Introduction to Rwanda

In colonial times, the thrilling beauty of Rwanda’s rolling mountainous landscape earned it the sobriquet “The land of a thousand hills”. After independence this small central African Nation leaped to fame as the land of “Gorillas in the Mist”, adopted home of Dian Fossey and most important refuge for the rare mountain Gorilla. In the late 1980s, Rwanda established itself a popular holiday destination with a bustling tourist circuit. Then, as today Gorilla tracking in the Virunga was the country’s premier attraction, supplemented by the mesmerizing Savannah and plain wildlife of Akagera National Park, the incredible biodiversity of the extensive Nyungwe rainforest, and a range of Montane and Lakeshore around expansively beautiful Lake Kivu.

Then came 1994 and the genocide caused Rwanda to leap from glossy travel supplements to grisly front page news. By 1995, however, the country had already restored to near normality and today it has reclaimed its rightful place as one of the world’s finest adventure and ecotourism destinations. The mountain Gorillas are still there, every bit as awe inspiring as ever, as are the elephants of Akagera and the chimpanzees and monkeys of Nyungwe.

Rwanda is also one of the Africa’s top birding countries, with an incredible 670 different birds recorded within an area comparable to that of Wales or Belgium. And this nature-lovers paradise remains, for all it has been through, a truly welcoming country, whose attractions are complemented by comfortable facilities, fine food and a rich cultural heritage.

Rwanda History

The earliest known inhabitants of Rwanda were the Pygmoid hunter-gathers, ancestral to the modern Twa people who today comprise only 0.25% of the National population. Some 2000 years ago, Agricultural and pastoral migrants from the west settled in the area. Oral traditions recall that prior to the 15th century a ruler named Gihanga forged a centralized Rwandan state with similar roots to the Buganda and Bunyoro Empire in neighbouring Uganda. Comprised a cattle-owning nobility and agriculturalist serfdom majority – the precursors respectively of the modern-day Tutsi and Hutu- this powerful state was able to repel all early attempts to European penetration. Rwanda became a German colony following the 1885 Berlin conference, although it would be full decade before a permanent German presence was established there. In 1918, Rwanda was mandated to Belgium, which implemented system of indirect rule that exploited and intensified the existing divisions between Tutsi and Hutu. In 1962 under prime minister Gregoire Kayibanda, Rwanda became an independent republic, an attainment marred by frequent clashes between the newly dominant Hutu majority and historically more powerful Tsutsi minority, culminating in the slaughter of an estimated 10,000 Tutsi civilians in the late 1963. In 1973, major General Juvenal Habyarimana ousted the repressive Kayibanda regime and over the next 20years, the country’s political situation became ever more complicated due to simmering ethnic tensions exacerbated by events in neighbouring states, several of which haboured significant numbers of Rwandan refugees. On 6th April 1994, Habyarimana died in a mysterious plane clash, sparking an already planned genocide. Two days latter in an effort to prevent the genocide, the exiled Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded the country, capturing Kigali on 4th July and forming a government of National unity under president Pasteur Bizimungu a fortnight later. Within three months, the genocide was all but over. An estimated one million Rwandans had died over that period and twice as many had fled into exile.

Rwanda Climate

Because of the high altitude of the country, Rwanda has a pleasant tropical highland climate, with a daily temperature range as great as 14°C (25°F). Temperatures vary considerably from region to region because of the variations in altitude. The average daytime temperature is about 30°C except in the highlands where it is much cooler. There are four seasons; long rains from mid March to mid May, short rains from mid-October to mid-December; long dry period from mid-May to mid-October and short dry season from mid-December to mid-March. The north-east has more rainfall than other parts of the country.

Rwanda Geographical Location

Rwanda is a landlocked country surrounded by Uganda in the north, Tanzania in the east, Burundi in the south, and Zaire to its west and northwest. Rwanda lies on the East African plateau, which divide between the water systems of the Nile and Zaire rivers passing in a north-south direction through the western part of the country. To the west, the land drops sharply to Lake Kivu in the Great African Rift Valley, to the east, the land falls gradually across the central plateau. its grassy highlands are the core areas of settlement of Rwanda's population - to the swamps and lakes on the country's eastern border. Most of Rwanda is 3,000 ft above sea level, with much of the central plateau being higher than 4,700 ft. In the northwest, on the border with Zaire, are the volcanic Virunga Mountains, the highest peak, Mount Karisimbi (14,870 ft) is snowcapped. Lake Kivu, 4,700 feet above sea level, drains into Lake Tanganyika, through the sharply descending Ruzizi River. The Kagera River, which forms much of Rwanda's eastern border, flows into Lake Victoria.