After receiving world-wide attention for its horrific 1994 genocide, Rwanda has made a remarkable recovery. In fact, it is now considered a model for all developing countries and was named by CNN in 2009 as "Africa's biggest success story". This little landlocked nation in Equatorial Africa has now achieved political stability, international integration, and economic growth with the average income tripling in the past decade. Unbelievably, its government is now viewed as one of the more honest and efficient governments in Africa. Even CEOs, according to Fortune Magazine, love Rwanda. And the safe and sophisticated capital city of Kigali is the first African city to be awarded the Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for the city's security, cleanliness and urban conservation. Rwanda has also become the first African country to elect more women than men in its national legislature. Truly, times have changed for Rwanda.
Even though Rwanda is close to the equator, it has refreshingly cool temperatures because of its high elevation. Its abundant wildlife, especially its primates and birds, has made tourism very popular, one of the largest sectors of Rwanda's economy in fact.
Rwanda, the "Land of a Thousand Hills" has countless lush green mountains, especially the mountains of the Virunga volcanoes in the northwest. In Parc National Des Volcans, volcanoes act as a natural border with the Republic of Congo and with Uganda. Among the dense jungle and bamboo of these thick green mountains are some of the Earth's last few mountain gorillas (just 700 gorillas remain in the world, most of them in this region), a major attraction for visitors when they're presented with the opportunity to see these beautiful creatures at close range. Parc National Des Volcans is the best place to go on a tour to track the rare mountain gorilla. This sensational chain of seven volcanoes is one of the most stunning spots on the continent and is the region where Diane Fossey lived and worked for years with gorillas, all of it detailed in her book "Gorillas in the Mist", a must-read before coming to the country. The park contains five habituated families of gorillas so it's likely you'll come upon one of the families on the slopes of a volcano. Seeing these human-like families playing and lazing about up-close is one of life's ultimate experiences.
But there's a lot more to the country than the majesty of mountain gorillas. Some of Africa's best inland beaches are found on Lake Kivu, a shimmering inland sea surrounded by steep terraced hills. In southwestern Rwanda, Parc National Nyungwe Forest contains the largest rainforest in the area. The culture of Rwanda is rich and its second biggest city, Butare, has one of Africa's finest cultural museums.
All visitors to Rwanda should visit the Kigali Memorial Centre to learn about how the world watched while a genocide took place. This is more than just a memorial for Rwanda, but a memorial for everyone, a monument to observe all past genocides that should never have happened.
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