Talk about this landlocked East African nation and the first thing that springs to most people’s minds is Hotel Rwanda and the mass genocide of nearly a million people back in 1994. But the last 25 years have brought a lot of infrastructure investment in Rwanda, and the result is one of Africa’s most impressive (and fastest growing) ecotourism destinations.
Most people are familiar with Rwanda’s mountain gorillas, whose plight for survival was made famous by National Geographic and the late Dian Fossey in the 1970s and 80s. Thanks to conservation initiatives created by Fossey and still executed today by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, the latest census shows that the population in the Virunga Mountains continues to grow. Their total number recently exceeded 1,000 for the first time in decades.
There are 10 habituated gorilla families in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, with groups of 8 trekkers allowed to visit them for one hour each day. Spending time with these gentle giants ranks easily among the best African safari experiences. But it’s far from the only awesome activity for nature lovers in Rwanda.
From trekking to see habituated chimpanzees and numerous other primate species in southern Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest National Park to a more traditional Big 5 safari in eastern Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, this country remains a relatively uncrowded gem for wildlife watchers.
Winston Churchill once called Uganda “the Pearl of Africa,” and the country’s natural attractions have helped it move up in the rankings of the best safari destinations in recent years.
In addition to its impressive array of wildlife (which includes around 365 species of mammals and nearly 1100 species of birds, Uganda is also home to African’s highest mountain range as well as the world ’s largest free-standing volcano, second-largest freshwater lake, and the headwaters of the world’s longest river.
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which is home to nearly half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, is the most well known of Uganda’s protected areas. But the 93,065-square-mile country boasts nearly 30 other national parks, wildlife reserves, and sanctuaries that are equally worth a visit for lovers of nature and wildlife.
Visitors to Queen Elizabeth National Park can enjoy tracking chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge and looking for the unusual tree-climbing lions of the Ishasha sector. Murchison Falls National Park allows visitors to take a wildlife-watching cruise along the Nile River: The area is home to approximately 450 species of birds and over 75 species of mammals. And the forests of Kibale National Park, which is next to Queen Elizabeth, is home to chimpanzees and 12 other primate species.