It’s Rwanda Week here at Ker & Downey. We’re taking an in-depth look at the ins and outs of Rwanda travel. The incredible country is one of Africa’s greatest success stories.
The Land of a Thousand Hills
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. There’s no better time than now to travel to Rwanda.
Today, Rwanda is a country of unity, stability, and hope. It has one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, benefiting greatly from tourism. Those tourism dollars have, in turn, reduced poverty rates and improved the country’s infrastructure. Its GDP has seen growth averaging more than 7 percent a year. Additionally, Rwanda has seen a swell of development, becoming one of Africa’s most developed countries.
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.
The “Land of a Thousand Hills” warmly welcomes travelers. 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. We also advise travelers to avoid the borders of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Gorilla and Primate Trekking
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?” Armed guards patrol Volcanoes National Park to protect both trekkers and gorillas. While on your trek, armed guards also escort you, so travelers are very safe in the park. The Rwandan government recognizes the impact gorilla tourism has on the country. They are dedicated to keeping tourists safe when they travel to Rwanda. 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. Go up high to the park’s canopy walk – a 295-foot bridge suspended 130 feet above the ground.
Gishwati-Mukura and Akagera National Park
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. The people cut down trees. The wildlife population was decimated. But the two parks are quickly becoming gems in Rwanda’s crown. Akagera recently released seven lions from South Africa into its boundaries. These are 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.