Rwanda is So Much More than ‘Just Gorillas’

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Virunga Mountains

Ms. Rica Rwigamba, head of tourism and conservation within the Rwanda Development Board, during her visit to the World Travel Market in London last week made it plain to stand visitors and the media, that Rwanda had a lot more to offer than ‘just gorillas’. While admittedly Rwanda is still best known for the tracking of the rare mountain gorillas in the ‘Parc Nationale de Volcanoes’ in the West of the country along the common borders with Uganda and the Congo DR, RDB has in recent years made a determined efforts to opening up new areas and attractions, to offer visitors a wider range of tourism products.

The effort has largely paid off with more and more visitors coming to Rwanda and spending more time in the country, in the process pushing the tourism sector to the top of the economic performance list.

A canopy walk at Nyungwe Forest National Park, said to be the first in any of East Africa’s rain forests, the expansion of tracks and viewing points in this particular park, the partnership with ‘African Parks’ which is now managing the Akagera National Park and investing over 20 million US Dollars there to improve infrastructure, but also the introduction of suitable boats to take tourists on trips along the shores of Lake Kivu, have all made an immediate impact on the tourist itineraries now offered to visitors, keeping Rwanda at the cutting edge of the East African tourism sectors.

It was also ascertained that the average stay in country has now gradually moved towards the 6 day intermediate target, and with the recent start of KLM flights, operating from Amsterdam via Entebbe to Kigali five times a week, more and more tourists are expected to visit ‘the land of a thousand hills’.

Kigali round about; Modern structures are sprouting up; Centenary house is among the new structures

If one is assigned to depict Kigali City to people who have never been here, and he’s supposed to tell it as it is, he would easily be indicted of exaggeration or even risk losing his writing job.

No one would believe him, he would be rubbished as a fascinated dreamer describing a fairyland city. As for people who live in it, some don’t notice the beauty of their city until they visit other cities outside Rwanda.

Thus the common saying, “One can’t know what they’ve got till when it’s gone”.

Kigali is an attractive city during day and a sleeping beauty in the night. It is characterized by well manicured roads and pedicured sidewalks and clearly marked lanes. Street and security lights (that work), green turf, palm trees and flowers give it a lovely arresting look.

The roundabouts and the magnificently created fountains put a marvelous magic touch to this vibrant city.

The cleanness of this city is beyond description; it’s also easier to find a polar-bear in the desert than finding a polythene bag in Kigali and Rwanda at large.

They do not allow polythene bags in the country, so, there are no roadside eyesores that continue to rustle and float around in the wind like you can find elsewhere.

Like officers on duty, poles that hold trash cans stand erect on all road sides in the entire city. The cleanliness of Kigali is partly made easy by the Rwandan culture of not eating in public, Rwandese believe that eating should be done in appropriate places.

Another facet that makes Kigali an amazing city is the sociability of the people. There is no hostility, violence or edginess that you find so common in other countries.

Asking for direction, unlike other cities where if one doesn’t turn a blind ear when you ask him for direction before asking for a’ little something’, people in Kigali will get out of their way to give you the right direction, if possible even accompany you, to make sure you don’t get lost, not because they have a lot of time or are trying to impress you, but I guess that’s how they are wired naturally.

Another rare thing about Kigali and Rwandan citizens is their obedience to traffic laws. It’s a well known-open secret that in most African countries nobody follows traffic rules, not even pedestrians, but in Rwanda traffic laws are respected and of course this is made easy by the fact that traffic lights are in working order and zebra-crossings are well marked and repainted at any sign of fading, traffic officers also doing a terrific job 24/7.

(But although this is the case, here I don’t give our drivers 100% credit. I believe they should add a little more respect to zebra-crossings. Pedestrians also need to know and practice their rights here.)

Kigali city is also a bicycle free city! The only bicycles you can spot in Kigali are sports bicycles, bicycles were gently pushed to city suburbs and were replaced by motorbikes, operated by qualified riders in uniforms.

It’s also a rule to have a helmet both for the passenger and for the ‘motari’. It’s also believed to be easier to see a refrigerator in an Eskimo’s igloo than seeing a taxi-Moto in Kigali ferrying two passengers.

Another thing that makes Kigali worth writing about is the security. Whether on leisure or business, day or night you can walk anywhere without fear of being mugged or your purse being snatched

Let alone petty thefts, car thefts, burglary and bank robberies in Rwanda are only read in Grisham novels and seen in movie scenes.

There are army patrols, police patrols and community security patrols. These can be seen patrolling peacefully without bothering a soul! Today, one can’t be wrong when one says Kigali will soon be a match for any Western city.

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