Africa is by the far the best safari destination for anyone interested in authentic experiences watching wildlife in their natural habitat, cultural experiences or simply a foodie wanting to partake in different culinary delicacies. Uganda is a minitur Africa providing all these and more.

Top things to do on safari

There are various activities you can engage in while on a safari in Uganda. Some will bring out your adrenaline drive whereas others will require you to sit back and relax while enjoying the experience.

Gorilla trekking – You can do this is Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable national park, Mgahinga gorilla national park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park and Congo’s Virunga national park. This requires you to purchase a gorilla tracking permit before you embark on this hike through the jungles with the help of your ranger guide. You are only allowed 1 hour in the presence of the gorillas once you locate them. Alternatively you can choose a gorilla habituation experience which accords you 4 hours in the presence of the gorillas.

Chimpanzee trekking – Just like gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking is done in various forests in Uganda with the most famous being Budongo forest, Semliki reserve, Kalinzu forest, Kyambura gorge, Kibale forest. In Rwanda, chimpanzee trekking happens in Nyungwe forest where just like gorillas, you are allowed 1 hour with the chimps after locating them while on a chimp trek.

Game drives – For those interested in the savannah national parks to watch wild animals as they go about their day, then game drives in the custom made safari vehicles is what you want. Your tour guide drives through different game tracks in search of the most sought after animals like Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Giraffes, Buffaloes etc.

Boat trips – This is on the many lakes and rivers around the country. Sometimes it is for birding, game viewing or sunset cruises. While in the national parks you can take an afternoon boat ride and watch different animals as they come to water and others that are resident there like Crocodiles and Hippos

Nature walks – In some parks you are allowed to take a nature walk with a ranger guide to learn more about the herbs, shrubs, trees and animals that are in the vicinity.

Community/Cultural experiences – Uganda is home to over 40 different tribes that have unique languages, foods – or at least a unique way of preparing it, songs and dance, rituals and rites of passage. Taking part in a cultural tour will allow you to interact with the people at close range getting involved in their day to day activities.

Bird watching – Uganda is home to over 1050 bird species where you are able to sight over 500 species while on a 21-day birding safari. Birding is done in both protected areas and non protected areas, in agricultural areas, wetlands, forests, savannah etc.

When to Visit?

Uganda has near perfect weather all year round and therefore you can visit whenever you want. That said, there are months with higher rains than others however please note that Uganda being a tropical country, the sun soon comes out after the rain. Most people prefer to travel here in Jan – March and June – mid October and December. The rains are more common in April & May and then mid October – November.

The Packing List for Gorilla Trekking is an important topic to cover because anyone intending to see the primates has to consider what to pack at some point. Gorilla trekking is arguably the most exciting wildlife activity in Africa. They are fascinating creatures because they behave and resemble we humans. If you read more facts about mountain gorillas, you will learn that they are one of the most gentle and calm primates. Only 1,000 mountain gorillas remain on earth. They are different from lowland gorillas that are common in zoos and forests of Central/West Africa.  The endangered Mountain gorillas are only fond in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Uganda has half of the total number of mountain gorillas. In Uganda, the primates can be seen in Bwindi and Mgahinga National Park. To see mountain gorillas in Rwanda, you need to visit the Volcanoes National Park while in Congo, it is the Virunga National Park. The primates live in groups led by a dominant silverback who ensures that everyone is safe and in order.

Gorilla trekking is an extremely popular and expensive activity but worth every penny. After booking your gorilla tour and leaving the issue of transport, permits and accommodation to your tour operator, the next thing that comes to mind is how best to prepare. You might ask yourself the question – What should I pack for gorilla trekking?  Though gorilla trekking is an exciting and adventurous activity, you need to go prepared. One of the most common mistakes we observe in our experience running safaris are tourists who have not prepared well for gorilla trekking. During briefing, we see some visitors in simple sandals, white sneakers and shorts which are not suitable for such a demanding activity.

We have compiled a list of the things to pack during gorilla trekking and that will make the whole experience awesome. Always remember that using Porters is highly recommended to help you carry any extra luggage. You should read our article about gorilla trekking for the elderly for more about how porters can be use. These gorilla trekking rules apply to all the national parks – Bwindi in Uganda, Mgahinga in Uganda, Volcanoes in Rwanda and Virunga in DR Congo. The rules also apply to those who Gorilla Tracking Packing Listhave chosen to go for the gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.  It is important to also note that the landscape in Mgahinga and Volcanoes National Park is different from that in Bwindi and Virunga National Park. Mgahinga and the Volcanoes National Park lie in higher altitudes and are therefore colder than Bwindi. We have also included a list for a general wildlife safari in last chapters because in most cases tourists combine gorilla tours with game drives. You might be interested in the rules for gorilla trekking.


Packing List for Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla Permits and Passport: You will be required to show your gorilla permit and passport at the hotel and park offices just before beginning your trek. Valid travel documents and a Visa are very important for any safari. Don’ t travel with a passport that is about to expire. Without the required travel documents, you will not be allowed in the country and to track the gorillas. Also ensure that you take the yellow fever shots and have the card.

Hiking Boots: It is very important to include hiking boots among the things to pack for gorilla trekking in Bwindi or other national parks. High quality hiking boots will ensure a better grip of the hilly and sometimes muddy terrain. Poor quality boots or plain sneakers could hurt your ankles. Always remember that gorilla trekking involves climbing steep hills in areas with high altitude. The trails can get muddy or slippery during the rainy season.

packing list for gorilla trackingClothing: When deciding on the clothes to pack for gorilla trekking, ensure you include water proof trousers, jackets, long sleeved shirts, sweaters, long socks and long trousers. The right clothing will help protect you from getting wet, sharp tree branches, the sun and insects/ants. Always tack in your trousers to your boots to prevent safari ants and other insects from entering your body. Other clothing to take into consideration while planning your gorilla tour are a pair of shorts for relaxation while back at the lodge and Pajamas for the cold nights. Also include long socks to cover your feet.


A Rain Jacket and sweater: This is an essential item for packing especially during the wet season. Gorillas live in tropical rain forests and rain should be expected at any time regardless of the period of the year. A rain jacket should therefore be on top of your packing list even if you are planning to come in the so called dry season. The sweater will keep you warm during the cold evenings and mornings. The Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga are located in areas of high altitudes with several volcanoes on the horizon which release cold winds and mist.

What to pack for your gorilla trekking tourGloves:  Garden gloves will help you hold trees, branches and other vegetation. The gloves will also protect your hands from scratches and insect bites. As we already noted earlier, the forest can get muddy and slippery. The gloves will help you hold tree branches when climbing or the ground in case you slide. Gloves are a must in any packing list for gorilla trekking.

Toiletries: These are not only important during gorilla trekking but also for general safaris in other national parks. The toiletries include like toilet paper in case you want to ease yourself during a long gorilla trek. Most hotels do not provide toothbrushes and pastes. You need to also come with your own sanitary pads (ladies), favorite shampoos, deodorants, hand sanitizers, shavers, hair conditioners, lip balm, wipes and lotions.

Headband and Hair Ties: Your hair could get caught in the branches if not properly tied.

A hat, Sun glasses and sun screen: These will protect you from the suns heat especially during the dry season. These items are also important if you are planning to combine gorilla trekking with a visit to the other national parks with hotter weather.

