Rwanda is visa-free for all African citizens

Here is another momentous announcement out of Rwanda; all African citizens visiting Rwanda no longer require a visa. In other words, Rwanda is visa free for all Africans. The announcement was made by President of Rwanda H.E. Paul Kagame on Thursday, 2nd November 2023 at the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Summit held in Kigali. This effectively opens up Rwanda to all of Africa, from Nigeria to Egypt to South Africa, all citizens will not need to pay for a visa to enter Rwanda. Previously only citizens in the East Africa community to which Rwanda belongs were exempted from visa payment.

This is another landmark announcement after recently Rwanda opened up for all travelers from the whole world to be able to acquire visas on arrival. Now, with this new announcement it even gets better for African citizens as they do not need to pay for visas at all. As an African citizen you just have to pack your bags, check the next flight to Rwanda and off to Rwanda, and arriving into one of the cleanest cities on the continent.

With the doors now wide open for African citizens, here is an opportunity for you as an African to experience the “land of thousands hills”.

As an African citizen, what do you know or have you heard about Rwanda? It is the clean streets, her beautiful ladies, the gorillas, the rolling landscape and volcanic mountains or her dark past of the genocide?

What interesting things can Africans do in Rwanda?

Here are some of the interesting things you can do as an African

City tour – experience an utopia in Africa

I have to say Kigali City is a must visit for any African, if not for anything but just to see that modern, clean and safe cities can be built by Africans. At least this may restore hope in you and make you feel good as an African because African cities are synonymous with dirt, crime, slums, bad infrastructure and all that.

Kigali City also has plenty of things to do and see, from wildlife reserves such as Umusambi Villaage Wildlife Reserve, historical places such as the museums about the genocide and history of Rwanda, car-free zones with free internet, amazing art galleries & crafts shops, nice building such as the iconic convention center, amazing nightlife with no worry about your safety anywhere, vibrant suburbs such as Nyamirambo, etc…

Visit Gorillas on special African rates

When it comes to wildlife, Rwanda is known for the gorillas and the gorilla trekking adventure, however the gorilla trek is also known as a very expensive activity that is largely left to the international travelers who can afford. Indeed the gorilla trek is quite pricy with international travelers having to pay $1500 for a gorilla tracking ticket/permit. However, at the moment Rwanda has given Africans a special discounted price of $500. So, visit Rwanda and enjoy the once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Silverback gorilla in the mountains.

Take a safari trip to Akagera National Park

Rwanda is perhaps not popular as a safari country but the country’s only savannah region protected in the Akagera National Park is fast developing into a credible big game destination having all the big five (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo) and plenty of other wildlife. This in addition to amazing scenery with diverse habitats and landscapes of large wetlands and lakes, savannah, grassy hills and forests, create an amazing safari experience with more than just animals.

The park is also just 2.5 hours’ drive from Kigali City making it so accessible that you can do a day trip and have a chance to see all the big five.

How about a beautiful getaway to Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu, Rwanda’s biggest lake located along the western border with the Congo, is an excellent place for a getaway and spend relaxation time in resort along the beautiful lake shore from where you can take a boat ride and enjoy the breathtaking scenery along the shore and across the lake visiting the islands. There are also exciting water adventures you can do in Lake Kivu such as paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, etc…

Here are ideas on short trips you can do in Rwanda

Is Uganda safe after the (ADF) attack on tourists?

On 17th October gunmen believed to be of the rebel outfit the ADF – Allied Democratic Forces (a designated terrorist organization with links to ISIS)  killed two tourists and their tour drive while on safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park. This tragic incidence sent shockwaves through the tourism industry and the country’s leadership. Never before has the ADF had the motivation to attack foreigners, let alone tourists. This has impacted the tourism industry immensely as tour operators are reporting booking cancellations by tourists who had planned trips to Uganda.

How and why the ADF managed to attack the tourists in Queen Elizabeth National Park?

The country’s security infrastructure was caught off-guard by this incidence, as perhaps it was never imagined the ADF would have such motivation to target tourists or foreigners.  But, this has been explained by the head of state, stating that the attack on tourists in Uganda by the ADF was a desperate act by the group facing defeat. The government of Uganda launched a campaign into Congo to wipe out the ADF where it has been basing to carry out the attacks in Uganda. And as such, the group has been dealt a huge blow by the campaign, having its fighters killed and bases annihilated within the Congo degrading it heavily and sending the remnants of its forces into disarray. The disintegrated group had some of its remnants sneak back into Uganda and it is from these about 5 terrorists killed tourists in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Why the group managed to sneak into the park? It is because the park is shared along the border with Congo, and so it is the easiest place they could have managed to sneak in, attack and probably sneak quickly back into Congo.

How safe is Uganda after the attack and should I cancel the trip?

After the surprise attack the Ugandan government has massively increased deployment in and near Queen Elizabeth National Park as the army and other security agencies continue to comb the area of any insurgencies.

