Right at home in Rwanda

The Western Star - - Escape - KATE WEB­STER www.wherewil­dthingsroa­m­travel .com/trip/go­ril­las

BE­ING my se­cond time vis­it­ing Rwanda, I thought I knew what to ex­pect. I was wrong, as this small east African coun­try has so much to of­fer. It is not a coun­try you visit once, but a coun­try that draws you back time and time again.

Rwanda is one of those destinatio­ns that sur­prises you in all the good ways.

It is un­like other African coun­tries and maybe even un­like any other coun­try in the world.

A pro­gres­sive coun­try that is quickly mov­ing for­ward, it is re­fresh­ingly dif­fer­ent. You can for­get the busy, raw, au­then­tic and tra­di­tional Africa.

The roads are im­pec­ca­bly main­tained, rub­bish is nearly non-ex­is­tent and the feel­ing of safety is strong.

What draws many trav­ellers to Rwanda to be­gin with is the go­ril­las.

The moun­tain go­ril­las are the world’s most en­dan­gered ape and are found only in small por­tions of pro­tected Afromon­tane forests in north­west Rwanda, south­west Uganda and east­ern Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo in the Virunga Moun­tains of cen­tral Africa.

The best place to wit­ness these moun­tain go­ril­las is dur­ing a visit to Rwanda’s Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park. Con­sist­ing of 125km of moun­tain for­est and the six Virunga vol­ca­noes, the lush forested slopes of the moun­tains form an ap­pro­pri­ately dra­matic nat­u­ral set­ting for what is ar­guably the most poignant and mem­o­rable wildlife ex­pe­ri­ence in the world: go­rilla trekking.

The wildlife ex­pe­ri­ence in Rwanda does not stop with the go­ril­las. Many peo­ple are sur­prised you can also have a ‘Big Five’ sa­fari ex­pe­ri­ence in Rwanda.

Take a five-hour drive east of Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park towards the bor­der with Tan­za­nia and you will find Ak­agera Na­tional Park.

The moun­tain­ous scenery sur­round­ing and through­out Ak­agera Na­tional Park is, quite sim­ply, beau­ti­ful. The land­scape in­side the park ranges from low, wide plains dom­i­nated by grass and cac­tus-like Euphor­bia can­de­labra shrubs, which morphs into both thick and thin forests among rugged ter­rain that is so char­ac­ter­is­tic of Rwanda.

It is here you will dis­cover li­ons, ele­phants, rhino, buffalo and an­te­lope species in­clud­ing elands and topis. There are also Maa­sai gi­raffes, mon­keys, sa­van­nah birds, civets, leop­ards, hye­nas and ser­val cats.

You can visit the park for a day or, for a full sa­fari ex­pe­ri­ence, stay a few nights at one of the lodges in­side the park.

Be­yond the wildlife, Rwanda is home to some of the old­est rain­forests in Africa. Round­ing out the na­tional park tri­fecta, take the wind­ing scenic road along Lake Kivu through tea plan­ta­tions to Nyungwe For­est Na­tional Park. The largest trop­i­cal Afromon­tane rain­for­est east or cen­tral Africa, Nyungwe For­est Na­tional Park was es­tab­lished in 2004.

The scenic beauty of this re­gion is one of its big­gest draw­cards. Bor­dered by the Rwanda-Bu­rundi bor­der in the south and Lake Kivu and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo to the west, the park cov­ers about 1020 square kilo­me­tres, leav­ing plenty of room to ex­plore.

Bor­der­ing the for­est, tea plan­ta­tions can be seen cov­er­ing the rolling hills of the coun­try, cre­at­ing a stun­ning con­trast with the blue skies and red dirt roads.

It is easy to see why they call Rwanda the Land of a Thou­sand Hills.

It is only when you go be­yond the go­ril­las, you learn it is also a coun­try of a thou­sand ex­pe­ri­ences to be had.

Dis­cover Rwanda for your­self with Where Wild Things Roam Travel.

SUR­PRISES APLENTY: Rwanda, also known as Land of a Thou­sand Hills, boasts beau­ti­ful na­tional parks and a range of wildlife. Pic­tures: Kate Web­ster

You can spot ele­phants at Ak­agera Na­tional Park, along with li­ons, rhi­nos, buffalo and an­te­lope.

The chance to see moun­tain go­ril­las draws many trav­ellers to Rwanda.

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