In a region of compacted population and fractured ethnic identity Burundi lies along an axis of heartbreak, violence and social dislocation. This particular part of Central Africa defines much of the African tragedy that in recent years has clogged news reportage and clouded progress in many other parts of the continent, and indeed in many other parts of the immediate neighborhood.
The two unhappy twins of Rwanda and Burundi share a similar strand of ethnic division between the irreconcilable Hutu and Tutsi groups. Over the years this has frequently spilled over into localized power play, competition for the rich resources of the region and a seemingly unending appetite for suffering and arrested development. Despite this, and sometimes as a consequence of it, Burundi remains a beautiful little country. Within it exists a colorful and more fundamental quintessence of Africa than the ubiquitous plains and bushveld of popular imagination. It is a country of green hills, of patchwork gardens and clustered villages. This is the way most Africans live today, and even if you leave the country without seeing a single wild animal you will still have witnessed Africa in its contemporary dress more acutely perhaps than might be possible anywhere else.
Travel To & Within Burundi
Why Travel To Burundi
From the point of view of conservation and eco/nature tourism Burundi sits atop an alignment of intense bio diversity that straddles the Great Lakes region from western Uganda to the northern tip of Lake Malawi. The same area, however, has the most concentrated zones of population in Africa as well as the constituency of greatest insecurity, human upheaval and political volatility. All of this presents a unique series of challenges and places this region among a handful of vital but precarious frontlines in the global conservation struggle.
One of last unbroken strands of indigenous, montane forest that at one time cloaked the entire region runs through both Rwanda and Burundi, and is known respectively as the Nyungwe National Park and the Kibira National Park. While most of the larger animal species have been wiped out by a combination of war and poaching, the region is still home to a rare diversity of indigenous primates, a vast catalogue of plant species and one of the most energetic concentrations of bird life in Africa. In Burundi the complex is part of a community management program that in the by now established tradition of eco-tourism seeks to preserve the region as well as use it as a means to generate income for local communities.
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Other parks include the wetland Risizi National Park and the Rurubu National Park.
Don’t look too hard for urban glamour and excitement for it does not really exist here. However the capital Bujumbura is an attractive town set along the shores of Lake Tanganyika and nestled in the ubiquitous hill country of the region. Burundian cultural expression revolves around music and dance, most particularly local drumming that encompasses many different styles and is promoted most effectively by the Royal Drummers of Burundi ensemble.
When To Visit Burundi
Burundi has a fairly varied topography with the area north of the lake characterized by the lowland floodplain of the floor of the Great Rift Valley, and highland and hill country for much of the rest of the country. In the rift valley you can expect conditions to be hot and humid most of the year.
The wet season is long and lasts from October through to May. Probably the most pleasant time to visit is during the dry months between June and September, when, although hot, this can usually be tempered by the altitude that ameliorates the intense tropical conditions.
Burundi has been in the past and remains a volatile and troubled country. Despite a broad based movement towards peace the country remains over armed and under policed. It is therefore essential to seek local advice before traveling within Burundi, and in particular anywhere adjacent to the border with DRC.
As one of the poorest countries in the world it can be expected that Burundi would suffer much violent crime, and it does. Sensible precautions are advisable at all times.
Burundi as a very basic health care system so evacuation would be required in the event of serious injury. A high incidence of HIV/AIDS is prevalent in Burundi. Malaria is also widespread.