Packing list for gorilla trekking in UgandaSnacks, Packed lunch and drinking water: Gorilla trekking is very unpredictable. It all depends on the location of the gorilla family on the day of the trek. The activity can take between 30 minutes to 6 hours. Trekking for long distances could get you tired and hungry. Your lodge should prepare for you packed lunch or you can choose to park your own energy snacks. Energy giving snacks can also be acquired from supermarkets and specific shops in Rwanda and Uganda. Just make sure that you don’t forget them while living your hotel for the briefing. Also keep in mind that tracking mountain gorillas for long can become exhausting and you will need enough water. Your lodge will provide you with water. Avoid littering the park with plastic bottles.

Walking stick: To help you maneuver through the thick vegetation and steep areas. The sticks are given out for free after the briefing. You can get a higher quality one at a cost from your hotel or preferably through the park rangers.

Camera with strong battery and memory: You cannot go for a safari in Africa without a good camera. How will your friends know about your encounters during your safaris? How will you remember the events? Be prepared to take photographs of the gorillas, the beautiful park scenery and spots along your journey. The camera may run out of battery – pack extra batteries. Do not use flash photos while with the gorillas. They will get agitated.

Binoculars: The parks you will be visiting are not all about gorillas. During you trek, you will encounter several species of birds, forest elephants, buffaloes, chimpanzees and colobus monkeys among many others.  You can get good views of the birds and primates if you have a good binocular.

Phone simcard: Try to acquire an international simcard so that you can make calls to your family back home.

What to wear for gorilla trekking in Uganda and RwandaPorters: Porters were briefly mentioned early and I will go into more details here. Porter help tourist carry any extra luggage or heavy cameras during gorilla trekking. They can also give you a helping hand when navigating through steep hills and valleys.  Porter can help carry the elderly using special pouches when required. Porters charge a fee of about $15 and are normally residents of the surrounding areas. By paying for their services, you help the community, their families and make them desist from poaching. Some of the porters are students who are looking for fees to go back to school. We advise all our clients to hire a porter if they are not sure of their fitness level or if it has been determined that the gorilla family moves a lot.

Tip: For your guides, porters, Rangers and hotel staff (Optional). Reward them for protecting the gorillas and making your journey so comfortable. Remember that most come from poor backgrounds and have families waiting for them at home. If you choose to give tips, only do it after the service is offered and only in recognition of exceptional and professional service.

Other items: Other general items to consider are travel insurance, emergency telephone numbers, travel maps, directories and the final itinerary from your tour operator. Having money in local currency is also important when you want to tip your Guides or buy souvenir in areas with no credit card machines or ATM’s. To keep your money safe, acquire a money belt.

Packing List for tracking gorillas in Uganda and RwandaN.B Most of our tour vehicles have first aid equipment but we recommend that visitors bring tablets for water purification, painkillers, any personal medications for medical conditions and allergies. You might also need to bring medicine that reduces pain from insect bites, medicine for flue, diarrhea, other colds and those that re-hydrate the body. Bandages, Scissors, Tweezers and Eye Drops may also be important during the trip. Never forget swimming wear especially during the dry season. Most of the hotels have large swimming pools overlooking beautiful African wilderness.


Think you know Rwanda? Think again. From gender equality to environmental conservation, this small East African nation is full of fascinating facts and surprises that will wow even the most knowledgeable traveler.

Women make up 64% percent of the Rwandan parliament

As governments around the world are under fire for unequal gender representation in politics, the Rwandan government is way ahead of the game. In a ranking of countries by the World Economic Forum on countries with the best and worst governmental gender gap, Rwanda is the sixth best in the world (with the USA clocking in at number 28). With 64% of Rwandan parliament positions occupied by women, and countless other ministry positions and important offices structured similarly, Rwanda is unique.

Rwanda is the smallest country in East Africa

Despite being in the news so frequently, Rwanda is the smallest country in East Africa – even smaller than neighboring Burundi, and absolutely dwarfed by Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Occupying an area of 10,169 square miles (26,338 square kilometers), Rwanda also happens to be also be the most densely populated country on the continent, with almost every plot of land occupied by communities, homes, or terraced farming

In spite of Rwanda’s small size, it is made up of several diverse ecosystems

With the lush rainforests of Nyungwe to the south, the Virunga volcanic massif to the northwest, and the savanna of Akagera National Park to the east, Rwanda really does have it all. To top it off, an impressive array of indigenous flora, fauna, and animal species also call this country home.

Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world

Listed as the ninth safest country in the world by the World Economic Forum and the 11th safest country in the world by a 2017 Gallup poll, Rwanda is impressively safe, stable, and easy to visit. Ranking ahead of countries like Austria and the New Zealand, Rwanda has really gone the extra mile to make tourists and residents feel as secure as possible.

Rwanda’s local language is Kinyarwanda, though French, English, and Swahili are widely spoken

Rwandans generally speak more than just their native Kinyarwanda. French, the colonial language, is spoken most widely by the older generations, whereas English and Swahili are newly entering the scene. Due to having a lot of refugees from around the region, Rwanda is becoming a pretty multicultural country, with a lot of linguistic diversity.

The Rwandan genocide was almost 24 years ago

In spite of what some Western media would have you believe, the Rwandan genocide occurred almost 24 years ago, in April 1994. Although this was a tragic and harrowing event, Rwanda has done an incredible job of bouncing back, rebuilding, and rebranding.

Rwanda and Burundi used to be the same country

Before colonization, Rwanda and Burundi existed as separate nations. However, the two countries were combined by Germany in 1894, and until independence from Belgium in 1962, the territory was called Ruanda–Urundi. Cultural similarities both before and after independence, as well as a shared border, have kept the two countries closely linked.

Rwanda is landlocked

Although photographs of Rwanda feature bright-blue lakes with lush forests and towering volcanoes, the country is landlocked. There are currently plans to build a train from the Tanzanian coast to Kigali, in the hope of expanding trade capabilities and improving cohesion of the East African region.

Animal and environmental conservation is a big priority

In 2008, Rwanda became known around the world for banning plastic bags in an effort to go green. Coupled with the country’s conservation work for the endangered mountain gorillas in the Virunga mountain range, Rwanda is as sustainable as it gets. The work of Dian Fossey and the film Gorillas in the Mist brought a lot of international attention to the issue, but the Rwandan government and various NGOs have also worked tirelessly to protect the gorilla population and their natural habitat.

Rwandan coffee is too good

Rwanda’s coffee ranks alongside that of Brazil, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Known around the world for its dark and fruity flavors, Rwandan coffee continues to win global cupping competitions, as cafés, roasters, and artisanal growers are becoming bigger than ever in Rwanda.

Once a month, the country participates in a mandatory national community service initiative

Called Umuganda, this national day of service occurs on the last Saturday of every month. All Rwandans and residents have to work within their community sectors on various public works projects, from road maintenance and house building to tree planting and farming.

Rwanda has more than just gorillas

Although the majority of tourism in Rwanda is currently due to the nation’s endangered mountain gorilla population, Rwandahas a lot more to offer. Sparkling lakes, volcanoes, and varying national parks, such as Nyungwe National Park and Akagera National Park, offer Africa’s Big Five, a whole host of primates, and hundreds of bird species. Additionally, Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, is quickly becoming a creative foodie hub that shouldn’t be missed. Come for the gorillas, but stay for everything else this tiny country has to offer.