Security measures have also been upped in other national parks and tourism destinations such as Bwindi National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, etc… However the likelihood of the rebels repeating such an attack in another park is very slim to impossible because they would not have an easy escape back into Congo before they are netted. Other parks are also not close to the conflict zone like Queen Elizabeth National Park that is extends into both countries.

Should you cancel your trip in Uganda? Definitely you should not. Uganda is stable and safe, the attack on tourists can be treated as a one off and has motivated the government even further to increase surveillance in the parks and to also commit to wipe out the ADF in Congo or degrade it to the point it can no longer pose any threat in future.

Should I exclude Queen Elizabeth National Park from my Ugandan tour?

At the moment, perhaps there is no safer place in Uganda than Queen Elizabeth National Park. The park has been combed of any possible threats from the ADF, and more security personnel have been deployed in the park especially the border regions. Also new safety measures have been put in place as the security agencies eliminate the threat of the rebels. For example, all game drives in are escorted by an armed security personnel, and game drives are done between 7am and 5.30pm.

However, if you think you will feel tense and won’t enjoy the safari in Queen Elizabeth Park then you can exclude the park which is often combined with a gorilla trek in Bwindi forest or chimpanzee trekking Kibale forest. You can instead visit Lake Mburo National Park on your way to the gorillas or chimpanzees.

Nyungwe National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

On September 19, 2023 Rwanda has received wonderful news, it has been confirmed Nyungwe National Park has been inscribed on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Nyungwe National Park also becomes the first site in Rwanda to be listed in the UNESCO World Heritage sites which are places of global importance. That is to mean, sites that should be recognized and protected because they possess a biodiversity (in the case of the Nyungwe) or something and that is not found in many places in the world and should therefore be protected for the future generations to find. UNESCO World Heritage sites are therefore of benefit to the whole world not just to the places where they are found.

In 2021 Nyungwe National Park was put on the list of places that were under consideration to be qualified as UNESCO World Heritage Site and it has been long overdue for the site to be recognized and included.

Why Nyungwe National Park’s inscription was long overdue?

Nyungwe National Park protects an ancient forest that has been around since the last ice age thousands of years ago. This longevity has enabled it accumulate and protect an incredible biodiversity. The forest has a lot of species that are not found anywhere else on the planet and researchers are continually discovering new wildlife most of which is not found outside Nyungwe and the Albertine Rift valley. Moreover, there are very few forests of this kind left in Africa and therefore elevating Nyungwe to a UNESCO heritage site is vital in preserving important global ecosystems that have been threatened by human settlement and exploitation. Many such forests in Africa have been depleted.

Nyungwe is also an important water catchment for the region and the continent of Africa as it contributes water to two major rivers in Africa, that is, the world’s longest river the Nile River (the farthest known source of the Nile is found in Nyungwe) and the Congo River. Nyungwe also provides 70% of the fresh water in Rwanda.

What does this new status mean for Nyungwe National Park and Rwanda?

This status is very vital for Nyungwe National Park as it brings it at the forefront of conservation efforts. Nyungwe will now attract more funding for conservation as a world heritage site. This therefore helps the survival of this vital ecosystem.

Rwanda getting her first UNESCO World Heritage site is an achievement worth celebrating and is a testament to the massive effort the government of Rwanda has put in protecting and preserving her natural resources. Rwanda is dedicated to protecting the natural resources and the ecosystems amidst the immense challenges and pressures these places due to an increasing and demanding population. Seeing what Rwanda has done with the recovery of Akagera National Park which is was nearly no more but now has all the big five, the turn around seen at the Volcanoes National Park whose gorilla population is growing every year that many baby gorilla are named during every during the Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony,  this shows Rwanda needs to be commended as one of the biggest conservation successes in the world.

What do in Nyungwe National Park

If you are visiting Rwanda then a UNESCO Heritage World Heritage site should on the list of places to visit. Nyungwe provides an array of experiences for the nature lover. The most popular activity is the chimpanzee trekking, an activity that gives you a chance to track down a community of chimps and spend an hour around them and it is one of the best wildlife encounters you can have. If you are visit Rwanda for the gorilla trekking, the best way to compliment meeting the gentle giants is going to Nyungwe for the chimpanzee trekking.

There is a canopy walk adventure in Nyungwe National Park that is highlight you should not miss. The walkway provides breathtaking views across the forest and a chance to see monkeys and birds at eye level.

Nyungwe National Park is a birdwatching heaven that provides the best opportunity to tick off the Albertine Rift endemic species including the Rwenzori Turaco

Other activities to do in Nyungwe National Park include nature walks on several trails leading to beautiful parts of the park such to a waterfal, tracking the colobus monkeys, visit a tea estate on the edge of the forest. Night walks are also available in Nyungwe to enable discover the nocturnal life of the forest you won’t see during the day.

