The Gisozi genocide memorial site also known as the Kigali memorial site is located in the Rwandan capital Kigali in Gisozi district. This was one of the massacre houses for the Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. At this site, about 300,000 victims were buried in a cemetery. To enhance the experience of visitors, an exhibition section was constructed containing names, visual arts showcasing the unfolding events that led to the genocide. The site was officially opened in 2004 during the 10th anniversary of the 1994 genocide.
There is also a library packed with books, audios, documentaries that teach the people about the negative effects of genocide ideology in comparison to other similar genocides that took place around the world such as the Cambodia genocide in 1970.
Visitors to the site will be given a detailed brochure or an audio guide as soon as you arrive at the entrance. Inside there are mass graves in cemetery chambers covered with glass with an opening where you can see the skulls, bones, coffins and a wall marked with names of the genocide victims. The site has gardens marked with wooden sculptures which are symbolic to the events that led to the holocaust.
The Gisozi memorial features a gift with crafts, books, CD’s, DVD’s, audios and T-shirts. Most the materials sold are for educational purposes. You have to pay some money if you want to take pictures or hiring audio guides. Visitors will spend two hours with a privilege to have English, French as well as Kinyarwanda for the local Rwandans.
The site can accommodate both private and group tourists but when booking you should specify the number of people in a group so that space is reserved for you to tour.
The Gisozi memorial is a must see dark tourism site in Rwanda, its open from 08:00 am to 04:00 pm but normally closed during public holidays.
The site can be reached by car or bus within 10 minutes because it’s about 3 km north of the Kigali city centre on the Gisozi hill.
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in South-Western Uganda approximately 330 sq km at an altitude of between 1,160m – 3,000m above sea level is the oldest rainforest in Uganda. The name “Bwindi” dwells from Rukiga (Local language) means very thick and not easily passable because of its Afromontane lowland forest in nature which makes it a little hard to trek. It is located at the rim of the Albertine Rift bordering the Great Virunga region which extends to Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is popularly known because it is home to almost half of the world’s largest apes and endangered Mountain Gorilla( Gorilla Gorilla Berengei) population which is projected to be less than 850 in the world. The Mountain Gorillas are the second closest primates to humans only after Chimpanzees having approximately 97% DNA similarity with the humans. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park has four Gorilla Tracking sections which include Ruhija section, Rushaga section, Buhoma section and Nkuringo section from which the different Gorilla Families are found during the trekking. More than 150 Mountain Gorillas are habituated hence can be viewed by visitors. The forest has a vast number of trails which lead to various attractions within including Waterfalls, Rivers like the Muyanga River in the Buhoma valley and many swamps which harbor a lot of wildlife.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park is not only known for being the Land of Mountain Gorillas but is also habitat to over 120 mammal species (only second to Queen Elizabeth National Park) eleven of which are primates most notably The L’Hoest’s monkeys, The Black and White Colombus monkeys, Baboons and Chimpanzees.
The forest is also home to over 346 bird species which include the critically endangered Albertine Rift African green Broadbill. Other commonly viewed include the Black throated Apalis, Crowned Hornbill, Rwenzori Nightjar, Compact and Dark-backed Weaver, Coppery Sunbird, and the Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher.
At such an altitude, its very interesting to be a great spot for its biodiversity with over 170 trees species some of which have existed for more than 2000 years, 100 species of ferns, 27 species of frogs, geckos and Chameleons plus a great number of endemic butterflies.
The park can either be accessed by Road or Air transport. It is about 535km from Kampala, the Capital City of Uganda.
You may use the different routes according to the section that you wish you wish to trek the Mountain Gorillas from.
1) Kampala-Ntungamo-Rukungiri-Kihihi-Buhoma(6 hours)
2) Kampala-Kabale-Nkuringo(6-8 hours)
3) Kampala-Kabale-Rujija( 6-7 hours)
4) Kampala-Kanungu-Buhoma( 6-7 hours)
Using Air transport from either Entebbe International Airport or the Kajjansi Airstrip can get off to Kayonza airstrip or Savannah airstrip in Kihihi which is almost close to all the sections.
Rwanda also known as a land of a thousand hills has three moderate altitude volcanoes which form part of the Virunga massifs.
With the help of Rwandan development board or trusted local tour operators, you are guaranteed the best hiking experience while in Rwanda. Hiking permits can be obtained right in Kinigi Rwanda’s main tourist centre located inside the Volcanoes National Park in Musanze district northern province.
