The capital of Rwanda is a clean, airy and fast progressing city. It is spread over several hills and is not built over an overloaded city center. There is always a refreshing breeze blowing and nice views over the surrounding hills. At night the lights of the houses on the hills give you the impression of millions of shining stars. It is very pleasant to walk in the clean and tidy streets among flowery gardens .
Local people are calm and helpful and this completes the picture that came to my mind when I first got to Kigali, of an “elegant lady” in the middle of Africa. Clean, neat and smiling!
The Church has been left pretty much as it was in 1994, the bones and belongings of the dead still lying among the aisles and the altar. I was trying to get some shots for the feature we were shooting, and wanted to get myself to a point near the altar, but simply could not make my way past the skulls, bones and the remains of the clothes of the victims from that day. Tattered pieces of cloth that still bore blood stains.
Parc Nacional de Volcans - Gorillas .
Whoever has visited the Gorillas insist they were fascinated by the sight.
When I was there the permit was 500 US$ for foreigners and 250 US$ for foreigners who live in the country. As it was low season I was offered the tour for as low as 300$ for the whole thing.. The trek is more difficult in the rain but the sight of the gorillas is as feasible as in the dry season. The gorillas live in the lowest part of the lush forest slopes so the hiking is not very long and it is really wonderful.
It has been announced that the price will go up to 750$ from June 2012...
Akagera National Park
This park is located close to the border with Tanzania and is run through by Akagera river which forms the border. Several lakes and the Mitumba hills are included in the park, which make the scenery of swamps and savannah a beautiful place.
It is better not to visit the park in the rainy season, that is December, and March and April, because some of the routes are impassable.
The closest city is Kibungu but you can book more easily in Kigali. The entrance fee is 30$.
Nyungue Forest National Park
Nyungue is one of the largest mountainous rainforests remaining in Africa. It is in the southwestern part of the country and its biodiversity is amazing. It has 25% of Africa's primate species ,including chimpanzees and colobus monkeys.
During the genocide in Rwnada in 1994, over a million people were murdered. Some 250,000 perished on the streets and in the houses, churches and hospitals of Kigali alone. After the genocide, the Kigali City Council decided to dedicate a site for the burial of its people in a single place. Many mass graves were exhumed from around the city and the remains interred at the Kigali Memorial Centre in Gisori district. This is now their final resting place. It is a poignant symbol of the devastation that genocide brought to families across the city and the country as a whole.
Open 10am to 5pm daily. Entrance by donation.
The place is really heart breaking!
The country is miraculously recovering and progressing after the genocide. They have set aside their tribal differences and consider themselves as Rwandans only. They are clean, gentle and optimistic. Giving a great emphasis on education, they are due to become a healthy nation in a short time.
The Genocide happened in 1994 after long disputes and hostilities between the two main tribes in the country. As a result thousands of lives, said to have reached even the 1,000,000 people, were lost in a brutal massacre. All Rwandans now hope nothing so atrocious will happen ever again.
When the killings were underway, a large portion of the Tutsi-christian-minority, flocked to churches. Assuming that their Hutu attackers (the Interehamwe) and fellow christians, would not enter.
That however was not to be. The killers found their conveniently rounded up and unarmed targets, and what followed was a bloodbath of immense propotions.
The near 5,000 Tutsis taking shelter were were hacked to death with machetes and clubs. Soon the attention turned to the children, who were dashed to the walls one by one and killed. The stains from which can still be seen. The few that survived, by hiding amongst the dead, lay beside bodies from their own familes. Mothers, children, brothers...
The Kigali memorial centre was built to mark the 10th anniversary of the genocide.
It contains ten mass graves- a site of burial for almost 250,000 victims, who were killed in the Kigali region.
After the genocide, as mass graves were being discovered around the city, it was decided that a single monument/ burial place should be created, where the victims could be laid to rest with dignity.
The memorial houses a children's section, a particularly powerful experience to read about the children- how they lived, and how they died.
