Tatler Asia's Travel Editor-At-Large Jeremy Jauncey On Why Rwanda Is A Must-Visit Destination For Animal Lovers
Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual naming ceremony for baby gorillas, is one of the most important events on the conservation calendar. It celebrates the commitment the Rwandan government has made to sustainable tourism and shines a spotlight on a country fast becoming one of the new must-visit luxury eco-travel destinations.
Alongside such high-profile conservation supporters as supermodel Naomi Campbell and singer Ne-Yo, this year I was given the honour of naming the first baby gorilla. I called my little girl Ingando. She represents so much in the fight for conservation. The survival of her endangered species is being made possible by a conscious effort from Rwanda’s government, citizens and NGOs to respect the environment and protect natural resources.
Rwanda banned plastic bags 15 years ago, will ban all single-use plastics next year and is the only country in the world with a programme that gives 10 per cent of tourism revenue to its national parks and local communities, who in turn protect and maintain the parks and gorillas that live in them. Tourism creates jobs, a sense of national pride and an understanding that by protecting the environment, a happy and successful long-term future is possible for locals, animals and tourists.
Welcome to the jungle
Nyungwe House, a luxurious One&Only resort nestled in an ancient rainforest and surrounded by tea plantations, offers some of the country’s most unique wildlife and cultural experiences along with its indulgent rainforest spa treatments. Tracking wild chimpanzees and a short helicopter ride to Volcanoes National Park for gorilla trekking are once-in-a-lifetime moments only possible in Rwanda. With a sister property, Gorilla’s Nest, opening in November, One&Only’s Rwanda experiences are second to none.
Luxury specialist Singita also has two stunning Rwanda properties—Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House—at the base of Volcanoes National Park. Designed with sustainability as their fundamental focus, they were built by more than 500 local artisans. Singita, which is committed to providing life-changing experiences while protecting and growing gorilla populations and improving the lives of the local community, sets a high standard for luxury sustainable travel experiences in Africa.
(Related: Singita Opens Kwitonda Lodge And Kataza House In Rwanda, Dedicated To Gorilla Conservation)
A once-in-a-lifetime adventure
Aside from gorillas, Rwanda is home to other unique safari experiences and boasts a beautiful capital city, Kigali. The people are warm, welcoming and committed to providing a tourism experience that will change your life forever. This attitude is particularly special because, as we’ve seen recently in the Amazon, climate change and the valuing of short-term profit over long-term sustainability can have devastating, even irreversible effects, destroying the very assets we value so much. Rwanda has shown it does not have to be this way.
Trekking with gorillas is something you must do once in your life. As one-third of them live in the national parks of this great country, there is no better place to do it than Rwanda.
(Related: Wine Tasting To Luxury Safari—How To See It All In South Africa)