ABOUT RWANDA

RWANDA OVERVIEW

Rwanda is a unitary republic in central and eastern Africa. Uganda is to its north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. While the country is landlocked, it is noted for its lakes. Despite being close to the equator, the climate is temperate due to the altitude. The highest point is Mount Karisimbi. Tourism is important due to wildlife, including the mountain gorilla. Kigali, Gitarama, and Butare are the largest cities. Anyone visiting ‘the land of a thousand hills’ is in for a multitude of surprises:

 

First are the personal safety, peace, security and stability enjoyed by both citizens and visitors of the country.

 

Second there is the beauty of this nation. The landscapes in this green country are truly breathtaking. Many visitors to Rwanda have remarked that the physical beauty of the country is without an equal on the African continent. Rwanda has five volcanoes, twenty-three lakes and numerous rivers, some forming the source of River Nile. Spectacular volcanoes and dense tropical forests dominate the north of the country, while gentle hills and valleys, calm lakes and turbulent rivers in both savannah and dense tropical vegetation dominate the rest of the country.

 

The high altitude forests of the Virunga volcanic mountains, in northern Rwanda are home to the world’s largest number of endangered mountain gorillas. Numbering in the hundreds, the gorillas live in protected areas, free from poachers. The gorillas can be viewed in their natural mountain habitats at a fairly close range.

Best time to visit Rwanda

The best time to visit Rwanda is, for most people, during the short and longer dry seasons, from December to early February, and June to September. But if you want to go gorilla trekking, this is the best time when the primate walks in the forest are a big part of any safari in Rwanda. The habitat of rainforests is, by default, very wet and one can’t avoid rain completely. Walking in the forest is easier in the Dry season and that is also the recommended time for most primate walks, including gorilla trekking.

Weather and climate in Rwanda

Straddling the equator, there is little year-round fluctuation in temperature and no real winter or summer. There is a defined Dry season from June to September, but in Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest that only means that it will rain less as these parks are wet throughout the year.

 

In general, the east of Rwanda, including Akagera National Park, shares the warm climate of Kigali. However, it never gets extremely hot due to the relatively high altitude. The parks in the western mountainous area, including Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest, are a lot colder with daytime temperatures around 16°C–21°C (61°F–70°F), due to the even higher altitude. The temperature drops by about 6.5°C for every 1,000m you climb (or 3.5°F per 1,000ft). The latter two parks are also a lot wetter due to the mountain peaks and rainforest habitat. The new Gishwati Mukura National Park also shares a similar climate to the larger western parks.

 

Dry Seasons June to September there is little rainfall during these months in most of the country but it can rain at any time in the rainforest.

 

June, July & August – In the east of the country, afternoon temperatures are usually around 27°C/81°F. In the mountain parks it is a lot colder. Nyungwe has daytime temperatures of around 21°C/70°F, and Volcanoes is even colder with temperatures around 16°C/61°F.

 

September – Early September is still dry, but sometime this month the rains may begin. Temperatures remain the same. The mountain parks will receive quite a bit of rain in September.

 

Wet Seasons, October to May the Wet season is characterized by two periods of rain, the short rains and the long rains, interrupted by a drier spell.

  • October, November and December – ‘Short rains’ – Nyungwe and Volcanoes tend to be very wet throughout the rainy season. Daytime temperatures in Nyungwe are about 20°C/68°F and in Volcanoes National Park it drops to 16°C/61°F. The rains won’t likely interfere with your safari in Akagera National Park.
  • January & February There tends to be a drier spell between the short and long rains. The exact timing is unpredictable. In Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Park it will still be very wet and it can rain anytime.
  • March, April and May – ‘Long rains’: these are the wettest months. It tends to rain most days, although seldom for the whole day in the drier east part of the country. In Nyungwe and Volcanoes, it can rain for days.

BEST RWANDA SAFARI DESTINATIONS

Read more about popular Rwanda safari destinations below. Our customized tours and packages holidays can include multiple destinations to ensure you get the most out of your Rwanda safari holiday and other East Africa destinations.

