RWANDA INTRODUCTION

"The land of a Thousand Hills", Rwanda is a green undulating landscape of hills, gardens and tea plantations. It offers tourists a one of a kind journey - home to one third of the world remaining Mountain Gorillas, one third of Africa's birds species, several species of primates, volcanoes, game reserve, resorts and islands on the expansive lake Kivu, graceful dancers, artistic crafts and friendly people. Other activities apart from Gorilla safarisinclude the cultural tour. You will visit the genocide memorial, the Cultural centre, the twin lakes or Bulera and Ruhundo, Nyungwe Forest National Park, Lake Kivu and its famous Napoleon Hut and also see the dances in Rwanda.

Colonial history

Rwanda, became a part of German East Africa in 1890, was first visited by European explorers in 1854. During World War I, it was occupied in 1916 by Belgian troops. After the war, it became a Belgian League of Nations mandate, along with Burundi, under the name of Ruanda-Urundi. The mandate was made a UN trust territory in 1946. Until the Belgian Congo achieved independence in 1960, Rwanda-Urundi was administered as part of that colony. Belgium at first maintained Tutsi dominance but eventually encouraged power sharing between Hutu and Tutsi. Ethnic tensions led to civil war, forcing many Tutsi into exile. When Rwanda became the independent nation of Rwanda on July 1, 1962, it was under Hutu rule.

Geography

Rwanda, in east-central Africa, is surrounded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi. It is slightly smaller than Maryland. Steep mountains and deep valleys cover most of the country. Lake Kivu in the northwest, at an altitude of 4,829 ft (1,472 m), is the highest lake in Africa. Extending north of it are the Virunga Mountains, which include the volcano Karisimbi (14,187 ft; 4,324 m), Rwanda's highest point.

History

The original inhabitants of Rwanda were the Twa, a Pygmy people who now make up only 1% of the population. While the Hutu and Tutsi are often considered to be two separate ethnic groups, scholars point out that they speak the same language, have a history of intermarriage, and share many cultural characteristics.. Agricultural people were considered Hutu, while the cattle-owning elite were identified as Tutsi. Supposedly Tutsi were tall and thin, while Hutu were short and square, but it is often impossible to tell one from the other.

Language

The main language spoken in Rwanda is Kinyarwanda (a Bantu language, also known as 'Rwanda' or 'Ruanda'). French is widespread and English is also spoken by many people who are in contact with visitors.

Food

The food in Rwanda varies from mediocre to good. Fresh fruit and the Belgian-inspired cuisine are usually good; otherwise, whilst hygiene standards are generally high, results can be variable. The diet for most local Rwandese people consists mainly of sweet potatoes, peas, corn, beans, millet and fresh fruit, including avocados, mangos and papayas. Umutsima (cassava and corn), isombe (cassava leaves with eggplant and spinach) and mizuzu (fried plantains) are some of Rwanda's traditional dishes. Drinks include local beer and ikigage, a locally brewed beer made from sorghum.

Time

There is no time difference between winter and summer months in Rwanda; it's always two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2).

Currency

Rwanda's currency is the Rwandan franc (RWF). Currently (Jan 11), £1=Rwf920, and US$1 = Rwf580; you can check the latest exchange rates.

Roads

With your own 4WD vehicle and driver, travelling in Rwanda is fairly easy. Although major arterial routes are tarred, roads in the more rural areas are not and can be in poor condition.

Health

There are medical facilities of Western standards in Kigali; elsewhere facilities are rudimentary. It is generally wise to you are be up-to-date on vaccinations for typhoid, tetanus, polio and diphtheria. Many travelers also have the Havrix vaccine to guard against infection by hepatitis A and a yellow fever certificate is usually required for entry into Rwanda. Malaria is widespread throughout lowland Rwanda, so malaria precautions are generally essential. AIDS is common in Rwanda; HIV infection rates are high. Generally, this isn't an issue for visitors, though they should be aware of the current situation, and take the same wise precautions to avoid infection as in most other countries. We understand that blood supplies used by the private hospitals here have been carefully screened for years.

Visas

Travelers with British passports, as well as American citizens, generally do not need to purchase a visa when travelling to Rwanda; currently (Jan 2011) passports are just stamped on arrival. However, always check with your local Rwandan Embassy for the latest regulations.

Weather

Rwanda presents visitors with a pleasant tropical highland climate, although rainfall is not uncommon.