Visit Rwanda offers new attractions this year
The UK is a key source market for Rwanda to showcase the diversity of its tourism product from birdwatching and Big Five safaris and its iconic gorilla and chimp trekking experiences, to coffee farms and fishing excursions on the shores of Lake Kivu.
DIAN FOSSEY GORILLA FUND
In the year that legendary conservationist Dian Fossey would have celebrated her 90th birthday, the brand-new headquarters for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, the Ellen DeGeneres Campus, opened its doors near Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park in June of this year.
For more than 50 years, the Fossey Fund has been working to help conserve gorilla populations and support the people who share their forest home. In 2017, the organization embarked on an ambitious project to build a permanent home aimed at accelerating this work. Initiated through a lead gift from American television personality, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, the Ellen Campus is the vision of the award-winning MASS Design Group and has been named one of Africa’s 10 most anticipated architectural projects.
Nestled in a reforested landscape containing more than 250,000 native plants, the facility contains state-of-the art research labs, an education centre and a public museum with a focus on educating and engaging the many stakeholders in modern conservation—students, local communities, conservation partners and visitors on the importance of the fund’s work. Visitors can see artifacts belonging to Dian Fossey herself, learn about the gorillas she studied, enjoy a virtual reality gorilla experience in the panoramic theatre, enjoy a Rwandan coffee at the café, purchase locally-made handicrafts from the museum store and walk a series of trails aimed at educating visitors about the incredible biodiversity of the region.
Located on the secluded Nkombo Island on Lake Kivu which straddles Rwanda’s western border, Sextantio Rwanda officially opened this May. The project, the brainchild of philanthropist, Daniele Kilgren, welcomes guests to stay in traditional-style huts and enjoy traditional cultural activities.
Sextantio Rwanda, also known as the Capanne (Huts) Project, encourages guests to pay via donations rather than set room rates, which goes towards supporting the local community and protecting their cultural heritage and natural landscape. The project brings tourism and profits to the area while maintaining the native social and cultural balance of the community and supporting the local population. Guests staying at Sextantio Rwanda can take a trip on Rwanda’s Lake Kivu in dug out tree trunk canoes, enjoy a sunset beverage by the lake, spend the evening by a beachside bonfire and outdoor seafood barbeque, take a guided tour of the island, or take part in traditional night fishing in pirogues. The profits go towards supporting those who need it most, targeting the poorest people who often struggle to pay for the health insurance that is needed in order to treat extremely common conditions.
As one of Africa’s oldest rainforests, Nyungwe is home to 25 per cent of Africa’s primates with 13 primate species, including the endangered chimpanzees and Angolan Colobus monkeys, along with 300 bird species. The forest’s rich biodiversity stems from its endurance during the Ice Age thus attracting species by means of survival. Hanging over the lush hills of the Nyungwe National Park is a canopy walkway suspended 70m high and stretching across 160m, elevating guests high above the treetops.
During the day, the experience begins with a hike on the Igishigishigi trail leading to the walkway, where visitors will encounter an array of butterflies, orchids and birds, many of which are endemic to the area. From spring 2022 the walkway opened to visitors at night, introducing a whole new world of nocturnal wildlife and spectacular night-time views of the forest, lit up by the starry night sky for visitors to experience.
ROYAL BALLOON RWANDA
Guests can now soar above Akagera National Park with Royal Balloon Rwanda (RBR), which launched a new hot-air balloon experience in Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda in early 2022 – a first for Rwanda’s adventure tourism offering.
partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Akagera Management Company, RBR operates two hot-air balloons that can accommodate between four and six guests. The park is home to the Big Five as well as zebras, giraffes and hippos and with flights climbing between 100 and 1000 metres visitors will have a picture-perfect bird- eye view of the park, its lakes including Ihema on the border with Tanzania and its wild inhabitants.