KIGALI GENOCIDE MEMORIAL

It’s hard to imagine that just a couple of decades ago, Rwanda were in the midst of a horrific genocide that would leave more than 800,000 people dead in just 100 days. The country has come a long way from the devastating massacre, but the impact of this relatively recent history has left its mark on the lives of everyday people and generations to come.

 

Tourists can learn about this horrific event at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The haunting museum dives into the timeline that led to the 1994 genocide, bringing the horrors to life through halls of photographs, artifacts, and information. The main exhibit hall wraps around poignant sculptures and features stained-glass windows that cast a hopeful glow on the space.

 

The museum continues with another permanent exhibit on the history of genocide around the world and intervention efforts from international communities, helping to put the Rwandan genocide into context.

 

The museum also includes an emotionally charged Children’s Room dedicated to the youngest victims of the genocide. It keeps their memory alive through oversize portraits of the children, some of whom were just infants when they were killed, and personal details about the victims, like their nicknames and favorite books.

 

While heartbreaking, visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial is an important part of being a responsible tourist in Rwanda. Give yourself time to contemplate the experience and have a moment of silence for the 250,000 victims interred at this site at the memorial’s Gardens of Reflection.

KIGALI CITY

Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda, roughly in the center of the country. It sprawls across numerous hills, ridges and valleys, and has a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene. The Kigali Genocide Memorial documents the 1994 mass killings in Rwanda, associated with the country’s civil war. The city’s Caplaki Crafts Village has stalls selling traditional handicrafts, including woodcarvings and woven baskets.

 

Many travelers spend only a night in Kigali before gorilla trekking, missing out on the vibrant culture, cuisine, and sightseeing in Rwanda’s capital city. Plan to spend at least a few days here at the beginning or end of your trip.

 

Stock up on bespoke clothes from swirling patterned textiles and experience the energetic atmosphere at Kimironko Market, Kigali’s largest marketplace. The warehouse space is like a maze, with surprises around every corner.

 

Then, check out Kigali’s creative scene at Inema Arts Center, a gallery that showcases the works of up to 10 local artists in residence. Make your way to the Rwanda Art Museum at the former Presidential Palace. It displays some of the finest contemporary pieces from Rwanda and nearby regions. You can also see debris from the presidential aircraft that crashed in 1994.

 

When you’re ready to refuel, savor an authentic Rwandan cup of Joe at Question Coffee Cafe. Check out the cafe’s specials menu to see what experimental caffeinated concoctions the baristas have recently come up with. They’re known to infuse some coffee beverages with unexpected local ingredients, like tree tomato.

 

Finally, wind down with a succulent meal at one of Kigali’s great restaurants. Le Panorama Restaurant at Hotel des Mille Collines offers dazzling views of the city, along with a diverse menu of local and international favorites.

 

For an even more romantic setting, head to Fusion Restaurant’s al fresco dining room at The Retreat hotel. It overlooks a twinkling pool and serves up homemade pastas, flavorful starters, and fresh seafood.

Best time to visit Kigali

In the capital, Kigali, the average daily temperature is about 21°C. Rwanda’s long rainy season lasts from about March to May, when the rain is heavy and persistent. Then from June to mid-September is the long dry season; this is generally the best time to visit if you have the choice.

Weather and climate in Kigali

Although Kigali is located in the heart of Rwanda, it has a temperate climate with a good amount of rainfall, thanks to its high elevation. … Year-round temperatures in Kigali range from daytime highs between 25C and 27C (77F to 81F), and evening lows of 14C to 16C (57F to 61F).

VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

Volcanoes national park is a stop center for all Rwanda gorilla safari sheltering the highest number of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Conservation area. The strategic location of the Volcanoes National Park roughly 2 hours drive from Kigali international airport make it the most accessible gorilla National Park in the world. Besides gorillas, Volcanoes National park is a home for golden monkeys, a variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects among other creatures which together make a complete Rwanda wildlife safari packages.

 

Spanning on a 160 sq km area in the northern part of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is part of the great Virunga volcano conservation region spanning to cover Virunga National Park Congo and Mgahinga National Park Uganda. It was initially a small area around Karisimbi, Mikeno and Visoke volcanoes which was gazetted to protect the Mountain gorillas which were facing the threat of extinction as a result of poaching.

