The swamp marshes and savannah plains of eastern Rwanda give way to the rising hills and mountains in the west. Bamboo forests climb the slopes of subsided volcanoes, creating a sanctuary for the rare mountain gorilla. Trek through one of Africa’s last rainforests in search of these silverback giants for an experience that will transcend any other safari.
Volcanoes National Park is a haven for around 400 mountain gorillas and encompasses five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains – all shrouded in rainforest and bamboo. These conical mountains contribute to Rwanda’s moniker, the Land of a Thousand Hills. Apart from the gorillas, the park also houses the rare golden monkey, black-fronted duiker, spotted hyena, and a few elephants.
Nyungwe Forest National Park spans over 100,000ha of grassland, swamp, bogs, and bamboo. One of the oldest forests in Africa, the area is rich in biodiversity and home to 310 bird species, as well as the gorilla’s smaller cousin, the chimpanzee. Trek after these chimps as they swing through the tree canopy, weaving in and out of sight, and call to their companions. South of the park rests Lake Kivu – one of the Great Lakes in the Albertine Rift Valley – with its indented coast and deep-water bays.
- The Virunga Mountains’ bamboo-shrouded slopes are a sanctuary for the rare mountain gorilla
- Volcanoes National Park is a popular base for gorilla trekking and houses around 400 of these mountain giants,as well as the rare golden monkey, black-fronted duiker, spotted hyena, and a few elephant
- Nyungwe Forest National Park holds Africa’s last rainforest and hosts the gorilla’s smaller cousin, the chimpanzee
- Lake Kivu is one of the Great Lakes in the Albertine Rift Valley
- Situated on the lake’s shore is the city of Gisenyi
Facts and Information
Rwanda, is of course, most well-known in the international community for the genocide events of 1994. But to understand the events of that horrific time one must first be aware that the conflict goes back much further. Tribal conflict, colonial influence and conflict in neighbouring countries all had a part to play in leading up to that terrible time. These days significant efforts are being made to come to terms with these many issues and for the country as a whole to move forward. The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass killing of hundreds of thousands of Rwanda's minority Tutsis and the moderates of its Hutu majority. Over the course of approximately 100 days, from April 6 through to mid-July, at least 500,000 people were killed although most estimates put the death toll between 800,000 and 1,000,000.
The initial catalyst for the violence (which had been brewing for some time) occurred on April 6, 1994, when the airplane carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Hutu president of Burundi, was shot down as it prepared to land in Kigali. Both presidents died when the plane crashed. Responsibility for the attack is disputed, with both the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) and Hutu extremists being blamed. The genocide was primarily perpetrated by two Hutu militias, the Interahamwe, the militant wing of the MRND, and the Impuzamugambi, the militant wing of the CDR. It was an eruption of the ethnic and economic pressures ultimately consequential after Rwanda's colonial era and the fractious culture of Hutu power. The victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels and the overthrow of the Hutu regime finally ended the genocide in July 1994.
The climate of Rwanda is made up of two wet seasons and two dry seasons. The short wet season lasts from October-November, and the main rainy season lasts mid-March to the end of May. During the dry seasons, which last from December to mid-March and from June to the end of August, frequent light cloud cover yields a pleasant, never stifling, temperature.
Most of Rwanda is 3,000 ft above sea level, with much of the central plateau being higher than 4,700 ft. In the northwest, on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are the volcanic Virunga Mountains; the highest peak, Mount Karisimbi is snowcapped. Other neighbouring countries are Tanzania to the east and Burundi and Burundi in the south. Lake Kivu, 4,700 feet above sea level, drains into Lake Tanganyika, through the sharply descending Ruzizi River. Along with the gorillas in Virunga and chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest National Park other places of interest include the Nyanza King's Palace, the National Museum of Butare and the genocide memorial of Murambi. Located near the centre of Africa, a few degrees south of the Equator.
Rwanda is a rural country with about 90% of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture. The primary exports are coffee, tea, flowers and minerals. Tourism is Rwanda's fastest growing sector and most notably ecotourism especially around Lake Kivu and Nyungwe Forest and of course the world famous mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park.
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