Water sports are part of the interesting activities you can enjoy within the Land of a thousand Hills. The activity tremendously relies on the weather which sometimes determines the level of safety and is always the priority when dealing with human life. Not only that, perfect timing while considering the changing wind is also very important.

Rwanda, sometimes known as the Switzerland of Africa or the Land of a thousand Hills is not only known for mountain gorilla tracking but also other activities including exhilarating water sport activities. This country is one of the exceptional destinations in East Africa where water sport activities are conducted hence you can visit to enjoy some of the activities. The best places to engage in waters sports in Rwanda include Lake Kivu, Lake Ihema and Lake Muhazi.

Of all the mentioned places, Lake Kivu is the most preferred destination for water sport activities such as Kayaking, swimming, fishing, canoeing in addition to exhilarating boat rides among others. This fresh water Lake has crystal clear water and a sea atmosphere in addition to its temperate climate that is very conducive for tourists who visit the destination.

Most lakeshore hotels are found within Lake Kivu and they offer wonderful water sport equipments for hiring, reservations and booking through their Reservation offices/front desks. This lake can be visited and the water sport activities can be enjoyed at anytime of the year. Other hotels within Karongi also offer water sport activities in addition to the equipments.

Jambo Beach-Lake Muhazi’s largest and pristine sandy beach is found at approximately 60 kilometers/37 miles East of Kigali City. Just along the shores of the Lake you will see some boats that are always driven by the local tour guides who are very familiar with the area hence will make you enjoy the entire Rwanda safari experience. Not only that, Lake Ihema also offers opportunities of boat rides as well as fishing for tourists who visit Rwanda for safaris.

Lake Kivu is the largest of the numerous freshwater bodies within the Land of a thousand Hills hence a perfect get away spot for leisure along the western banks of this wonderful Lakes. For those who would like active adventures, Nyungwe Forest the best destination for primate safaris is just a stone throw away from Lake Kivu. You can stay in Kibuye and go for chimpanzee tracking.

There are also a number of other Lakes that include twin Lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo which are near Volcanoes National Park, the capital for gorilla trekking hence perfect for relaxing after the adventurous activity. Lake Muhazi is about 90 minutes drive from Kigali City and is one of Rwanda’s beautiful treasures. It is located in eastern Province of Rwanda of Rwanda and is a perfect place for a day trip away from the Capital where you will relish fresh fish as you watch sunset over the small boats along the shores of this Lake.

Akagera National Park is a home to over 10 Lakes, some of which are watering places for cattle and wildlife species as well as being a birding spot. The country’s Lakes offer tourists with an insight to the traditional African lifestyles. The bird species here are spectacular and the notable ones include African fish eagles, Pelicans, the grey crowned cranes, Kingfishers and the elusive shoebill stork.

Gisenyi Town is one of the best Resort Towns in Rwanda, about an hour’s drive from Volcanoes National Park. Other Resort Towns include Rusizi, which is near Nyungwe Forest National Park and characterized by narrow valleys and Karongi with spectacular beaches and wonderful accommodation facilities that overlook the pine-covered hills.

In conclusion, besides gorilla trekking that draws thousands of tourists into Rwanda, this country is also famous for water sports that include canoeing, fishing, kayaking, boat rides and swimming, to mention but a few. These exhilarating activities are conducted from Lake Kivu, Lake Ihema and Lake Muhazi among others.

Looking to traveling Uganda and wondering about the best adventures to undertake? We have it all and we would like to share these “must do” things if you are looking to a trip if a lifetime!

Uganda is undeniably the pearl of African for many reasons. This stunning country offers wide range of adventures, areas for chilling, cultures, sceneries and many more. There are also ten magnificent national parks that come with amazing attractions that thrill visitors while on Uganda safaris. For the most enjoyable and rewarding safari in Uganda, below are some of the exciting activities that you should consider par taking while on your African safari.

Safari

Uganda is famous as one of the perfect safari destinations with wide range of safari activities. Visitors can spend more than three days in Uganda depending on someone’s budget. The prominent safaris include mountain gorilla trekking adventures in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park in southwestern Uganda. About 480 individuals of mountain gorillas thrive within Uganda making it a home to the largest population of these rare apes.

