Musanze Caves

The Musanze caves were formed by the volcanic activity which created a two kilometer long underground caves that formerly provided shelter to the indigenous forest dwelling Batwa pygmies.

The Musanze caves are located in Volcanoes National Park. A visit to the caves can be done after gorilla tracking or golden monkey tracking. It is an excellent add on activity. Visitor experience to the caves is enabled by the walking trails, stairs which lead tourists into the interior of the caves a home to large colony of bats.

The Musanze caves give an understanding of the geology that led to its formation and the history of the Batwa pygmies as well as how it was used to be a hiding place during the 1994 genocide. In addition the wide entrance is covered by green plants good for photographs. The interior of the caves is quite dark with bats and dripping waters.

Packing list when Visiting

Visitors to the caves should dress up in helmets with headlight, rain coats, hiking boots, long pants and long sleeved shirts. Guides lead tourists into the dark interior. Visitors will use lamps to see the former sitting rooms and corridors of the Batwa pygmies. Your guide will explain the how the local people attach value to the caves.

What to Expect
The entrance is large about 10 km wide allowing easy entrance marked by holes that allow arrays if light to shine inside. Bats and small reptiles such as lizards make it their home.
Visitors can book for the cave exploration through the Rwandan Development Board.

There are lodging options near the caves
Sabinyo silverback lodge, la bamboo gorilla lodge, virunga lodge and many more.

Getting There
Getting to Musanze caves takes 90 minute drive from Kigali to kinigi Volcanoes National park headquarters. Tourists who stay in Musanze town need to get transfer transport to kinigi.


Dian Fossey Grave Site

Dian Fossey was an American primatologist who conducted ground breaking research about mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park since the 1960’s up to her death in 1985. Dian established a mountain gorilla research centre in 1967 between Mt. karisimbi at (4507 m) and Mt. Bisoke at 3,700 meters above sea level. She named the research centre Karisoke which is symbolic to the two great volcanic mountains.

In 1966 Dian Fossey ventured into the DR Congo virunga forest to continue studying mountain gorillas which were being poached and killed due to the undergoing civil strife at the time. Such political turmoil forced her to relocate to Rwanda where she finally established a small camp that would be the present scientific research centre Karisoke.
Dian Fossey Hike
With her new location being mountainous, it was difficult to move in the forest due to cold conditions that she had not been exposed too. Such unfavorable conditions forced her fellow researchers to return to their home countries which left her as a stand a lone woman trying to forge relationship with local communities in return to help her get close to wild gorillas which she later habituated naming one of her favorite gorilla Digit.

Dian Fossey uplifted the need to conserve gorillas which were being poached day and night that if nothing was done, mountain gorillas would become extinct. Her book gorillas in the mist compelled international conservation bodies such as the World Wildlife Fund, world conservation society and African Wildlife Foundation. These officially established mountain gorilla project that aimed at allowing few tourists to visit gorillas by paying money that would help to fund conservation activities and help local communities improve their wellbeing.
Prior to the official mountain gorilla project, Dian Fossey had waged war against poachers. Not only gorillas died due to poachers but illegal trade and infectious human diseases were also responsible for declining gorilla population. Dian worked with local people in destroying snare traps and limiting encroachment. Through rivals with poachers her gorilla Digit was also killed in 1978.

With the death of her gorilla friend Digit, Fossey also increased her anti-poaching campaigns and created the Digit fund which fetched support from the Rwandan tourism officials enforcing laws and punishing poachers. This created hatred between Dian and local poachers who were often being arrested and imprisoned. Later poachers retaliated back and murdered Fossey in 1985 and buried right at Karisoke research camp that is popular today as the Dian Fossey grave site.

With the official mountain gorilla project allowing tourists to visit gorillas, gorillas were exposed to intense human contact which resulted into spread of human infectious diseases like influenza, diarrhea killing some of the gorillas. Due to weak regulations and rules governing human contact, tourist visits could alter the natural behavior of gorillas something that Dian Fossey was not happy with.