Best time visit Volcanoes

Volcanoes are open for gorilla trekking and hiking throughout the year. Sightings of gorillas are almost guaranteed and don’t depend on the weather. However, the trails become very slippery in heavy rain and hiking is definitely easier in the Dry season months, from June to August, and to a lesser extent in early September, December and January.

Weather and climate in Volcanoes

Volcanoes receive a steady stream of rain and mist. Combined with the high altitude, this means that the climate is wet and cold. Temperatures don’t change much throughout the year. Temperatures are around 16°C/61°F during the day. At night, it cools off to about 6°C/43°F. The park’s wide range of altitudes also means a range of climatic conditions. The temperature drops by about 6.5°C for every 1,000m climbed (or 3.5°F per 1,000ft).

AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK

Akagera National Park found in eastern Rwanda is a 2500 sq km of mainly Savannah land. The park is named after Kagera River that flows along Rwanda’s eastern boundary. The river feeds into Lake Ihema and other smaller lakes in and around the park. The park protects an African Savannah landscape of acacia and bush, with patches of open grassland and a dozen swampy lakes. It has exceptional levels of biodiversity and forms a large protected wetland.

 

Akagera National Park is the only Savannah game park in Rwanda and the only place to sight most of the large mammals while on safari. Whereas there are forest elephants in the other parks, it is very difficult to sight them. Explore the park in the comfort of your safari vehicle while on a game drive. No trip to Africa is complete without a game drive. Tourists can scratch the itch to go on safari just two-and-a-half hours away from Kigali at Akagera National Park.

Best time to visit Akagera

Akagera can be visited throughout the year. The Dry season (June to September) is the prime time for watching wildlife in the park. Animals are easier to spot because the bush thins out and wildlife concentrates around the lakes.

Weather and climate in Akagera

The climate in Akagera is usually moderate to warm. Average temperatures are quite uniform throughout the year. It is advised to take warm clothing for early morning or night game drives. Akagera’s Dry season is from June to September. There are two Wet seasons. The ‘short rains’ are from October to December and the ‘long rains’ are from March to May.

NYUNGWE FOREST NATIONAL PARK

In the southwest corner of Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park is a vast untouched tropical rainforest with a high, dense canopy. Nyungwe became a National Park in 2004 as Rwanda sought to increase its tourism beyond the country’s mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park, and is certainly worthy of its status because of its spectacular biodiversity.

 

Spreading over 1,020km², Nyungwe Forest National Park includes the largest swathe of remaining Montana forest in East or Central Africa. It harbors about 310 different bird species, hundreds of butterflies and orchids, and over 75 different species of mammals – including 13 primates (about a quarter of all Africa’s primates).

Best time to visit Nyungwe Forest

Nyungwe Forest is open for chimpanzee trekking and hiking throughout the year. The wet months, from October to May, are the best time for chimp trekking and forest birding, but general hiking and spotting other primates might be easier in the drier months, from June to September.

Weather and climate in Nyungwe Forest

Nyungwe typically receives more than 2,000mm of precipitation per year. This, combined with the high altitudes, means that the climate is very wet and cool. Due to the forest’s close proximity to the equator, temperatures stay constant year-round. During the day, temperatures are around 20°C/68°F and it cools off at night to about 10°C/50°F. Throughout the year Nyungwe Forest receives rain, though there is a drier period from June to September. Bring waterproof clothing and shoes for hiking and warm clothing for the cold, damp evenings, regardless of when you visit.

LAKE KIVU

Lake Kivu is one of the great lakes of East Africa situated between Congo (Kinshasa) to the west and Rwanda to the east. Lying at 4,790 feet (1,460 meters) above sea level, it occupies 1,040 square miles (2,700 square km) and is 55 miles (90 km) long (north-south) and 30 miles wide (east-west). From an average depth of 722 feet (220 meters), it plunges to a maximum of 1,558 feet (475 meters

 

It is a series of lakes in the eastern part of Africa’s Rift Valley, and is home to the world’s 10th-largest inland island. It is a beautiful place where the color of sea and sky are often so close that it is impossible to discern a horizon. And at any moment, it could explode.

