On Tuesday 27th, September 2011, Rwanda joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Tourism Day.
Rwanda Development Board (RDB), under its initiative to encourage locals to embrace the tourism culture, sponsored 24 Rwandans to get a feel of Nyungwe National Park’s breathtaking sceneries.
The park is famous for Nyungwe Forest, a primary forest that is habitat to numerous fauna and flora. The glory of Nyungwe forest is best seen through the popular Canopy Walk loop that is at an altitude of 2,200 meters above sea level and 70 metres above the ground.
Louis Rugerinyange, the Chief Park Warden of Nyungwe National Park, led participants along the forest’s trails and canopy walk. Many had to overcome their fears and take on the canopy walk.
If it wasn’t for his words of encouraging, some participants wouldn’t have moved a step onto the ‘swinging bridge.’
Pacific Niyitegeka, a student at Mutara Polytechnic, said the canopy walk was a fright.
“If Louis had not said that some children had toured Nyungwe and were able to walk on the canopy trail, I don’t think I would have taken the risk. It was an adventurous walk,” Niyitegeka said.
Rugerinyange attained his position in 2008 and said he is living his dream.
“As a child, I always loved nature. Tourism and conservation is my passion. I get to experience new things about nature every day,” Rugerinyange said.
Born in Burundi and raised in Uganda, Rugerinyange‘s passion for nature made him pursue a Bachelors Degree in Environment Management at Makerere University, Uganda.
At 34 years, Rugerinyange zeal for the forest is portrayed in the way he describes its uniqueness to the tourists he guides along the canopy walk loop.
“I have been here for the last six years doing research and it’s fascinating to see how people enjoy walking the trail, over the canopy and their love for the animals.
This is a place where people are at peace with nature and it’s the safest and quietest place to live,” Rugerinyange said.
The canopy walk is currently one of the leading tourism attractions of Rwanda and, Rugerinyange was involved during its construction.
The tour starts from Uwinka hill at 2,400 meters above sea level. Tourists then follow a two-kilometer trail that leads to the Canopy Walk loop.
“Although I was involved in its construction, the first time I looked at the loop I was scared and hurried to finish the walk.
But after walking it, and the more I got to feel the forest and the beauty of the canopy, I gained more confidence,” he expresses.
“Normally the tour guide can make three rounds a day depending on the number of tourists. I am able to guide tourists twice daily. Due to the steep area, sloping down is easier than climbing up,” he said.
Rugerinyange says one of his greatest life moments is the day Nyungwe Forest acquired its status as a National Park.
“The national park status gives Nyungwe a lot of exposure and I want Rwandans to know that this place is special to them therefore, they should always adjure for its protection,” Rugerinyange said.
Communities that stay around Nyungwe forest have benefited from the national park.
“Earlier, when fires broke out in the forest, we used a lot of effort to convince the surrounding communities to assist us to put out the fires.
Currently, they get involved even before the rangers reach the affected area. This shows that the forest is special to them,” Rugerinyange explained.
“When I see a lot of excitement from both locals and foreigners after they have completed the canopy walk, I am thrilled.”
Rugerinyange’s love for nature and his knowledge helps several people to know Nyungwe National Park and this has bonded them to the place.
Dish: Traditional food
(Matooke and Groundnut stew)
Music: East African genre
Soccer team: Arsenal FC
Quote: ‘Life is what you make it’