Rwanda is famously known for gorilla trekking safaris and was highly brought to popularity by the world’s leading conservationists like Dian Fossey in the 1960s and 1970s. The range of documentaries featured mountain gorillas of Rwanda prompting famous people like Bill Gates, Natalie Portman and Ted Turner to undertake gorilla safari in Rwanda and to participate in the re-known gorilla naming ceremony that occurs every year. Tourism in Rwanda is seen as a perfect alternative that can be used to promote conservation of various fauna and flora species some of which are endangered while at the same time generating great sums of revenue to the government and the local people.
Regardless of the violent past including the 1994 genocide and the tainted destination image that has characterized Rwanda for several years past, Rwanda has worked tooth and nail to alter this image and apparently is considered as one of the safest destinations that a traveller can ever encounter in the region of Africa. Rwanda has greatly adopted high end tourism when it comes to gorilla safaris. Besides gorillas, Rwanda has other two National Parks including the wildlife safari destination of Akagera in the east of Rwanda and the famous Nyungwe Forest National Park in the south west of Rwanda. The Rwanda’s heritage such as the Nyanza palace, national museums and monuments and the dark history that surround the genocide mystery all combine to derive a great potential for Rwanda’s tourism.
Rwanda, positioned averagely on the Central African Plateau crossed borders to join the East African Federation together with Burundi particularly to gain an easy access to the coast and a wider market of the East African Countries. Traditionally, Rwanda was a monarchical community with Umwami as the cultural head. This meant that there was a ruling class in Rwanda as it was in many other African countries. The three tribes inhabited Rwanda but fortunately were all united under one language – the Rwandese. These included the Batutsi, Bahutu and the Batwa. The Bahutu were the majority (84%) and they practiced cultivation while the Batutsi were the second majority (14%) and they practiced cattle rearing and lastly the Batwa were the minority group (1%) and they were forest dwellers hunter – gather people who neither practiced cultivation nor pastoralism. The Batutsi were the rulers of Rwanda till in 1959 when the Rwandan Revolution broke out. Upon the arrival of colonial government who were Germans that later handed over to Belgians after their defeat in world war I, their administration approach of divide and rule taken root in Rwanda. They capitalized on the writings of the time that had praised the Hamitic ethics (of which the Batutsi belong to) to have introduced civilization in the negro Africa thus they treated the Tutsi differently and used them to exercise their dominance to other Rwandese which sowed seeds of bitterness, anger, hatred and total disunity in Rwanda. However, the colonial government went ahead to avail education to some children of the Bahutu who were to criticize such kind of mistreatment after the Independence of Rwanda. These included; Juvenal Habyarimana and Gregory Kaibanda.
The sort of injustice that was in Rwanda by then could not be withstood furthermore which prompted the massive Hutus to revolt in 1959 which resulted into the overthrow of the Batutsi ruling Monarchy and led to the establishment of the Republican system of governance in Rwanda. However, it can be argued that the seeds of revenge were mob in the hearts of the Bahutu which forced the big numbers of Batutsi to exile particularly in the neighboring states of Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The situation in Rwanda seemed to have been running smoothly economically though in the hands of the Hutus, the political space was limited while the social setting was quite far from cohesiveness. The exiles found the life abroad hard as they were always mistreated by the communities that they had settled in, which aroused their nostalgia prompting them to hatch the plans of going back to their country – something that resulted in to the 1990 Rwandan Patriotic Movement which had roots in Uganda. Most of the proprietors of the this movement were ex – fighters of the NRA bush war in Uganda that brought Gen. Yoweri Museveni to power and these included Maj. Gen Fred Rwigyema, Maj. Bunyenyezi among others.
The move to go back to Rwanda was far from peaceful and thus they opted for war which led to 1990 – 1994 war in Rwanda. The move of the Batutsi coming back to Rwanda was not welcomed by the Bahutu who had taken up everything in Rwanda ranging from government positions to farmlands thus welcoming the Tutsi would definitely threaten their progress which amounted into resistance. This was still gaining momentum in their hearts when the then President of Rwanda Juvenal Habyarimana – a Hutu lost his life together with the president of Burundi in a plane clash at Kanombe Airport in Rwanda something that was alleged on the then rebels of Rwanda Patriotic Front. This resulted into a bloody genocide that left over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead – another catastrophe that the world has ever experienced in the modern times. This eventually led to the rise of the Batutsi after the success of the war that they had mounted on the then ruling government. From then, the government, citizens, civil society and the International Community in general have championed the seeds of reconciliation and unity which has produced positive results. The Rwandese now are one people speaking similar language with equal treatment and justice which has definitely led to the renaissance of socio-economic and political transformation in Rwanda –one of the smallest countries in Africa. The economy is booming, the social cohesion is lively and the democracy is well functioning.
