8 Reasons Why Rwanda Is Not Your Average African Photo Safari
So, you’ve been dreaming of travelling to Africa. Maybe you have been on a safari and seen some big game (Tanzania / Kenya / South Africa / Botswana), and are now longing for a slight change in tack, an experience that is different to marvelling at game from the confines of a robust, elevated safari vehicle. One that is tactile, where the smells of the equatorial landscape fill your nostrils as you stretch your legs and walk to your quarry. An experience where you stare into the eyes of an imposing creature one-on-one, on their terms… An experience bolstered by the emotional connection that is frequently absent in interactions with other wildlife…
Well then! Rwanda and its Mountain Gorillas may be for you!
To begin with, Kigali is oh-so-clean. You picture a city in the third world tropics. You think of the vibrance that comes with life at the equator, but which predisposes urban areas so located latitudinally to frequently have rampant weeds in a disused plot, litter piling up on a road verge, and the smells of fruit and smoke and mud combined with the lively sounds of blaring local music. These can be appreciated in some countries (and can be wonderful in their own right!), however Kigali is quite different! It is spotlessly clean (a surprise to many an itinerant traveller), has lovely roads, lots of shiny new buildings, and is in fact quite safe. It is a wonderful city – highly populated for sure, but a most pleasant surprise and great place to start a safari.
2. Short Distances
The next feather in Rwanda’s cap: travel distances. Sure it is a small country (South Africa for instance is over 40 times bigger than Rwanda), however Kigali’s location more or less in the centre of this small country makes it a useful starting point from which to strike out to its reserves, most of which are located near its border regions. In a little over 3 hours, you will have journeyed via vehicle through a pleasant, cultivated and hilly landscape, and find yourself on the verge of Volcanoes National Park. Here, the impressive range of volcanoes that straddle the border region between Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC are home to a good portion of the world’s remaining Mountain Gorillas. When not shrouded in cloud, the volcanoes are an impressive sight indeed!
Onto the next point which makes it an attractive prospect for a potential safari-goer: high quality accommodation. As Rwanda has stabilised dramatically since the genocide, and proven to be a country that is committed to improving its self-image, it has attracted a lot of foreign investment. One can see a steady increase in the number of offerings from the top safari-accommodation brands, meaning that travellers have an ever-increasing number of high-class options when wanting to put their feet up and relax post “a hard day’s toil on the mountain”.
4. Conservation & Community Upliftment
Next point – conservation of Mountain Gorillas and upliftment of local peoples. Many of the top accommodation establishments have impressive projects aimed at converting degraded land back to forest. Aside from the environmental benefit, they provide welcomed employment to local people. Furthermore, a portion of each purchased gorilla permit is used to conserve the gorilla’s themselves, and is also used to help the human communities that reside alongside the national park. Your visit helps the gorillas, the environment, and the local people.
And of course, the gorilla experience – this can be incredible in so many ways, and much has been written on this subject, so I will curtail this paragraph shortly with this: the experience is truly exceptional!
6. More Wildlife
What other wildlife experiences are on offer in the northern Rwandan gorilla circuit? Forest wildlife on the mountain slopes is typically shy and hard to see, and so it a lucky traveller who encounters a fleet-footed duiker (or even a hulking buffalo – the latter are rarely seen and generally best avoided). A pleasant experience however, is tracking a troop of habituated Golden Monkeys. Usually found in the bamboo zone, these handsome primates are restricted to montane forests of the Virunga Volcanoes and neighbouring Kahuzi-Biéga in DR Congo. Taxonomically, some regard them as a subspecies of the more widespread Blue Monkey, however we will leave that up to scientists to ponder. As for our purposes, they provide good entertainment as they bounce through the bamboo, their endearing faces and golden-rufous saddle of fur making them very photogenic subjects indeed.
7. Comprehensive Experience in a Short Time Span
Next benefit of gorilla trekking in Rwanda – it can be done within a fairly short space of time. Depending on your international flights, the gorillas can be experienced in 4 to 5 days. So if you have a work commitment in Africa (or Europe) and have a few days spare, gorillas are certainly a possibility. Should a longer safari be in order, it can be comfortably combined with the more classic photo safari experiences on offer in Kenya (or Uganda / Tanzania) via regular regional flights.
8. Friendly People
And finally, friendly people. Rwandans are generally a warm bunch, and they are typically very welcoming of foreigners. So not only is the country safe and clean, but it has wonderful people ensuring your central African photo holiday is a pleasurable experience all the way through!
If this has whet your appetite to embark on your own Rwanda photography tour, then feel free to contact us below: