By Sandy & Vyjay

Rwanda — a small country that lies just two degrees south of the equator — is sure to stun you with its beauty, and ultimately transforms you into a poet, writer or painter. It truly lives up to its taglines of ‘Remarkable Rwanda’ and ‘The land of a thousand hills and a million smiles.’ The seven days that we spent in Rwanda, thanks to a Familiarisation trip organised by Rwanda Development Board (RDB), High Commission of Rwanda, RwandAir, and Inspiration Unlimited, we lost all sense of time, such was the magnetic power of the place. It truly led us to believe a local saying that states, “God roams the world, but comes to rest in Rwanda.”

As soon as we set our feet on the magical soil of Rwanda, we were smitten by the angelic beauty of the land and the warm and loving hearts of the people. The experiences we had here were all unique and touched the very core of our beings with their intensity. Though words and pictures are woefully inadequate to do justice to our experiences, here is a humble attempt to do just that — to describe a few experiences of the indulgence to the senses that Rwanda truly is.

The first thing that strikes you as you travel across the country is the breathtakingly stunning landscapes that seem to serenade you around every bend of the road. From ethereal lakes to lush tea and coffee plantations, from majestic hills to dense rainforests, the song of nature resonates in a melodious symphony that is so enthralling.

For the traveller who is looking for adventure and encounters of the wild kind, Rwanda has three major National Parks, namely, Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park, and Volcanoes National Park.

The Akagera National Park is home to the big five, which means you are likely to sight leopards, lions, elephants, buffaloes and rhinoceros, apart from zebras, giraffes and different species of deer and monkeys.

The Nyungwe Forest National Park is a paradise for hikers and offers more than 10 different nature trails, with expert guides. The hike to reach the Canopy Walk takes one across a slippery path deep in the rainforest. One has to descend down a sloping trail, which can be quite steep and difficult, at times. But the hike itself is a lovely experience as you listen to the sounds of the forest and move along, as if in harmony with nature. Once you reach the Canopy Walk, your adrenalin is sure to start pumping as you walk on the shaking rope bridge suspended 50 metres above the ground. As you reach the centre of the Canopy Walk, you are sure to experience moments of bliss as you watch the white fluffy clouds parading in the distance, probably tinged by the golden hue of the setting sun. The experience of the Canopy Walk is one of those travel experiences that you want to relive again and again.

Your heart will start beating faster as you trek across fields, hills and slushy narrow paths to reach the thick of the jungle. As you walk with bated breath, cutting a narrow path in the almost impenetrable and thick vegetation, the excitement builds to a crescendo. The climax is when you are face-toface with a huge but gentle silverback gorilla, or see a female gorilla nursing a baby, all at an arm’s length away. That moment is bound to be frozen in your head and heart for life. This kind of encounter is possible only in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda — home to the rare mountain gorillas, which is an endangered lot with less than a thousand inhabiting the world today.

Rwanda weaves its magic on its visitors and is sure to pull them again to its fold to explore more of its natural beauty and experience the hospitality of its people.