became a leader in global mountain gorilla conservation and research efforts – Visitors can arrange to see Dian Fossey’s former research station and grave.
Whereas mountain gorilla trekking is the main activity in the volcanoes national park, visitors can also spot forest elephants, forest hogs, golden monkeys, buffalo, birds, and several species of butterfly during their Rwanda Wildlife tour.
The park has several volcanoes and mountains that are suitable for hiking like Bisoke, Sabyinyo and Karisimbi. Combining a gorilla safari in Rwanda with hiking one of the mountains is tiring but worth pursuing for the adventurous type.