The Republic of Rwanda is one of the smallest countries on the African mainland, and is known as the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills.’ A country of volcanoes, forested mountain ranges, lakes and rivers, its position in the famous African Great Lakes region, puts it at the heart of one of the most bio-diverse environments in the world.
Rwanda is one of the only three countries in the world where the critically endangered mountain gorillas have made their homes amongst the bamboo covered slopes of the Virunga Mountains in the Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda. Gorilla Trekking is often described as a life changing experience, and with good reason. With only 880 Gorillas left in the world, to see these gentle creatures in their natural habitat is a truly unique moment.
Dr. Dian Fossey was an American zoologist and a primatologist who was best known for her extensive studies of mountain gorilla groups over a period of 18 years. She went on to publish her 1983 book, Gorillas in the Mist, which combines her scientific studies with her own personal story. It was later adapted into a 1988 film of the same name. Fossey also founded the Karisoke Research Centre, to protect and study the gentle giants of the Virunga Mountains. Although Fossey’s life was cut tragically short, her work continues through the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, under which the Karisoke Research Foundation continues to operate. Visitors can pay homage to the legendary scientist and gorilla advocate Dian Fossey with a hike to her tomb or a visit to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund that continues her legacy of research and advocacy to this day.
The gruesome violence that once unfolded across the steep, lush hills of Rwanda’s picturesque landscape is hard to imagine. Today, the people of Rwanda embrace peace and reconciliation, and are committed to fight the ideology of genocide. The memorials found throughout the country are moving testimonies in memory of the 1994 Genocide and to those 250, 000 who lost their lives. As part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and nurture a shared identity, Umuganda was created. This means “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome”. Rwandans from all walks of life, come together to work for the good of their communities and its people. On the last Saturday of every month, Rwandans set aside their personal business in the morning and contribute their efforts to public works projects around the country, which can include litter cleanup, tree planting, building houses for the vulnerable, and more.
While it might have been the gorillas that entice you to Rwanda, it’s the people of Rwanda who will keep you coming back. Ancient traditions of honour and hospitality run strong here, and anybody who takes the time to discover Rwandan culture for themselves, will find proud and unique people, happy to welcome you into their lives and introduce you to their traditions.