Geography of Rwanda

By | July 12, 2020

Rwanda is a plateau and mountain country and is mostly between 1200–4500 meters above sea level. From north to south is high, volcanic mountains at Karisimbi in Virungafjellene reaches up to 4507 m. Karisimbi is one of two still active volcanoes. These mountains form the watershed between the rivers Nile and Congo. West of the mountains, the country drops sharply towards the East African lowering zone, where the Kivus Lake is located (1460 m asl).

First to the east lies a central mountain massif approx. 3000 m above sea level, further east, towards the border with Tanzania, a plateau country between 1500 and 1700 m above sea level. The landscape here consists of hilly grassland with small rivers, lakes and swamps. In the far north-east there is mainly savanna.

The soil is relatively nutritious and fertile.

Rwanda is a mountainous country with tropical climate

Rwanda is a mountainous country with tropical climate. The picture shows village building.


Most of the country has a tropical rainy climate with rainfall spread over most of the year, but at least in May-August. Regular annual drought provides savannah climate in parts of the country, most pronounced in the east. The geographical distribution of rainfall is characterized by the complicated topography. Annual rainfall 1000-1500 mm is common. The temperature varies very little from month to month, average temperature approx. 20 ° C at about 1500 meters altitude. Especially in the dry season, there is a big difference between the day and night temperatures.

Detailed climate information about Rwanda on the website of the World Meteorological Organization.

Plant life and wildlife in Rwanda

The mountain range to the west is the only place where there is still rain forest. Over approx. 2000 masl grows bamboo laughter. In the northeast and in the central areas there are grass water with scattered wort flour and thorny trees. In the southeast, there are large papyrus sumps that change appearance after each flood period.

Rioting and population explosion pose a constant threat to the country’s initially very rich wildlife. The fate of the mountain gorilla in particular is uncertain. By the way, the primates are represented by galagos, maracats and colobus monkeys. The Akagera National Park is in danger, but still houses elephant, zebra, coffee buffalo, black horse antelope and several other antelopes. Leopards, small cats, sneakers, shellfish and bats are widespread. In dense vegetation in swamps, the antelope citatunga and the strange stork bird live on wooden cones. More than 700 bird species occur, including turkeys, hornbills, humpbacks, whistleblowers, sunbirds and weavers. The beetles, icebergs and shoals constitute a colorful element and the birds of prey are represented by a number of vultures, eagles, hawks and falcons. Many of the country’s at least 100 species of reptiles, as well as countless spider and insects, are found in the rainforest.

The Muhabura volcano

The Muhabura volcano (4127 meters above sea level) is the easternmost of the Virunga Mountains, extending along the border between Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. Here lives, among other things. the mountain gorillas.

Geography and environment

Rwanda is located in the border region between Central Africa and East Africa. The whole of Rwanda is highland. The lowest point is 950 meters above sea level. The highest peaks are found among the volcanic Virunga mountains in the northeast. Among them is Rwanda’s highest point, the Karisimbi Mountain at 4507 meters above sea level. The country has no coast.

The boundary between the water supply to the Nile and the Congo River passes through Rwanda. 80 percent of the land is in the water supply to the Nile, while the rest is in the water supply to the Congo River. The longest river is Nyabarongo, which becomes the Kagera River and flows into Lake Victoria. The source of Nyabarongo is one of the candidates to be Nile’s most remote source.

The climate is tropical but heavily moderated by the altitude. Rwanda has two rainy seasons, one from February to May and one from September to December. It usually rains more in the mountains in the northwest than in the lower lying areas in the southeast. Average annual rainfall is 800 millimeters.

There are 189 species of mammals and more than 700 bird species in Rwanda. One third of all the world’s mountain gorillas live in the Virunga mountains.

Wooden sawmill in eastern Rwanda