In spite of its small geographical size, hardly measuring more than 26,000 square km, Rwanda appears to have been created to be an example of a fascinating and fantastic tourist destination country. It’s rich and diverse wildlife, the contrasting and topography and climatic zones, its towering volcanic mountain chain in the north (reaching 4507 meters above sea level) and its rivers and lakes, especially Lake Kivu all provide beautiful variety of thrilling tourist attractions.
National Museum and Nyanza Ancient Royal Palace
If you are heading south towards Nyungwe Forest National Park, it will be worthwhile to spend some time visiting Nyanza ancient royal palace and the National Museum in Butare. The former, was until 1961, the seat of Rwanda’s Mwami (king) and center of the country’s power and authority. It is now the home of the National Ballet (part of the famous Intore dancers), which has won many International music and dance awards.
Further south, the Butare National Museum is a fine and artistically designed building that houses the historical past and present day events of Rwanda.
Lake Kivu Water Sports
After the exciting but perhaps also tiring mountain gorilla trekking safari, chimpanzee trekking and extensive game driving in Akagera National Park, Lake Kivu provides the ideal place for rest and recuperation. For sunbathing, swimming and water sports, the Rwanda Riviera town of Gisenyi is the place to be.
Dian Fossey is known throughout the world for her pioneering research on Gorillas and their behavior. Born in California in 1937, she saw her first wild gorillas on a trip to Africa in 1963. Later, Louis Leakey encouraged Fossey to conduct a long-term study of the animals in their natural environment.
After a brief stay in the Congo, Fossey moved to Rwanda and established a research camp, Karisoke, in 1967. There, she spent years tracking Gorillas up and down the steep slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes. It wasn't until two of her beloved gorillas, Digit and Uncle Bert, were killed in 1978 that she changed from pure scientist to active conservationist, launching an often controversial campaign against poachers. Articles in "National Geographic" magazine, television appearances, and the 1983 publication of her book "Gorillas in the Mist" (which was later made into a popular movie), focused world attention on the Gorilla's plight, but gave her little protection from the hatred of the poachers.
Fossey was found murdered at Karisoke in 1985 and was buried in the camp's cemetery next to Digit and Uncle Bert. Her epitaph reads, "No one loved gorillas more."
The remains of Dian Fossey’s Karisoke Research Centre – “Old Karisoke”
Dian Fossey set up a research centre in the Virungas in the early sixties and began the well documented habituation of the gorillas there. She became well known internationally through the film “Gorillas in the Mist”. Although Fossey was killed in 1985, the Centre continued to operate in the forest with other researchers until 1992. It was destroyed during the genocide in Rwanda and although rebuilt in 1993, it was destroyed again. Since then it has not been rebuilt. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International now runs its research on the gorillas in the forest from the Karisoke Centre in Ruhengeri town. Felix Ndagijimana is the current director.
Visits to old Karisoke are available as one of the activities in the Virungas. Old Karisoke is located in a beautiful meadow between the Karisimbi and Bisoke volcanoes with the Mikeno volcano in the distance. Remains of the old buildings can be seen as well as graves of some of the research gorillas that have died over the last 30 years, including the famous Digit which was killed by poachers, as well as that of Fossey herself.
The walk takes about 2-4 hours in all and is a fascinating way to explore the park and get a glimpse of the remains of this historic place. Prior booking is required and should be done when booking a safari.
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