As a result of gorillas dying from increased tourist contact, gorilla tracking was introduced with strict rules and regulations set under the brand ecotourism. Ecotourism is that tourism where tourists travel to undisturbed natural environment to appreciate nature while taking care of the wellbeing of the local communities.

Gorilla tracking is today’s most sought after wildlife encounter a reason why we should pay tribute to Dian Fossey for having pioneered gorilla conservation. The subsequent gorilla tourism projects partly built on Fossey’s efforts for instance the planting of pyrethrum farms to demarcate Volcanoes National park boundaries.

Tourists who come for gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park also hike to Fossey grave site and the Karisoke research centre. The park is about 2 hours drive from Kigali city to kinigi the park headquarters where all tourists gather early morning for gorilla tracking.

Actual Hik

The trek to Dh3ian Fossey grave site starts at kinigi, tourists then drive for 30 minutes to the main trailhead along the park boundary. The Rwandan Development Board guide leads tourists into the forest and it can take about 2-3 hours to reach the site depending on the fitness of the group. Views are breathtaking and wildlife encounters include buffalos, giant forest hogs, bushbucks, duikers, golden monkeys and several species of birds such as white tailed blue flycatcher.

Hiking the Dian Fossey Tomb site takes tourists through rolling green hills, plantations along the park boundary. You will encounter mammals such as buffalos, worth hogs, forest elephants and many species of birds. Standing at 3000 meters above sea level, the views of the virunga volcanoes are good for nature photographers. Visitors usually learn about the legacy of Dian Fossey that still exists today as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
Right at the site, visitors will see an old house where Dian was killed in 1985 and the tomb where she was buried. To commemorate her work to save gorillas, a cemetery was built where most of the gorillas that would be killed by poaches were buried next to her tomb.

The hike is quite challenging, tourists are recommended to wear solid hiking shoes, long sleeved pants and shirts, warm sweaters, rain jackets and cameras for photography. Descending from the grave site takes about 1-2 hours.
Permits to hike to the Dian Fossey grave site cost $75 per person and do not need advance booking; you will just pay for it right at kinigi Volcanoes National park headquarters.

There are other tourist activities in Volcanoes national park. For the park is small but with a diversity of wildlife as well as cultural significance. Besides mountain gorillas, there is also the critically endangered golden monkeys stay in bamboo forested slopes. Permits to track golden monkeys cost $ 100 per person.

Near volcanoes national park is the Iby’Iwacu cultural village displaying Rwandan culture with a local touch of African traditional setting of the grass thatched huts. Tourists can participate in different cultural activities such as banana beer brewing; meeting the Batwa pygmies and their unique traditions is fascinating with traditional dance performances.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International funds the conservation and monitoring of habituated 10 gorilla families that fascinates tourists. With other several conservation organizations, mountain gorillas in Rwanda have increased to 250 individuals due to strict conservation in collaboration with Bwindi impenetrable forest national park Uganda where 400 gorillas (half of the entire mountain gorilla population) live and the virunga national park in DR Congo. Today there are 880 mountain gorillas left.

Rwanda nick named the land of a thousand hills due its undulating rolling hills is an amazing safari destination with rich ecosystems that provide home to wildlife including the rare mountain gorillas. Rwanda has emerged from scratches of the 1994 genocide to become a politically safe and economically vibrant country in East Africa.
Rwanda is famous for mountain gorillas which live in tropical forested volcanoes of the virunga massifs in Volcanoes national park in the north of the country. Mountain gorillas attract many tourists who come for gorilla tacking and later visit the Dian Fossey grave site to pay tribute to the pioneer of mountain gorilla conservation.

Hiking the Dian Fossey Tomb site takes tourists through rolling green hills, plantations along the park boundary. You will encounter mammals such as buffalos, worth hogs, forest elephants and many species of birds. Standing at 3000 meters above sea level, the views of the virunga volcanoes are good for nature photographers. Visitors usually learn about the legacy of Dian Fossey that still exists today as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
Right at the site, visitors will see an old house where Dian was killed in 1985 and the tomb where she was buried. To commemorate her work to save gorillas, a cemetery was built where most of the gorillas that would be killed by poaches were buried next to her tomb.