There are four main tracking areas where gorilla trekking is conducted with the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. They include Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga area and each of them come with distinct habituated families for visitors to track. Permits for this lifetime adventure costs $600 per person and only one group will be assigned to you to track in a group of eight visitors.

You will also have a chance to go for game drives in most of the savanna grassland protected areas where you will spot most of big game including the lions, elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards and many wildlife species. And the notable destinations to catch a glimpse at these unique creatures include Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park and others.

Chimpanzee adventures

Besides mountain gorilla trekking, there is also chimpanzee trekking which rewards visitors with magical encounters of the chimpanzees while they are in their natural habitat. There are over 5000 chimpanzees that thrive in various parts of Uganda and more than 1500 of them are found in Kibale Forest National Park. Each destination has its own price for this lifetime adventure and in Kibale National Park the permits cost $150 per visitor and for visitors who may wish to extend their stay in Uganda they can engage in chimpanzee habituation experience which takes visitors the whole day following the semi habituated chimpanzees in the wild and the permits for this experience are sold at $220.

Bungee jumping

For breathtaking adventures, bungee jumping shouldn’t miss out in your travel plan. This is mainly conducted at the source of the mighty Nile-Jinja and offers visitors a chance to kiss the waters of the mighty River Nile. A side from bungee jumping, you may also engage in white water rafting, quad biking, kayaking, Boat cruise, horseback riding and many more.

Cultural encounters

For a complete safari in Uganda, make sure that cultural experiences do not miss out in your travel itinerary. For authentic African cultural encounters, consider visiting Ndere Cultural Center a must to visit while you are on safari in Uganda. While at this center, you come across different tribal groups which display various cultural dances and performances. If you are interested in gorilla trekking, you can also visit the Batwa pygmies in their community and you will have a lifetime experiences. The Batwa are known to have stayed peacefully with the forest for over 500000 years but due to conservation reasons, they were evicted and now they are marginalized group around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park.

Sport fishing adventures

For anglers, Uganda should be one of the best destinations for you to challenge yourself with breathtaking sport fishing. This adventure allows you to catch the Nile perch and it is conducted in Lake Victoria, Murchison Falls National Park, the source of the Nile at Jinja and many others.

In conclusion, Uganda is undeniably the pearl of Africa. There are a lot of amazing attractions that are worth exploring by travelers while on safari in Africa. If you are interested in authentic African experiences, this is the right spot for you to catch a glimpse at most of the big game, chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, the rare golden monkeys, birds as well as get thrilled by most of its cultural experiences.

If you are good at birding, Africa is that one continent that boasts of its diversity. Not only does it boast of its rare mountain gorillas or the big game but also for diverse avifaunal species which are distributed in different countries. For memorable birding experiences, the following destinations should be a must for you to visit;

South Africa

South Africa has for long been and still continues to be very popular as one of major tourist destinations in Africa with remarkable natural wonders. It features many mountains, white and sand beaches and also incredible wildlife for you to look out. It is also a popular birder’s paradise and given its expansive size, you will need more days to have a complete birding safari. What is interesting is that you can incorporate birding with game viewing then you strike two birds at ago. In South Africa, some of the popular destinations for you to visit for bird watching include the Kruger National Park and Zulu Land Game Reserve as well as other national parks. If you head to Durban and Johannesburg, there about 400 bird species that await for you to explore while around the Cape about 150 of them thrive around this area.

Uganda

With over 1074 distinct bird species, Uganda is undoubtedly a birder’s paradise and comes with diverse bird habitats. The popular birding sites no to miss while on a Uganda birding safari include the 10 national parks. These include Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Kibale Forest, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga Ranges, Semuliki National Park, Mount Elgon and the Rwenzori Mountains. Other sites include forest reserves, wildlife reserves, lakes, rivers, wetlands and many more. The notable birds for you to look out while on Uganda birding tour include the shore bill storks, African green broadbill, African green breasted pitta, pelicans and many others.

Tanzania

Still in East Africa, Tanzania is that one country you need not to miss to pay a visit while on bird watching safari in Africa. While in this country, you will have a chance to explore most of the East African endemics and 20 of which are endemic to Tanzania. The main birding tourist sites in Tanzania include Serengeti, Mahale, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara, Gombe, Tarangire, Arusha, Katavi, Selous, Ruaha and many more. Besides, you can also have opportunity to explore the first miombo endemic bird species. The famous birds for you spot out in this country include flamingos.

