is just one degree, 120 kilometres, south of the equator. Most of
the country is over 1,500 metres above sea level. The high altitude
means a temperate climate with regular rainfall and lush green vegetation.
Most of the land is mountainous with grassy uplands and hills. In
the Northwest, the volcanic Virunga Mountain Range includes the
highest peak, Mount Karisimbi (4,507 metres). The land slopes down
from these mountains to a hilly central plateau. Further east, it
becomes an area of swamps and lakes bordering the upper Kagera River.
is landlocked with no access to the sea. The biggest lake is Lake
Kivu, on the border with The Democratic Republic of Congo. Most
of the rivers are on the eastern side of the mountains. The Kagera
River forms the boundary between Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.
is famous for its mountain gorilla sanctuaries in the Virunga Mountains,
where Dian Fossey studied them for 13 years. The Akagera National
Park has a wide range of animals such as buffalo, zebras, antelope,
warthogs, chimpanzees, lions, elephants, rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses.
Rare species found here include the giant pangolin (a type of anteater).
best volcanic soils are in the Northwest, long considered the breadbasket
of Rwanda, and in the bottom of the river valleys. Elsewhere the
soil is poor quality. Heavy rainfall and deforestation have caused
extreme soil erosion. Since most of the country is mountainous,
people terrace the hills for cultivating. Coffee and tea plantations
take up large areas of land.