Mountain Gorillas, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

At A Glance

Land area 26,340 km² (less than half that of Scotland)
Location 120km south of the Equator
Capital Kigali
Government Multi-party democracy dominated by the RPF, which won 93% of the vote in the 2010 presidential election
Ruling Party Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF)
President Paul Kagame
Prime Minister Pierre Habumuremyi
Population 11.7 million (2012 estimate)
Life expectancy at birth 55 years
Religion Roman Catholic (majority), Protestant, Muslim, traditional
Official languages Kinyarwanda, English, French. Swahili is also widely spoken.
Altitude From 1,000 to 4,500m above sea level; highest point is Mt Karisimbi (4,507m)
Terrain Mostly grassy uplands and hills; relief is mountainous with altitude declining from west to east
Vegetation Ranges from dense equatorial forest in the northwest to tropical savannah in the east
GDP per capita US$1,350 (2011 estimate)
Natural resources Some tin, gold and natural gas
Main exports Coffee and tea
National parks Volcanoes (northwest); Nyungwe (southwest); Akagera (east)
Time GMT + 2 hours
Currency Rwandan franc (for up-to-date exchange rates, go to
Electricity 230/240 volts at 50Hz
International telephone country code 250


Citizens of  Australia, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, the UK and the USA may obtain an entry visa for US$30 on arrival valid for 30 days.  Citizens of all other countries can obtain a visa before arrival, either online, or at a Rwandan diplomatic mission.

All visitors must hold a passport valid for at least six months after the date of departure from Rwanda with at least one empty page.


As far as tourists are concerned, Rwanda is among the most crime-free of African countries. Kigali is a very safe city, even at night, though it would probably be courting trouble to stumble around dark alleys with all your valuables on your person. Be aware, too, that this sort of thing can change very quickly: all too often, as tourism volumes increase, so too does opportunistic and petty crime.

The following security hints are applicable anywhere in Africa:

  • Most casual thieves operate in busy markets and bus stations. Keep a close watch on your possessions in such places, and avoid having valuables or large amounts of money loose in your daypack or pocket.
  • Keep all your valuables and the bulk of your money in a hidden money belt. Never show this money belt in public. Keep any spare cash you need elsewhere on your person – a button-up pocket on the front of the shirt is a good place as money cannot be snatched from it without the thief coming into your view. It is also advisable to keep a small amount of hard currency (ideally cash) hidden in your luggage in case you lose your money belt.
  • Leave any jewellery of financial or sentimental value at home.


Tips make a big difference in Rwanda.  Do not tip in dollars, especially single 1 USD bill, even, 5 or 10 USD bills lose their value when exchanged, only higher notes of 50 or 100 USD can one obtain a decent exchange rate.  Always tip in Rwandan Francs.  Also, there are often no banks or Forex Bureaus out in the Bush.  


Both Malaria and Zika virus are of concern in Rwanda.  Please consult the CDC site for information on vaccinations:

May Weather in Kigali

  • Normal Max/ High Temperature 25°C (77°F)
  • Average Temperature 20°C (68°F)
  • Min/ Low Temperature 15°C (59°F)
  • Normal Precipitation 92mm (3.6in)
  • Number of Wet Days (probability of rain on a day) 14 (45%)
  • Average Daylight per day 12:01

About the Mountain Gorilla - CRITICALLY ENDANGERED 

Common Name: Mountain Gorilla

Scientific Name: Gorilla beringei beringei

Type: Mammals

Diet: Omnivores

Group Name: Troop, band

Average life span in The Wild: 35 years

Size: Standing height, 4 to 6 ft

Weight: 300 to 485 lbs

Size relative to a 6-ft man: 

There are only about 880 mountain gorillas remaining on Earth in the Virungas and at Bwindi. 


These gorillas live on the green, volcanic slopes of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo—areas that have seen much human violence from which the gorillas have not escaped unscathed.  Only Rwanda is generally considered to be “safe” today, so the opportunity to see these animals - the world’s largest primates - are very limited.

Many conservation initiatives are meant to aid mountain gorillas, and it is believed that their numbers may be steady or slowly increasing. Still they continue to face major threats from habitat loss and poaching.

Alpha Males and Social Behavior

Mountain gorillas have longer hair and shorter arms than their lowland cousins. They also tend to be a bit larger than other gorillas.

Gorillas can climb trees, but are usually found on the ground in communities of up to 30 individuals. So-called “Families" are organized according to fascinating social structures. They are led by one dominant, older adult male, often called a silverback because of the swath of silver hair that adorns his otherwise dark fur. They also include several other young males, some females, and their offspring.

The leader organizes troop activities like eating, nesting in leaves, and moving about the group's 0.75-to-16-square-mile home range.

Those who challenge this alpha male are apt to be cowed by impressive shows of physical power. He may stand upright, throw things, make aggressive charges, and pound his huge chest while barking out powerful hoots or unleashing a frightening roar. Despite these displays and the animals' obvious physical power, gorillas are generally calm and nonaggressive unless they are disturbed.

In the thick forests of central and west Africa, troops find plentiful food for their vegetarian diet. They eat roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, and tree bark and pulp.


Female gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. Unlike their powerful parents, newborns are tiny—weighing four pounds—and able only to cling to their mothers' fur. These infants ride on their mothers' backs from the age of four months through the first two or three years of their lives.

Young gorillas, from three to six years old, remind human observers of children. Much of their day is spent in play, climbing trees, chasing one another, and swinging from branches.

In captivity, gorillas have displayed significant intelligence and have even learned simple human sign language.

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