Tourists will not need to book hiking permits in advance, except purchasing your own hiking gears in time or optionally hiring them. Other requirements that you need to enter Rwanda include Rwandan tourist visa and a yellow fever vaccination card.
Rwanda’s three distinct volcanic mountains from an integral part of the virunga volcanic province, a chain of 8 volcanoes that make up the verdant virunga mountains region one of the two place to see mountain gorillas in the whole world.
The volcanoes are karisimbi, Bisoke and muhavura. Karisimbi volcano is the 5th highest peak in Africa standing at 4507 meters above sea level and it will take hikers two days to complete it while Bisoke at 3,700 and muhavura at 4,127 meters above sea level can be hiked in one day.
Mount Karisimbi is best for serious hikers because of its high altitude (4,507 meters above sea level) often referred to as the white shell mountain and once you get on top expect to be covered by a mist of white clouds.
To hike karisimbi, you will need your own hiking gears such as camping tents, sleeping bags, porters, rain jackets, warm clothing not forgetting your cameras.
Hiking starts at kinigi the main tourist centre early at 08:00am. As the guides briefs visitors, hikers make final checking of their hiking gears then slowly ascend. For the first day you will traverse the lush mountain base with wild animal encounters, birds, rare vegetation and scenic views. The first day of hiking takes 6 hours to reach the first camping base and enjoy the overnight camping. The second day hikers ascend up to the top summit offering magnificent and breathtaking views of Nyiragongo in DRC and the greater virunga.
Descending takes about 6 hours depending on the pace of the group and guides.
Mount Muhavura is the second highest volcano in Rwanda at 4,127 meters above sea level. Muhavura is shared between Uganda and Rwanda but it’s possible to hike it from kinigi in volcanoes national park Rwanda. It takes a full day and needs average fitness but rewarding with fantastic views of the five virunga volcanoes and twin lakes of Burera and Rubondo and you will refresh by the Crater Lake near the summit.
While hiking the steep slopes, hikers can see rare high altitude plants such as lobelias abd heathers as well as mammals and monkeys. The name muhuvura means the guide when translated from Kinyarwanda because the mountain is used to navigate the borders of Rwanda and the Albertine rift valley.
Permits to hike can be got on arrival at kinigi and there is mid range to luxury accommodation since hiking the volcanoes takes one full day, hikers can stay for other adventures such as golden monkey tracking and biking safaris.
Mount Bisoke is another stunning volcano standing at 3.711 meters above sea level with a largest crater lake on top than any other crater lake within virunga volcanoes. It’s the fourth highest volcano in Rwanda, Hikers start at 08:00 am and it can be hiked in 4-6 hours roundtrip depending on the average fitness of the group.
Hikers escorted by armed rangers traverse through breathtaking bamboo and sub-alpine that are often covered by fog and are a habitat for mountain gorillas and the Dian Fossey’s karisoke research centre. Hence visitors can make a visit to the grave site of Dian Fossey after the hike.
Hikers are likely to encounter buffalos, giant forest hogs, monkeys and see many birds.
Reaching on top at the crater a perfect picnic to have your packed lunch meals as well as enjoy scenic views of the surrounding volcanoes because it marks the borders of Rwanda and DR Congo. There are accommodations within volcanoes national park or visitors may choose to stay in Goma or in Lake Kivu because these are not far from Bisoke just about 35 km.
Rwanda is famous for gorilla tracking in volcanoes national park, chimpanzees tracking in Nyungwe forest national park, golden monkeys and wildlife of Akagera which most travelers tend to crave for while in Rwanda.
However, the Congo Nile trails is one of the new adventure activities that even the average tourist will afford as an alternative to highly priced gorillas or chimpanzees.
The Congo Nile trails is 227 km long that runs along the sparkling stretches of Lake Kivu waters and its clear to get the real meaning of a thousand undulating hills. The trails offer stunning views of beautiful rift valley landscapes, shorelines of Lake Kivu, rolling terraced hills, valleys and green plantations which all immerse you into the Rwandan rural life from a cultural experience view point you will navigate through several villages and towns.
It’s a network of trails and dirt roads that runs from Gisenyi on the northern shores of Lake Kivu then extends from Rubavu continues through Rutsiro via the Karongi and Nyamasheke districts and ends at Rusizi at the southern end of lake kivu covering 227 km.