Places to see giraffes in Uganda

The tallest land mammal, the Giraffe, is one of the most fascinating creatures to see in the bush. This longest-naked animal with its beautiful skin patterns of brown is amazing to look at as it saunters gracefully across the plains, towering over all animals, and even plants. Such an iconic animal! It is little wonder the Giraffe is a favorite animal for a lot of people.

Uganda is a proud home to Giraffes that can be seen in some national parks and wildlife reserves and at the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC).

How many giraffes are in Uganda?

According to the last census carried out in 2020 the population of giraffes in Uganda was 2072 giraffes which was an increase of giraffes from 880 counted in 2017. These figures are by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the government organization that manages the parks and reserves in Uganda.

What species of giraffes are found in Uganda?

Of the four known species of giraffes in Africa, Uganda has the Northern Giraffe species. The Northern Giraffe has three subspecies and of these the one subspecies found in Uganda is the Nubian Giraffes formerly (or sometimes) called the Rothschild Giraffes.

The Nubian or Rothschild is easily identified or distinguished from other giraffes by the plain white legs from knee to the hooves. The simple description is that Rothschild Giraffes “put on stockings”.

Places to see giraffes on safari in Uganda

If you are planning a safari vacation to Uganda and the Giraffe is among the animals your must see list the following are places to visit

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is simply giraffe territory! Uganda’s biggest park has the biggest population of giraffes in Uganda that were numbering 1968 by 2019. This is also the biggest population of the Nubian or Rothschild Giraffe in the world.

The giraffe population in Murchison Falls National Park has been steadily growing, having been 919 in 2016.

The growing giraffe population in Murchison Falls National Park has enable giraffes to be translocated to other park and reserves that did not have giraffes.

During the safari in Murchison Falls National Park plenty of giraffes are spotted in the savanna on the northern bank of the Nile River.

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National Park is a recipient of giraffes translocated from Murchison Falls National Park.

16 giraffes were translocated to the park in April 2019, and according to the census in 2021 the giraffes had increased to 37 individuals.

Lake Mburo National Park being a small park makes finding the giraffes easy and thus a nice place to see giraffes in Uganda.

Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park had a few giraffes which were boosted with a 15 new individuals translocated from Murchison Falls National Park. The number is growing steadily and the park should have more than 30 individuals, improving the chances of spotting the giraffes in Uganda’s remotest safari destination.

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

15 Giraffes were introduced into the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve in 2018 and the numbers have been growing. On your search for cheetahs for which the reserve is known for you can therefore expect sighting giraffes

Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Zoo)

If you wish to get closer to the giraffes and interact with them through the epic mouth-to-mouth feeding visit the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Zoo) in Entebbe that is home to 3 giraffes.

What is the best time to visit Uganda?

Uganda, popularly referred to as the Pearl of Africa, is a destination that is increasingly being featured yearly in international travel guides as one of the best destinations to visit. For insistence Uganda was in CNN Travel’s list of destinations to visit in 2023. This is because more people are discovering Uganda’s amazingly beautiful landscapes and diverse environments, arguably the best weather in the world, friendliest of people who practice diverse cultures and traditions, and a variety of exciting experiences in 10 national parks that include the famous gorilla trekking and chimpanzee trekking adventures, birdwatching and big game safaris.

A lot of people are deciding to visit Uganda but many wonder what could be the best time to visit the Pearl of Africa?

Well, I can say that since weather is the number one reason people travel then any time is a good time to go to Uganda because Uganda’s weather does not have extremes that would stop you from enjoying your experience or activity. However, you may want to consider the most ideal weather conditions depending on what you want to do in Uganda, best time to see certain wildlife and enjoy experiences, and the local situation that may affect safety.

Best Weather season (Dry season vs wet season)

The best weather season to visit Uganda is during the dry season, or call it the summer and this is from June to September and December to February. The dry season (especially from June to August) with less rains and more sunshine allows for uninterrupted activities and travel in rural areas that can get slippery when it rains. Wildlife adventures like gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking and mountain hiking are best done during the dry season, more so for those that are not ready to have a challenging trek or climbing.

The wet season from March to May and October to mid-December is often not the best time to visit Uganda because the constant rains can be disrupting or inconveniencing during treks, plus can also hinder travel to some places when the dirt roads get too slippery or even flood. However wet season has advantages too, for example there are less crowds, the scenery is surreal, the waterfalls are massive, the lakes so pristine. If you are a nature lover and can brave the slippery trails and road and rains falling on you, you will enjoy the wet season better.

Is there a bad time to visit Uganda?

Uganda is safe and beautiful all year round, there is no definite time when you should not go to Uganda. However during the political season when the president is elected may not be a good time to visit Uganda due to a heightened political atmosphere that may easily break into riots across several cities especially the capital Kampala.

Also be vigilant when there is an outbreak of a deadly disease such as Ebola and cholera. With Uganda’s poor health care system, it may be a bit risky to visit Uganda.