Melissa's Travels

Why Go Now: Rwanda

After my second trip to Rwanda, leading a group of nine members on an Indagare Journey, I can say with certainty that a trip here delivers so much more than an encounter with gorillas. In fact, this central African country delivers an incredible amount of inspiration and promise—two things that are too scarce in the world today. Twenty-three years after a genocide, during which one in ten people were killed, Rwanda has emerged as a beacon of hope. Its positive progress is drawing everyone from luxury tour operators and wildlife lovers to world leaders and conservationists, all of whom are visiting to learn lessons and get a dose of inspiration.

Learn about our Indagare Journey to Rwanda in 2018 and read our Rwanda Destination Report.

1. Go… To be Inspired

There is so much good news in Rwanda that visitors cannot help but feel that this is the comeback story that we all need. Read A Plane Ride to Inspiration. Since the genocide of the 1990s, Rwanda has come together in a spirit of openness and healing—the resilience of its people is palpable, and visitors cannot help but feel humbled and inspired by the triumph of spirit that prevails.

Read more: Melissa’s Slideshow: Gorilla Trekking

2. Go… To Meet Your Ancestors

Gorilla viewing is unlike any other wildlife experience you will have thanks to the species’ close connection to humans (we share 98% of their DNA) and their comfort with our presence. You can be feet away from intimate family interactions: an alpha male may sit chomping on bamboo shoots and then stand up and beat his chest, as he did when we visited, to signal to his family that he wants to move to another resting spot; babies may clamber over moms; and teens may scoop fire ants for a snack and then roll around in the leaves to stop the stinging—all within inches of you. I have been on safari a dozen times and gorilla trekking is one of the most thrilling wildlife experiences I have ever had. Part of the magic lies in the physical proximity, but there’s also the physical familiarity that cannot be denied, a recognition of shared traits. There is nothing quite looking into the eyes of our ancestors.

Related: 5 Emerging Travel Destinations

3. Go… Because the Luxury Options Have Arrived

The first luxury lodge in Rwanda, Bisate Eco Lodge, opened this June on the edge of Volcanoes National Park, bringing a wine cellar and soaking tubs within walking distance of the mountain gorillas. Just this month, the boutique Retreat opens in Kigali, and Singita, One & Only and Wilderness Safaris have projects in the works. This means a cushy circuit of multiple parks will soon make Rwanda a new must-stop safari location in East Africa. As an added bonus, guests will have the option to ride a helicopter from the rainforest of Nyungwe (home to 13 species of primates including chimps) to Volcanoes National Park for gorilla tracking and to Akagera, which is home to the Big Five.

Read more: Just Back From… Gorilla Trekking

4. Go… To Meet the People Making a Difference

Many inspiring individuals have been swept along with the country’s progress and are pitching in with their own projects and making an impact. During the Rwanda Indagare Journey, we met with artists, conservationists and educators, as well as Josh and Alissa Ruxin, the American couple who founded the restaurant Heaven in Kigali and are opening the first boutique luxury property, the Retreat. Another inspiring initiative is the Inema Art Center, which houses more than a dozen resident artists and teaches dance and art to children, and the Gashora Girls Academy, which has inspired girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and math studies. And then there’s the talented Joselyne Umutoniwase, who returned from a successful film career in Europe to create the country’s first fashion company. One Rwandan powerfully summed up the resolve powering these creative new endeavors post-Genocide: “We were put so low that when you survive, you have to stand up.”

Read more: The People We Meet Along the Way: Rwanda.

5. Go… To See Biodiversity Far Beyond the Gorillas

Nature lovers will be wowed by the country’s diverse flora and fauna. Nyungwe, in the southwestern part of the country, is part of the largest montane forest in Africa and was recently declared the true source of the Nile. The most floristically rich in the country, the forest is home to more than 13 species of primates including chimps and black and white colobus monkeys. It is also where the Wildlife Conservation Society has been focusing on creating a model for community conservation with innovative education and training programs. Plus, Akagera National Park, home to the Big Five, is welcoming new lodges from Wilderness Safaris and Singita, which will surely be draws.

6. Go… To Understand an Important Piece of Humanity's History

As our Indagare group trekked back out of the forest—rangers and tourists united by the high of the encounter—I kept thinking of a scene in the documentary Virunga, where one of the rangers speaks about the gorilla orphans that he cares for: “They must not feel that they are abandoned. They must feel that they are part of a family.” Wasn’t that the message of the Genocide Memorial and of all the reconciliation and healing initiatives that Rwanda has undertaken since that dark time? That we are our brother’s keeper. Or at least we should be. I say, go see for yourself how a country can rebuild after a massacre—you cannot help but feel hope for humanity.

Learn about our Indagare Journey to Rwanda in 2018 and read our Rwanda Destination Report.

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