Murambi Genocide Memorial Site

The Murambi genocide memorial was built to remember mainly children who were killed during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. Before the genocide there was a functional school which the killers attacked killing thousands of innocent children. The school was abandoned since 1994 until today it stands as a place where about 800 bodies of children are still preserved.

Visitors will learn more about the life of children from birth to death in the children’s section. There are burial rooms exhibiting the remains of the victims. Perhaps this is the most shocking among the genocide sites in Rwanda because estimates say that about 20,000 to 70,000 people were killed at the Murambi site.

There is also enough space for exhibition and a hall which were opened in 2011 after a series of discontent regarding the content to exhibit. The exhibitions display of the bodies is arranged in an action way how the victims died. You will see children raising their arms and adults which is somewhat mind disturbing.

With a guide, you will first stare at the former school buildings and the proceed to enter the main building with rooms where the corpses are still preserved with lime to prevent decay but still it’s been long time and the decay may be possible.

The Murambi site has been also renovated with fences, halls and a reception where tourists usually meet guides.
The Murambi genocide memorial is located about 2 km from the Murambi town in the southern province of Rwanda.


Nyamata Genocide Memorial Site

The Nyamata memorial was set up on the former area of the Nyamata Catholic Church where 10,000 people were massacred. This site has a national importance because of the large number of Tutsis who were living in Nyamata. As many people were fleeing the violence seeking refuge in the churches, it did not help them to survive many were locked inside burnt and killed alive using grenades and machete. Visitors will meet the survivors narrating a story of how killers attacked the church with machetes torturing pregnant women and children until death. This site has a national significance due to the selective murders that took place.

On arrival at the site, friendly English and French speaking local guides will led you inside the church. You will see rudimentary tools like machete that were used to kill people, there are also artifacts like cloth stained with blood, identity cards plus the holes of bullets and grenades.
As you continue down the basement inside the church building are the closed coffins and shelves containing human skulls, corpses of women and children including a grave of an Italian humanitarian who was killed as she tried to cover up the media of the Tutsi killings. Behind the church are two mass graves covered with an iron roof; inside is the remains of the victims such as skulls and bones.

The Nyamata Genocide memorial is located in Nyamata town in Bugesera region about 25 km south of the Kigali city. By car, taxi or motorcycle it can be reached within 40 minutes because roads are good with less traffic jam.
Like any other genocide memorial, photography is not allowed except when permitted to do so. For photography see the national commission for the fight against genocide.
Nyamata memorial is located in Bugesera region about 35 km from the Rwandan capital Kigali


Ntarama Memorial Site

The memorial was built where the Ntarama church massacres occurred. The hatred among the Tutsi and Hutus did not spare men of God instead it took advantage of the mass gatherings at the Ntarama church; about 5000 people were set ablaze. Situated about 30 km from the capital city Kigali in Bugasera region, Ntarama memorial site was built to remember the victims.
On arrival, a guide will welcome you inside but it’s quite dark, there are displays of the remains of the victims just feel free to walk over the dirt floor.

Right at the site, visitors will witness the display of the remains of the victims such as bones; human skulls and rotten blood soaked clothing hang against the walls which act as a reminder of the horrific massacres went on at the site. There are long benches that visitors can walk over in order not to step upon the remains. Though sorrowful but it’s worth a learning experience of the Rwandan people.

In order to protect the remains of the victims, iron roof tops were built because the church was nearly destroyed as the militias were forcefully breaking the walls. Garden was also built to create a breathing space for tourists. The gardens also have ribbons and banners in white color which is a sign of mourning. There is also a section of the names stickled on the walls right at the back of the gardens.

Ntarama genocide memorial is located in the eastern province of Rwandain Bugesera region about 25 km from Kigali city. Although located in a remote area, you will still access it due to good tarmac roads.