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Exploring Rwanda’s Spectacular National Parks – A Comprehensive Guide

Rwanda, sometimes referred to as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” is a landlocked country in central Africa, covering an area of approximately 26,338 square kilometers.

The country borders Congo to the west, Burundi to the south, Uganda to the north, and Tanzania to the east.

Rwanda is home to five of the Virunga ranges: Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura, and Mount Gahinga, with the highest of these magnificent mountains being Karisimbi, which has an elevation of 4,507 meters above sea level.

List of National Parks in Rwanda

The western part of Rwanda is part of the Great Rift Valley known as the Albertine Rift Valley.

It is also home to some of the unique national parks in Africa, which can be seen below.

1. Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda’s top tourist destination, covering an area of 162 square kilometers and bordering Uganda and Congo.

The park is part of the Virunga Conservation Area and is where you can find five of the eight Virunga volcanoes.

During Belgian rule in Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park was combined with Virunga National Park in Congo to form Albert National Park, established in April 1929, making it Africa’s oldest national park.

The park is characterized by a bamboo zone, rainforests, volcanoes, serene lakes, some grasslands, and valleys. It is also home to 178 species of birds, 27 of which are endemic to the Albertine region.

Gorilla trekking is the most common and popular activity at Volcanoes National Park, with several habituated gorilla families for tourism purposes.

The cost of Rwanda gorilla permits is $1500 per person, and there are also golden monkey trails where you can track the striking golden monkeys in the park.

Tourists can choose hiking as a complementary activity when visiting Volcanoes National Park.

You can climb any of the five volcanoes, except Mount Sabyinyo, which can also be climbed from the Ugandan side.

Porters are available for hire at a reasonable price to help you with your luggage.

Some of the volcanoes can be conquered within a day, while others will require two days, but all of them provide stunning views from the top.

You can see the other volcanoes, Lake Kivu, the twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo, and much more.

Some of these volcanoes have beautiful craters at the summit.

2. Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park is located in the northeastern border of Rwanda and Tanzania.

The park was first designated as a reserve in 1934 and covered an area of 2500 square kilometers.

However, part of the park was inhabited by refugees after the Rwandan genocide, reducing its size to 1,122 square kilometers.

Akagera National Park is characterized by savannah plains, acacia woodlands, swamps, rivers, lakes, rolling hills, and wetlands, making it a diverse habitat for wildlife.

River Kagera, which flows from the eastern border of the park, is the primary source of water for many animals in the park, including sitatunga antelopes, Masai giraffes, lions, oribis, hippos, crocodiles, buffalos, bush bucks, bush pigs, spotted hyenas, aardvarks, and striped jackals, among others.

The park is also home to over 500 species of birds.

3. Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park contains the oldest natural Afro-montane rainforest in Africa, which survived the last ice age period and receives an annual rainfall of over 2000mm, making it incredibly rich in biodiversity.

Nyungwe Forest is located in the southwestern part of Rwanda, bordering Burundi and Congo, and covers an area of 980 square kilometers.

The park was first designated as a reserve in 1933, and its status changed to a national park in 2004.

Nyungwe Forest National Park is the only park in Rwanda that offers a chimpanzee trekking experience, with the cost of trekking chimpanzees being $90 per person.

Observing a chimpanzee family for one hour after finding it during the trekking is a beautiful experience.

The park is also home to other primates such as colobus monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys, and blue monkeys, with a total of 13 primate species.

The canopy walkway is a must-visit attraction in Nyungwe Forest National Park.

It is the first of its kind in all of Central East Africa, hanging about 50 meters from the ground.

From this walkway, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the tree canopy, primate species, butterfly species, birds, and much more.

4. Gishwati-Mukura National Park

Gishwati Mukura National Park

The Gishwati Mukura National Reserve can be accessed within a three-hour drive from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

This reserve is part of the rainforest that extends from Congo and is known for its rich biodiversity.

It boasts over 6,000 plant species, more than 100 mammalian species, and several bird species, some of which are endemic to this area.

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