Tourism is one of Rwanda’s fastest-growing industries

Tourism in Rwanda is on the rise, especially as major outlets like The New York Times and CNN Travel recognize this country as one of the world’s most desirable travel locations. Although Rwanda’s coffee and tea exports, as well as the bourgeoning business sector, are import factors in Rwanda’s GDP, the booming tourism industry has quickly become integral to Rwanda’s economic growth.

About Rwanda

Rwanda is a unitary republic in central and eastern Africa. Uganda is to its north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. While the country is landlocked, it is noted for its lakes. Despite being close to the equator, the climate is temperate due to the altitude. The highest point is Mount Karisimbi. Tourism is important due to wildlife, including the mountain gorilla. Kigali, Gitarama, and Butare are the largest cities.

Since the end of the Rwandan Genocide, the country has been socially and politically stable. As a result, agriculture, roads, mining, and tourism have developed. There are still a large number of people that live in poverty. The president, Paul Kagame, and his party, the RPF, firmly hold power in the country.


Humans migrated to what is now Rwanda after the last ice age. Hunter gatherers settled the area in the late Stone Age and were followed by early Iron Age settlers. These were ancestors of the Twa, a group of Pygmy hunters who still remain in Rwanda. Additional migrations took place between 700 BC and 1500 AD. This divided society into three groups which are the Hutu, Tutsis, and the original Twas. There are several theories regarding the origins of these groups.

Oral history indicates the Kingdom of Rwanda was founded on Lake Muhazi’s shore in the 14th or 15th centuries. By playing its larger neighbors against each other, the kingdom flourished and expanded. The Banyoro invaded in the late 16th or 17th century, which forced the kings west. In the 17th century, a new dynasty was formed by King Ruganzu Ndori. The conquest of Bugesera began the Rwandan kingdom’s dominance of the area. The kingdom extended into modern day DRC and Uganda at its peak.

In 1884, the Berlin Conference assigned Germany Ruanda-Urundi. German East Africa was then formed when this area was combined with Tanganyika. In 1894, Gustav Adolf von Gotzen explored the country. The Germans did not alter the country’s social structure, but supported the king. The Germans did favor the Tutsi group and help suppress Hutu rebellions. During World War I, the Belgians took the territory.

After World War I, Rwanda became a League of Nations mandate with Belgium in control. As opposed to the German approach, Belgium was more involved in the territory, including health, public works, education, and agriculture. Belgians attempted to improve agriculture, but this did not prevent major famines from occurring. Belgium also kept the class system in place and promoted Tutsi supremacy. They also considered the groups to be different races and created identity cards labeling each person a member of the Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa group. They based this classification on arbitrary physical characteristics. If there was a borderline case, those with ten or more cattle owned were labeled Tutsi, with the rest labeled Hutu.

After World War II, Belgium controlled Rwanda as a U.N. Trust Territory. Two groups emerged and became rivals, one based on the Tutsi elite and the other based on Hutu emancipation. Around this time the Belgians stopped supporting the hierarchy and favored the Hutu party. Tensions escalated and between 1959 and 1961, Hutus killed hundreds of Tutsis and caused over 100,000 to flee the country. The first elections were held in 1962 along with a referendum to abolish the monarchy. In 1962, Rwanda separated from Burundi and gained independence under Hutu leader Gregoire Kayibanda. Violence continued with exiled Tutsis attacking from neighboring countries and Hutus retaliating within Rwanda. A military coup in 1973 led to Juvenal Habyarimana becoming president. During the coup, Kayibanda and his wife were killed, along with several other high ranking figures. The following years were relatively prosperous and violence largely subsided. Pro-Hutu discrimination continued.

The Rwandan Civil War began in 1990 when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a group of mostly Tutsi refugees, invaded from Uganda. The government, with French support, suppressed the RPF. A stalemate had occurred by 1992. The two sides agreed to a cease fire in 1993 despite continued ethnic strife.

On April 6, 1994, the cease fire ended when Habyarimana’s plane was brought down near the Kigali Airport, killing the president and his Burundian counterpart. The responsible side is still unknown. This was a spark that started the Rwandan Genocide. Over 100 days, 500,000 to 1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. The attacks were well planned and done on the interim government’s orders, led by Theoneste Bagosora. The RPF restarted their offensive, which resulted in their taking control of the country. There was limited international response and the major powers did not want to expand the overstretched U.N. peacekeeping force. The French eventually sent in troops to create a safe area, but this did not happen soon enough. The RPF took the capital on July 4 and the entire country on July 18, 1994. Pasteur Bizimungu was sworn in as the interim president.

Two million Hutus had fled to neighboring countries due to fears of RPF reprisals. Epidemics killed thousands in the refugee camps. In 1996, problems in Zaire forced most refugees to return to Rwanda. These tensions and attacks by interahamwe militia from neighboring countries led Rwanda to become involved in the First and Second Congo Wars.

An International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) began a period of reconciliation and justice. During the 2000s, the flag, constitution, and anthem were changed and local authority boundaries were re-drawn. The economy and tourism grew during the time as well.

Politics and Government

Rwanda is a presidential republic with multiple political parties. In 2003, the current constitution was adopted. The president, who is elected to serve a seven year term, is the head of state and has broad powers. The current president is Paul Kagame, who won elections in 2003 and 2010.

There is little corruption in Rwanda. There is an Ombudsman set forth in the constitution who has the duty of fighting corruption. The economy has grown quickly and infrastructure is improving. There has been some criticism of the government for suppressing dissent.

There are two chambers of Parliament. The Chamber of Deputies has 80 seats whose members serve five year terms. 24 seats are reserved for women and three are reserved for disabled and youth members. The remaining seats are selected by universal suffrage. In 2008, female members made up a majority, the first time in Africa this occurred. The Senate has 26 seats and whose members serve terms of eight years. A variety of bodies select the Senators.

German and Belgian civil law systems are the basis for Rwanda’s legal structure. There is an independent judiciary, but the Senate and President are involved in the court appointments. The constitution sets out ordinary and specialized courts. Specialized courts are military courts and those for trials of genocide suspects. The ordinary courts are the Supreme Court, the High Court, and regional courts.

Since 1994, the RPF has dominated politics. While it is seen as a Tutsi-dominated party, it receives wide support and credit for the country’s stability.

Rwanda belongs to La Francophonie, but English has gained more use than French. In 2009, the country joined the Commonwealth of Nations. Rwanda is also a member of the East African Community. Rwanda has a tense relationship with the Democratic Republic of Congo because Rwanda was involved in the First and Second Congo Wars.

Administrative Divisions

Rwanda’s current constitution divides the country into provinces, districts, cities, municipalities, towns, sectors, and cells. Parliament establishes these boundaries. A governor heads each province and is appointed by the president with Senate approval.

Geography and Climate

Rwanda’s area is 26,338 sq. km and is located in central and east Africa. The Congo and Nile River drainage basins run north to south. The Nyabarongo is the longest river, which meets up with the Kagera and drains into Lake Victoria. Lake Kivo is the largest of many lakes in Rwanda. It is one of the 20 deepest world lakes with a depth of 480 meters.

