Gishwati-Mukura Park next tourism frontier

The recently validated tourism master plan for the park has unveiled an abundance of different potential attractions . Courtesy.

A tourism development master plan and biodiversity survey for Gishwati-Mukura National Park have been completed mapping attractions that tourists could start visiting soon, The New Times has learnt.

Rwanda’s newest national park, Gishwati Mukura, is located in the north-western part of the country.

The area was nearly depleted some years ago due to encroachment, illegal mining in the mineral-rich forest and livestock farming.

In 2014, the Government received $9.5 million from Global Environment Facility through the World Bank to restore and conserve the forest.

According to Patrick Nsabimana, the coordinator of the project restoring the endangered landscape at Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), the recently validated tourism master plan for the park shows an abundance of different potential attractions covering all the sectors which tourists are known to be interested in.

“By June this year, the project will have completed its restoration activities and Rwanda Development Board will start to organise plans related to tourism. We are building basic infrastructure and administrative premises as well as control posts for the park management,” he said.

Rwanda aims to increase tourism revenues from $438 million in 2017 to $800 million by 2024.

With Gishwati-Mukura National Park scheduled to open for tourism in 2019/2020, it could help to boost tourism revenues.

These attractions, Nsabimana said, will position the park as a highly attractive and unique tourism destination.

The attractions, the master plan shows, include wildlife and game viewing, trekking and hiking, landscape and nature viewing, adventure and sports activities, community-based tourism, culture and heritage.

For Gishwati, the attractions are Gishwati forest, Pfunda River, Sebeya River, waterfall trail, Umushwati trees trail, Rushubi Tea trail and Gishwati community trail.

The Mukura area covers Mukura forest, Satinsyi River, Rucanzogera River, Secoko River, Mukura bike trail, Rucanzogera trail and Mukura Community Trail.

The master plan shows that the corridor connecting the two combined forests accommodates river sources and waterfalls. Three tourism development zones have been identified with tourist attractions, said Nsabimana.

“Umushwati Tourism Zone” at the north-west gate of the park will include the park’s main entrance that will comprise a visitor’s centre and administrative offices.

The park will also host a community complex and transit centre for tourists travelling between the Volcanoes National Park in the north and the Nyungwe National Park in the south.

“The tourist attractions in this area include hiking and biking trails, both inside and outside the forest, wildlife viewing, tea tours and community-based experiences,” he said.

“Bitenga/Sebeya Tourism Zone” at the north-eastern gate has a hill trail and canopy viewpoint, riverside trail, community farmers and tea plantations while “Rucanzogera Tourism Zone” at the South Gate will feature a Visitor Centre, a community-integrated complex, as well as a second base camp for the Riverside Trail.

The zone will also be the centre for adventure activities with waterfalls and bike trail, which links the park to the Lake Kivu trails.

The project coordinator said that the recent biodiversity survey showed that there are 492 plant species which are indigenous species and 22 mammal species such as the Golden monkeys, Eastern chimpanzees, mountain monkeys.

“There are 126 species of birds in the park such as white black vultures, crown eagles and 23 species of amphibians,” he said.

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