 

The real joy of this area is driving between the towns, and it’s a lovely option for a slower route between Nyungwe Forest National Park and Volcanoes National Park the road gently curves back and forth as it weaves through hills and mountains beside the lake from Gisenyi all the way to Cyangugu, with Kibuye almost at its centre point.

 

Lake Kivu’s three main towns are roughly 3-4 hours apart from each other. Get even closer to the landscape with African Diurnal. We can help to arrange a stunning sunset kayak trip with singing fisherman on Lake Kivu, as well as multi-day paddling adventures that will leave you in awe.

Best time to visit Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu is a year round destination, however the best time to visit is during the long dry season from June to September and the short dry season from mid-December to mid-February. During these months the weather is perfect for sunbathing on the sandy beaches, swimming in the lake, or enjoying water-based activities including kayaking and boat excursions. The dry months also offer ideal conditions for hiking and mountain biking in the lush hills.

 

The long rains occur from March to May, with April being particularly wet, and the short rains occur from October until the beginning of December. If you visit Lake Kivu during the wet seasons you can expect short heavy showers interspersed with sunshine, rather than continuous rain throughout the day. The rains bring a burst of new vegetation to the region and the landscape surrounding Lake Kivu becomes lush and beautiful.

Weather and climate in Lake Kivu

The record temperature in Lake Kivu raises about 85°F and it rains about 10.2in each month. It is for example 76°F as maximum temperature in august. Between September and October the climate is very bad. In average, on the morning it is 61°F.

MOUNT BISOKE

Situated in one of the country’s more scenic areas, Mount Bisoke, is a dormant volcano in the Virunga Mountains of the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. It straddles the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but the summit is located in Rwanda. It is located approximately 35 km northeast of the town of Goma and adjacent Lake Kivu, is a must-see for anyone looking to explore the beauty of Rwanda’s provincial areas. A return trek up to Bisoke will take you about six or seven hours, and the pilgrimage is well worth it, even if it is a little steep at times. The ascent involves traversing up the southwestern flank of the volcano to the summit where splendid vistas of the Crater Lake can be enjoyed, and during the descent visitors can follow a track where wonderful views of the Virunga National Park can be seen.

Best time to visit Mount Bisoke

The best time to visit mount Bisoke is during the dry season trough Volcanoes National Park can be visited all year round, some month are better than the rest of the months.

Weather and climate in Bisoke Mountain

A steady stream of rain and mist combined with the high altitude, this means that the climate is wet and cold. Temperatures don’t change much throughout the year. Temperatures are around 16°C/61°F during the day. At night, it cools off to about 6°C/43°F. The park’s wide range of altitudes also means a range of climatic conditions. The temperature drops by about 6.5°C for every 1,000m climbed (or 3.5°F per 1,000ft).

GISHWATI MUKURA NATIONAL PARK

Rwanda’s fourth national park, Gishwati Mukura is made up of two separate forests the larger Gishwati and small Mukura, forming a total of 34 square kilometers plus a buffer zone. The forests sit on the ridge which divides the Congo and Nile water catchment areas, along the incredibly biodiversity Albertine Rift in the west of the country. It is made up of 60 species of tree, including indigenous hardwoods and bamboo.

 

Gishwati is home to a group of 20 chimpanzees which live alongside golden monkeys, L’Hoest’s and Blue Monkeys. Birds are well represented too, 232 species have been seen at Gishwati and 163 at Mukura, among them Albertine Rift Endemic species and forest specialists. The park is currently part of an ambitious landscape restoration program. Activities in the park are due to begin in 2019 and include a guided nature hike, guided chimp and monkey tracking, bird watching and a visit to the waterfalls.

Best time to visit Gishwati Mukura

Gishwati-Mukura can be visited throughout the year, but the wet months from October to May are the best for chimp trekking and forest birding. General hiking might be easier in the drier months from June to September.

Weather and climate in Gishwati Mukura

Straddling the equator, there is little year-round fluctuation in temperature and no real winter or summer. There is a defined Dry season from June to September.

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