Central and western Rwanda is mountainous. The Virunga Mountains are the highest peaks and includes Mount Karisimbo, the country’s highest peak at 4,507 meters. The western part of Rwanda has a 1,500 meter to 2,500 meter average elevation.

Due to the high altitude, Rwanda has lower temperatures than those typically found near the equator. There are two rainy seasons with the first running from February to June and the second from September to December. There is generally twice as much rainfall in the west as opposed to the east.

Economy and Infrastructure

The genocide impacted the economy and caused a large drop in GDP. Rwanda’s economy has strengthened with per capita GDP’s increasing significantly since the genocide. The U.S., China, and Germany are major export markets. The National bank of Rwanda manages the economy and the currency is the Rwandan franc.

Rwanda does not have abundant natural resources. Semi-subsistence farming is the basis of the economy. While Rwanda is fertile, production of food does not keep pace with population growth.

Coffee, tea, bananas, pyrethrum, beans, sorghum, and potatoes are grown in Rwanda. Coffee and tea are the main cash crops. Livestock are also raised and this contributes to 8.8 percent of GDP. Epidemics and poor feed quality hurt this industry.

There is a small industrial sector that manufactures cement, beverages, soap, furniture, shoes, cigarettes, and textiles. While there are few natural resources, mining is still important. Minerals include wolframite, gold, coltan, and cassiterite.

Tourism is growing quickly and is now a leading earner of foreign exchanges. Rwanda is perceived as a safe destination despite the genocide. In Volcanoes National Park, tourists participate in tracking the mountain gorillas.

Most Rwandans have radios and televisions are mostly found in urban areas. The largest television and radio stations are run by the state. The press has restrictions and often self-censor.

There has been an increase in transport infrastructure since the genocide. There are paved roads between the capital and other major cities. Roads also link Rwanda to neighboring countries. The Share taxi is the primary mode of transportation for the public. Kigali has an international airport, but there are no railways.


Rwanda’s population was estimated at over 12,3 million, with over 42 percent under the age of 15. The infant mortality rate is 59.59 deaths for every 1,000 live births. Life expectancy is 59.26 years.

Rwanda has one of Africa’s highest population densities. Most of the population is rural. The savanna land in the east is the only area that is sparsely populated. Kigali’s population is approximately one million. An influx of people into Kigali is straining infrastructure.

Most of the people in Rwanda practice Christianity. Catholics were 56.5 percent of the population in 2006 and Protestants were 37.1 percent. Muslims were 4.6 percent of the people.

Kinyarwanda is the principal language spoken by most of the people. French was introduced during colonialism, but English has been introduced by refugees from Uganda and other nations. English, French, and Kinyarwanda are all official languages. Swahili is spoken by many in rural areas.


Rwanda has been a unified state since before colonialism with one main ethnic group, the Banyarwanda, and a shared language. There are eleven regular holidays including Genocide Memorial Day on April 7.

Music and dance are also important in ceremonies. The most well-known dance is Intore, which has three components, a ballet, a dance of heroes, and the drums. Drums are very important and royal drummers have always had high status.

Rwandan cuisine is based on staple foods like bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes, pulses, beans, and cassava. Any Rwandans only eat meat a few times per month.

The country also has a history of traditional arts and crafts, especially woven bowls and baskets. Cow dung art is noted in south east Rwanda.

There is not a long history of written literature, but a strong oral tradition exists. Many of the moral values and histories are passed down orally through the generations. Alexis Kagame is the most famous literary figure.


There is free education for nine years in Rwanda. There are plans to extend free education for the additional three years. The requirement to purchase books and uniforms prevents many rural children from attending school. There are many higher education establishments, including the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, the Kigali Institute of Education, and the National University of Rwanda.

Mountain gorillas make Rwanda a top tourist destination. / FileUnited Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)’s theme for 2017 is sustainable tourism, a subject not so new in Rwanda. The country’s conservation journey began more than a decade ago and has since progressed enormously.

Mountain gorillas make Rwanda a top tourist destination. / File

United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)’s theme for 2017 is sustainable tourism, a subject not so new in Rwanda. The country’s conservation journey began more than a decade ago and has since progressed enormously.

Although small geographically, Rwanda is known for addressing large-scale challenges in conservation.

For instance, Rwanda has recently become one of the three East African countries that offer tourists a ‘Big 5’ experience, having reintroduced both lions and eastern black rhinoceros into Akagera National Park.

Such bold measures have undoubtedly positioned Rwanda throughout the world as a role model in conservation within Africa. However, despite Rwanda’s conservation successes, the country’s leadership acknowledges the constant need to improve its best practice standards.

Ahead of this year’s Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s flagship event celebrating with the community and the world at large the successful preservation of our endangered mountain gorilla population through the naming of new-born baby gorillas, new tariffs have been announced for mountain gorilla trekking activities, a milestone within the global tourism industry.

The primary objective of these revised tariffs is to ensure the long-term sustainability of a fragile species in a world that is increasingly challenged in protecting bio-diversity and natural assets for future generations.

Rwanda’s mountain gorillas are the best studied gorillas in the world.  And the decades of data accumulated on them continue to provide crucial insights into their conservation needs,” said Dr. Tara Stoinski, President and CEO of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, which has been working in Rwanda for fifty years.

“With the growth in the gorilla population, we are seeing much higher rates of interactions between gorilla groups, which our data clearly show can be very stressful as well as increase rates of injury and/or death. Given that mountain gorillas remain among the most critically endangered animals on the planet, it is essential that we try to minimize pressures on the population and continue to pursue all measures to ensure their long-term future.

Rwanda is developing an ambitious strategy to increase buffer zones to protected areas, thus addressing the challenges in the current carrying capacity restrictions for a growing mountain gorilla population.

This will require enormous long-term investment and is one of the critical foundations to conservation sustainability. Not only is there a plan to increase the Volcanoes National Park buffer zone, but also mountain gorilla tourism revenues are subsidizing the conservation of other national parks.

Specifically support is given to protecting Nyungwe National Park, one of Africa’s largest protected mountain rain forests acclaimed for its biodiversity and endemic species richness, as well as Gishwati-Mukura National Park.

In 2016, Rwanda created its fourth national park – Gishwati-Mukura National Park. This park is made up of two fragmented mountain forests, and is home for chimpanzees (an endangered species) and golden monkeys that need to be protected. The park requires massive Government of Rwanda investment to restore it to the standards of other national parks, funding that is directly related to tourism revenues.

Conservation is acknowledged worldwide as a prerequisite for sustainable tourism and economic development. Trekking mountain gorillas is the backbone to the thriving tourism industry whereby the exceptional experience offered in Remarkable Rwanda is undeniably a highly valued unique experience for so many tourists globally.

With one-third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, easy air access, one of the safest destinations in Africa, a well-guided experience, and a thriving hospitality industry, this key tourist activity attracts more and more visitors each year.

Despite pressure for Rwanda to increase gorilla trekking visitation, the country has maintained its strong conservation-based regulations and limited the number of visits and time spent with each group (one hour).