Cameroon

While on safari in western Africa, Cameroon is one of the best birding destination you need not to miss to pay a visit. This country has many bird species that await for you to sight out and the main areas to visit include the upper Guinea forest.

Ghana

This is another incredible country in West Africa that rewards birders with exceptional encounters of varied birds. It is endowed with variety of birds for you sight out. Gabon is the other remarkable country in West Africa.

Namibia

Namibia is one of the must of a visit destination in Africa and it holds the oldest desert in the world including the highest sand dunes in the entire world. There are many parks in Namibia where you can pay a visit to look out for incredible birds and they include among others Estosha National Park. While on tour in Namibia, you can also pass by Botswana and spot out the Pel’s fishing owl, slaty egrets, swamp boubou, melodious larks, brown fire finch, hartlaub’s babblers, southern pied babblers and many more.

Kenya

This lies within East Africa and it is a popular birding safari destination. It is famous for birds like flamingos, swallows, waders, terns, William’s lark, Hinde’s pied babbler, Aberdare cisticola, and many more.

Mozambique

This country covers about 2000 kilometers from the north to south. This is one of the most beautiful African countries with a great deal of birds including the striking red and blue double collared sun birds, white tailed blue flycatcher, Thyolo Alethe, tiny green bull, mangrove kingfisher, olive headed weaver and many more. The Gorongosa National Park comes with open woodlands, season wetlands and grasslands. This area is ideal for birds like red necked spur fowl, Vocal Burchell’s Coucal and many more.

Rwanda

This country has about 700 distinct bird species and they are distributed throughout its diverse habitats including the four national parks (Nyungwe Forest National Park, Akagera National Park, Volcanoes National Park and Gishwati-Mukura National Park) as well as wetlands. The notable avifaunal species for you to sight at while on birding safari in Rwanda include the Albertine owlet, red collared mountain babbler and Neumann’s warblers.

Other destinations include Ethiopia, Madagascar where you can sight at birds like helmet vanga, white ruffed lemur, dancing sifaka, ground roller; Malawi, Zambia, Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Seychelles and many others.

The Giraffe Center is a non-profit organization founded by Betty and Jock Leslie-Melville in 1979. Situated in Langata, just 20 km outside Nairobi City Center, the Center is dedicated to educating the Kenyan youth in conservation of the environment and the preservation of endangered wildlife and their habitats.

Giraffe Centre located in Langata, where the endangered Rothschild giraffe are being raised. This is where tourists/ visitors get the opportunity to hand feed these gentle creatures, as well as get fantastic close up photo shots. Feeding the giraffes is facilitated by a well built, raised platform from where visitors can feed these tall animals with ease. It was established in order to protect the endangered Rothschild giraffe, giraffe Camelopardalis Rothschild, which is found only in the grasslands of Africa. In 1979, Leslie-Melville added an education Centre to his giraffe sanctuary.

By 1983 he had raised enough money to establish the Giraffe Visitor’s Centre as a tourist destination in Nairobi. The center is also home to several warthogs which freely move around the area along with the giraffes. The main attraction for visitors is feeding giraffes from a raised observation platform. . By 2008, the Trust had successfully raised over 82 infant African Elephant calves.

In addition to the rearing of orphaned rhinos & elephants, the Trust also contributes to part of the electrical fencing of the northern boundary of the Tsavo National Park, continues to pressure cites to uphold the ivory ban through aggressive public campaigns, works to repatriate other animal species, runs de-snaring operations and a Mobile Veterinary project, as well as establishing many boreholes & windmills and general conservation issues in Tsavo National Park.

Their conservation is a success story in Kenya and the world. Come interact with their handlers and hear the terrible stories behind their journey to the orphanage email us for inquiries at (info@terrain-safaris.com)

WHAT YOU MUST KNOW BEFORE YOU BOOK

  • At least 2 people are required for this activity to take place.
  • A single person may book this tour, but must select and pay the price for 2 travelers to cover operational costs.