The Rwanda’s culture has been revived and apparently it is one of those most selling cultures in the region. Their famous dance – Intore is unique and attractive which their art is awesome particularly the way they craft their huts. Their traditional cows Inyambo – Long horned cattle that dates back to the ancient Chwezi people that ruled the great lakes region and their entire heritage is something that combine to make Rwanda a stand out and worthy of any safari.
Rwanda has got considerable flights that operate internationally and domestically enabling the travellers on safaris in Rwanda to transfer accordingly. With its national carrier Rwanda Air that has positioned its self in the region operating a hub and spoke approach, Rwanda can easily be accessed by Air transfer. Air Rwanda serves 16 destinations some of which are domestic such as Cyangungu and Kigali in Rwanda, Accra in Ghana, Bujumbura in Burundi, Douala in Cameroon, Brazzaville in Republic of the Congo, Juba in South Sudan, Libreville in Gabon, Lagos in Nigeria, Mombasa and Nairobi in Kenya, Johannesburg in South Africa, Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Entebbe in Uganda and Dubai in United Arab Emirates.
Apart from Rwanda Air, Rwanda has other three Airlines that have got a base at Kigali International Airport including Akagera Aviation which a re-known helicopter company, the Tempus Jet a charter flight company hailing from the United States and the Nexus Aero a re-known Saudi VIP carrier.
A range of other International carriers operate flights to Kigali International Airport including; Brussels Airlines, Coastal Aviation, Ethiopian Airlines, Fly Dubai, Kenya Airways, KLM and Qatar Airways Turkish Airlines. All these flights facilitate the movements of Rwanda safari undertakers.
Rwanda is a republic country found in the east and Central Africa with a population of 11.2million as per the United Nations of 2012. The capital city is called Kigali and the dominant language is Kinyarwanda followed by French, English and Swahili. The country covers a geographical surface of 26,338km2 / 10,169 square miles. The dominant religion is Christianity followed by indigenous beliefs.
The life expectancy in Rwanda is at 54 years for Men and 57 years for Women according to United Nations while the main export earners of Rwanda are tourism, coffee, tea, hides, tin and ore. The internet domain for Rwanda is rw. while the International dialing code is +250.
Rwanda lies along the geographical coordinates of 2 00 S, 30 00 E and her lowest point is River Rusizi at 950m while the highest point is Mount Karisimbi at 4,519m above sea level. The country has temperate climate marked with two rainy seasons i.e. February to April and from November to January. The country is also mild in the mountains with frost. Rwanda which is normally encountered on Rwanda safaris is dotted by grassy uplands and hills with mountainous relief whose altitude is inclined towards east from west. This mountainous terrain has earned Rwanda the dub as the land of a thousand hills.
Rwanda does not have a lot of emergency municipal medical response services. However, ambulances are present through SAMU and you need to call 912 from any mobile phone or via King Faisal Hospital on 078 830 9003.
In the out of Kigali, the ambulances are very scarce and the facilities for medical and dental are limited while some of the medicine is unavailable or in short supply.
Therefore it is advisable that travellers on Rwanda safari carry their own medicinal supply that is properly labeled to avoid inconveniences.
The King Faisal Hospital in Kigali is a private facility offering a 24 hour medical assistance with nurses and physicians on duty in the emergency room.
Some charitable hospitals operated by U.S organizations offering surgical facilities are available in south west of Rwanda in Kibagora and in the North West in Ruhengeri area close to the gorilla trekking destination of Volcanoes National Park. In Rwinkavu close to the wildlife safari destination of Akagera National park in the east of Rwanda.
Planning a safari to Rwanda would lure one to myriad of thoughts about what might be needed for him/her to undertake the safari. This is most common when it comes on what to pack for the safari to Rwanda. What is necessary for a safari in Rwanda depends on the destination choice and the travel duration. However, what should be noted is that most of the African regions including Rwanda are averagely warm all year round with extreme cold and hot seasons which depend on the timing of your safari.
Must haves for Rwanda Safari:
- Valid passport
- Valid visa – if required
- Yellow fever certificate of immunization (for Rwanda)
- Copies of passport and other essential travel documents
- Travel insurance
Rwanda is averagely warm thus shorts and t-shirts can be best for day unlike for activities like gorilla trekking that involves passing through the jungle. The nights tend to be cold so long-sleeved shirts; long trousers and pull overs can be of use. It very good to maintain the clothing in eco-blending colors like Khaki, beige, olive and brown because bright shining colors affects wildlife behavior. For the footwear, it is important to carry light, comfortable and firm foot wear that will not be a burden to you during long treks like gorilla trekking experience.
Other Safari Essentials
- Sun screen lotion.
- Insect Repellant
- Protective eye-ware (Sun glasses) as the sun can be harsh on the eyes
- Personal first-aid kit (antihistamine cream, headache pills, among others.
- Photographic accessories –film, batteries and chargers and memory cards
Lightweight writing and reading material
Rwanda Safari TipsSamuel Makanga