As quoted by Dr. Mike Cranfield, Co-Director for Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project/ Gorilla Doctors:

Mountain Gorilla trekking is one of the most moving wildlife experiences in the world. It has been an overwhelming conservation and economical success for Rwanda. Rather than increase the number of tourists to increase conservation revenue to help other critical species in this country they have decided to increase the price. This is a sound choice since the gorillas are extremely sensitive to human diseases and increasing the human traffic in the forest would be counter-productive. The increased income will allow improved infrastructure not only for the Volcanoes National Park but the other National Parks in Rwanda. The permit increases will also help the local communities with increased revenue sharing resulting in less pressure on the park such as snares set for bush meat that sometimes injure gorillas. These changes along with the proposed buffer zone show sound conservation governance.

Another strong foundation to Rwanda’s tourism and conservation vision is that of revenue sharing with local communities. Empowering communities living nearby National Parks economically through providing a greater share of tourism revenues to fund development projects has in the past contributed greatly to conservation practices.

The revenue contribution from total tourism receipts will increase from 5% to 10%, which will quadruple the absolute revenues received by communities. Over the past 12 years, more than 400 community development projects have been delivered including health centers, schools, business development centers and water supply systems facilitating access to clean water.

These projects directly benefit communities and ensure their support of Rwanda’s broader conservation programmes, and in particular of law enforcement.

An initiative which will reinvest a greater amount in real currency and as a percentage of revenue into conservation through enhanced protection and revenue sharing with local people – without compromising the principles and best practices approaches to gorilla tourism – should be celebrated,” states Anna Behm Masozera, Director of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme.

“Should the initiative also add value to the tourist experience, continuing to attract tourists from near and far, then benefits will radiate through all sectors.”

Throughout history, humans have been the cause of the extinction of large numbers of mega-fauna species; the nature of today’s threats and the scale of interventions required pose massive challenges and large budgetary deficits for intervention tactics.

Rwanda’s driving ambition is to ensure the survival of our critically-endangered species and bio-diversity for future generations to enjoy.

I hope, and in fact fully expect, international tourists will continue to travel to Rwanda and to the region to experience a moment in time with the critically-endangered mountain gorillas, free and wild in their native forests,” states Anna Behm Masozera, Director of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme.

With regard to the Transboundary collaboration within the three countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, and how this works to protect the endangered species, Dr. Muamba Tshibasu Georges, GVTC Executive Secretariat explained that:

The Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, an initiative set up by the three countries sharing the mountain gorilla population, is a laudable expression of their high commitment to collaborate in safeguarding a highly endangered species, as well as other biodiversity contained within the Protected Area Network of the Greater Virunga Landscape. GVTC recognizes that the treaty signed by these three countries commits them for collaboration, but countries remain sovereign to focus on their individual bigger visions. GVTC – Executive Secretariat will continue supporting all initiatives aiming at the sustainable conservation of the biodiversity in the landscape, particularly the fragile Mountain Gorilla population and their habitat.

There is great importance attached to balancing the protection of the natural resources and development in Rwanda for both the present and future generations to thrive.

That is the vision for sustainable tourism and conservation that has been set for this country.

The writer is the Chief Tourism Officer at the Rwanda Development Board.

We’re often asked ‘when is the best time to go to Rwanda?’, and the answer is usually complex. It will depend on many things including your interests, where you want to visit and why you’re travelling. One person’s best time is another’s worst!

However, often a concern about the weather underlies the question of ‘the best time to go’.

So here we’ve put together a very rough guide to the climate in Rwanda. Remember that this comes from records and our experience, not from a crystal ball, and that Africa’s weather patterns are becoming increasingly unpredictable – probably due to global warming.

In the heart of Africa, fractionally south of the equator, Rwanda’s relatively high altitude provides it with a remarkably pleasant tropical highland climate, albeit also with plenty of rain. Temperatures vary considerably between locations depending on their altitude, but very little from month to month in the same place. In the capital, Kigali, the average daily temperature is about 21°C.

Rwanda’s long rainy season lasts from about March to May, when the rain is heavy and persistent. Then from June to mid-September is the long dry season; this is generally the best time to visit if you have the choice.

October to November is a shorter rainy season and it’s followed by a short dry season from December to February.

During both of Rwanda’s dry seasons, there is often light cloud cover. This helps to moderate the temperatures, but also occasionally brings light rain showers.

Rwanda is a country of dramatic landscapes Credit: This content is subject to copyright./ullstein bild

It is an African country whose name will always be tinged with tragedy – but which is also known as a fabulous destination for wildlife and adventure. Better still, as of now, Rwanda is more accessible from the UK than ever before. Reasons to go? Try these 10…

(1) You can fly direct from Britain

With a role-call of neighbours that includes one of Africa’s best-loved safari destinations (Tanzania, to the east), but also a trio of countries which perhaps fit the description “off the beaten track” (Burundi to the south, Uganda to the north, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west), Rwanda could be regarded as one of the more unreachable areas of a continent that is not known for ease of travel. However, last week, this little nugget of a state (it amounts to just 10,169 square miles – which makes it the fourth smallest country on the African mainland, behind The Gambia, Swaziland and Djibouti) became directly linked to the UK. May 26 witnessed the arrival at London Gatwick of the first RwandAir service from the national capital Kigali. This nine-hour air bridge will operate three times a week, with return fares starting from £368 (01293 874 922;

Rwanda’s gorilla population is world-famous Credit: (c) David Yarrow Photography/David Yarrow Photography

(2) It has very big and very famous animals…

In popular perception, the key reason to visit Rwanda is its mountain gorilla population. And rightly so. These glorious creatures haunt Volcanoes National Park, in the far north-west of the country (where it rubs up against Virunga National Park in the DRC and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda to create one colossal cross-border expanse of wildlife and wonder). Access is, of course, carefully controlled – but, as of 2015, 10 gorilla groups can be glimpsed by tourists, with 80 passes available per day. These are not cheap – £990 per person, bookable through the Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office of the Rwanda Development Board (00252 57 65 14; – but the experience is inimitable. More details on Gorilla Trekking click here.

(3) …but there is more to the mountains than primates

As its name suggests, Volcanoes National Park also knows a thing or two about vast fire-breathing peaks. To be exact, it incorporates five of the eight volcanoes which give the ridgeline of the Virunga Mountains a lava-born grandeur. Mount Karisimbi is the highest of these behemoths – tall enough, at 14,787ft (4,507m), for snow to be present on its summit during the annual dry season of June-August (indeed, its name loosely translates as “snow” in the local language, Kinyarwanda). For all this, it can be conquered on foot (thankfully, the volcano is regarded as inactive). The hike upwards – which takes two days, and is described as “strenuous yet rewarding” – is detailed in full at the national park website (

Akagera National Park is a classic safari enclave Credit: ©Boggy –

(4) Here be lions, too

Rwanda is rarely considered a classic safari destination, but for those seeking things that roar and growl in the night, Akagera National Park ( is home to a full quota of the Big Five (lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo, leopard). Spreading out on the east flank of the country, shaped by the border with Tanzania and the River Kagera, this verdant enclave of savannah and wetland suffered during Rwanda’s turbulent Nineties, when poaching and subsistence hunting robbed it of most of its inhabitants. But it has regathered itself considerably since 2009, when it was taken under the wing of rescue and rehabilitation group African Parks (see Seven South African lions were introduced in 2015, and 20 black rhinos were brought in as recently as last month. These are still faltering baby steps, but Akagera is walking a road to recovery.

