Once Upon a Time in Rwanda

Once upon a time an apprehensive couple arrived in Kigali on a cold morning in December 2009. It was love at first sight and since then there was no looking back for them. This is their story. 

Sipping a hot cup of the finest Rwandan coffee, I pen my thoughts. 

We run a small travel agency in Kigali. We registered our travel company and within 24 hours Rickshaw Travel Rwanda was born on 10th December 2009. Who gets express delivery these days?  It was unbelievable.

We were warned that running a business in this country where corruption is not tolerated at all was not going to be easy. Being a landlocked country with a brilliant taxation system, businesses and individuals were obliged to pay their taxes with due diligence failing which they had to face the consequences in terms of severe penalties. Something unheard of in East Africa.

Rwanda is a small country with the highest density in Africa.

Its dynamic landscapes offer the most breathtaking views and are renowned for being authentic, wild and spectacular. The country is lush with greenery and weather is very pleasant throughout the year.

To a layman, Rwanda is all about their horrific past. But to a person who has visited this country, this land has nothing to offer them but happy memories. This country has taken a miraculous transformation from the scars of the past and to a tourist or even an expat who visits the country; this country is far from being affected and has a very promising future with a new found optimism. Over time the people of this proud nation have been rebuilding , restoring and restructuring  at a rate that most people including myself cannot even phantom.

Rwanda is open to a lot of investment opportunities and companies are literally given a red carpet welcome. With registrations happening within 24 hours, this is one of the easiest countries for any company to start their business. This also goes to show how committed the country is for their economic growth. Vision 2020 which is a development program launched in 2000 by President H.E Paul Kagame is aimed at transforming the country into a middle income country, reducing poverty and making the nation united . Every single Rwandan is committed to make this vision successful.

It is an impeccably clean city with outstanding infrastructure which is why Rwanda is also known as the Singapore of Africa. Even when one arrives into the Kigali international airport, they will notice an E GATE system and all residents with ID cards can just swipe on the e gate and exit conveniently. This is first of its kind in entire east Africa and I was personally very proud to see this development. Small changes but make such a big impact.

The last Saturday of the month, the Rwandans join in to clean their surroundings and this day is also known as the Umuganda Saturday. Starting from 0700am until 1200 noon, No offices are open , no vehicles are permitted on the roads and every Rwandese above the age of 18 are expected to report to their respective district heads to join in the cleaning of the surroundings.

Plastic of any kind is banned in Rwanda .Even upon arrival at the Kigali International airport the plastic bags that tourist carry are requested to dispose them and are given a paper or cloth bag as a replacement.

Getting around the city is relatively easy; Matatus or taxi motorbikes are easily available. Wearing a helmet is compulsory both for the driver and the passenger. Apart from that , public buses are also accessible. They are not overcrowded and one can be safe using these transportation. 

This is also the only country in East Africa where one can walk late at night fearlessly. Police are stationed at almost every road and are very helpful.

Apart from agriculture, Tourism is a key contributor to the economy and this lush land has a lot to offer. Ranging from Gorilla tracking, primate tracking, Caves, trails, hikes to experience the rich cultural traditions, Rwanda has it all.

In the northern part of Rwanda , you have a chance to track the very rare mountain gorillas though the bamboo forests in the Virunga volcanoes .To conserve and protect the mountain gorilla which was nearing extinction, the government and the neighboring communities have jointly contributed and made this rare species thrive without the fear of poaching. To celebrate the birth of newly born baby gorillas and families that have migrated from neighboring Congo and Uganda , the Rwanda Development board hold an annual Gorilla naming ceremony where organizations and select individuals have the opportunity to name a baby gorilla. It is celebrated with great pomp and joy and the President himself takes keen interest in the ceremony.

In the north east we have the Akagera National park which offers the tourist to view wildlife in its natural habitat. Game include the mighty elephants, Buffaloes, Tope, Zebras, Giraffes , Hippos and antelopes. Of the larger predator’s only leopard, hyena and side-striped jackal are still present. Akagera is an important ornithological site with nearly 500 bird species. Akagera also offers  Game Drives,Boat trips , fishing and Birding

Down South we have a ‘ paradise on earth ‘ which is also known as the Nyungwe forest reserve. With breathtaking views and clean crisp air covering over 1000 square kilometers, Nyungwe is surely one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine mountain rainforests. It’s believed to be one of Africa’s oldest forests. Home to habituated chimpanzees and 12 other primates species ,its also a birder’s paradise with over 300 species and is home to 75 different species of mammal.This majestic rainforest is filled with nature and wildlife experiences for you to emerge yourself in. Nyungwe also offers Hiking or even biking the beautiful terrain ,Tracking the famous chimpanzees, experiencing the canopy walk, witnessing beautiful birds and relaxing by waterfalls just to name a few.

Other range of activities include various hikes on the treacherous volcanoes , visiting musanze caves , Lake Kivu , Kibuye and the exhilarating congo nile trail and experiencing the traditional Rwandan villages and the people.

When visiting Kigali we highly recommend a visit to the genocide memorial which not only show proof of Rwanda’s painful history but also proves to the world on how miraculously this country has rebuild itself like a phoenix .

We have a variety of options for dining out .Food is delicious and organic without having to pay a premium for the label ‘’ORGANIC ‘’.Rwanda’s potatoes are world famous and the chips are to DIE for

On the flip side or should I say on the areas of improvement , customer service levels are very poor here. Though they are taking great efforts in training their people on the importance of customer services, they need to act fast .Skilled labour is also limited which makes it difficult to excel in any business. 

Rwanda could also do better with their medical facilities which are currently very poor comparing to their neighboring countries..

The government have addressed these issues and are working seriously on the same. On lines with Vision 2020 which is remarkable in itself.

All I can say is that we love this country , we love its people , we love the warmth , we love the cleanliness but most importantly we love the peace and harmony that this land offers us.

We cant wait to grow together with this baby who definitely has a bright future.

We share the vision of 2020 to see a change that the world awaits. 

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