• Menu
  • Menu
Der Kivu-See in Ruanda, Bild: Tetyana Dotsenko / shutterstock

Rwanda – green, safe and home to mountain gorillas

One speaks of the “land of a thousand hills”. No one has counted them so far – and there may be a few more than a thousand. The fact is: Rwanda is a hilly region in the African zone of the equator. And some of these “hills” rise to altitudes of 4,500 meters. They are the birthplaces of two gigantic rivers. Here you will find the sources of the Nile and the Congo, because the main watershed of the continent runs through Rwanda. At the foot of the Virunga volcanoes, lush vegetation has developed in the hot and humid climate, and the tropical landscape alone with its species-rich rainforests would be worth a visit. But there are also the mountain gorillas, of which not only the researcher Dian Fossey said that their eyes were “like honey”. A Rwanda round trip to the “silverbacks” in the rainforest is one of the tourist highlights of these days.

Rwanda – A small country with no access to the sea

For centuries, tribal chieftains were the rulers of this country, which is one of the few African states that have no access to the sea. Rwanda is therefore a landlocked country and about the same size as the German state of Brandenburg. Between 1884 and 1916, this region was part of “German South West Africa”. After the Germans, the Belgians came as colonial masters before the small African country received the status of a UN trust territory after the Second World War and became independent in 1962. But in the 1990s, the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups fought a cruel civil war that ended in a genocide that shook the world. In the meantime, the country has been pacified and the people of Rwanda welcome their guests with open arms.

Visitors need a “gorilla permit”

Gorilla, Rwanda
Gorilla in the rainforest in Rwanda, Image: Onyx9 / shutterstock

But the Rwandan authorities are royally rewarded for the visitation of the holidaymakers. Knowing full well that the profits from tourism will help one of the poorest countries in the world. For example, a “gorilla permit” costs around 1,500 US dollars. In addition to the visit permit, this includes the accompaniment of small groups by a guide and by a tracer. Those who are willing to pay for this permit can look forward to one of the most impressive animal experiences that international tourism has to offer. The mountain gorillas are the main protagonists of a safari in Rwanda, which also convinces with an abundance of exotic landscapes and picturesque villages. This is an African country with an impressive culture and an eventful history.

See also  Boa Vista - A Pearl Diver's Paradise

With guides to the “Kings of the Forest”

If you want to experience the mountain gorillas in their very own refuge, you should be prepared for two things. The alarm clock will ring very early on the day of the safari and the paths through the rainforest are anything but passable. This is by no means a walk in the park. Through lush green valleys, visitors are chauffeured to the national park in an off-road vehicle. There, at the foot of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga chain, the tracker was on the road much earlier. He was the vanguard of the guides, sighted the tracks of the mountain gorillas and then informed the guides by radio. This is the only way for the participants of this unusual safari to enjoy being able to experience the “Kings of the Forest” up close.

In the footsteps of zoologist Dian Fossey

Kigali, Rwanda
View of the capital Kigali, Image: Dario Verdugo / shutterstock

Dian Fossey, the American zoologist and behavioral scientist, has opened the eyes of the world to the endangered species in the rainforest. For 18 years, she lived in the border area between what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda – most recently in the 3,300-meter-high Karisoko research camp, which is financed by the National Geographic Society. She had dedicated her life to the mountain gorillas and had largely found their trust. She was a bitter opponent of the poachers, to whom she fell victim one night in her hut as the victim of a murder. Dian Fossey was buried where she had been the guardian of these endangered creatures for such a long time. But only the foundations of their first hut in the rainforest are still visible. In contrast to the Congolese neighborhood, poaching is no longer carried out in Rwanda. Rather, the country welcomes visitors to their gorilla safari with recognizable pride.

See also  Sal – Surfing and snorkeling paradise on the coast of West Africa

Eye to eye with the “silverbacks”

Sometimes the curtains of a gray mist still waft over the lush green slopes of the Virunga volcanoes when the participants of this safari approach their destination. Almost always, the wisps of fog open over the Karisimbi or the Gahinga when the guide urges them to leave in the last camp because the tracker has spotted a group of mountain gorillas. It goes over meadows into the bamboo forest and finally over paths on which visitors can only move forward with difficulty. Suddenly, the guide presses his index finger to his lips and points to a clearing. The leader of the mountain gorillas, a mighty silverback weighing around two hundred kilograms, has long since discovered the visitors. He grunts to signify to the newcomers: I have seen you. The animals are wild, but not shy, and they tolerate the proximity of humans. Eye to eye with the mountain gorillas – this is a spectacle of an unusual kind.

Rwanda – The Magic of the African Rainforest

In their studies, scientists have determined that around 98 percent of the genes between humans and gorillas match. Visitors are not allowed to get very close to the mountain gorillas in order to counter the danger that the endangered creatures in the rainforest could catch a cold. When the guide growls and makes hissing sounds, the gorillas seem to know this and calm them down. There are still around 300 of these in Rwanda, and almost eight hundred worldwide. The encounter with the gorillas is unique and uplifting – a magic in the African rainforest.
But Rwanda has more to offer than just a trekking to the endangered animals.

The savannahs of the Akagera National Park are known for their great abundance of game and the variety of different forms of vegetation. Nyungwe National Park in the southwest delights the eye of guests with its tea plantations and is the habitat of numerous endemic birds. The chimpanzees screech in the trees. Rwanda’s metropolis Kigali is considered one of the cleanest cities on the continent. It is something like the portal to gorilla trekking and has not only first-class hotels but also numerous restaurants. On a round trip through the savannahs, visitors are reminded of Swiss alpine meadows. The country has earned a reputation for being the safest in Africa.