About Rwanda

Described as ‘the land of a thousand hills’, Rwanda is full of stunning scenery including an undulating landscape of hills, gardens and tea plantations. The mountain ranges, volcanoes, rivers and lakes will take your breath away.

It is a small landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of east-central Africa, bordered by Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.

Home to nearly 10 million people, Rwanda supports the densest population in continental Africa, most of who engage in subsistence agriculture.

In the north, the Parc National de Volcans is home to one third of the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas. There are not many things in life as absolutely thrilling as watching gorillas go about their daily life of feeding, resting, playing and raising their young in their natural habitat, at very close range.

The country has received considerable international attention due to its 1994 genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed. In 2008, Rwanda became the first country in history to elect a national legislature in which a majority of members were women. Rwanda is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, making the country one of only two in the Commonwealth without a British colonial past.

With easy flight connections to and from Nairobi, Rwanda is the perfect complement to a Kenya or Tanzania safari.

Demographics

Most Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda, one of the country’s three official languages, and in market towns many people speak Swahili. Educated Rwandans speak French and about 5% speak English. In 2008 the Rwandan government announced that English will become the co-official language of the nation, alongside Kinyarwanda and replacing French. They switched the language of education from French to English, and required government officials to learn it.

Rwanda was admitted in November 2009 to membership of the Commonwealth of Nations. The ethnic breakdown of this nation of 10 million is roughly 84% Hutu, 15% Tutsi, and 1% Twa, with smaller minorities of South Asians, Arabs, French, British, and Belgians.

Religion

Most Rwandans are Christian, with significant changes since the genocide.

The Muslim community may have grown in part because Muslims are suggested to have saved the lives of many Tutsis from Hutu attacks. Some estimate the Muslim population of the country to be as high as 14%.

Find attached samples of some of the safaris we offer in Rwanda.

History

These early inhabitants were the ancestors of the Twa, a group of aboriginal Pygmy hunter-gatherers, who still live in Rwanda today. Eventually these settlers were joined by Bantu farmers from the west, known as the Hutus.

The Hutus, with their sedentary farming lifestyle, soon outnumbered the Twas and began to take over their traditional hunting grounds, forcing them to retreat into the forests. Later a third group, the cattle-raising Tutsi, migrated to the area. The Tutsi were generally taller than the Hutus and the Twas, and were distinct in physical appearance it is not known when the Tutsi arrived and from where they came, but there is evidence that they were of Cushitic origin, coming from the Horn of Africa. Even in pre-colonial Rwanda, however, the Kinyarwanda language was widely spoken. The Tutsi king (mwami) became the ultimate judge and arbiter for those cases over which he had jurisdiction. Through this system, stability was achieved in large areas of what is now Rwanda.

Geography

Rwanda’s countryside is covered by grasslands and small farms extending over rolling hills, with areas of rugged mountains that extend southeast from a chain of volcanoes in the northwest. The divide between the Congo and Nile drainage systems extends from north to south through western Rwanda.

On the western slopes of this ridgeline, the land slopes abruptly toward Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River valley, and constitutes part of the Great Rift Valley. This western section of the country lies within the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion.

The eastern slopes are more moderate, with rolling hills extending across central uplands at gradually reducing altitudes, to the plains, swamps, and lakes of the eastern border region. Therefore the country is also fondly known as “Land of a Thousand Hills” (Pays des mille collines).

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