Amongst other things, it traces how things came to being so bad, how the ideology of genocide emerged, how the tragedy could have been averted, and how the world ignored the signs and warnings repeatedly.
Some of the survivors of the genocide have been trained as guides at the centre.
It feels a bit odd, to call this a `must see activity', since its not exactly a tourist spot that i`m talking about, but considering how disaffected the issue was to the world, i think it couldnt go with a better title...
We were aware that the Ntarama church was among the genocide sites. We knew it was going to shock us when we saw it, but werent prepared for the sights that lay in store.
While we approached the site upon a little hill, there were no pointers to the acts that took place here in April1994. Seemed like a peaceful part of the countryside, but only till you reach a little board with some statistics, erected just outside the church compound. It read: `Ntarama church, Genocide site, +-5,000 persons'.
You are looking at the final burial place of 250,000 people in just 4 photos. The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre is set in gardens about the full dimensions of an American football ground or European soccer pitch. Most of these people were killed in a few days when the Rwandan Genocide occurred in 1994. Today the Centre is much more than a mass grave. It is a working centre of learning as well as a heart-breaking museum to educate future generations of the nightmare that occurred. It is also working hard to help ensure that genocide, anywhere in the world, does not happen again. Sadly it has happened in so many places across the world.
The Centre is completely free and you will be offered an audio guide or sometimes even a human guide to take you through the exhibits and grounds. Starting downstairs are exhibits detailing the history of Belgian colonial rule and how they divided Rwanda into ‘Hutus’ and ‘Tutsis’. Originally it was to differentiate economic class. Tutsis has more wealth. Many were of a taller, thinner background (Kenyan, Ethiopian) than Hutus, but not always so. By the early 1990’s competing armed groups of the 2 classes were often at war. The Hutu government of 1994 prepared the genocide through training, distribution of weapons and radio transmissions starting the mass killings. Often the weapons were machetes and most were killed by hand. No age, sex or religion was spared and the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers meant the slaughter continued until over 1 million corpses littered the countryside. The photo boards and videos document the full horrible story.
Further exhibits downstairs include a central room of photos of victims donated by survivors. Many of the donors fled abroad and all too often the photos are of whole families and children. Every face in this filled room is frozen in 1994 when they were murdered. The last room displays skulls with the method of their death often very obvious.
Upstairs is a gallery showing the individual life story of more than a dozen children. It documents what they like to do, what kind of personality they had, their favourite toy and the method of their murder. Sometimes it even explains who killed them. Often a neighbour or family friend. The last gallery documents genocides across the world in the modern age. Not just the Jewish Holocaust in World War II, but colonial excesses in Africa, Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s, Cambodia and Darfur today.
There are also stories of hope here. There are stories of resistance and survival. There are classrooms here so children today can learn to live together. In fact the terms ‘Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’ are banned in modern Rwanda. Their excellent website also has many stories of the survivors. Research is also done here to help document the dead and hunt down un-prosecuted genociders.
The gardens outside are beautiful and look upwards to the hills of Rwanda and the growing city of Kigali. There are 11 mass graves here with coffins stacked 3 meters deep in concrete crypts. Some coffins contain the remains of as many as 50 people. Whole families wiped out at a time and no one was left alive to ever identify thousands of the dead.
The newest project on site is to fully build a ‘Wall of Names’ with as many victims as possible memorialised. You can help with this, the upkeep of the Centre, grounds, education classes and research with your donations. They can be made here at the centre or via their website.
Unfortunately the Genocide of 1994 will forever be the major event in Rwandan history. Please do visit the memorial if you do travel to Kigali. There are other Genocide Memorial sites across Rwanda and other Mass graves. Please see their website linked below or other locations.
Please note: No photography is allowed inside.
I first discovered the FREE Eye Magazine in Uganda. Absolutely fantastic. Great descriptions of restaurants and reviews, current music or art events, even shopping tips. Well Rwanda has the EYE, but it does not cover all that it could. It does have some good maps of Kigali and a few other major cities, some good stories, useful Kigali Airport information and lots of business listings. It even has information about the national parks. Sadly it lacks informative restaurant and hotel descriptions and impactful reviews of restaurants.
