Rwanda and Uganda Safari Travel Tips
By African standards, Uganda is a postage stamp-size country, at the heart of the continent, sandwiched between Kenya, Rwanda, Congo, Sudan and Tanzania. It is roughly the size of Great Britain or the State of Oregon in the USA. Uganda’s most alluring features are its forests, lakes and mountains. Most of the country is 3,300 ft. (1,000 m) above sea level and there are three mountainous areas – the Rwenzoris, Mount Elgon and the Virunga volcanoes.
Wildlife has steadily increased and many species can be seen nowadays. Primates, especially the mountain gorilla and chimpanzees, are a special attraction together with over a thousand species of birds. This makes other game viewing at most of the parks free of the mass tourism in some other countries. Most of Uganda is well-watered and fertile. Although it lies on the Equator, the climate is tempered by its high altitude. The Nile starts its long journey to the Mediterranean from Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, and traverses Murchison Falls National Park. The population is about nineteen million, largely Christian, but with sizeable Muslim and Animist communities.
The central area is largely Bantu-speaking with the Baganda as the largest group. The Northern tribes are Nilotic in origin; the north is also the home of the nomadic Karamajong and the remote mountain tribe – the Ik. There are pygmy communities (the Batwa) in some forest areas. More than 30 languages are spoken – with English, Luganda and Swahili being the most widely used. Lord Lugard established a British East African Company base in 1890 in Kampala and shortly afterwards Uganda became a British Protectorate. At independence in 1962, Uganda was a prosperous and peaceful country. It went through a turbulent period after Amin seized control in 1971 and expelled the Asians. In 1986 the National Resistance Movement, lead by Yoweri Museveni, took control of the country. Today, the country is progressive, peaceful and inviting. The old kingdoms, abolished in the 1960s, were restored in 1993 and the monarchs have now re-emerged as symbols of traditional society. Today Uganda has a democratically elected government.
Rwanda is a tiny, landlocked republic in Equatorial Africa, Rwanda lies on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift and the watershed between Africa’s two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Often called the “land of a thousand hills”, Rwanda is a mountainous country with a moist, temperate year-round climate.
Rwanda has a number of unique delights to offer travelers. Parc National des Volcano in the Virunga Mountians is home to the Mountain Gorillas to which Dian Fossey dedicated her life. Nyungwe Forest, one of the largest montane forests in Central Africa, is renowned for its large troops of colobus monkeys and rich variety of orchids. Akagera National Park is a savannah park with elephants, hippo and crocodile. Lake Kivu is a beautiful inland sea enclosed by steep terraced hillsides. There are a large variety of birds.
Rwanda has a rich culture with its second city, Butare, having one of the finest cultural museums in Africa. Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. French, English and Kinyarwanda are the most widely spoken languages and the population of about 10 million people is largely Christian with some Muslim and Animist communities. Originally the domain of hunter-gatherers, Rwanda emerged into a centralized state with a feudal monarchy in the fifteenth century. It became a German colony in 1890 and was mandated to the Belgians after the First World War. In 1962, under Prime Minister Gregoire Kayibanda, Rwanda gained independence. Ten years later Major General Juvenal Habyarimana came to power. His death in a plane crash in April 1994 unleashed the genocide in which about one million Rwandans are thought to have been killed and nearly twice as many fled into exile. In recent years, as peace and stability have returned under President Kagame, many Rwandans have come back.