Tourism in Rwanda is rapidly increasing. In 2010, 666,000 tourists visited the country. This resulted in tourism revenues of $200 million, an increase of 14% over 2009.

Wildlife tourism

Rwanda is located in Central Africa (but most residents live on the side of East Africa) and has much history and natural beauty. Rwanda tours groups are led by an experienced guide who specializes in teaching others about the landscape and wildlife of Rwanda. Expeditions visit volcanoes, waterfalls and rain forests that are home to many different African animals.

Rwanda is home to a huge diverse population of animals including mountain gorillas and the world’s largest natural park for hippos – some 20,000 are believed to be there. Although Rwanda is still a developing country, it has quite hotels and its new international interest in tourism is helping economic growth.

Plastic bags are banned in Rwanda, and tourists are instructed not to bring them to the country.

Rwanda National parks

Volcanoes National Park (background) encompasses a portion of the Virunga’s volcanic chain, the last habitat of the mountain gorilla.

The national parks of Rwanda are protected ecosystems and wildlife reserves located within the borders of Rwanda in east central Africa. In 2012, these protected natural zones include the Volcanoes National Park, Akagera National Park and Nyungwe Forest. Maintenance of the national park system, as well as tourism infrastructure and promotion of the parks, is managed by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) with assistance from government ministries.

Each park protects a distinct ecosystem and variety of species. Bordering Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, into which the Virunga’s volcanic mountain chain extends, Volcanoes National Park is the most heavily patrolled park in the world and the oldest in Africa. In combination with adjoining parks in the neighboring countries, it serves as the world’s only habitat of the mountain gorillas, whose numbers have been increasing here over the past decade. Visitor numbers to the gorillas are strictly limited and passes must be purchased, often well in advance, from RDB. Golden monkeys also inhabit a separate portion of the park.

To the southeast along the Burundian border, Nyungwe National Park hosts a large number of chimpanzees and a variety of other primate species in a highland rain forest environment.

The eastern border of Rwanda, along Lake Victoria and Tanzania, is the location of Akagera National Park and protects a variety of African fauna in a savannah ecosystem, including giraffes, elephant, buffalo, baboons, gazelles and zebra. Lions originally inhabited the park but were exterminated by poisoning during and after the genocide. The park is currently being fenced in to allow the reintroduction of lions to be imported from South Africa in 2014.