SALLY McLEAN From forest canopy walks to treks to see mighty mountain gorillas, remarkable Rwanda turns out to be the Land of a Thousands Thrills
How Rwanda has emerged from the darkness of genocide to become a vibrant, colourful nation which shouldn’t be missed
BY KARIN WRIGHT SUSPENDED 200ft above the forest floor in Rwanda, I felt on top of the world.
The towering trees and dense jungle of the Nyungwe Forest National Park stretched out below as I swayed on the walkway, at eye level with monkeys and birds.
While the Volcanoes National Park in the north-west of this African country is home to mighty mountain gorillas, there are chimps, colobus and rare golden monkeys vying for attention in Nyungwe to the south.
Nicknamed the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda is tiny, but it crams a lot in.
The start of the canopy forest walk is 125 miles from the capital Kigali but, thanks to all those hills and continuing road upgrades, it takes four hours to get there.
With 80 miles of trails across its 386 square miles, it’s easy to spend a few days here, exploring the verdant valleys and steep mountainsides.
We were ferried here in the comfort of Toyota Land Cruisers, and there’s never a dull moment as you pass through farms, colourful villages, by vast lakes and pristine forests.
On the side of the road is an endless procession of people walking to and from markets, balancing produce piled high on their heads.
Kids are in charge of flocks of goats and sheep, or tend to the prized family cow, shouting “mzungu!” (a friendly term for a foreigner) with a wave and a smile as you pass.
Everywhere I go, I am in awe of the people of this country.
In 1994, a million Rwandans were slaughtered in one of the worst genocides the world has seen. But, in a remarkable triumph of the human spirit, the people have rebuilt their nation.
Nobody refers to themselves as Tutsi or Hutu – they are simply Rwandan. As my new friend Jullesse told me over a Mutzig lager at the Cocobean club in Kigali: “We learned the hard way that unity is our only option.”
A visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial is a harrowing experience, but it’s an essential part of understanding what makes this country tick.
More than 250,000 people are buried in mass graves here, and the children’s memorial is particularly disturbing. But this is no voyeuristic “dark tourism” site – the focus here is on “education and peace-building”.
You will leave horrified at what humans are capable of doing to each other, but the attitude of the lovely Rwandan people you will meet on your travels around this wonderful country will restore your faith in humanity.
Kigali itself is a revelation – I have never seen a cleaner city.
Wi-fi is available everywhere, foreign aid and investment is pouring in and big hotel chains are popping up.
But despite the flash new
LUSH LANDSCAPE Nyungwe Forest National Park, which offers a canopy walk