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I arrived in Kigali for the first time a couple of days ago and I immediately understood why Rwanda is the so called land of a thousand hills. I must admit at first it wasn’t a really happy realisation since it was dark, we were about to land and I kept on seeing hills around me, really romantic but then again…where is the airstrip?! Just when I was about to come to terms with the fact we would have landed in the forest, here it comes - the beloved airport. It felt like somebody just placed it there a minute before and I thought “Welcome to Africa!”
It was a much happier realisation when I woke up the next morning and took a look at the view from the terrace of my hotel. The mountains lying in the distance were impressive and reminded me how much I love to wake up in an unfamiliar place and be overwhelmed by its scenery.
However Rwanda is not entirely an unfamiliar land for me, indeed I have been part of the Volcanoes Safaris team for the past year. Volcanoes Safaris organizes eco-luxury safaris in Uganda and Rwanda, so I had read about it and I talked about it almost every day but…what a feeling to finally get to experience it first hand!
People always appreciate it when you make an effort with the local language, Kinyarwanda in this case, so there were a couple of survival words which I learned straightaway. For example, instead of a usual and boring “Hello” I gave it a try and used “Amakuru” and “Murakoze”; in other words “Thank you”. This comes in handy especially when you find yourself in embarrassing situations like not being able to open the door of your room and keep turning the keys like crazy to then discover, clearly not by yourself but with the help of the lovely guardian, that it was unlocked…and by the way, this is a purely fictional story! In any case the reward for my efforts was always a huge smile ;-)
Marta, UK Office
Tracking chimpanzees in their natural habitat, as they swing from the branches in the canopy high above the forest floor is nothing short of exhilarating. The chimps effortlessly cross and scamper through the trees above the gorge, and visitors on the other hand must cross the river using natural bridges in order to keep up with the chimps. So although the walk usually lasts only 2–3 hours, descending the steep gorge and crossing the log bridges over the river requires some agility and fitness.
Chimpanzee tracking is also available in nearby Kalinzu, a forest reserve 30 minutes drive from Kyambura Gorge Lodge where there is a community of about 40 habituated chimpanzees.