For birders, the republic of Rwanda has a number of bird species. Approximately 735 bird species have been recorded in the country and these include the 44 Albertine rift endemics plus 4 pure endemics. The Avian tourism potentials within the country have been over shadowed by the endangered mountain gorillas though. This dominance over bird watching has been due to lack of publicity and awareness about the bird watching products. Considering the size of the country however, Rwanda has the highest concentration of bird species in Africa. The wildlife tours in Rwanda has very trained birding guides who have been working in many protected areas in the country. The experience in the ecosystem of the rain forest and Savannah and provide an interesting and fascinating birding tours. Most clients and tourist help our clients in the trip planning selection of the best birding routes and ensure that they have ever lasting memories for the country through our dedicated services.

The main birding routes in the Republic of Rwanda are accessible and are very safe for independent birders for example the Akagera National park has over 525 bird species including the rare shoe bill stock plus 4 endemics of Nyungwe National park has approximately 283 bird species with 27 endemics. The highest concentration of the Albertine Rift endemics of anywhere in the world and volcanoes National park has approximately 90 species with 13 endemics. Within the country there are several birding routes in Kigali and the greater route, Nyabarongo route.

The birding Code of Conduct

The acceptable birding code of conduct is;

As a birder you must always act in the ways that do not endanger the welfare of birder of other wildlife in the keeping with this principle;

  • You should observe and photograph birds without knowingly disturbing them in any significant way
  • You should avoid chasing and repeatedly flushing
  • You should only sparingly use recordings and similar methods of attracting birds and not use the methods in heavily birded areas during breeding season
  • You should keep an appropriate distance from the nests and nesting colonies so as to disturb them or expose them to danger. Refrain from handling birds or eggs unless engaged in the recognized research activities.

As birders, you must always act in ways that do not harm the natural environment and keeping with these principles will;

  • You should stay on the existing roads, trails and pathways whenever possible to avoid trampling or otherwise disturbing
  • You should leave all habitat as we you found
  • The birders must always respect the rights of other in keeping with this principle where we will respect the privacy and property of others by observing. There is no trespassing, signs, and by asking permission to enter private or posted lands.
  • You should practice the common courtesy in our contracts with other where you will limit our requests for information where deemed in appropriate and will make them at a reasonable hours of the day.
  • You should always behave in a manner that will enhance the image of the birding community in the eyes of the public
  • If you are in big groups you should assume special responsibilities and a group members will take very special care to alleviate the problems and disturbances that are multiplied when more people are present. You should act in consideration of the group’s interest as well as our own
  • You should also assume responsibility for the conduct of the group and also learn to inform the group of any special rules, regulations or do conduct applicable to the area or habitat being visited.

If you would wish to have a visit to the land of a thousand hills for either birding of gorilla trekking safaris, do not miss contacting one of the most effective tour companies to book with:
Rwanda Gorilla Expeditions
Gorilla Trek Rwanda
Go gorilla Trekking
Safari Gorillas.

If you book with these tour companies i assure you their are no regrets as they provide the best services to tourists. The birding experience in the republic of Rwanda

There are two species of gorillas in this world that is eastern and western gorillas and the species are divided into subspecies. The eastern gorillas have the mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas and the western gorillas have the western lowland gorillas and the cross river gorillas. These gorillas are classified due to the locality they live in. we shall not go deep into other subspecies of gorillas; we are going to concentrate on the mountain gorillas.  These kinds of gorillas are called mountain gorillas due to the fact that they live in cool tropical forest ranges/mountains of the eastern region of Africa. That is at Virunga massif at the border of Uganda, Rwanda and DR. Congo and kigezi highland region of Uganda. The mountain gorillas are very huge and have too much fur on their bodies compared to other gorillas since they live in cooler areas.

The mountain gorillas are endangered species of animals as indicated by the International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN) in red list. There are only about 900 mountain gorillas left in the world and if not preserved and conserved they will be no more mountain gorillas yet there are very important in the ecosystem and also as an attraction in the tourism world. Different organizations have come up to save these gorillas from getting extinct both government and non government organization. Some of the notable ones are Diana Fossey foundation, Gorilla Doctors, International Union of Conservation for Nature and Friend a Gorilla amongst the special ones. These organizations are lobbying efforts in order to save the gorillas. Some of the efforts being put up are training a team to monitor the well being of the gorillas and also to protect them from poachers, they are also sensitizing the locals the importance of the gorillas in the wild.

