Situated in the very heart of the continent, Rwanda straddles the steamy rainforests of Central Africa and the more open woodland savanna terrain of East Africa. With its thrilling rolling mountainous landscapes, this tiny nation is often referred to as “The Land of a Thousand Hills”, and more recently through the work of Dian Fossey with the rare mountain gorillas, it has also become known as the Land of “Gorillas in the Mist”. These idyllic images were shattered for a brief moment in 1994 and 1995 with the horrors of the genocide, but the country has long since settled its political differences by forging a lasting sense of national, rather than ethnic, identity. The memorials to this tragic event have become a sobering component on the itineraries of most visitors. While gorilla trekking in the Virunga Mountains remains the country’s traditional tourism highlight, the montane forests of Nyungwe, the savannah plains of Akagera and the waters of Lake Kivu are additional attractions.
Uganda is all about the primate axis, and nothing can prepare you for a close-up encounter with gorillas or chimpanzees. Highly social and intelligent, it is difficult to look one of these creatures in the eye without being moved by a deep sense of familiarity, nurturance and compassion as well as a sense of anguish for their fate. Endangered, yet sharing more than ninety five per cent of the human genome, a trekking journey in search of these fellow-primates is nothing short of a journey in search of soul.
Other highlights include the woodland regions of Queen Elizabeth National Park, the wetland regions around Murchison Falls, Lake Victoria and the other great lakes, and the incredible birding to be experienced in all biomes.