Musanze Caves : Rwanda’s a landlocked country dominated by volcanic mountains in the western and northern areas, the incredible Musanze caves being part of the region. It is therefore no wonder that Rwanda is famously known as the land of a thousand hills considering the undulating terrain. They are located in the beautiful district of Ruhengeri which is part of the northern province in Musanze city. They are located at the foothills of volcanoes, therefore making part of the five out of eight volcanic mountains in Virunga Massif; Muhabura, Karisimbi, Biseke, Sabyinyo and Gahinga. It is a thirty nine minute ride and twenty two kilometer distance from the fascinating Musanze town. There are thirty two caves along the foothills of the volcanoes , fifty two caves in total in the northern province and the Musanza caves rank the most frequently visited of them all. They are even the longest and biggest caves in Rwanda. Our very own popular journalist, Sheila Nduhukire, reported that it has thirty one entrances that were created as a result of the roof caving in. In length, the cave extends up to 1.25 miles. It is freezing cold and dark inside with very little light. The Musanze caves came to be what they are today when the layers of lava flowed from the inactive volcanic mountains dating from sixty five million years ago, formed a network of underground passages as far as two kilometers long, beneath the earth’s surface. It is evidently of no doubt when tourists narrate that they have been to the belly of the earth and back. It has a sense of calm and quiet which is natural and un spoilt. ‘It is spectacular, huge, scary and exciting,’ a white tourist enthusiastically narrates her experience.
While in there, you will immediately notice a whole kingdom of bats that dominate the caves along side other animals,’binyogole’ the pocupine and ‘imondo’ the serval cats that can be likened to leopards. Note that the bats are seasonal. There also exists two unique kinds of stones that grow-mites and tites- and increase in size over the years. Interestingly enough are the wide variety of plant species that hang beautifully adorning the walls cave. You are forbidden from harming any of the organism or even sketching on the walls.
The Rwandan government therefore went on to equip tourists with helmets, head lamps, gloves, masks, and even safety men with guns for protection. They even went on to clear paths and stair cases to ease movement. Surrounding the are silver bucks, golden monkeys and thick vegetation which are highly recommended to explore while mountain climbing.
Contrary to the scientific reasoning is the traditional belief of the inhabitants of the region that the king of Rwanda- Ruganzu, during his powerful reign made the caves for them. He is said to have courageously walked in through one end and get out through a far other one. It is only recently that tourists from all over the globe started accessing the caves, when in 2013 the Rwandan Development Board officially opened them to the public. However, the locals had already been accessing them. Culturally, right from back in the day, there is a sacred maize crusher that they use to prepare their flour in the caves. They also perform gorilla naming ceremonies around the caves in order to preserve the unique species only found in this part of the world. Further more, it was also a venue for crowning of the new Banyarwanda kings. However, in 1994, the caves played the role of providing shelter to the refugees who escaped the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It is also said that the caves can be used as a tunnel to cross to the DRC.