The main effort that was put up is the mountain gorillas were gazetted and protected in their locale in that they do not compete for shelter with people. Their habitats were made national parks that are protected by the governments of the countries where the gorillas exist. There are four national parks in the world where mountain gorillas are found and these are volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Virunga national park in Congo and Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks in Uganda. These are the place where a person can get a connection with the mountain gorillas to witness how lovely they are. Thousands of people visit these national parks to hang out with the mountain gorillas.

The activity to meet and watch the gorillas in the wild is called gorilla trekking. Gorilla trekking involves hiking through the tropical forested mountains of the east central region of Africa to watch the gorillas in their wild. There are several gorilla trekking expeditions available in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. It takes 2-6 hours to find the gorillas in their locale. The gorillas are normally found in a group of 10-30 individuals being led by the silverback the head of the family. The gorilla trackers/visitors normally spend one hour with the gorillas as they watch the gorillas forage, play, communicate intelligently as though they are real humans. The trackers also take photos of the gorillas in the wild and these pictures are always magnificent to see when you get back home.

Gorilla tours are the biggest tourism packages in Africa as millions of people around the world are soliciting to have an encounter of gorillas in their natural environment. Gorilla tours bring a person more close to the natural and green environment since watching these amazing animals that are almost similar to mankind is very intriguing and cultivating. The gorillas in the wild are only found in Africa and in the eastern central part of it and not all countries that have gorillas offer gorilla trekking tours to people. There are a few countries that carry out the activities and the most notable and conducive ones are Uganda and Rwanda.

The best way of taking a gorilla tour is by visiting Uganda or Rwanda or one can do a double gorilla trekking tour whereby one can visit both of the two countries. These two countires have the most majestic animals called the mountain gorillas. These animals are elusive and intelligent in the way they behave. They are socially organized in that you can think that they are human beings only that they live in the wild areas.

Unfortunately mountain gorillas are endangered species of animals that are getting extinct in the forthcoming generations if not preserved and conserved well as indicated by the International Union of Nature for Conservation. These animals suffer from loss of habitats caused by human activities and also diseases like Ebola that has narrowed down their number and these are only about 900 in population in the whole world.  It is Uganda and Rwanda that has put more emphasis of making these wonderful animals to be visited by promoting gorilla tourism where they can make people know how important these huge primates are to the world. They have reserved the areas where these animals are found so that they are easily spotted by people. In Uganda there is Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park and in Rwanda there is volcanoes national park.

In Rwanda and Uganda is where one can try these gorilla tours and derives the greatest life experience. At a gorilla tour one travels to the gorilla home by a safari car which is most cases the Toyota RAV4, a Toyota land cruiser, or super custom 4WD since they are the most common cars used for safari tours in both Rwanda and Uganda.

At the national parks, visitors hike through the hilly forests in search of the gorillas. Hiking and searching for the gorilla takes around 2-8 hours but this is very adventurous nature walk through the jungle as one encounters lots of fauna and flora. Gorillas are found uphill in the mist of the forest but this is an exhilarating nervous experience as one makes an eye contact with the huge beasts. These animals are so peaceful and gentle so one should not be scared of them.

It is very exciting to come up close with these animals and lots of people make good remarks of trekking the gorillas in their natural environment. They have also influenced their friends and relative to take gorilla safaris in Uganda or Rwanda.

Don’t miss out on watching the mountain gorillas in their natural habitats since at anytime they are getting extinct.

With so many Safari activities that are carried at Mgahinga gorilla national park, Gorilla tracking stands out to be most interesting and loved activity by the tourists in general. About 75% of the tourists that come in to this national park are more interested in watching and touring Mountain Gorillas than other activities like game drive, launch cruise etc due to the point that mountain Gorillas have features of a human being in behavior and character. It is estimated that Uganda alone has total population of about 400 primates which for this case Mgahinga has a few of them compared to Bwindi impenetrable national park which has over 85% of the these primates.

