It’s Rwanda Week here at Ker & Downey. We’re taking an in-depth look at the ins and outs of Rwanda travel and the incredible country that has become one of Africa’s greatest success stories.
The Rwanda of today is a much different country than it was just twenty years ago. While it’s hard to talk about Rwanda without thinking about the terrible genocide that claimed 800,000 lives, it’s hardly the thing that currently defines the country. In the face of tragedy, the country and her people have quickly turned itself and the world’s perception of it around to become one of Africa’s great success stories.
Today, Rwanda is a country of unity, stability, and hope. It has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, benefiting greatly from tourism, which has, in turn, reduced poverty rates and improved the country’s infrastructure. It’s seen a swell of development, becoming one of Africa’s most developed countries and its GDP has seen a growth averaging more than 7 percent a year.
While tourism is centered on the mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park, there’s plenty to explore in Rwanda. The countryside of Rwanda is beautiful, with small coffee farms and tea plantations dotting a landscape of green rolling hills. The fertile volcanic soil of the mountainous landscape and the temperate climate are ideal for growing tea plants. Tea is Rwanda’s largest export, yet the region is also ideal for coffee production, and Rwanda’s beans are in high demand. Small growers produce coffee all across the country on the green hillsides.
Travelers are warmly welcomed to the “Land of a Thousand Hills.” It’s generally considered safe to travel to Rwanda as the country enjoys relatively low crime levels. As always, we recommend avoiding political demonstrations and large crowds. Travelers are also advised to avoid the borders of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
By now, you’re probably asking yourself, “What about gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, which is on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo border?” Volcanoes National Park is patrolled by armed guards to protect both trekkers and gorillas. While on your trek, you are also escorted by armed guards, so travelers are very safe in the park. The Rwandan government recognizes the impact the gorilla tourism has on the country and is dedicated to keeping tourists safe. Should there be any concern, however, rest assured, our ground handlers are always updated on situations to be cautious of, and can amend an itinerary at a moment’s notice.
We’ll speak specifically to gorilla trekking in Rwanda later in the week, but for now, be sure to take a look at some of our favorite Rwandan itineraries to jump start your dreaming.
In Rwanda’s southeast corner, Nyungwe National Park in a sanctuary for over 25 percent of Africa’s primates, including the famous chimpanzees. A trek through the park promises a chance to see 14 different primate species, both from the ground and in the tree canopies on the park’s canopy walk – a 295 foot bridge suspended 130 feet above the ground.
Two other parks in Rwanda are starting to gain attention – Gishwati-Mukura National Park which recently received a national park status, and Akagera National Park, once one of the best reserves in Africa. Both parks saw destruction after the genocide when communities moved in and settled the area, cutting down trees and reducing the wildlife population, but are quickly becoming two more gems in Rwanda’s crown. Akagera recently release seven lions from South Africa into its boundaries, the first lions in Rwanda in 15 years and a conservation milestone for both the park and the country. We’ll explore both of the parks in depth this week with our Rwanda travel series.