By Farah El Akkad
In recent years Rwanda’s tourism sector has grown by leaps and bounds. Known as the “land of a thousand hills,” the eastern African nation boasts more than half of the world’s bird species, mountain gorillas and volcanoes. Rwanda is also known for its rich dance and music culture, particularly drums, as well as for imigongo, a unique artform made from cow dung. Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is approximately 4 hours away from Cairo by plane.
What to Do and See
The Congo Nile Trail
Book an exciting hiking/cycling excursion and see what the great river has to offer. If you can spare a 10-day trip you’ll get to visit a wide range of fascinating attractions along the shores of Lake Kivu, which stretches 227 km from Rubavu to Rusizi via the Karongi and Nyamasheke districts. The official Rwandan tourist website (www.rwandatourism.com) promises hikers “the best coffee and tea experiences, with sceneries beautiful beyond imagination” and goes on to add that the hiking trail “includes eight amazing base camps, two extraordinary paths and four bonus diverse subtrails, which are all added value that make up this breathtaking once in a lifetime hiking adventure.”
Volcanoes National Park
As of November 2010, there are eight habituated groups that tourists can visit, allowing for a total of 64 permits per day. Tourists spend an hour with the gorillas. Other activities include visits with golden monkeys, climbing Karisimbi volcano (a two-day trek with overnight camping at an altitude of 3,800 m), climbing Bisoke volcano, touring Park lakes and caves and visiting the tomb of Dian Fossey, an American zoologist who undertook an extensive study of gorilla groups over a period of 18 years in Rwanda. Tours range from $75 to $100.
One of the Great African Lakes, located between the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and a great place to relax. Check in at the Serena Hotel on Lake Kivu’s white sandy shores for a luxurious place to stay.
Akagera National Park
This park was created to protect wildlife ranging across three habitats: savannah, mountain and swamp. Visitors get to see hippos, elephants, giraffes and buffaloes. Akagera is also home to over 300 bird species.
This is the largest protected mountain rainforest in the world, with more than 12 different species of chimpanzees. The rainforest is four hours from Kigali by car or bus.
Where to sleep and eat
Meat lovers cannot pass up the national specialty: brochettes or goat kebabs. Most restaurants offer a wide variety of grills and open buffets. Prices range from $10 to $30. Kigali has a much better range of restaurants than the rest of the country. Indian, Chinese, Italian, Greek and French options on offer.
Hotel prices start from $20. Hotel des Milles Collines comes highly recommended.