The spectacular Mgahinga Gorilla national park has one habituated gorilla family that inhabits the Nyakagezi gorilla group although sometimes they tend to move or migrate to the nearby countries of Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo due to the fact that, the national park is just located near the boarders of both DRC and Rwanda. Due to the fact that both Mgahinga Gorilla national park and Bwindi impenetrable national park are near to each other, tourists are able to visit both national parks at the same time. Furthermore, a one day trek in the park with a well explained guide taking you though the behaviors of these primates is life time experience. The atmosphere in the forests of Mgahinga calls for Gorilla tracking as the main safari activity compared to other activities.

Gorilla trekking as an activity starts from Ntebeko entrance in the morning hours at 8:00am taking around 2-4 hours. While during the activity, the visitor is expected to at least spend one hour with them closely studying their behavior and characteristics after all when the hour ends, the Gorillas start to behalf differently and that is why, one hour is given. Some of the requirements that are needed to do this activity include packed food and a liter of water is also needed. the other things are bringing rain coats, proper foot wear shoes that are above the ankle plus also a camera to take some photos of these amazing primates. Maximum of eight people are needed in a group to trek these unique primates.

Before one treks these amazing Gorillas, one is required to have a Gorilla permit identifying the type of Gorilla group to be trekked which costs about 650 dollars per day depending on the best season for Gorilla tracking. Furthermore, the best period to do this activity is in the dry season of the months of June to October and then from mid December to the end of February as the roads leading to the national park are not as muddy making the movements of both cars and the tourists much easier to use either within or outside the national park compared to the wet seasons of the months of March, April, May, having muddy roads making the movements of tourists much different to use. The permits during the dry season tend to be much expensive at around 650 dollars than in the wet seasons were the permits go as low as 350 dollars due to low number of tourists visiting the Mountain gorillas.

Getting there is the main thing as one can use either road transport or Air transport given the cheapest fees charged according to one’s ability to pay. For one to use road transport to get towards to the park from Kampala, one needs a car which takes him or her 8 hours a distance of about 350 kilometers should be covered compared to air transport where one uses a charter from Entebbe to Kisoro air strip taking only one hour reaching their.

There are number of lodges one can stay in when going for a Gorilla tracking as these lodges are either located within or outside the park and these include: from Ntebeko, there is Volcanoes mount Gahinga Safari lodge and Amajambere lavacu camp. In Kisoro, there is Kisoro travelers Rest hotels and River Muda Hotel. In Lake Mutanda, there is Lake Mutanda chameleon hill lodge.

While on a gorilla safari in Rwanda, if the sight of gorillas doesn’t leave you breathless, then altitude at 9,000ft above sea level, may well do. What happens when you come face to face with an endangered mountain gorilla? I opted to crouch. I had fallen behind, with my back to the rest of our trekking group, when suddenly I was confronted by a young male coming the other way. It was a moment I’ll long never forget. Dark, unblinking eyes fixed me in an instant. Then, all huge knuckles and hairy shoulders, he approached. Fascinated, I was rooted to the spot. He sauntered past, no more than a foot away.

Beautiful Rwanda a country determined to make the most of its natural assets; is renowned for its mountain gorillas and in fact they didn’t disappoint. Found in the far north-west of the country, in the Volcanoes National Park, ten groups of eight visitors get to spend an hour each day with each family group and proximity to some of this planet’s last remaining mountain gorillas.

While at park headquarters Fidel, our guide, briefed us highlighting the dos and don’ts throughout this Rwanda gorilla tour. “ we’re assigned and visiting the Sabyinyo family group,” he explained. “this family comprises 12 gorillas, including the largest silverback, Guhonda. His name means ‘chest beater’. All of the gorillas have names; we distinguish them by the shape of their noses.”

Our trek through thick and bamboo forest, fat-leafed foliage was relatively sedate, but at nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, it still occasionally had me panting for breath. During our hour with the group, which passed incredibly quickly, we were also lucky enough to get very close to Guhonda. He, too, eyed us up, almost posing.

Further turns around clumps of bamboo brought us to a huge blackjack, a smaller male and a tiny baby. We watched enthralled as he clambered and tumbled around in the bamboo. He was charming. Father looked on unperturbed as visitors feet away snapped like mad with their cameras. It was so close, so intimate, I felt almost embarrassed.

