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.
See you on the next trip…………..