Six reasons why Rwanda should be on your bucket list

Unique culture, profound animal encounters and captivating landscapes abound in the African country of Rwanda. 

Rwanda is a wonder. Although geographically small, this landlocked country is blessed with unique biodiversity and landscapes decorated with volcanoes, montane rainforest and rolling plains that have earned it the sobriquet ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’. Hidden within the undulating vistas are more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, and travellers come from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the magnificent creatures. 

From animal encounters with chimpanzees, golden monkeys, birds and butterflies, to inspiring agricultural pursuits, cultural enrichment and jaw-dropping environments, a closer examination of this rich country will expose an array of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. One&Only Resorts affords guests the ability to experience all that Rwanda has to offer with two unique properties that sit harmoniously within their context, a twin itinerary that showcases the multi-faceted character of Rwanda. 

Nyungwe House.
Nyungwe House

See a survivor of the last Ice Age

Start your One&Only Resorts Rwandan sojourn with the 45-minute domestic flight from Kigali to Kamembe Airport, choose the more exhilarating helicopter transfer, or opt for the leisurely scenic five-hour drive that will take you back in time to One&Only Nyungwe House. Set within a serene working tea plantation, One&Only Nyungwe House touches the cusp of Africa’s oldest forest, Nyungwe National Park, a survivor of the last Ice Age. Nyungwe House has five clusters of treetop villas. 

Sample African tea

Jump aboard a 60-minute helicopter ride to see Rwanda from the air, or take a tour of Gisakura Tea Estate for insights into the region’s agricultural spoils, then sample the local flavour at an African tea ceremony. Once night falls a new world presents itself. Thousands of stars shine brightly above One&Only Nyungwe House, and the property hosts educational Spotlighting and Stargazing groups for astronomers and novices alike. 

Picking tea leaves on the estate at Nyungwe House in Rwanda
Picking tea leaves on the estate at Nyungwe House

Meet Rwanda’s chimpanzees 

The signature offering at Nyungwe House is the Chimpanzee Discovery Trek, a guided adventure through the adjacent protected jungle, home to one of East Africa’s rare chimpanzee populations and troops of colobus monkeys. The park boasts 300 bird species, more than 200 different varieties of trees, and about 100 orchid species. Learn about indigenous flora, rare primates and reptiles and exotic birds, including the rare Grauer’s rush warbler, yellow African citril, great-blue turaco and red-collared mountain babbler, on a tour with one of the park’s expert guides. 

Walk the only treetop walkway in East Africa

Casual walkers will enjoy the Karamba Trail, a flat track that begins in an old gold mine, or the Canopy Walk, the only treetop walkway in East Africa with platforms 60 metres above the forest floor. Hikers should opt for the challenging Mount Bigugu trail and its spectacular views of Lake Kivu, or venture further afield on the Irebero trail. 

A chimpanzee.
A chimpanzee © Unsplash/Francesco Ungaro

Read: ONE&ONLY introduces OneEscape celebrating the beauty of Rwanda

See the gorillas of Rwanda 

One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, a five-hour drive or 45-minute helicopter flight from Nyungwe House, is tucked into the foothills of the Virunga Volcano range among a forest of eucalypts. Freestanding timber treehouses and suites are suspended above the property’s garden, presiding over a magical vista of Volcanoes National Park. It’s a protected zone where gorillas roam free, golden monkeys swing through the trees and more than 300 bird species sing – all of which can be seen from the window of every suite. Join a gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park with Chief Park Warden Prosper Uwingeli to get the lowdown on gorilla trekking and wildlife spotting. 

Learn about Rwandan culture 

Visit Jack Hanna Cottage, home to the late wildlife expert and now a centre for conservation that can be booked for private culinary events, cigar and whisky experiences, and Rwandan cooking classes. Next, get to know the locals and their history through dance, poetry and stories at a cultural exchange hosted by One&Only Gorilla’s Nest. Join an expert’s talk on gorillas or visit the traditional African village in Musanze. Indulge with a spa treatment or simply relive the unforgettable moments you have had at One&Only Gorilla’s Nest. 

Gorillas in Rwanda
The local residents of Gorilla’s Nest © Philip Lee Harvey

Travel facts:

Where is Rwanda? 
Rwanda is a small landlocked country in central Africa. Rwanda shares borders with Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Lake Kivu to the west. 

What is the capital of Rwanda?
Kigali is the capital city in Rwanda and the largest city in the country. Located in the geographical heart of Rwanda, Kigali is the most visited area in Rwanda with several tourist sites, hotels and an international airport all within easy reach of the modern city centre. 

Is Rwanda safe? 
Australia’s Smart Traveller website advises travellers to exercise normal safety precautions while visiting Rwanda. With relatively low crime rates and friendly locals, Rwanda is regarded as one of the safest destinations in Africa. However, visitors should be aware of the usual petty crimes, such as pickpocketing. 

What is the population of Rwanda? 
Rwanda currently has an approximate population of more than 13 million people. 

Gorilla’s Nest is tucked in the foothills of the Virunga Volcano Range.
Gorilla’s Nest is tucked in the foothills of the Virunga Volcano Range

What language is spoken in Rwanda? 
There are four official languages in Rwanda: Kinyarwanda, English, French and Swahili. Kinyarwanda is the most widespread language followed closely by Swahili, while English and French are less common.

What currency is used in Rwanda?
While the Rwandan franc is the official currency, the US dollar is widely accepted. However, visitors should carry small amounts of cash on them for purchases from small stores, stalls and local services. 

Are there gorillas in Rwanda?
More than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population is located in Rwanda, with reports placing the wild population at approximately 1000 gorillas. There are 12 gorilla families living in Volcanoes National Park. 

Is gorilla trekking safe in Rwanda? 
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is considered safe and reasonably accessible, provided the activity is undertaken as part of an organised tour group or experiences with professionals. 

Read more: 
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park
40 best travel experiences around the world 
A safari at Babanango Game Reserve

This article originally appeared in volume 121 of Vacations & Travel magazine. Be the first to see more exclusive online content by subscribing to the newsletter below.

Read more inspiring stories by Vacations & Travel…