The gorilla family group we were assigned was apt. The lodge where we were staying was called Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge was outstanding, one of the most comfortable of the accommodation around this park. It was here I was asked an unexpected question. “How is the Queen?” Merarry, the receptionist, was a keen royalist; he even knew the national anthem! But why? Despite the country’s lack of prior connection with British colonialists, Rwanda’s membership was officially welcomed to the Commonwealth last year; the 54th and newest member.

The future is what everyone in this tiny East African country is fixed on. Putting past horrors behind them, a new generation of Rwandese is making ambitious plans for development, build a new Rwanda. This includes tapping into the business and cultural opportunities the Commonwealth offers, and new allegiances with anglophone neighbours – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Unsurprisingly, tourism is an integral part of the mix. The Rwanda Development Board (RDB), which looks after tourism, is working hard to encourage visitors to do more than just visit the gorillas. Develop a diverse tourism sector for longer visitor stay.

A two-hour drive brought me to Kigali City, the capital. The road dipped and swooped past tiny mud huts perched precariously on steep hillsides, each an island in a sea of banana and cassava plants. The warm air was full of the scent of eucalyptus and cooking smoke. Previously a backwater, Kigali now throbs with urban life – but with little of the chaos of many African cities. I shared a dinner at funky lounge bar Republika with friends.

We drank cold beer and munched burgers laced with hot piri piri sauce, surrounded by the hubbub of Kigali’s movers and shakers. And they certainly know how to move. Rwandans love to dance. The dance floor at Top Tower nightclub on a Friday night was stacked with waggling bottoms and flailing arms to an eighth-floor backdrop of the night-time cityscape.

After the urban excitement of Kigali, I took a Rwandair internal flight to Kamembe in the far south-east of the country. A one-hour drive brought me to another of Rwanda’s park highlights – Nyungwe Forest. Nyungwe is a big part of RDB’s tourism plans. Covering an area almost the size of Hampshire, it’s the largest slice of protected medium-altitude rainforest in Africa, stuffed with species – orchids, birds, reptiles and, in particular, chimpanzees. It’s the kind of place visitors ought to hang around longer to see.

Previously the problem used to be the accommodation stay: just a cheap hostel or campsite. But that has changed. I was booked and slept into the beautiful Nyungwe Forest Lodge. Hidden among slopes covered with tea plants, it features designer chalets with balconies overlooking the rainforest.

A 4.30am start meant there wasn’t long to enjoy its comforts, but the early start was worthwhile. Above me the night sky was cloudless, with a sprinkling of stars; the wind in the rainforest was the only sound. We picked up our excellent guide, Kambogo, and bumped along in a 4WD for an hour. Dawn revealed pools of cloud in the valleys below, which the rising sun turned from white to gold in moments.

We set off following a signpost marked “Rukizi Trail”. Kambogo led at a cracking pace. “The trackers radioed to say the chimps may move soon!” he said. We forked onto a smaller trail. The slope became much steeper and the rainforest mulch under my boots more slippery.

We burst onto a wider trail to meet up with our trackers. They guided us at gentler pace to a clearing that dropped away, offering views of enormous fig trees. It took a while to spot them, but there we eventually saw a family of chimps, swinging high in the trees, cramming their mouths with figs. As with the gorillas, our watching time was limited to an hour, but we were unable to get anywhere near as close.

The Nyungwe forest isn’t just for hard-core trekkers, though you do need a level of fitness. There are guided walking trails, waterfalls, remarkable bird life and lots of monkeys. The latest attraction is a 220ft-high aerial walkway offering immense rainforest views. But just as we arrived it began to rain. “We can’t do the walkway if it’s raining. It’s a safety precaution,” says Kambogo. Secretly, I’m relieved. I get vertigo. That drop was already making my head spin.

As we walked back, the rain became heavier. The final stretch of path revealed a huge gap in the canopy. I stepped into the gap and looked out at precipitous hills unrolling towards Lake Kivu on the horizon. Cooling rain ran down my face. Suddenly, a brief halo of sunlight lit the rainforest, with its centuries-old trees. Amid all the excitement of progress, I thought, Rwanda’s bright future is inextricably linked to the wonders of its primeval past.