The best ways to explore the real face of Rwanda

With a tremendous recovery from the 1994 genocide based on forgiveness and reconciliation of past historical, religious, geographic or ethnic identity, Rwanda has won admiration of the entire world and is perhaps the safest country in the world today. Rwanda was the first country worldwide to ban plastic bags in 2008 and Kigali the capital presents a clean city without a spot of litter.

rwanda culture

23 years down the reconciliation road after the horrific genocide, which killed about three quarters of the minority Tutsi tribe, this small East African nation is set for progress and development. There is the commendable commitment to conservation of her natural resources with mountain gorilla numbers bouncing back; gorilla tours count up the bulk of the country’s tourism revenue, which also counts upto 95% of the country’s total budget.

Early this year the Rwandan Development Board announced increase in the price of gorilla permits from $750 to $1500, which came as the biggest surprise, as the country has been every traveler’s first choice of the other two gorilla destinations in East Africa.  Rwanda took a strong decision to maintain visitor numbers at a sustainable level and increase investment into communities living around the national parks in a quite admirable way.

90% of all visitors to the beautiful country come mainly for mountain gorilla watching and shortly leave for other destinations offering the better wildlife drama of the Serengeti, the Maasai Mara or the Seychelles. The true face of Rwanda is untouched and mostly left out by the majority of tourists but is very rewarding and very much worth going for.

Explore the Congo Nile trail biking

The Congo Nile trail is over 200km of meandering uphills and downhills road network going through varying vegetation types and smaller villages beginning from the northern side of Lake Kivu (Gisenyi) to southern end in Cyangugu. The trail offers access to not only Rwanda’s scenic beauty, but also to the real rural culture that makes up most of Rwanda giving participants a chance to interact with rural people and learn things they would otherwise miss out (people harvesting beans, children chewing sugarcane, children and women carrying huge water jerry cans from the springs); there is no better way to get familiar with the real Rwanda.

rwanda Congo Nile Trail biking

How to plan

  • You can explore the trail by biking or hiking and walking – isn’t very strenuous for an active person
  • Visit the Rwanda Development Board offices in Gisenyi for all information on the Congo Nile Trail. Don’t forget to get a porter, a guide and a map of the trail
  • Exploring the Congo Nile Trail can last up to 10 days if walking, and 4 days if hiking and less if driving.
  • The route is well planned with specific guest houses, camping facilities and places to eat recommended along the trail.

Hiking in Rwanda

With the hike of Rwanda gorilla permit prices in mind, Volcanoes National Park is still one of the most adventurous places to visit in Rwanda with numerous hiking opportunities. As part of the Virunga volcano region, Volcanoes National Park hosts 4 of the 8 volcanoes spread across a distance of about 60 km – the rest are found in Congo (Nyiragongo Volcano & Nyamuragira) and Uganda (Mount Sabyino) – of which and two are active – Mount Nyamuragira and Mount Nyiragongo. Visitors can hike Mount Karisimbi (4,507 m), Mount Bisoke (3,711 m), Mount Muabura (4,127 m) and Mount Gahinga (3,474 m), and Lake Ngezi (3,000 m).

mount Bisoke Hiking tours

Karisimbi Volcano (4,507 m) is a 2 day hike to the snow peak with camping overnight at the top of the volcano.

Visoke Volcano (3,711 m) is a one-day hike with a beautiful large crater lake at the top of the volcano.

Ngezi Lake Trail is situated at the foothill of the Virunga Volcanoes with a shallow crater, lake, beautiful views and birds.

Kalitta Belinda is the Tours Manager at Wild Rwanda Safaris.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Victor says:

    It is rather remarkable the steps Rwanda has taken after its horrific genocide in 1994. I support the boosting of gorilla permit prices – these beings need to be protected from crowds.

  2. Maggie says:

    I want to visit Kigali soonest. I love the stories I hear about Kigali. I would also love to ride my bike all the way from Nairobi Kenya to Kigali. Planning in progress. I depend on this website for more information.

  3. Laura Haley says:

    Until reading this post I knew nothing about Rwanda and would never have considered it as a travel destination-I’ve just changed my mind. Mountain Gorilla tours sound so cool-watching animals in their natural habitat is the very best, and its brilliant that the Rwandan Development Board are making sure to protect them.

    Those hikes sound tough, but a lot of fun-I have added to my bucket list.

  4. Christy says:

    With the past of Rwanda being so negative, I’d never thought of it as a travel destination. I had no idea there was such commitment to conservation and as a big nature traveler, that really makes it appeal to me. I still have some worries about security and safety (are these still valid?), but this has definitely highlighted the fact that Rwanda is a legitimate travel destination. The crater lake at the top of Visoka Volcano looks unbelievable.

  5. Kelly Jones says:

    I wish I could ride a bike well enough to go biking on the Nile it would be such an amazing experience.

    I also can’t believe the increase in the permit and would have avoided something as touristy as going to see gorillas but now I know more about how important the revenue is I think I would be more inclined to want to do it.

    The Trekking views look breath taking in more ways than one!

  6. Olivia says:

    Thanks for sharing these, quite interesting to do’s for someone is considering travelling to Rwanda. If I’d go there, I’d definitely go hiking or biking along the Congo Nile trail. And probably also spent some days and nights discovering the Volcanoes National Park. Would give me some stunning scenery to shoot!

  7. Vicky F says:

    It is amazing to me how a country can come so far in a relatively short period of time. It puts everyone else to shame that Rwanda was the first country in the world to ban plastic bags. Wholly support the raise on the permits, gorillas need to be protected and maintaining a safe environment for them is so important.

  8. Becky says:

    I never realised how little I knew about Rwanda until now! I cannot believe they were the first country to ban plastic bags, being so passionate about environmental issues myself, I think Rwanda would be an amazing place for me to travel. The Congo Nile trail really does seem like a great way to see this paradise properly, I cannot imagine the picturesque views. Thanks so much for this!

  9. Sarah Bailey says:

    It is so good to see Rwanda putting so much into rebuilding itself after such a horrific event, how awesome as well they were the first country to ban the plastic bag.

    I am glad they are taking steps to look after the gorillas as well and it is good they are helping to villages are the areas they live to be able to sustain themselves.

  10. Sarah says:

    Such an amazing country, I hadn’t thought about visiting before. Very impressed with your suggestions of things to do. Gorilla watching and hiking sounds very fun. Looks like a great place to stay fit and active.

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