Rwanda is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa. This small country known as the land of a thousand hills, attracts millions of visitors from all over the world who visit the country all year round for gorilla trekking tours into the Volcanoes National Park, chimpanzee watching, wildlife game viewing and cultural tours. There is so much to see, from beautiful beaches at Lake kivu, to luscious tropical rainforests jungles, that it can be a hard task to decide where to go. Here are the top things to see in Rwanda, Africa!
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Mountain gorillas are one of Rwanda’s most famous attraction. Gorillas are a star attraction that has attracted thousands of visitors to Rwanda. From celebrities to nobels, gorilla trekking is an adventure activity that has been undertaken for the last 30 years, and up to today, it is a rare experience that one should enjoy in Rwanda. On a gorilla trek in Rwanda, Visitors enjoy trekking through the dense tropical rainforest looking for the magnificient jungle giants that stole Dian Fossey’s heart and dedicated all her life to the jungles!
No trip to Rwanda is complete without a visit to Kigali, a populous city in Rwanda that is not only the capital but also a place filled with attractions. Kigali boasts of a wealth of attractions, from incredible shopping, sight seeing, and of course the ommissible visit to its genocide memorial sites and cultural sites. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to this city, so be sure to create an itinerary of the things that you do want to see to avoid missing out.
Lake Kivu is the best place to visit on a leisure holiday to Rwanda. Its beaches, that are not frequented by visitors have been kept natural, attractive and unspoilt, readily available for ecotourists to visit them. Lake Kivu is home to some of the most stunning beaches in Rwanda. In order to experience everything Kivu has to offer, you should go on a tour, or hire a four by four vehicle and drive around the island yourself. You can also immerse yourself in nature by camping under the stars.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
This national park is one of the best places to visit in Rwanda, renowned for chimpanzee tracking. It is a unique nature reserve, which home to several primates that include chimpanzees and monkeys. The park is also home to interesting insects, amphibians, birds, and animals.
One of the best ways to experience any of the above attractions is to go on a guided tour through the forest or book a chimpanzee tracking safari in Rwanda. Guided tours will be able to conveniently transport you from one location to another, while experienced guides will be able to escort you around the best attractions each area has to offer.Read More
In East Africa, Chimpanzees are found in Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda but most of the tour operator recommends chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. Below are some of the reasons why you should trek chimpanzees in Uganda:
Uganda hosts a good population of chimpanzees compared to Tanzania and Rwanda. The fact that Uganda protects chimpanzees in four different locations including Kibale Forest National Park, Budongo Forest reserve, Toro-Semliki Game reserve and Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Each location protects quite a large number of habituated chimps for visitors to enjoy the experience.
Kibale Forest yields a variety of Chimpanzee feeds – the rain forest sustains a variety of chimpanzees due to presence of fruits, plant shoots, stems, root among others which act as food for the chimps. That is why Kibale Forest offers the best Chimpanzee experience of all parks in East Africa. More so, the climate in Kibale is suitable for chimpanzee living.
Along side chimpanzee tracking, visitors are also rewarded the view of other attractions like Mountains, Hills, Valleys, wild animals and birds among other. This is because chimpanzees co-exist with other primates, birds and so on. Trekking chimpanzees in Kibale offers the view of foot hills of Mountains of the moon (Mt. Rwenzori), Chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura Gorges offers the view of a variety of wild animals in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Uganda is the best for chimpanzee trekking because of cheap trekking permit compared to Rwanda. Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest, Toro- Semliki Game reserve and Kyambura Gorge cost US$ 50 per person (None residents) – as the highest price. On the other hand, chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park cost US$ 150 per person compared to US$ 90 (none residents) in Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda.
The distance from Entebbe International Airport to Kibale Forest National Park is shorter than that from Kigali International Airport to Nyungwe Forest National Park. It is 6 hours drive and 8 hours drive respectively. The shorter distance traveled to meet chimpanzees in Uganda saves time and fatigue.
No much laboring while looking for Chimpanzees in the Uganda forest compared to Nyungwe forest in Rwanda. First of all, Nyungwe forest national Park is very larges park which makes the whole experience tiresome and hectic.
Game Rangers in Uganda are friendly, experienced and informative thus making chimpanzee trekking experience enjoyable and educative. The rangers know each individual chimp by name, history and predict their future. In Uganda, each chimpanzee is named for easy identification.
The local communities are around chimp parks in Uganda also play a bigger role in protecting and preserving the habitats of chimpanzees. Uganda wildlife Authority (UWA) in conjunction with Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) work tooth and nail to control poaching of animals in Uganda to enable chimpanzees increase in number.
Uganda is politically stable – for long time, Uganda has been peaceful to facilitate tourist activities prevail in Uganda. The Uganda People’ Defense Force (UPDF), Uganda Police and other security agencies are providing tight security to tourists, wild life and Ugandans.
There are improved infrastructures like roads, accommodation, health centers and schools among others are attracting tourists to trek chimps in Uganda.Read More
Located about 20 kilometres east of Mwanza is a special piece of the Sukuma tribe history and a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to this northern Tanzania port city.
