Rwanda Comes of Age with Sustainable Tourism and High Hopes for their Latest Gorilla Census

The 2018 mountain gorilla census, due out in March, is expected to report that the mountain gorilla population has grown significantly in recent years. Fast-forward eight years since the last gorilla census in 2010 and the seven gorilla families in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, have now grown to 20.

But this conservation success has not come without controversy. The recent doubling in price of the gorilla trekking permit prompted fears that visitor numbers would collapse. These fears quickly turned out to be unfounded. Steppes Travel has seen consistent and increased interest: “To our eco-minded clients, the rise in price has been viewed as a positive step and an investment,” says Justin Wateridge, Managing Director of Steppes Travel. “It demonstrates that Rwanda takes conservation seriously.”

This investment is paying off. In January this year, the gorillas’ prime habitat of Volcanoes National Park was expanded by 27 hectares. In addition, an innovative rebate scheme has encouraged travellers to visit a second national park, in exchange for a 30% discount on permits, as a result of this the rejuvenated Akagera National Park has seen a 20% increase in visitor numbers.

Furthermore, the governments investment in conservation has been matched by foreign investment in low-impact, high-yield tourism. Wilderness Safaris recently opened Bisate Lodge and One&Only Nyungwe House launched late last year, with Singita due to open its Kwitonda Lodge in 2019. And these lodges are increasingly accessible thanks to new flight routings, with Auric Air flying in from the Serengeti and RwandAir soon launching direct flights from New York.

Steppes Travel have long championed responsible travel to countries determined to conserve their eco-heritage and Rwanda is a shining example of this. Encountering mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is an unforgettable and unexpectedly moving experience. Steppes Travel’s portfolio of primate trips includes a classic Rwandan gorilla safari, following in the footsteps of Dian Fossey, as well as pioneering tours to Cameroon, DRC and Gabon.

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