Rwanda is a remarkable tourism and conference destination that is landlocked and situated in Central Africa. It is bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south and the democratic republic of Congo to the west. It is fast gaining popularity among international conference and event organizers.
Rwanda’s Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) tourism sector has been identified as providing a clear and long-term opportunity to diversify and grow.
As a key pillar in Rwanda’s Vision 2020, the tourism industry is one of the country’s largest employers and foreign exchange earners, a ripe market whose benefits are quickly extending to other business avenues. Also known as ’the land of a thousand hills’, Rwanda has five volcanoes, twenty-three lakes and numerous rivers, some forming the source of the River Nile. The major Rwandan lakes include Lake Kivu, Lake Ruhondo, Lake Mugesera, Lake Burera, Lake Muhazi and Lake Ihema. Lake Kivu is the biggest of the numerous freshwater bodies that are there in Rwanda.
It is an outstanding beautiful inland body of water which is enclosed by vertical, green terraced hills along the border of Congo. There are three resort towns namely, Gisenyi, Cyangugu and Kibuye which are located close to Lake Kivu. The lakes in Rwanda offer ample scope for water gliding, swimming, canoeing and water-skiing.
Besides the mountain gorillas in Virunga national park (VPN), Rwanda has other excellent tourism assets, creating a wider range of products. Rwanda has two other national parks, the Akagera national park and the Nyungwe forest national park. The Akagera National Park offers a range of wildlife, such as elephants, hippos, giraffes, zebra, etc. The Nyungwe Forest National Park has a large tract of mountain forest and is rich in biodiversity. Guided walks and chimpanzee tracking is offered.
RWANDA AT A GLANCE
Located a few degrees south of the Equator.
Population: 12 million
Capital City: Kigali
Airport: Kigali International Airport (KGL)
Time Zone: CAT
Dialing Code: +250
Currency: Rwandan Franc (RWF), USD 1 = Rwf 870
Language: Kinyarwanda, French, English
Religion: Predominantly Roman Catholic, others are also accepted
Altitude: 1600-2995m above sea level
Kigali is a great place to begin or end any Rwanda journey as it’s conveniently located in the geographic center of the country. The city is clean and safe, with extremely welcoming people. Travelers will enjoy exploring the great cultural activities – including several award-winning museums, burgeoning music scene, and some of East Africa’s most memorable dining experiences.
Kigali is conference ready, with a number of international events under its belt, notably high-level forums such as the Transform Africa Summit in October 2015, the Africa Development Bank General Assembly in May 2014. It is equipped with numerous hotels, convention centres, 4G internet connection and seamless transport options.
Kigali International Airport (KIA)’s recently upgraded facility is a swift 10 minute drive from the city centre, allowing for easy transport for all passengers.
Kigali houses several memorials, museums, and centers dedicated to the Rwandan Genocide, including the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. Other museums include the Presidential museum and the campaign against genocide museum at the parliament.
Urugwiro is the official residence of the President of Rwanda. It constitutes an entire village within the Kacyiru district of Kigali.
The city has international class hotels, some played a role in history;
The Mille Collines in the Kiyovu area. This hotel became a refugee centre during the genocide, as famously depicted in the film Hotel Rwanda. It is also the setting for the famous novel Un dimanche à la piscine à Kigali, by Quebecer Gil Courtemanche, and its movie adaptation Un dimanche à Kigali.
The Kigali Serena Hotel, formerly known as the InterContinental Kigali. Formerly a Belgian-owned hotel known as Hotel Diplomates, the hotel was briefly portrayed in the second half of Hotel Rwanda. It was later bought by the InterContinental Hotels group and remodeled in 2003.
We also have the Retreat by Heaven, the Radisson Blu and the Marriott Hotel.
MAJOR NATIONAL PARKS IN RWANDA
Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanoes National Park is a forested area in the Virunga Mountains that border Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is Rwanda’s premier tourist attraction, with the mist-covered volcanoes of the Virunga being one of only two locations in the world where you can track a habituated family group of mountain gorillas. While a visit to the mountain gorillas is often at the top on visitors’ list, the dramatic landscape also offers thrilling hiking and visits to the fascinating golden monkeys.
Visitors can also pay homage to the legendary scientist and gorilla advocate Dian Fossey with a hike to her tomb or a visit to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund that continues her legacy of research and advocacy for gorillas to this day.
Near the park, the bustling and vibrant markets of Musanze are a place to immerse yourself into everyday Rwandan culture. Go deep into the earth with Musanze’s caves – one of the area’s newest attractions.
Nyungwe National Park
Covering over 1000 square kilometers, Nyungwe is surely one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine mountain rainforests. It’s believed to be one of Africa’s oldest forests, staying green even through the Ice Age, which explains its diversity.
Home to habituated chimpanzees and 12 other primates species (including a 400-strong troop of habituated Ruwenzori Black & White Colobus), it’s also a birder’s paradise with over 300 species, including 16 endemics, and is home to 75 different species of mammal.
This majestic rainforest is filled with nature and wildlife experiences for you to emerge yourself in. Hiking or even biking the beautiful terrain, tracking the famous chimpanzees, experiencing the canopy walk, witnessing beautiful birds, relaxing by waterfalls are just a glimpse of activities that Nyungwe offers.
Sounds and views collaborate to create a one-of-a-kind wildlife experience. Exploring through the forest, travellers will witness the lush green mountains and cooling mist in a landscape that won’t be soon forgotten.
Cultural activities are also available around the forest.
Activities; Canopy walk, chimpanzee trek, waterfall hikes, community based tourism, trail walks, birding and primate walks
Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is located in the north east of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. It is named after the Akagera River that flows along its eastern boundary and feeds into a labyrinth of lakes of which the largest is Lake Ihema.
The forest fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, savannah plains and rolling highlands combine to make Akagera amongst the most scenic of reserves anywhere in Africa.
Founded in 1934, it is the country’s largest National Park. The park is home to leopard, serval, hyena, jackal and giraffe, large herds of buffalo, impala, zebra and several antelope species. Elephants often congregate around the lakes that are inhabited by more than 800 hippos as well as crocodiles.
Akagera combines well with Nyungwe and the Volcanoes NP to offer a great safari element as it is home to many large plains game species as well as species restricted to the papyrus swamps such as the Sitatunga and the sought-after Shoebill Stork. Notable plains game include elephant, buffalo, topi, zebra, waterbuck, roan antelope and eland. Other antelope are duiker, oribi, bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, bushbuck and impala. Of the primates, olive baboons, vervets and the secretive blue monkey are seen during the day, with bushbabies often seen on night drives.
Of the larger predators leopard, hyena, side-striped jackal and lion, which was re-introduced last year are present. Plans are underway for the reintroduction of the black rhino too, and this will restore Akagera’s ‘Big 5’ status.
Due to its wide variety of habitats, Akagera is an important ornithological site with nearly 500 bird species. The rare and elusive shoebill shares the papyrus with other rarities such as the exquisite papyrus gonolek and countless other water birds that inhabit the wetlands in large numbers.