The Bujora Museum is uniquely Sukuma, drawing inspiration from the ancient traditional practices of Tanzania’s biggest tribe. The Sukuma are said to have arrived in northwestern Tanzania as early as the 15th Century and conquered the natives of the area and established the Sukuma Kingdom here.
“Sukuma means northerners,” says Felix Mugongo, a Sukuma who works as a guide at the museum. “We are called Sukuma because we came from the north. Some historians say we came from Congo, while others say we came down following the River Nile from Somalia.”
The Bujora Museum was established in 1968 by the late Father David Clement after the French-Canadian priest – who was back then in charge of the Bujora Parish Catholic Church – was impressed by the Sukuma way of life. “His aim was to find a way of blending the Sukuma culture with Christianity,” Mugongo says of the priest who installed black statues of Jesus and Virgin Mary in the Church as one of his ideas of blending the Sukuma culture with Christianity.
“Even though he was a priest, David encouraged the use of traditional medicine, only that he did not like the way the Sukuma traditional healers diagnosed diseases – like by sacrificing a chicken or through dreams,” Mugongo says.
Since its inception close to five decades ago, Bujora Museum has served as a useful resource centre for those interested in learning about the rich traditional culture of the Sukuma, a people who still inhabit this area.
The museum offers a detailed overview of the fascinating history of the Sukuma. For instance, can you imagine that one of the drums that were made by King Songa in 1505 still exists? Or did you know that in the traditional Sukuma culture it was a taboo to kill a snake because for a human being to encounter one was considered a blessing? How about the fact that the Sukuma used to dance (and still do) while cuddling a live python? Well, neither did I, until recently when I visited the Bujora Museum.
During my visit, I found three pythons that are nurtured from a small one-room house in the museum. Some Sukuma dancers, my guide told me, still perform with the deadly pythons.
“We still have one dance group at the centre that performs with the pythons as a way of preserving our culture,” says Mugongo, adding that sometimes dancers deliberately let the deadly snake bite them just for “effect”. “But these snakes have been treated and are no longer poisonous,” he says.
Dance was an integral part of the Sukuma culture. In the olden days, the Sukuma used to organise dance competitions featuring different clans, each trying to win over the audience with innovative props. Most groups performed with different farming implements, while others used distinctive objects such as pythons.
Another intriguing thing in the museum is a replica of the traditional Sukuma house, a small hut where some of the most important household assets such as herbs, pots, baskets and gourds that were used as spoons are displayed.
The traditional Sukuma house was windowless and had a tiny door that was just about three feet high, meaning that one had to bend down a great deal in order to enter the house.
“The door was made like that for security reasons,” says Mugongo. “That presented a very big challenge for an intruder because he couldn’t enter the house without being noticed first by its occupants.”
In the royal hut – which is set apart by its majestic size and a roof pinnacle that is decorated with shells – the contents include the king’s seat that was carved out of a single piece of wood, the mancala game board, stools, crowns, and musical instruments like drums, among other items.
Also quite interesting is the hut of the medicine man, which features photographs of some well-known Sukuma traditional healers holding some of their tools of the trade such as cow horns.
But while the traditional Sukuma dwelling is certainly attention-grabbing, it isn’t the only thing that attracts at least 200 visitors to this museum per week.
Bujora Museum also boasts a couple of drums that have existed for more than 100 years which, according to Mugongo, were important instruments not just for playing music but also communication. “For instance,” he says, “when someone died the drum was played to call people to assembly, where the death announcement would be made.”
The open-air museum, which is under the management of the Bujora Parish Catholic Church, charges entrance fees of Tsh15,000 for non-East Africans, Tsh10,000 for East Africans who are non-Tanzanians and Tsh3,000 for locals. Those who wish to stay the night at the museum pay Tsh10,000 for a cottage per night.Read More
In my local travels, I recently stopped at Karatina Town on the Nairobi – Nyeri highway. It is 24 kilometres southeast of Nyeri town. Located south of Mount Kenya, it is administratively in Nyeri County, Kenya. It has a municipal council and is the headquarters of Mathira East district.
Karatina is on the Nairobi – Nyeri highway, 20 kilometres southeast of Nyeri town and south of Mount Kenya. It is at an elevation of 1868 metres. Karatina is dusty without tarmac and boggy in wet times. Roads out of Karatina to other major towns – Sagana, Kerugoya or Nyeri and Nanyuki are all weather and makes access easy.
Nearest Major town : Nyeri 20km, Nairobi 137km
Nearest Airport : JKIA,Wilson, Nairobi 137km
Origin of the name “Karatina”
Many online sources claim that the name Karatina is a diminutive term for Muratina…NO! Karatina is the corrupted version of the English word ‘quarantine’. In the colonial times, the present Karatina was a market place where African brought cattle to sell. The cattle were first quarantined, checked by the Veterinary Office, passed for slaughter and taken to the abattoir. The Africans then could not speak English and were unable to pronounce “quarantine”. The corrupted pronunciation sounded like “karatina.” Karatina it became to be, even after the colonials, left. The remnants of the quarantine area are at Ragati, south of Karatina town.
