BY ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA
LOCATED in a landlocked area close to the Equator, on the eastern fringe of Albertine Rift with a bit of the Great Rift Valley on its western part, Rwanda is a beauty to behold. It has a cool temperate climate due to its high elevation and beautiful terrain with mostly grassy uplands and scenic, gently rolling hills.
The genocide of 1994, when hundreds of thousands of Rwanda’s Tutsis and Hutu political moderates were killed, remains a blight in the country’s rich history.
Lying between rivers Nile and Congo, the country’s landmass of about 26, 338sq kilometres, and its share of domineering mountaneous outlook is something to cherish with the highest peak said to be Karisimbi (4,507m) in the volcanic Virunga area protected by Volcanoes National Park. It is perhaps for this landscape that the country is fondly referred to as ‘a land of a thousand hills.’
Like most countries in Central or East Africa, Rwanda has an appealing ambience that makes ecotourism a leisurely adventure, especially for those desirous to conquer nature in its pristine stage.
The list of national parks where natural collage of fauna and flora species could be harvested include Nyungwe Forest National Park, Akagera National Park and Volcanoes National Park and many others.
Nyungwe Forest National Park: Spanning over 1, 000sq kilometres, the park, which is located in the South East end of the country is noted for its ancient outlook.
It is said to have the largest block of montane forest in East and Central Africa as well as rich floral diversity with more than 200 different types of trees, and a vast variety of flowering plants outside host of colourful orchids.
With amazing statistics of about 13 primate specifics such as chimpanzee, the L’Hoest’s monkey and troops of Angola colobus; the enclave remains a delight for tourists.
Part of its offerings is bird watch with a captivating birdlife that makes the region Rwanda’s best - kept ornithological site.
It is believe to harbour about 300 bird species with the great blue turaco — a flamboyant blue, red and green bird — enjoying pride of place.
The park also has a mass of network that makes for delightful safari and leisure walk.
Volcanoes National Park: Located in the northern axis of the country, the park is also known as ‘Parc National des Volcans’ (PNV).
With a mountaineous forest covering over 120 sq kilometres, the park is the home of the six Virunga Volcanoes —Bisoke, Mikeno, Sabyinyo, Karisimbiand, Muhuabura and Gahinga — and the world famous mountain gorillas enclave as it posseses almost half of the world’s wild mountain gorillas.
With a lush and luxurianting greenery, the park ofers tourists a life – time wild experience with gorilla tracking.
The mountaineous base of the gorilla has a series of awe – inspiring Virunga peaks ranging from 2, 500 to 4, 500 metres, making the park an exciting scape to explore.
The town of Musanze, which is located at the entrance of the park, is the starting point for anyone wishing for a gorilla safari. The town is about 90 minutes drive from kigali, the cpaital city of Rwanda.
Besides, the park is also home to the Golden Monkey, which is regarded by the world as Africa’s most endangered primate. They belong to a special species of the Guenon Cercopithecus and their presence is mostly within the lower reaches of the park.
Akagera National Park: Located on the fringes of Rwnada’s border with Tanzania on the eastern flank of the country, Akagera National Park has a powerful presence of swamps and lakes meandering through the course of Akagera River.
The park enjoys a combination of savannah, woodland and opened grassland, which provides home for variety of fauna and makes exciting watch for tourist.
Akagera Park is also said to house about 525 species of birds, four endemics specises and a large concrentration of migatory birds.
When next in Rwanda, take time to explore the natural riches of this land of a thousand hills.
A tour of any of the parks is made possible either through Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Park (ORTPN) or tour operators.