Besides the renowned mountain gorillas, Rwanda the land of a thousand hills is blessed with several geological features that include Caves and rocks among others. The Musanze caves are one of the prominent geological features that tourists can visit in Rwanda. A cave is a natural underground hollow space, large enough for a human to enter. These Musanze caves are 2.01 kilometers long, have an entrance of 20kilometers and have 31 entrances. These caves are found in the Northern Province of Musanze and offer shelter to thousands of bats.
Musanze caves are exceptionally unique natural features you shouldn’t miss to explore on Rwanda safari. These caves formed as a result of volcanic activities in the Northern area of Rwanda and they are about 1.25 miles long. They are found just outside Musanze Town and these are accessible about 1 and half hours’ drive from Kigali and 2kms from Kinigi the headquarters of Volcanoes National Park.
Musanze caves are interesting attraction well developed by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) together Rwanda Defense Force. Tourists can explore the caves through the designated walkways, stairs, trails while observing the set safety measures. Tickets for Musanze caves can be obtained at RDB offices in Volcanoes National Park in Kinigi. Prior accessing the caves, there are experienced guides to take you through and you will be equipped with a torch, helmet and knee protectors.
The Musanze Caves were originally referred as Nyamwasama and were formed from Cenozoic Volcanic rocks. A point in case is the Manjari that is about 1.6 m and Nyiragihima situated in Ruhengeri (also in Northern Province) is 1.1 m. Of all the 52 caves that were surveyed in the Northern Province with 15.2 kilometers, “Ubuvumo Bwibihonga” is the longest with a system in many levels of parallel Lava tubes with 4.5 meters in length.
Regardless of the Ubuvumo Bwibihonga cave being the longest in the province, the Musanze caves still remain the commonest and frequently visited though it they are only 2kms long. The Musanze cave is situated in the volcanic region where Lava flow layers of over 65 million years ago created the Albertine Rift Valley. It is believed that the Musanze caves were formed from Basaltic Lava layers during eruption of the Sabyinyo and Bisoke volcanoes. With an extensive entrance exceeding 10kilometers, it is relative with a number of side passages leading off from the principle/main cave. The main features of the cave are bat roots that create a real incredible assortment of colored shafts of light.
Much as caves are known to be natural underground space, vast enough for a human being to enter, several people have argued that the term cave should not be used when referring to cavities that have some sections without daylight. Therefore the word cave is popularly used when referring to sea caves, grottos and rock shelters. This poses the question, is Musanze cave really as cave? That doesn’t matter anyway, what matters is its attractiveness and importance in tourism.
Originally, Musanze caves were used for refuge during the monarch era in Rwanda. They were inhabited by the Tutsis during the 1994 Rwanda genocide. While at Musanze caves, you will have in-depth exploration on geological history and development of the earth dating centuries. Being one of the tourist sites, local residents have become beneficiaries of current investments in the area including the establishment of lodges or hotels.
Musanze caves are significant historical sites worth exploring by geologists or geographers on Rwanda safari. The Musanze caves used to be a hiding place during Rwandan wars and the 1994 genocide, and up to now when you enter these caves, you can still find some bones. Much as the caves have vast entrance, it is pitch dark the moment you enter inside. The most exciting and magical moment in the cave is when you switch off the lights and stand in the middle of the caves in darkness. The Bats are not the only interesting features/attractions about these caves, the entrance of the caves have green vegetation offering remarkable scenery for photographs.
These caves were abandoned and only used as the children’s play area, but was in 2013 developed by the Rwandan Development Board into a tourism product as a way of diversifying Rwanda’s tourism and reduce on over reliance on the Mountain gorillas. It is for this reason that the cave was developed, for instance footpaths were created, paved floors, trails and concreted stairways were developed to ease tourists’ movement within the cave. Ever since it was developed into a tourism product, there has never been any regret or turning back and this site has continuously attracted tourists. The inside of the Cave is so magical in that it looks like a house with various rooms.
The entrance fees to this incredible site is only $55 per person, and are booked from the Rwandan Development Board offices in Rwanda. Before entering the caves, tourists are provided with helmets to protect themselves from the bats, tourists are always advised to cover their mouths when in the cave and advised to use torches because of the darkness in the caves. When in the cave, tourists are advised to move within their group and not divert because the cave has a lot of corners, hence can end up getting lost.
The caves consist of 31 entry points and they opened for visitors’ exploration in 2013. These caves are best explored during the dry season that is from June, July, August to September and December, January to February.
Besides the Musanze caves, tourists can visit other attractions with Musanze Province and they include Twin Lakes of Ruhondo and Bulera, Bisoke and Karisimbi Volcanoes, the Dian Fossey Grave, Musanze caves, golden monkeys, Buhanga Eco-Park (former place for the coronation of former Rwandan Kings and Mountain gorillas.
Therefore, besides the iconic mountain gorillas that Rwanda is largely known for, tourists can also explore the Musanze caves when on a safari in Rwanda. Visiting these caves cerates everlasting memories in the lives of tourists.
Other places to Visit in addition to Musanze caves
Besides Musanze caves, other interesting sites to visit include the Twin Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo, Buhanga Eco-Park which served as coronation of former kings of Rwanda. You also have opportunity to engage in thrilling experiences like mountain gorilla trekking, volcano hiking (Bisoke & Karisimbi) in Volcanoes National Park.
Places to stay
The nearby places to have overnight in order to have easy access to Musanze caves include Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Muhabura Hotel, Gorilla Nest Lodge, Virunga Lodge or in Kinigi Guesthouse.