(5) The treeline is alive with the flutter of feathers

There are further members of Rwanda’s National Parks club. Pinned to the south-west of the country, where it brushes the border with Burundi, Nyungwe Forest National Park ( is an example of Africa at its most raw – a dense patch of pristine jungle where chimpanzees leap from branch to branch, and more than 300 bird species caw and call in the upper leaves. This is a remote and undeveloped realm – though not so undeveloped that tourism steers clear. A canopy walkway ebbs through the treetops some 60 metres above the ground (tours US$60/£47).

Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre offers bleak remembrance Credit: 2014 Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

(6) The country has moved on from its darkest hours…

And they were dark indeed. The Rwandan Genocide of April-July 1994 was one of humanity’s most desperate episodes – a horrifying period of bloodshed when up to one million members of Rwanda’s Tutsi population were massacred by the majority Hutu government. This was one of the consequences of the Rwandan Civil War (1990-1993) – and, in turn, caused the displacement of two million more (largely Hutu) people. Bleak and depressing stuff – and if you find yourself in the capital Kigali, you should surely acknowledge it. The city’s Genocide Memorial Centre ( cradles the remains of some 250,000 victims of this ethnic cleansing, and makes as difficult and as disgusted a statement on man’s inhumanity to man as any similar landmark amid the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia or the concentration camps left behind by Nazi Germany. That said, while what occurred in Rwanda 23 years ago will always cast a shadow, it is not a dominating factor of life in a country that has certainly found its feet in the subsequent two decades. Since the turn of the millennium, average life expectancy has risen from 47 to 60 years.

(7) …and is also pretty safe

While travellers in sub-Saharan Africa should always take the standard precautions when it comes to drinking water, personal security and other such fragments of common sense, Rwanda is a country which can be explored with reasonable confidence. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a few words of warning on parts of the borders with the DRC and Burundi, but otherwise reassures would-be visitors that “Rwanda is generally safe and crime levels are relatively low.” Full details via

Kigali sprawls up slopes and hillsides Credit: (c)2015 Copyright by Vadim Nefedov. All rights reserved./Vadim Nefedov (,

(8) Its capital is an intriguing place for a day or two

Pitched roughly at the geographic centre of the country, Kigali could probably be called a work in progress, fanning out, in that sprawling fashion of major African cities, across hillsides and slopes. With a population of more than a million, this is no tiny conurbation, but it reveals its charms gracefully. Both the central districts of Kacyiru and Kiyovu have lively restaurant scenes, and the Serena Hotel ( offers five-star accommodation and a refreshing courtyard swimming pool.

Lake Kivu offers splendid shoreline Credit: ©Bildgigant –

(9) There is no sea, but there is plenty of water

Defiantly land-locked, and kept away from the life-giving depths of Lake Victoria by 100 miles of Tanzanian landscape, Rwanda nonetheless has a shoreline to call its own. This is on Lake Kivu, which defines some of the frontier with the DRC. While this is ranked as the second smallest of the African Great Lakes – just 56 miles long by 31 miles wide at its fullest dimensions – this liquid-blue puddle on the map is worth an afternoon or several of any traveller’s time. It makes for a perfect place to pause en route between Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Parks – perhaps in the town of Gisenyi (also known as Rubavu), where resort hotels dot the water’s edge, and broad sunsets await each evening.

(10) Travel packages are plentiful

A new luxury lodge, the One&Only Nyungwe, is opening this summer on the edge of the Nyungwe National Park.

No longer a niche option for a holiday, Rwanda is also offered by a number of African travel specialists. These include Expert Africa (020 3405 6666;, Steppes Travel (01285 601 646;, Timbuktu Travel (020 7193 1326; and Natural World Safaris (01273 691 642; You can also find further information in our own Rwanda section:

It’s been a long time since i updated this article and a lot has changed in Kigali’s late night scene since way back in 2010. Bars have closed (no more La Classe and Downtown), New Cadillac has burned down (word on the street is that missionaries and evil satanic club-goers had a spiritual face-off in the bar, shooting fireballs from each others eyes which then caused the place to burn down – and yes, that’s actually a story I heard), new bars and clubs have opened, and once popular places have become a lot more quiet (are there still concerts at White Horse?)

For a place I always describe as ‘sleepy’, Kigali seems to do ok in the nightlife department. True, there aren’t as many crazy places as in Kampala and people tend to be a bit more reserved as a whole, but it’s not uncommon for bars to be packed until the sun comes up at 6am. A 3pm night seems to be an early one for many people (read: me). So here’s my list of places to keep yourself entertained in Kigali. I’m sure there are plenty of places I’ve missed so get in touch with any recommendations!

Dinner & Drinks

I like to start my Kigali night out with a meal and some drinks somewhere reasonably lively. Early on I’m not looking for anything clubby or dancy… just a nice place to chat with friends, eat some good food, bump into people, and knock back a few drinks before heading off for something a bit more exciting. Here are some spots with good food and a fun atmosphere to start your night.

  • Caiman – I have to admit that I’ve never come here for pre-drinks since it’s so damned far away from my house. But I have been here for a few live music events (which have been really fun) and if I lived in Nyarutarama or Kibagabaga then I’d come here a lot. Full bar with terrible service (at least during the busy events… bartenders have been known to ask for bribes to serve you.. er, what?) but if you’re looking for grilled meat then the food is really good.
  • Dolce – I love this hidden little place. Popular with Rwandans and the very occasional expat it’s got a decent-sized patio, high seating inside with views of the street, and a more clubby-looking interior which looks like it good double as a dance floor later in the night. I usually come for a few glasses of wine (at Rwf 2,000 it’s one of the cheapest places for wine) before heading on to another place relatively early so I’ve never seen it turn too crazy. They have a few TVs if you want to watch sports and they do pizza and brochettes.
  • Green Corner / Panorama Ten to Two – Both of these Nyamirambo fish and brochettes places make good starting points, especially if you’re going to head out in the neighbourhood afterwards. If you don’t pre-order your food it’s likely to take well over an hour. Even if you do, an hour wait isn’t uncommon. Ten to Two has more choice at their bar and a better view but Green Corner has a certain charm and the food gets better reviews.
  • Heaven – This place is pretty chilled and more popular with tour groups than locals or expats but it’s got a full bar and the food is good. Everyone I know complains that it’s too expensive but I think the quality of the food is usually good and they’ve got a good selection of cocktails (try the banana beer one). Zen and Urban are two other good choices if cocktails are your thing… usually pretty quiet though. I’m pretty sure they do a happy hour still from 5 to 7pm which is buy one get one free on wine and beer. True, the wine is already expensive compared to other places but at 2-for-1 it’s a good deal. Too bad it ends so early.
  • Lalibela – Lalibela will leave you with a ball of injera growing in your belly for the rest of the night which doesn’t really body well for feeling sexy but Fridays here are usually pretty lively and it’s a nice place to stop by even just for a drink.
  • Republika – This is probably my favourite pre-going-out place – mostly because it’s close to my house. They’ve raised their prices again recently which has made their giant half carafes of wine less of a good deal than they once were, but it’s still a nice place to knock back a few drinks and it’s close to the bars in Kiyovu, Town, or Nyamirambo in case one of those places are your next destination. Like Heaven, it’s popular with tourists and expats and often has at least one huge group dining there. Your meal can take awhile when it’s busy but that just gives you a bit more time to drink and chat. Solange, the owner, is a great host and there’s a nice atmosphere here. It’s the only place in Kigali I’d recommend reserving a table even if you just two people – especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Via Veneto – I’ve been here a few times during the week and always seem to be one of just a couple of tables, so the mid-week atmosphere doesn’t seem great so far. But the drinks are strong (at least the Cuba Libre is), the service and food are pretty good and they’ve started holding fairly regular events on Fridays which makes me think it would be a good place to start your night if you live on that side of town.

