An expedition to the heart of Africa, working with genocide orphans and hearing their story, hiking the Nyungwe Rainforest, a truly amazing cultural village experience, safari camping in Akagera National Park and much more…
Rwanda is known for one thing, the culmination of many years of tribal hatred, the genocide that rocked the world. Having lived in Tanzania in 1994-96, I saw the impact this had on neighbouring countries, and the bodies that floated down the Kagera River past Bukoba and into Lake Victoria. Going back in June 2013, I took a team of students to visit this amazing little country to find out for ourselves what is really going on there now.
The itinerary was full to bursting with experiences that would give first hand knowledge of the genocide, the reconciliation process and the importance of this to Rwandans today, as well as completing adventurous challenges to the remote Nyungwe rainforests and Akagera safari park.
We started off in Rwanda by visiting a church that was the site of one of the worst massacres during the genocide – Ntarama. Here, women and children sought safety in the church and school, only to be brutally murdered by the Interhamwe. It is now kept as it was found and preserved for all to not forget the tragedy. A truly moving place…We then visited the main Genocide memorial in Kigali, documenting the history and build up to the genocide, stories from across the country, and the reconciliation process and future peace and stability.
Heading west to Lake Kivu, we had a week working with the amazing orphans at L’Esperance, Kigarama. Completely self sufficient, the orphanage is run by Victor Monroy, an agricultural engineer from Guatemala, producing food for the whole village. ‘At the orphanage we have the largest fruit production of the country. We have 22,000 pineapple plants. Every day we harvest 40 pineapples and very soon we will harvest 60 pineapples per day. We have 1800 mango tress. And 800 of these will start producing very soon. We have 1700 guava trees. From 90 trees we harvested 712 kilos. And we have 700 avocado trees.’
We helped them with their next income generating project – in setting up eco-lodges for tourists to stay in, they also have eight wooden boats that needed painting and varnishing. Working hard on these during the day, we helped get the children ready for school in the morning, and entertainment in the evening.
Kigarama is an amazing success story, and a beautiful place to visit – http://lesperancerwanda.org/our_story/
After some r and r on an island on Lake Kivu we headed south to the newly designated Nyungwe National Park to attempt as many trails as possible in our four days stay.
This included waterfall trails, mountains and the search for any of the 13 primates in the forest. Lead by our knowledgable guide, we completed three trails, including the two day Mt Bigugu trail.
We then visited a cultural village, designed to support the local population, they did not disappoint with dancing, theatrical shows and traditional music and songs. During our three day stay we learnt the traditional beer making process, visited the tea processing plant and local crafts people.
More info can be found here: http://nyungwepark.com/plan-a-visit/activities/eco-tourism/
Our final week was spent at Akagera National Park on safari and wild camping. An incredible visit to this newly re-established park.
I shall continue to support and help all the projects I visited in Rwanda and hope to return soon.