• Sabi Sabi

    Photo credit by Sabi Sabi Game Reseve, Kruger National Park, South Africa

  • Tswalu

    Photo credit by Amakhala Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa

  • IMG_3851

    Photo credit by !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre, Western Cape, South Africa

  • Amakhala

    Amakhala Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Rwanda: Transition of a national forest into a national park



Tourism remains at the center of Rwanda’s economy, and tourism diversification has been one of the factors over the past few years assisting to drive visitors upwards.

The launch of birding tourism, of the Congo Nile Trail in 2012 along the shores of Lake Kivu, the restoration of Royal heritage sites, and the opening up of the Musanze caves for visitors have all contributed to the Rwandan success story, showing growth when the sector began to falter in other countries in the region.

Already in 2011, there were indications given by officials that the Gishwati National Forest was earmarked to be turned into a national park, similar to Nyungwe, which has become a real crowd puller in part for having East Africa’s only canopy walk in a rainforest on offer.

However, year after year, when the question was posed, the feedback was “not just yet,” until in 2014 the Rwandan government received a US$9.5 million grant under the Global Environmental Facility, earmarked to support the transition of the national forest into a national park.

It was now reliably learned that a bill to facilitate this transition will be tabled in parliament soon, which when passed, will also support the national environmental and forestry policy to increase the country’s forest areas to 30 percent over the coming years.

Tourism sources have already expressed their delight and support for the move as it will give the sector an added attraction, easily accessible through Gisenyi along the Congo Nile Trail, where one loop, the Pfunda subtrail, in fact branches off towards the Gishwati forest. New, however, is that the adjoining Mukura forest will also be made part of the new national park, raising the overall area to nearly 3,500 hectares under close protection by the Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department.

By the time of Kwita Izina, the annual gorilla naming festival in late June, the new bill is likely to be either before parliament or may even have been passed, which would be a prime opportunity for Rwanda to tell the global media present for the event of the new development. Home to an isolated group of chimpanzees and other primates, conservationists consider the linkage between Gishwati, Mukuram, and Nyungwe crucial to the survival of the species, and this latest development is bound to raise excitement in their circles, while also offering tourists over the coming years yet another place they can visit when in the “Land of a Thousand Hill.”

Source: Prof. Wolfgang H. Thome, Ph.D., eTN Africa Correspondent

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