It takes 10 days to complete the 227 km journey but there are no limits of days one is interested to bike. Bikers can decide to choose from a range of short biking trails such as 1 or 2 days than the roundtrips of 5 or 10 days but all in all you are guaranteed to have an ultimate adventure.
Bikers are advised to be vigilant of other road users like motorcycles, cars and pedestrians. The trail is rated moderate to difficult. There are several shops along the trail to buy food and water. The Rwandan development board provides bikers with maps giving clear directions, distances of all trail sections and elevations, there is nothing like getting lost for self guided bike packers.
Depending on your interest of supplies and logistics, Rwandan adventure cycles have all equipments and gears for hiring including average and big mountain bikes without shocks, spare parts such as tires, bike pumps and a patch kit in case of breakages. While hiring or purchasing a bike make sure to test it yourself.
For what to wear or pack, you will need light items such as sleeping bags, warm clothing, gloves, biking shoes, spare tires and bike pumps, head and knee protective helmets/ bandages, sunglasses, strong head lumps/light, mouth masks to protect dust, neck cloth and packed food or snacks and drinks. This is just little it should never dictate for your favorite pack.
Whether you have less than 5 or 10 days which is the maximum time to complete the trail, you will still find pleasure. There are well serviced camping sites, guest houses and coffee washing stations that offer excellent accommodation and of course friendly and welcoming locals make you feel safe to stay minus worries. Whoop! Picture yourself sleeping under the stars.
You will also need to be physically fit and up for the challenging elevations ranging between 1,440 to 2,630 (highest peak) meters above sea level. Of course this is coupled with varying distances between towns and villages for instance Gisenyi to kibuye is about 120 km and includes a chance to take a boat ride on Lake Kivu after a roundtrip.
Biking along the Congo Nile trail in Rwanda is like a discovery that circles around the globe searching for what you have never tried before. Exploring the Congo Biking trail safaris gives cherished encounters of local people doing their daily activities, markets, schools and churches combined with magnificent sceneries is rewarding as it is demanding balancing two wheels.
There are several ways to explore the Congo Nile trail such as motorcycles, bikes, vehicles but one option will give you wilderness experience by biking/ cycling. Cycling enables you to tour Rwanda, interact with local people, and enjoy physical exercising as you wind down the narrow paths, valleys and hills by the lakeside.
Camping along the trail gives an opportunity to explore the surrounding areas and the experience is rewarding to encounter species of birds such as fowls which are common, white headed cormorants and many more to see for birders. Other activities to enjoy include swimming and resting on the karongi Lake Kivu shore beaches, island tours, waterfalls, canoeing and visiting the churches or coffee stations widens your adventure experience. So far the Congo Nile trails biking safaris is the best in East Africa.
For booking the Congo Nile trails biking safaris, you need to get in touch with Rwandan adventures cycling and the Rwandan development board. These will arrange for you biking trips including side adventures to other tourist attractions in Nyungwe or Giswati forest reserve where you will see primates, chimpanzees, birds and the famous canopy walks. Or you can decide to have full day kayaking activities on Lake Kivu after completing the trail in any given time possible.
Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park located in Musanze district northern province lies up in higher altitudes of the bamboo and tropical forested virunga volcanoes between 2,500 -4000 meters above sea level, which make it an ideal habitat for mountain gorillas.
An estimated population of over 200 gorillas inhabits the park; at least 10 gorilla families have been habituated. These are families are visited by tourists but to further the knowledge about gorillas, 3 gorilla families are meant for research conducted by the Dian Fossey gorilla fund international at Karisoke research center in Volcanoes National Park.
Each family has unique features that are normally described for tourists by the Rwandan development guides during preparation for trekking early morning at kinigi, the main visitor center.
Karisimbi gorilla family was formed after the original Susa gorilla family which had more than 40 individuals split into two families back in 2009. The gorilla family which split family is called to as Susa-B. The current silverback of Karisimbi called Nyagakangaga took away 13 gorillas from Susa family to create his own home range on the slopes of Mt. Karisimbi (4,507 meters above sea level) one the volcanic mountains in volcanoes national park from which it was named during the 2010 “Kwita Izina” gorilla naming ceremony.
Regrettably, in 2012 two members of Karirimbi migrated leaving the gorilla family with 11 individuals led by 1 silverback Nyagakangaga along with 3 other silverbacks that are still under his rule. The other members include 2 infants, 1 juvenile, 1 black back, 2 sub-adult females and 1 sub-adult male.