Karatina – Mau Mau – Kenya’s Independence Struggle
During the struggle for independence, Karatina was a hot-bed of the Mau Mau activity like most other areas surrounding Mount Kenya. The aborigines to date have real-life memories.
Mau Mau fighters used the proximity of Mount Kenya and its forests as their insurgency base and made raids to find food in the villages. These colonial villages were humane detention camps created by the colonialists to enclose villagers for easy monitoring and security. Designed on the Maasai cattle kraals, the villagers were herded daily to construct roads, dig in the quarries, or any other work that was deemed to occupy their minds.
The elderly men from this locality were in detention during the Mau Mau reprisals, they have stories untold. To find out about the Mau Mau, chase the epics directly from Karatina people.
- Watch “End of the Empire” documentary
- Read Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya,” by Caroline Elkins
The colonial collaborators came out as the beneficiaries of the first independent Kenya Government as was the case in the rest of the country.
Mathira ma Githomo
Essentially an agricultural community, Karatina is in Mathira, the legendary Mathira ma Githomo (The Mathira of education!). One of the most educated populations in Kenya, Karatina has also some of the most well established community built primary and Secondary schools in Kenya such as these examples.
- Karatina DEB Primary School
- Brookfield Academy
- P.C.E.A. Karatina Academy
- Karatina special School for the mentally handicapped
- Arch Bishop Kirima Academy
- Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls High School
- Tumutumu Girls High School
- Kirimara Boys
- Karatina Harambee
- Pan Africa Secondary School
Universities/colleges in Karatina Town
- Karatina University College
- Moi University, Karatina Campus
Very Busy Matatu terminus with matatus to everywhere in Kenya. Commuters in and around Karatina walk, ride bicycles and boda boda motorbikes, use private taxis, matatus, minibuses and buses. The Nairobi – Nanyuki rail service died ages ago.
At the matatu terminus, and paid Kes 5.00 and 10.00, depending on your nature of call!
Karatina town throbs on the farming community in the region. The Karatina Market is indisputably the largest open market in sub-Saharan Africa. There are ongoing renovations on the market.
The thriving trading activities have attracted major banks and supermarkets in Karatina town. For instance, Uchumi Supermarkets is on the main A2 road, just after the railway crossing.
The open air market has cereals and grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and opens on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday with Saturday been the busiest from travellers and other traders coming to shop.
Railway Gikomba Market
I was given to understand that these retailers sell secondhand goods – clothes, shoes, etc pending relocation when the main market renovations are completed.
Banking Services in Karatina
- Barclays Bank of Kenya Ltd
- Equity Bank Limited
- National Bank of Kenya
- Standard Chartered
- Family Bank
- Kenya Commercial Bank
- K-Rep Bank.
- several micro-finance institutions e.g. Faulu Kenya, Kenya Women Finance Trust, PesaPoint
- Jamii Nurshing Hospital – Private enterprise.
- PCEA TumuTumu Hospital – Church owned, a few kilomtres west of Karatina, at Giagatika Shopping Centre, near Tumu Tumu Girls Secondary.
- Karatina District Hospital – Public
- Catholic Clinic opposite the petrol Station next to the matatu terminus, along A2 road.
Attractions near Karatina
To Visit :
- Tea and Coffee Farms
- Mount Kenya
- The Aberdares
- Nyeri Town and the cemetery of Scout movement
- Tree Tops and the Ark – game viewing less than half an hour to the west of Karatina.
- Mount Kenya Safari Club, Nanyuki, less than fifty miles from Karatina.
- Rui Ruiru Mau Mau caves at the scene of “Mbaara ya rui ruiru”, an epic battle of the 50’s between the colonials and Mau Mau freedom fighters.
- Nyana Hill
- Tumu Tumu Hill
- Gura River
- Ndemu, a marshy bog
- Masters Lodge
- Mimar Lodge
- New Karatina Lamu Lodge
- Umoja Silent Lodge
- Starbuck Hotel
- Three In One
When in Karatina, try the nyama choma, avoid experiments with hurriedly prepared foods!
Go for the abundant ready nyama choma (<0.3kg) + ugali or kienyeji (modern mataha). Boilo is for Waheshimiwa only. If you need one kg, you will suffer four pieces – total weight? About 0.8kg! About two places serve ready-to-eat fried pork. There is also ready-to-eat kienjeji chicken.
Local restaurant’s menus – mandazi na chai; ng’ombe (cabbages + one or two potatoes + several pieces of meat, too much tasteless soup!) with rice, chapati; Githeri
There is very little action around here. Some pool on a pealed pool table at Celebrations. Dance in this underground joint. Another rowdy one in a dark, shabby lodging. Gave up and turned in for TV entertainment with mediocre programming at the bar counter! Most bars have a TV for entertainment!Read More