There are four national parks in Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills. These are;
- Volcanoes National Park
- Akagera National Park
- Nyungwe Forest National Park
- Gishwati-Mukura National Park
Volcanoes National Park
The Park is located within the Virunga mountain ranges and is home to about 400 mountain gorillas and 10 habituated gorilla families. The park is characterized by thick forest and mountainous terrain that can make gorilla tracking strenuous but adventurous. Since Dian Fossey pitched camp in the Volcanoes national park, the country became a leader in global mountain gorilla conservation and research efforts – Visitors can arrange to see Dian Fossey former research station and grave. Whereas mountain gorilla tracking is the main activity in the volcanoes national park, visitors can also spot forest elephants, forest hogs, golden monkeys, buffalo, birds, and several species of butterfly during a their Rwanda Wildlife tour. The park has several volcanoes and mountains that are suitable for hiking like Bisoke, Sabyinyo and Karisimbi. Combining a gorilla safari in Rwanda with hiking one of the mountains is tiring but worth pursuing for the adventurous type.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest National Park is one of the most attractive destinations while on a Rwanda wildlife tour. Nyungwe forest is a vast tropical forest with over 1000 plant species and is a good reflection of Rwanda’s exciting biodiversity. After tracking mountain gorillas, the forest is the best place to track chimpanzee while on a Rwanda tour. There are over 240 species of birds found in the forest making it a birders paradise. Apart from chimpanzee trekking and birding, visitors should expect to spot baboons, golden monkeys, colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and other primates. A Nyungwe forest canopy walk is a must for bird lovers and those who have come to track chimpanzees in Rwanda.
Akagera National Park
Akagera national park is the best place to go for a safari in Rwanda. The park is located in the Eastern part of the country and covers over 1000 square kilometers of savanna similar to those found in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The park is close to Kigali and is home to a large collection of Africa’s mammals that gather at its numerous water points like the Akagera River and Lake Shakani. The most popular activity in Akagera National Park is to take a game drive to spot hyenas, jackals, antelopes, giraffe, baboons, zebras, buffalos, leopards and elephants among others. Lions and black rhinos are being introduced in the park so that visitors can have a full package of Africa’s big five. Bird watchers should expect to Spot over 500 species while on a 3 Days wildlife safari in Akagera including the shoebill Storks.
Gishwati Forest National Park
The Gishwati Forest is one of the most visited tourism sites in Rwanda and covers over 250,000 acres of land. The forest presents a great view of Lake Kivu and birders will be impressed with the over 400 resident species. The forest has suffered from massive deforestation caused by ranchers, pastoralists and refugees who had taken shelter following the 1994 genocide. Plans are underway to restore the entire stretch of land with forest just like it was in the past.
Note: Gishwati forest was recently merged with the nearby Mukura to form what is now known as Gishwati-Mukura National Park. The national parks in Rwanda are now four.