Rwanda is one of the best places to see the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural home. Rwanda’s travel and tourism industry experienced a boom over the review period, thanks to efforts by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to enhance and diversify its tourism offerings. Although mountain gorillas continued to play a key role in contributing to the industry’s growth, the country shifted from relying on their attraction, so as to remain competitive in the fast-growing, ever changing travel and tourism market. As part of its diversification campaign, the national tourism body introduced several new tourism products, among them three birding routes outside the national parks, a Canopy Walk in Nyungwe National Park, as well as the Congo Nile Trail, which offers a wide range of hiking experiences around the shores of Lake Kivu. Over the forecast period, the introduction of new tourism packages will help to attract new visitor segments in Rwanda’s leading arrival source countries and also generate additional revenue for its travel and tourism industry.
Expansion of national carrier strengthens aviation industry
Over the review period, RwandAir grew into one of the major players in the regional air transport industry. The national carrier operates flight services in Africa and in the Middle East. It recently expanded its fleet through acquiring two Boeings 737-800, making it one of the first African airlines to own and operate Boeing’s new next generation aircraft. As well as increasing flight frequency on some of its existing routes, the airline also launched new regional ones. Additionally, RwandAir signed bilateral air service agreements with a number of airlines and its aggressive expansion, combined with the recent revamping of the country’s main gateway, Kigali International Airport, will help give a much needed boost to travel and tourism in Rwanda in the future.
Campaigns to improve customer service in the hospitality sector
Although Rwanda is emerging as a top tourism destination, its travel and tourism industry has struggled over the years, due to the poor customer service levels on offer in the country. It ranked last in customer care in the East African Community (EAC) region, according to the 2011 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI). In order to capitalise on the increasing interest in Rwanda amongst tourists, the RDB has embarked on measures to improve service delivery and improve visitors’ experience, especially in the hospitality sector. Some of the initiatives introduced to help improve service delivery include the classification of hotels, conducting seminars and providing staff training, as well as organising customer care awards for companies performing well.
Focus on travel and tourism to boost economic growth
Travel and tourism is a vital sector for Rwanda’s economic development. Since the return of peace and stability to the country, the industry has steadily developed to become a major source of export earnings. It is currently one of the fastest growing sectors and, as a result, remains high on the government’s agenda. With more room for expansion, the industry is on course to become the leading foreign exchange earner, luring more tourists, as well as attracting substantial investment, especially in the hospitality sector.
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
In Rwanda, these primates can be seen in the Volcanoes National Park, Parc Nationale Des Volcans, as of now, there are 7 mountain gorilla groups habituated making it 56 gorilla permits for visitors to Rwanda available every single day. 8 people per group can trek these endangered apes. Susa group is the best adventurous to track with over 41 members of gorillas! With a gorilla permit costing US $ 1500 per person per trek, part of your contribution goes to conserving these mountain gorillas.
You have to wake up early morning, meaning that you must find accommodation closer to the park entrance. Your African gorilla guide will be briefing you at 7 am about safety precautions as well as the etiquette. There are over 80 gorilla tracking guides provided by the Rwanda Development Board, well trained and speaking English and French.
Together with other members of the group, you proceed to the forest and start the hike which may be tiring depending on your physical strength. Remember they are called mountain gorillas so an element of hiking is a must and please make sure you are fit to enjoy this gorilla trekking safari. The adventure takes anything from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. The English-speaking forest guides are amazingly good, and will lead you to the specific ‘habituated’ mountain gorilla group, which certainly will be acquitted to human presence.
Normally the gorilla group will be scattered over a small area of thick vegetation. They will carry on with their interactions and even feed without any concern of their human visitors although they will be observing you with interest. Rarely one, normally a playful youngster, will boldly approach you with inquisitiveness, at times coming really close that you will need to move away. (You are not allowed to move less than 7 meters close to them; this is to safe guard the gorillas from contagious human diseases.)
Rwanda gorillas are divided into 2; those for study or research purposes which are strictly accessed by scientists plus researchers only. Among these are Beetsme and Pablo’s Shida’s which have the highest number of gorillas. There are also ten habituated gorilla families that are for tourism purposes, so these are available for trekkers to visit. At most 8 people may visit each of the gorilla groups every day and you may spend at most one hour. Among these gorilla groups are the: Ugenda, Umubano, Susa group, Karinsimbi, Sabinyo, Hirwa, Amahoro, Bwengye, Group 13 (the Agasha group) and the Kwitonda.
There are plenty of lodge options ranging from budget, to mid-range and then luxury. The choice of your accommodation will determine the nature of your gorilla safari. Most companies will quote all the 3 options. Among the prominent safari lodges include Sabyinyo Silver Back lodge, Virunga lodge, Mountain Gorilla Lodge and so many others.
There are quite a number of mountain gorilla related activities, the famous one being the Kwita Izina ceremony of naming gorillas for Rwanda safaris; it is a yearly event where various celebrities are invited to this occasion. Booking your gorilla adventure during this time would be a chance to participate in this event. A number of gorilla conservationists exist in Rwanda. From The Dian Fossey Foundation to The International Gorilla Conservation Project and so much more.
Tour Operators and Safari Companies
There are several safari companies (tour operators and travel agents) selling travel packages to Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills. Here are some of the recommended tour companies including international tour operators and specialist travel agencies featuring holidays, tours, safaris and travel in Africa.
Gorilla Trek Rwanda – Kigali, Rwanda
Gorilla Trek Rwanda offers unique handcrafted gorilla treks to Volcanoes National Park. Their tour offers range from day trips to longer vacations that can be tailor made to suit individual or group needs.
Contact: +250 782 338608 | Email: email@example.com
Rwanda Gorilla Safaris – Rwanda
Based in Kigali, Rwanda Gorilla Safaris specializes in organizing gorilla safaris to the Volcanoes National Park in the northern part of Rwanda. They can also tailormake your trip to include gorilla trekking in the neighboring Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Contact: Paul TG | Managing Director | +250 64-8759065 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Amahoro Tours Rwanda
One of the oldest tour companies in Rwanda – offering a wide range of safaris and tours.
Contact: Mr. Gregory Bankuzi | Managing Director | +250-78-8687448 | +250-78-8655223 | Email: amahorotoursgmail.com Bhejane Adventures, South Africa
Primate Safaris Rwanda
A local tour operator specialising in organising primates watching expeditions into Rwanda and the neighboring Uganda, DR Congo and Tanzania. Offers include gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, chimpanzee tracking and more.
Contact: +256 392 159498 | Email: email@example.com