There’s no experience on Earth quite like catching your first glimpse of a majestic silverback mountain gorilla through the leaves of the mountain forests covering the slopes of Rwanda’s Virunga volcanoes. That’s just what visitors come to Volcanoes National Park to do.
Encompassing a 62 square-mile (160 square-kilometer) swathe of land — home to five volcanic peaks — the park is one of only four places left on the planet where travelers can see mountain gorillas in the wild. It’s also arguably the best; the park is believed to house about half of the remaining population — about 400 individuals.
Besides gorilla trekking, visitors can trek along the park’s many trails, summit Mount Bisoke for views of neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, observe playful golden monkeys as they swing through the trees or pay homage to famous gorilla advocate Dian Fossey, whose grave sits within the park.
The best time to track mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park is during the dry season, from June to September.
During the spring and early summer of 1994, hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Tutsis were slaughtered in a mass genocide planned by the country’s Hutu majority government. Some 259,000 victims of the massacre were laid to rest at what is today the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Opened in 2004 on the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the genocide, the memorial not only commemorates lives lost, it also serves as the base of operations for Aegis Trust, a UK-based genocide prevention organization.
The sober yet impressive site includes a peaceful garden where victims were laid to rest, as well as a museum examining the Rwandan genocide as well as other instances of genocide throughout history. Particularly moving is a gallery telling the story of how Rwanda’s children were impacted by this terrible chapter in history.
While the memorial itself is free, the English audio tour is very much worth the fee for the informative background information it provides.
During your visit, keep in mind that families of the victims come to the memorial to mourn their loved ones.