Kigali has been the capital of Rwanda since 1965. An attractive city, it spreads over a number of hills and although it saw some difficult times through the genocide in 1994 and as power changed hands subsequently, it now has a pleasant, buoyant air.
The main shopping and commercial area is around the Hotel Mille Collines, with the government district on the neighbouring Kaciyiru hill.The markets, the handicrafts, the Muslim quarter and a new genocide memorial being built in Gisozi are some of the main places of interest.
One of man’s closest relations, are found in a number of forests in Uganda – especially Kyambura and Kibale in the west and Budongo and Kanyiyo Pabidi near Murchison Falls; they are also found in the huge afro-montane forest of Nyungwe in Rwanda.
Bwindi is one of the few forests where gorillas and chimps co-exist but are rarely seen as they live lower down when both species are present. The Ugandan and Rwandan variety (Pan Troglodytes Schweinfurthi) is long-haired and lives in those forests where there is a rich, all year round food supply.
Gorillas in the Virungas
Mgahinga and PNV. The Virunga Conservation Area, around the upper slopes of the dramatic Virunga volcanoes, comprises three contiguous national parks - Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, Parc National des Volcans (PNV) in Rwanda, and Parc des Virungas, commonly called Djomba, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.About 350 mountain gorillas make their home in these afro-montane forests.
On the Ugandan side there is one gorilla family that is habituated. You can climb a volcano, go birding, visit the emerald waters of Lake Mutanda or just take in one of the most breathtaking landscapes of Africa Volcanoes Mount Gahinga Rest Camp is located just outside Mgahinga. In Parc National des Volcans on the Rwandan side, where Dian Fossey worked, there are four habituated gorilla families.
This massive montane forest, in southern Rwanda, the largest in Central Africa, has thirteen species of primate including chimpanzee, Rwenzori colobus and l’Hoest’s monkey.
The colobus live in large groups, including a four hundred-strong semi-habituated group thought to be the largest troop of arboreal primates in Africa. Around 300 bird species, 24 of which are regional endemics and over 100 varieties of orchids and butterflies are other attractions.
Sources of the Nile and Volcanic Lakes
Much of the nineteenth century was dominated by the search for the Source of the River Nile. Many of the great explorers of the age – Baker, Burton, Grant, Livingstone, Stanley, Speke – traversed the continent to understand the connection between the different rivers and lakes in Africa’s central highlands. In 1862, Speke deduced that the river on the north shore of Lake Victoria was the White Nile on its way to Egypt.
In reality the Source includes a number of lakes and rivers in Uganda and Rwanda as well as the Virungas and Rwenzoris. - Kivu, Bulera, Ruhondo, Bunyonyi and Mutanda. These five volcanic lakes on the borders of Rwanda and Uganda have their own special attractions. Lake Kivu, on the Rwanda/Congo border, the largest, is like a giant inland sea with some interesting lakeside towns.
Kibuye, two hours from Kigali, is a relaxing retreat for swimming, canoeing and water-skiing. Gisenyi, a famous resort in the past, now has a sleepy forgotten air with some fine but neglected buildings from the Belgian era. The twin lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo are attractive places to visit after gorilla tracking in PNV in Rwanda.
The emerald green Mutanda, in Uganda, with its distinctive hump-back islands, seen in the distance from Mgahinga, has a pristine beauty. Toyo Island, Volcanoes’ private island in the lake, wild and unspoilt, is reached by dug-out canoe. The finger-like Bunyonyi literally "a place of little birds”, lies among steeply terraced hillsides near the hill town of Kabale; it is an ideal stopping point on the way to Bwindi and Mgahinga.