Many foreigners associate Rwanda with two things – mountain gorillas and the 1994 genocide. But the attractions of this small land-locked country in East Africa extend beyond tracking the world’s largest primate in its natural habitat. And whilst the genocide is an unforgettable chapter in the country’s history, Rwanda is now considered one of Africa’s safest and most peaceful countries.
My first visit to Rwanda was in 2009, a three-day detour from a multi-month overland trip through east and southern Africa. It only took those few days for Rwanda to get under my skin and I left the country with a dream of returning one day to explore it further – beyond the gorillas. It’s a dream I have just fulfilled.
Over the past two weeks, Rwanda has felt like an oasis, an inspiring escape from the uncertainty, division, fear and controversial politics currently plaguing the western world.
My travels have taken me through Kigali, Akagera National Park, Nyanza, Butare, Nyungwe Forest National Park, Lake Kivu, Volcanoes National Park and the twin lakes of Burera and Rohunda.
I’ve discovered a peaceful country of unrelenting natural beauty, encountered spectacular wildlife and met friendly people excited about their future.
I’ve learned that there is more to Rwanda than the gorillas and genocide.
Rwanda has a new story to tell.
More than twenty years ago in Rwanda, decades of division and instability culminated in one of the most horrific, devastating and incomprehensible genocides the world has ever seen. More than 800,000 lives were lost in just 100 days with millions more injured, displaced or forced into refugee camps. Sadly, like many African countries, its negative past is difficult to shake in the eyes of foreigners and when I told people I was travelling here, most asked “but isn’t it unsafe?”
The simply answer is no.
Rwanda is currently one of the safest, cleanest, least corrupt and progressive countries in Africa, leading the way in digital technology, innovative business, gender equality and wildlife conservation. The combination of an effective government and the character of the Rwandan people is helping the country reconcile, rebuild and reunify at an inspiring rate.
Like all world leaders, Paul Kagame inevitably has his critics, but I left the country feeling that he and Rwanda have a lot to offer – and teach – the rest of the world. His effectiveness appears to be the result of a balanced approach – innovative and progressive plans for the future against giving his people the time, support and tools to heal from the horrors of 1994.
I’ve absolutely loved my time here and have felt my faith in humanity returning. It wasn’t my first trip here and it won’t be my last.
I’ll be sharing more photographs, stories and travel tips for Rwanda over the coming months, so stay tuned!
(I travelled as a solo traveller with RWANDA ECO-TOURS and can’t recommend them highly enough. My trip was not sponsored or supplemented in any way and all views in my Rwanda blog posts are completely independent based on my own experiences in the country.)
(Fishermen on Lake Kivu at sunset)
(Chimpanzee in Nyungwe Forest National Park)
(Traditional Intore Dancing – Volcanoes National Park)
(Hand of a Mountain Gorilla Silverback – Volcanoes National Park)
(Sunset on Lake Kivu)
(African Fish Eagle – Akagera National Park)
(Chimpanzee Tracker – Nyungwe Forest National Park)
(Golden Monkey – Volcanoes National Park)
(Rice Terraces – south-west Rwanda)
(Akagera National Park)
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