It is still free, and it is still developing. Given time I am sure it will be more useful than it already is. There is lots of helpful information – especially if you are going to be here for a while.
It is available in all the better hotels in Kigali like the Hotel des Milles Collines.
The visa to Rwanda is 30$ . Make sure you have US dollars with you, if you plan to cross the borders, because they don't accept any other currency. This is the case in all African countries I have visited and it was really frustrating to find dollarbills sometimes.
There are numerous Forex bureaux (exchange offices) in Kigali with better rates than banks.
If you need to withdraw cash from banks you can use your Visa card with the ATMs of several central banks. You can also have a money advance with your Master card in the Bank of Kigali.
The National Museum in Butare is said to be the best in Africa. Not only is it huge but it is also a fine building architecturally. The inside is also fine as the displays are well organized and attractive. There are sections for art, history , ecology, ethnology depicting beautifully the local daily life and culture.
ATM’s are very sparse in Rwanda. In fact you will find 14 of the 16 are in Kigali; if you find them at all. The other 2 are in Butare and Ruhengeri. Every guidebook I can find on Rwanda says there are no ATM’s at all. Obviously times have moved on, but slowly. I only ever saw 2 in my travels across the country. My message is this: do not count on being able to access and ATM using a foreign debit card. Cash is pretty much the thing to bring along with a credit card (Visa). Travellers Cheques can be encashed, but will attract fees at banks. Thankfully there is not much crime in Rwanda.
The 2 ATM’s I did find are pictured. Photo 1 is the Ecobank ATM right as you come out of baggage claim in Kigali airport. That worked – no problem. The second is at Simba Supermarket in Kigali. Please see my ‘Shopping Tips’ on this page for Simba’s details. Unfortunately this seemed to be down more time than it operated.
The website link below is a page showing all the banks. Just click on the Ecobank link and you can search for all the ATM’s in Rwanda.
Want to see the Gorillas on the DRC (cheaper) side?
Emmanuel Munganga Rufubya is an excellent and economic local guide. I first met him across the border in Rwanda, Hi literally walked me across the border and helped me avoid being strip searched and/or having all my examined item by item by the DRC authorities. Other people were not that lucky. During my time in Goma, Emmanuel organised my transport to and from my hotel as well as my Gorilla permit. He also organised my transport to the Gorillas and back. The best part of Goma was when he organised 2 motorcycles for a full day out in all of Goma. Our drivers were awesome and we had a great time. Emmanuel even dealt with both times we were stopped by the Police and only one bribe of $11 was paid to one of these corrupt bastards. My great guide took me from the shores of Lake Kivu to the main market area of Goma. He always seem to know when to tell me to put away the camera. The first Policeman never even saw the camera - an instant 'fine'. I was even able to get photos of the airport and UN base.
Emmanuel took me to local markets and explained everything in great detail. I can only highly recommend his services. I was on a budget and did not pay him that much. You can contact him and agree a price. Unfortunately Goma is not ready for tourists. With roving Police, Militias and even insurgent Guerilla gangs, you need a good guide here.
I found Emmanuel and his drivers to be a real joy to go and explore the area with. I felt safe in their hands from driving to security. I also saw and experienced the full range of sights and aspects of daily Goma life. Play it safe and smart and hire Emmanuel.
In the northwest frontier region of Rwanda the five vocalnoes of the Volcanoes national Park loom upwards into the mist. The neighbouring DCR-Congo and Uganda can be easily reached from here. This is the gateway to the Gorillas and one of the seven wonders of the natural world.....if this is on your hit list visit now! as prices are going up to limit tourist numbers..........
SEE MY RUHENGERI PAGE...........
Boulevard de la Revolution, Central Kigali, P.O. Box 7469, Kigali, Rwanda
Good for: Solo
The hotel has beautiful views of the park, and is close to the start point for the mountain gorilla...more
Avenue Kamuzinzi, no. 8, Kigali, Rwanda
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Families
More Regions in Rwanda