Party Bars

I wasn’t quite sure what to call this category… places that aren’t quite quiet bar but aren’t quite nightclub. The kind of in between place that people might head to before clubbing or just spend their entire night in dancing around the plastic tables and chairs in the darkness.

  • KGL Fast Food – This fast food restaurant slash bar is always loud and busy whenever I drive past late at night. Which isn’t very often. Like twice. But a friend of mine went last weekend and had a great time with the mostly Rwandan crown. Then if you get hungry, a greasy fast food meal is a mere five metres away in the restaurant section.
  • Lemon Tree, Rosty’s Club, and Joytime Bar – These three bars are all located on the same Remera corner in what looks like a seriously lively part of town.  I’d heard a few times that Lemon Tree was the new Sundowner: A patio bar with a more local crowd, fewer thieves, and better music but I’m not a fan. It was packed the night I went and we could barely move. The crowd was made up of 80% guys who were that horrible combination of grabby, needy, thievey (a friend had her phone stolen), and aggressive and I just wanted to flee. If the crowd were a bit more chilled it might be a good place but we didn’t have much luck that night. We scampered across the road to Joytime which was less crowded but still fun with good music and a way more laid back crowd. Rosty’s was also busy and, though we didn’t head inside, but I know it’s a popular place.
  • Micha’s Bistro Cafe – This is one of the stranger places in Kigali (matched only by the weird bars in Nyamirambo that occasionally have ‘comedians’ in white face paint and over-sized clothes pretending to bark, meow, and fart along to noises coming from the speakers… true story) with seating is set up facing a stage with regular performances of lip synching by teenage boys, grown men, and scantly clad women who lose more of their clothes as the night goes on. I went innocently on a Thursday for some akabenz and was assaulted by these ridiculous and yet strangely entertaining performances. The bar part is down the sloping driveway on the right, behind the regular restaurant.
  • One Love Club – As the name suggests, this place is a rasta kind of place with reggae music blaring and a funny smell in the air. I’ve only been a few times several years ago and I remember it being fun with a fire pit and lots of outdoor seating. They’ve hosted a few Halloween parties here so maybe that’s their thing? I keep meaning to go back here but I have no idea what nights are busy so I never seem to make it. But I do have lots of fun memories of this place so check it out… then report back!
  • Papyrus – Ah Papyrus. Probably the most popular bar in town with foreigners but it usually has a good mix of Rwandan guys on the hunt for new arrivals. Young blondes, beware. Or don’t. The atmosphere here is usually pretty good and it can be nice for a quiet meal and a few drinks mid-week in either the restaurant or bar. It gets really busy on the weekends if you’re after something a bit more lively. If you’re new in town this will probably be one of your first stops and and potentially a place you get sick of quickly. But if you don’t know anyone and you’re reasonably outgoing then it’s a pretty easy place to start talking to strangers and maybe make some friends. Those hoping to bust out their elaborate dance moves would be better off at the club downstairs since upstairs is more of a standy, talky, and posey type place.
  • Spectra – The smelliest bar in Kigali. No idea how they manage that since the place has doors everywhere but maybe that’s what happens with a room full of dudes dancing furiously. Anyway, it’s a pretty fun bar when you stand outside plus there are some lively spots across the road, too. Watch your stuff though – this is Gangster’s Paradise, after all. But bars in Nyamirambo can be a lot of fun.
  • Sundowner – For me, Sundowner started as the place you’d go for a meal and some drinks before shuffling on down the hill to the old Papyrus. When Papyrus closed down for awhile, though, nightlife in Kigali was shaken up and Sundowner seemed to grow into Kigali’s busiest party bar, despite the regular playing of Ace of Base songs. Now it’s been cemented as the place that never seems to close and you can usually guarantee a pretty crazy weekend night. I like it occasionally but it’s just so dark and so thievey and full of 16 year olds these days that I tend to avoid it.

Live Music

One of the complaints I get about this site fairly often is that I don’t list live music venues and events. The problem is that I don’t really know many places that have live music on a regular basis so, please, fill me in! If you know of bands playing somewhat regularly at a place, let me know so I can add it to this list. In the meantime, check my events calendar for not-so-regular performances at places like Heaven (open mic night) and other random spots around town.

  • City Beach – There was a jazzy type band playing here each weekend last month (March 2014) and I don’t know if it’ll be a regular thing or if they’ll find other bands to keep the live music thing going. It’s a small but nice venue for music, I think. All intimate and stuff with a dance floor busting out just in front of the band and seats around the outside to hide away a bit. If anyone knows whether music here will be a regular thing, please let me know!
  • Hilltop Hotel – I’ve never been but have recently been told that they have a reggae band playing here every Friday. It’s located way out by the airport.
  • Hotel des Mille Collines – They seem to have bands playing fairly regularly here but it’s pretty chilled  and more of a background noise sort of thing (although it’s also crazy loud so I’m not sure what they’re going for) and finishes at around 9 or 10pm. Go early, grab a seat on the comfy patio far from the overpowering speakers, order some brochettes and overpriced drinks, and then shuffle off somewhere else once the music finishes.
  • Fantastic Restaurant – I know this place as a great place to come for a giant and cheap lunch buffet. Apparently it’s also home to live music on weekend evenings. Can anyone confirm or deny?
  • Tiamo – Last I checked, Tiamo has a Congolese band playing every Friday. The music is good and the place gets pretty packed but there’s no outdoor area so it’s really cramped and stuffy. If you want to hear good music on a regular basis, though, then this is really the only place I know.
  • White Horse – They used to have a concert every Friday here, usually reggae. It used to be really popular back when the old Papyrus was closed down but since the new version opened up it seems to have turned back into a regular ol’ restaurant. Does anyone know if they still do concerts here?


I’m definitely not a clubber. Or whatever the kids are calling it, these days. If I end up at a nightclub it’s probably because I’m very drunk. Which means that the details are usually pretty foggy. Below is a list of place I’ve either been or or maybe just heard something about. Please let me know of other places so I can add them to the list!