Trekking Karisimbi gorilla family may take visitors a whole day due to the long distances covered when hiking because of its home ranges in the steep slopes of Mt. Karisimbi (4,507 meters above sea level).
Igisha gorilla family also known as Susa group B split from the original Susa family when the current silverback Igisha moved away with 23 individuals. Later on Igisha silverback seduced two other gorilla members into his family to make up 26 individuals. They include 3 silverbacks, 7 infants and 7 adult females, 2 black backs, 4 juveniles and 3 sub-adult males.
Sabinyo is one of the dormant volcanoes in Volcanoes national park and this group rooms its lower slopes hence the name Sabinyo. The group has 8 individuals which are easily trekked because it’s often found foraging on the edge of the park and the volcano. Led by Guhonda, one of the strongest silverbacks in volcanoes national park, there are 3 adult females other plus playful juveniles that tourists find impressive when trekking.
Amahoro is another gorilla family of 17 individuals including 1 silverback, 2 black backs, 2 juveniles, 5 females, 5 babies and 2 sub adult males. Amahoro is Kinyarwanda name meaning “peaceful” and that true with the gorillas of this family. It is easily trekked by tourists who hike to its home range on the slopes of Mt. Bisoke with less difficulty. Though, one has to deal with steep climbs to reach the family on the day of trekking, use a porter to carry your backpacks.
Umubano gorilla family was once part of the Amahoro family but later broke away when one of the Silverbacks (Charles) was challenged by the dominant silverback in a fight. Charles the current silverback of Umubano gorilla family was defeated hence it took 11 members which include 1 sub adult male, 3 adult females and 6 juveniles.
Trekking to see Umubano is not difficult since its home range overlaps that of Amahoro family and trekkers often decide to trek both gorilla families because they have different features.
Agashya gorilla family at the time of habituation it had 13 members hence the substitute name. Agashya itself means “news” and the name came after the then silverback leader of the family Nyakairima lost control to Agashya the current leader silverback of the family. The family has lived up to its name when it has managed to increase its members from 13 to 25 individuals. Although this gorilla family rooms the slopes of Mt. Sabinyo the same range area of Sabinyo gorilla family, it often moves far to the slopes of Mt. Gahinga another volcano in Volcanoes National Park. Hence trekkers of this family need to be fairly fit.
Hirwa is one of the new gorilla families in Volcanoes national park. It was birthed out of the members that left group 13 and Sabinyo family and Hirwa means “lucky one” hence it was lucky that other gorillas joined the family to make up to 9 individuals. They include 1 silverback, 3 adult females, 2 sub adult females and 3 babies who have attracted most tourists to trek the family for the baby gorillas are playful.
This gorilla family was formed in 2007; it has 11 individuals led by Bwenge the Silverback. It’s one of the popular gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park because it featured in “Gorillas in the Mist” a movie that was produced in 1988 to show the conservation efforts of Dian Fossey who pioneered gorilla conservation research in Rwanda.
Sadly, Bwenge family lost its 6 infants that died strangely despite the efforts of veterinary gorilla doctors. Trackers named the family and its silverback Bwenge which means “clever one” because Bwenge endured hardships that could have dismantled its composition.
Kwitonda gorilla family has 18 individuals including 2 silverbacks living in harmony. Kwitonda means “humbleness” and its true with the dominant silverback are loved by many trekkers for being humble during the 1 hour encounter.
This gorilla family was highly nomadic in past migrating to DRC but it has stabilized on the slopes of Mt. Muhabura (4,127 meters above sea level) in volcanoes national park. although trekking to see this gorilla family is quite difficult, it adds on the adventure and excitement.
Ugenda gorilla family is composed of 11 individuals including 2 silverbacks. The word Ugenda means “mobile” and this family is one of the unreliable and difficult to trek in volcanoes national park as its name suggests. Like all gorilla families move in search of flesh vegetation, for Ugenda gorilla family, it moves a lot from one place to another, though Rwandan development board trackers are skilled and it won’t be difficult to trek it as already highlighted.
Their current home range is on the slopes of mount Bisoke 3,711 meters above sea level. Every gorilla trek is different adventure in its own way given the rules and regulations of trekking are kept so that gorillas are not interfered at the same giving you a calm encounter.