What’s the first word which comes to mind when you hear “Rwanda”? No, you don’t need to say it; almost everyone thinks of the same thing. The Rwandan genocide is an inescapable bloodstain on modern history, countless individual tragedies rolled into one unfathomable horror. The names of those who died are written on the wall of the Kigali Genocide Memorial where a quarter of a million Rwandans are buried in its now peaceful grounds.

But 25 years on, Rwanda isn’t the same country it was in 1994. For one thing, over 60 per cent of the population has been born since the genocide; their only memories are of what has happened after it. And Rwanda’s most recent period has been a remarkable one. Nowhere else have justice and reconciliation programmes been undertaken on such a scale, and while it can never heal all wounds, Rwandans from every community have been working together to construct a new, more unified national identity.

And Rwanda’s visitors are returning. Nyungwe Forest is the largest mountain rainforest in Africa, a national park with a cool, moist climate and dense, lush plant life where fluttering butterflies fight for attention with delicate orchids, there are 275 species of birds, and an estimated 20 per cent of all the apes on the continent. Everywhere, something is moving.

It’s wild places such as this that have enabled Rwanda to make its mark on the tourism map. In 2018, the World Travel & Tourism Council reported that travel and tourism in Rwanda contributed a higher percentage to GDP than in any other country in East Africa. Visitor exports and investments are also both growing steadily each year.

But the country’s biggest attraction—and tourism cash cow—is its population of mountain gorillas. Rwanda is one of the last places in the world to track them in the wild, and it’s become one of the most exclusive experiences on the continent. Just 10 gorilla tracking permits per habituated group are issued each day, in groups of eight.

Although that prices pegged on this trekks makes many travellers think twice, there’s an argument for such high fees. Rwanda has taken the responsible approach of pursuing high-value, low-impact tourism, and already, the funds raised are paying dividends for both conservation and economic development.

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The recent influx of foreign investment in Rwanda’s tourism sector, especially at the luxury end of the market, demonstrates the industry’s confidence that this is a destination on the up. Wilderness Safari’s Bisate Lodge was shortlisted for the 2017 African Architecture Award; each of its six thatched suites resembles a mountain gorilla’s nest. Singita Kwitonda Lodge will open in Volcanoes National Park next August, and One&Only Gorilla’s Nest is expected to host its first guests by the end of 2019.Rwanda is a country longing to be shared. Every Rwandan you meet will tell you proudly of their country’s bountiful natural wonders, and implore you to tell your friends about its treasures. Tourism creates jobs, and puts money directly into the local economy. It lifts people out of poverty and encourages them to work together. The profits, particularly from luxury properties and gorilla tracking permits, fund community development and conservation. Rwanda already has the natural and human resources; and with tourism Rwandans can build the country they want for tomorrow!

See you on the next trip…………..

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