  • Black and White Club – If you are looking for a Rwandan crowd, but feel like Le Must might be just a tad too upscale for you, Black and White (located inside the Alpha Palace Hotel in Remera) is a good alternative. You will find expats here as well, but because the DJs tend to favor Rwandan pop music, the majority of people on the dance floor will be young Rwandans. The downside: if you don’t like it there, you’re pretty far from town and the rest of the clubbing options. I’ve heard that they sometimes have live music here.
  • Club Next – This club in Muhima closed down for awhile and when it was reopened the entire interior was decked out in white. Plus, on the night I went, they were hosting the post Diner en Blanc party which meant all of the people there were wearing white. It was strangely heavenly. But I think I was overcharged for my drinks so that ruined the trippy experience. Or maybe the drinks just really are super expensive… I never did figure it out. I always have a good time when I come here (which admittedly isn’t that often) and usually end up staying until the sun comes up. Which is weird when the bar has a huge window to let all of that light in.
  • Crystal Club – This bar is located at the top of Top Tower Hotel, somewhere up around the multicoloured rooftop laser space beam (or at least that’s what I assume that thing is…). I’ve been here once, already quite drunk as with most of my nightclub adventures. I remember there being one way in and one way out – a small, rickety, terrifying elevator. I assume there’s a staircase somewhere for safety reasons… but I never did see it. Great views but expensive drinks and a weird vibe. This really is not the place to go to if you prefer a crowded club, however, as there never seems to be anyone here. From time to time, people do rent the place to host private parties, in which case it can be a lot of fun, but apart from these sporadic occasions we see no reason to go here unless you are prepared to bring your own fun. See: How to make friends in Kigali.
  • Golemi – This club is located inside the Lemigo Hotel and the three times I’ve been I’ve had fun. One time was most probably due to the free booze that somehow kept flowing. It’s got a ‘proper’ nightclub feel with mirrors on the walls, a sunken dance floor, and a full bar. It’s been empty most times I’ve been but if you go with a few friends it can be fun.
  • K-Club – The fancy club for fancy people with a Rwf 5,000 cover charge and table service. Dress nicely. It’s probably the most ‘proper’ clubby type place in Kigali so give it a try if that’s your thing.
  • Legacy Lounge – This is the nightclub at Mille Collines. I’ve never been for a night out but I poked my head in one Tuesday as I walked by when the doors were open. It’s certainly cozy but it’s kind of cool in there. Drinks are expensive and I think there’s a cover charge on the weekends. Another fancy place for fancy people.
  • Le Must – Apparently, Le Must originally started out as an exclusive members-only club, but has now opened its door to the man in the street (as long as he’s wearing a suit and polished leather shoes and doesn’t mind paying an entrance fee). The little inside club is regularly crammed with about 50 people too many and the tiny dance floor can be crossed in a mere split jump, but it can be a nice change to the expat-saturated Papyrus and Sundowner. Thursdays are the busiest night (and the only night I’ve ever been) and things fill up quickly from around midnight. I stick to the patio… inside is a bit overwhelming and trips to the toilet are a traumatic experience after about 1am. Seriously. Scary shit. Go in pairs to clear a path. The crowd is friendly and mostly local with a smattering of foreigners starting to find it. Keep a close watch on your stuff here.
  • Papyrus Nightclub –  The entrance to the Papyrus nightclub is located on the bottom floor of the obnoxiously large building near the brochettes BBQ and pool table. Most people seem to prefer the top floor bar and fight against the subtle push to the club downstairs. Last time I was there (well over a year ago) I remember the club being way too loud, weirdly well-lit, and having an annoyingly large cover charge. But it can be fun with a group of friends and is an easy next stop if you start your night in their bar or restaurant.
  • Planet Club (KBC) – Yes, the name of the club is Planet but because it is part of the Kigali Business Center (KBC) building and that’s what people tend to call it (not to be confused with banks KCB and BCR or recently closed supermarket BCK). The music is good (hip hop/African pop), the cover reasonable (around Rwf 2,000 last we checked) and the place is actually kind of nice with several small lounge areas (perfect for meaningful conversations with the catch of the night), a pool table area, and a dancefloor. The major drawback for KBC is the PSWs (‘Professional Sex Workers’ – yes, we do love our abbreviations). The place is literally swarming with metallic body suits, leather mini skirts and leopard-print stilettos (not that the girls can’t pull it off). And don’t think their relentless unwarranted flirting is reserved the boys – every time we have been there, we have ended up having to ask the girl humping our thigh if she could ‘kindly stop doing that, murakoze cyane.’

Watching Sports

I should probably title this section ‘Watching Football’ because that’s pretty much the only sport that Rwandans seem to care anything about. Fortunately for us ‘other’ sports watchers, there are spots around town that play a good variety of things.

  • Car Wash – This huge patio bar is popular with all sorts of people and is centrally located at the bottom of Kimihurura. They occasionally host concerts here but it’s really most well known as the best place to come for football. They’ve got big screen TVs and it usually fills up with fans, making for a fun atmosphere. This would probably be my choice for watching the world cup or any other big football matches.
  • Chez Lando – If I lived in or around Remera I think this would be one of my choices for drinks and dinner before a night out. The layout is kind of cool with little cave-like spaces along with a more open patio and a pool table and TV area. It’s a popular place when there’s a football match on so if you’re into men yelling at a TV while other men kick a ball around then you’ll like the atmosphere here on game days.
  • Meze Fresh – The atmosphere isn’t really sports bar-ish and it’s kind of uncomfortable propping up on the high stools next to a bar where there’s nowhere for your knees to go, BUT the American owner has a good selection of channels and it’s a good spot for a variety of sports. Plus they have good margaritas by the jug, a few other cocktails, and good Mexican food. This is the place to come to watch for a lively annual Superbowl party.
  • Ozone Sports Bar – I don’t know anything about this place except that it has ‘sports bar’ in the name and is located in the Kigali City Tower somewhere. The menu on their website promises craft beer and chicken wings with blue cheese sauce. Considering the menu appears to be an exact copy of this Florida bar, I don’t have a lot of faith.
  • Serena Hotel – Atmosphere here is zero and drinks and food are crazy expensive but if you really really really must watch something and if it’s something obscure like the Winter Olympics, then this is probably your best bet. Head to the lounge area (straight ahead after you enter and up some stairs), plop down on one of the couches and if nobody else is watching anything you can ask for the remote control to surf around. They tend to have about 15 channels at once but they can access more with a flip of the satellite switch… or something. So if you know the channel you want and it’s not there, ask to see if they can put it on for you.
  • Sportszone – There’s a pretty good sports bar located at the Casino on the second floor of Top Tower Hotel. It’s a somewhat bizarre place, sharing the space with a casino, but they’ve got four or five big screens and the Canadian manager makes sure to show things that us weird North American like. It’s the best place to come for those rare hockey and baseball games that get shown.


From time to time an inspired soul takes charge and – to the gratefulness of us mere mortals – arranges a private party. These events are a blessed diversion from the regular Kigali nightlife trail and usually attract a lot of people (though the crowd tends to lean heavily on the expat side). Keep your eyes and ears out for flyers, posters, gossip or just wait for a friend to make a Facebook event and invite you and you’ll probably be able to find a party each weekend – big or small, birthdays, going aways, just-for-the-hell-of-its… whatever. If you host or attend a house party, keep your stuff safe. People here tend to let their guard down at friend’s parties and there’s been a consistent increase of petty theft. So keep your bag on your shoulder or locked in a room and if it’s your party, lock your valuables away and keep a close eye on the sound system. Seriously. Whoever these thieves are will steal the music right out from under your ears! It’s happened.

  • Aloha Club – This place is located next to Caima in Kibagabaga and is basically a swimming pool with a small bar and some sitting areas around the edge. They occasionally hold pool parties.
  • Inema Arts – This Kacyiru art gallery organises fairly regular parties at their cool gallery. Some parties are to support a new or visiting exhibition, others are just because. They usually have food from Meze Fresh and they’re a fun and relaxed way to start your night and meet some new people. Follow their Facebook page to make sure you don’t miss anything.