Rwanda - Off the beaten track
The Nyungwe Forest is a mountainous 378 sq mi (970 sq km) protected rainforest reserve in southern Rwanda. It was established 12 years ago as an ecotourism project that would allow limited access to one of the largest tracts of montane rainforest in Africa and the in-depth scientific study of a forest ecology undisturbed by agriculture or other human developments. There are over 12mi (20km) of pristine hiking trails in the area that expose walkers to enormous hardwood stands, numerous waterfalls and an eye-boggling variety of other trees, birds and insects (including some dazzling species of butterfly). The main attraction of Nyungwe, however, is the proliferation of black-and-white colobus monkeys - the mammals wander around in huge troupes, some of which are made up of over 300 agile individuals.
Parc Nacional des Volcans
Travellers are once again making their way to the beautiful bamboo and rainforest-covered slopes of this volcano-crowded national park in Rwanda's northwest, after authorities undid the hefty official chain and padlock that had prevented access up until mid-1999. The park had been closed for several years prior to this because of fighting in the area between government troops and soldiers of the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front. The upper environs of some of the area's seven volcanoes are apparently still occupied by fugitive Hutu militias and inestimable quantities of unexploded ordnance, so, unfortunately, hitting any of the many spectacular climbing trails is not an option at this time. But for most visitors that's OK, because what is currently accessible (thanks to the security provided by a military post) is the large, hirsute creature that most of them have come here to see.
The mountain gorillas of East Africa are now thought to number barely 600 and are distributed throughout national parks along the shared borders of Rwanda, Uganda (Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks) and Congo (Zaïre). There are four groups of the primates that can be visited with the help of guides in the Parc Nacional des Volcans, most of them on the slopes of a volcano called Visoke - visits are limited to an hour and the permit fee is hefty for the experience that many travellers rate an African highlight.