Wednesday 22 February 2017

Rwanda’s Eco-tourism hot spots: A quick guide to a sustainable travel in the land of a thousand hills.
While the Rwanda benefits from being the fastest growing economy of the world, receiving 1.22 million visitors annually accounts for serious challenges to eco-tourism and sustainability of its limited wildlife resources.
Rwanda has 3 national parks, few forest reserves and rich cultural traditions including the growing number of visitors associating Rwanda as a place of horrific human tragedy, the genocide of 1994. In Rwanda, many visitors pay their respect to victims at famous Gisozi, Mirambi, Ntaram genocide memorials and commentaries.
Luckily enough, reducing your foot print in Rwanda is hardly avoided by travelers, with countless opportunities to benefit from a greener visit to Kigali city. Regarded as the most organized and clean city to live in, it has been transformation through modern infrastructure, public transportation, Kigali convention center and the safety and security.
From cultural village home stays at Iby’Iwacu cultural village in Musanze, interacting with local farmers, women, children, former poachers and Batwa forest dwellers, with their average harvest, they have helped in the conservation of endangered mountain gorillas as well as other wildlife and recovery of Rwandan ecosystems.  
Rwanda’s Green spaces
Possibly there could be no perfect way to appreciate Rwanda than its well managed natural ecosystems. With 4 national parks and several forest reserves, fresh water lakes and 3 of the virunga volcanic mountains, which dot its north western part, Rwanda was nicknamed the land of a thousand hills; views are incredible, there are many adventures than you would think.
Rwanda’s first protected swath of jungle, volcanoes national park gazetted in 1925 is the most popular for mountain gorilla trekking. The 160 sq km park is a vast expanse of bamboo and rare montane forests and home to the remaining population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas including golden monkeys, both red listed by IUCN.
An inspiration behind the cult of conservation film, the “Gorillas in the Mist”, about, 200 mountain gorillas live in volcanoes national park, which is part of the virunga conservation area including Virunga national park in eastern DR Congo.
Once poached to extinction, Dian Fossey’s legacy at Karisoke research center in Rwanda remains committed to monitoring of gorilla population across virunga and Bwindi impenetrable, the only places on earth providing habitat to the last remaining 880 mountain gorillas. Dian Fossey’s grave site is protected in volcanoes national park, Rwanda and visitors hike to pay tribute, eventually create their own gorillas in the mist.
Volcanoes national park is made up of three dormant volcanoes ranging between 2500 to 4500 meters above sea level; they include Mt. Karisimbi, Mt. Bisoke and Mt. Sabinyo. There are several hiking trails, starting from Kinigi, the main eco tourism center, hikers can choose from easy to more strenuous multi-day hikes.  Led by a Rwandan development board park ranger, you traverse large bamboo and afro-montane vegetations, the views are impressive stretching eyes over the virunga massifs and crater lakes in western rift valley
And with 178 species of birds, volcanoes national park is a twitcher’s paradise to spot over 10 Albertine rift endemic birds such as Rwenzori Turaco, regal sun bird and strange weaver.
Nyungwe Forest National Park in south eastern Rwanda is another top pick. Nungywe forests are one of the oldest evergreen low-land and mountainous rainforests in Africa. It provides a home to a host of wildlife, including 400 species of forest birds, leopards, serval cats, warthogs and several species of primates. There are 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees. Most of these primates are elusive and nocturnal. But, you can get up close with chimps and also see black and white Colobus monkeys.
Uwinka visitor center, set on the eastern mountain slopes of the park, hiking trails lead visitors to habituated communities of chimpanzee as well as some 400 troop of black and white Colobus monkeys, hard to spot in any other part of east Africa.
However, Nyungwe is not all about the primates, there’s plenty to see and do, and the park’s heavy rainfall creates spectacular waterfalls, and getting into the interior of the forest is easier with around 13 hiking trails. Visitors can choose from short easy to difficult multi-day hikes, along with camping, exotic birding. While nothing beats, the thrill of Nyungwe forest canopy walk, a range of 60 to 90 meters above metallic canopy walks offers ethical and close encounters primates, birds, flowers and breathtaking views of the whole forest.
Akagera national park once occupied by farmers and cattle herders, its pristine wetlands, rivers, lakes and savannah wilderness are protected by the African parks. Now a shelter for big game such as African lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards, antelopes, giraffes as well as 500 birds including the rare shoebill stork and papyrus gonelock, which can be spotted during a wetland walk.
When visiting gorillas in Rwanda, be sure to resist the temptation of disturbing wildlife, which can make them aggressive, especially habituated gorilla families. Visitors must also not dispose off their waste including lunch boxes, biscuits or water bottles which you must carry during gorilla trekking. For more information on gorilla safaris in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo visit
Wildlife viewing and interactions in Rwanda
Not for many years, trekking mountain gorillas in Rwanda is synonymous with the visitor experience. However, there’s now increasing evidence to prove that the activity is harmful for the survival of gorillas if not well maintained. With conservationists concerned about frequent visits, and the impact it creates on gorilla behavior and ecosystem. Rwandan development board offers eco friendly treks; spending time with gorillas is highly restricted,
While nothing beats the thrill of seeing gorillas in the wild, fortunately 10 gorilla families are habituated for visitors.
Agro Tourism
Agriculture has been the major part of the Rwandan people way if life for centuries. And thanks to the growing number of agro-tourism projects in Musanze and Nyungwe national park. Visitors who want to taste a handful of Rwandan traditional cultural experience; one can try everything from dancing with cultural performers to preparing local cuisine while helping the farmers, former poachers, and Batwa and women groups.  Iby’Iwacu cultural village is the cultural hub of Rwanda; it’s a home to the local owned pioneering mountain gorilla conservation project set up by Edwin Sabuhoro. His aim was to encourage people around volcanoes national park to switch from unsustainable agriculture to gainful farming and providing community and cultural tourism services, besides wildlife. People have increased their income generating opportunities from fruit and vegetables, craft making, banana beer brewing, folklore, and visitors wanting to help can stay at Iby’Iwacu cultural village or at a home stay near volcanoes national park.
In Nyungwe forest national park, the Banda and Kitabi cultural village centers, a three day home stay not only put you into rural life styles but also insight into the coffee farmers, and their story of coffee from the field to the cup.
Eco friendly accommodation
Opting for a home stay over a bigger hotel or lodge even when visiting Rwanda for a short period, will give you an opportunity to experience a more traditional way of life in Rwanda. As the main goal, it puts the control of community tourism business into the hands of the local people, with the dollars and Rwanda francs if community tours are organized through the right tour operator. The Rwandan development board ( ) has helped set up several community tourism projects, including home stays, lodges and camps around volcanoes and Nyungwe forest national parks. Offering stays in the foothills of virunga volcanoes in the north to a fishing village on Lake Kivu. Sabinyo community livelihood association (SACOLA) is an outstanding socio-economic and conservation project and Sabinyo community lodge.  It has helped to fund successful local gorilla conservation campaigns.

To be eco friendly, community stay in Rwanda does not in any way sacrifice for luxury, there are an impressive sustainable tourism programs at Iby’Iwacu in Musanze including clean water, health care centers, tree planting and conservation education.