The Republic of Rwanda is a small, mountainous country, surrounded on all sides by land that encloses the watershed between two of the largest river systems in Africa – the Nile and the Congo. The high elevation means that the climate is temperate, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year, allowing for an agricultural production that is the country’s main economic resource. Often referred to as ‘Pays des Mille Collines’ – literally, ‘Country of a Thousand Hills’ – Rwanda is a far cry from the common conception of the arid and flat drylands of Africa.
Rwanda is a country in the ascendance and is now enjoying political and social stability under president Kagame, after brutally turbulent times in the 1990’s. Kigali’s genocide museum, a memorial to the 800 000 that were murdered in the infamous hundred days, permanently reminds the world of the devastating effect of division, tribal conflict and hatred. It is the most densely populated country on the continent, and Rwandans are famed for their love of music and dance, especially in a festival or ceremonial context, to witness one of these performances is to really feel the beating pulse of Africa.
Nyungwe National Park in the west boasts thirteen species of primate and 280 recorded species of bird life, making it one of the most diverse forest ecosystems in Africa. It is, however, the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas, made famous by the work of Dian Fossey and George Schaller, and depicted in the motion picture ‘Gorillas In The Mist’, that are Rwanda’s main tourist attraction. These majestic and benevolent creatures are found in the forests flanking the slopes of the Virunga Mountains in the northwest of the country. Simply sharing the company of the mountain gorilla is a profoundly moving and thought-provoking experience that ranks on most lists of “10 things you must do before you die”
Off the beaten path, Rwanda is the land of hills and lakes, serene scenery and placid people – an extraordinary destination waiting to be explored.