Rwanda: Destination Kivu Belt – a New Hiking Trail Is Set to Boost Cultural Tourism and Inform About Colonial History
The Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR) in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH carried out a three-day familiarization trip to promote cultural tourism as a lucrative and exciting experience. The trip was conducted under the theme “Discovering the Richard Kandt Trail”. The participants of the familiarization trip included local tour operators, media houses, representatives from MINISPOC, the Rwanda Tourism Chamber, INMR and GIZ.
Richard Kandt was the first German colonial resident of Rwanda during the colonial era. The trail leads to different sites that mark important stages of Kandt’s life. While it does so, it educates and informs about the time under colonial administration. Hence, Kandt’s years spent in Rwanda and his expeditions through East Africa between 1898-1914 are the vehicle to transport an important period of Rwandan history that has inevitably shaped the Rwandan heritage. The trail, for instance, leads the visitors to Kandt’s residence in Shangi as well as to the farthest source of the Nile in Nyungwe National Park. It is the INMR’s mission to promote and preserve these historical sites. The trip was organized with the intention of rising awareness about this new tourism product. The Richard Kandt Trail can easily be combined with already existing tourism attractions in Rwanda and thus becomes a divers and exciting experience.
On the first day of the Richard Kandt Trail familiarization trip, the group visited the golden monkeys in the Volcanoes National Park that were scientifically named after Richard Kandt (Cercopithecus kandti). The species is listed as endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and hence subject to special protection. To visit the rare primates, visitors have to hike about one and half hours. The destination at the foot of the volcanoes allows for spectacular views of the Virunga Mountains. The trail through the neighboring communities also gives a glimpse into the lives of the people living in this part of the country.
The next stop was a visit at a Community Based Tourism Enterprise (CBTE) in Karongi district, the Tugarure Umuco Association. The CBTE is located at the former residence of King Kigeli IV Rwabugiri in Rubengera. The association invites tourists to experience ancient Rwandan culture by participating in activities such as plays and dances. Director-General of the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda, Ambassador Robert Masozera, commended the initiative taken by the local community to promote cultural tourism. “I want to express my support to this community for having promoted cultural tourism and because of that, all members of this Community Based Tourism Enterprise will receive trainings to enhance their knowledge about cultural tourism.” Masozera also pledged to support the CBTE with informational material and visits to the museums to learn more about how to receive visitors. A Memorandum of Understanding will be signed between the INMR and the Tugarure Umuco Association to manifest the collaboration.
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On the second day of the trip, the team made a stop at The Museum of Environment in Karongi, which is known for its exhibits on renewable and non-renewable energy, biodiversity as well as an herbal-medicine garden on the rooftop. According to Frank Dushimimana, a guide at this museum, the herbs in the garden are believed to treat a number of illnesses including malaria, headache and bruises.
The team proceeded to Richard Kandt’s former residence in Shangi, Nyamasheke district, which is beautifully located at a lakeside and surrounded by old trees. The residence used to be Kandt’s basis form where he conducted most of his research as well as planned expeditions. The place is historically recognized as the venue at which the first ever catholic mass was held in Rwanda. It is also the place, where dialogues between the Germans in Rwanda and Belgians in Congo where held in relation to the boundaries of both countries. In his book “Caput Nili”, Kandt mentions his efforts as a mediator between both parties during these dialogues. In the final decision making, his map of Lake Kivu was used to set the boarders of both countries.
The second day was concluded with a trip to Nkombo Island under the guidance of the Abagi Cooperative, a local CBTE that promotes tourism in the region through activities such as boat rides, island visits and night fishing. The Nkombo Island is located in the western province of Rwanda in Rusizi district. Due to their unique location, the inhabitants developed a slightly different culture from the one that can be found on Rwanda’s mainland. They showcase their rich and authentic culture by welcoming the visitors with traditional songs and dances after the 45 minutes boat ride on beautiful Lake Kivu.
The representative of the Rwanda Chamber of Tourism and coordinator of the Kivu Belt Destination Management Unit (DMU), Henry Mugweri, also commended the organizers of the familiarization trip. He believes that this trip will create exposure for the tour operators and bring tourists to the region. “I find the Richard Kandt Trail is a valuable addition to the beautiful Kivu Belt Destination and the familiarization trip was a great opportunity to also give exposure to some of the tourism products available. We will promote the Richard Kandt Trail through all our platforms as Destination Kivu Belt and that includes the website and social media among others.”
The final stop on the trip was the source of the Nile in the Nyungwe National Park. There are many discussions about the source of the Nile – Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda all claim to have it. Till this day, the source that Kandt discovered in 1898 is believed to be the farthest. The small water basin in the middle of the Nyungwe forest has not only brought about controversy worldwide but also rose many questions regarding how big or small the source of a big water body can be.
“We believe more efforts in the development and upgrading of tourism products will contribute not only to the increase of what Rwanda offers to the tourists, but also to the growth of the nation’s economy. The Richard Kandt Trail was developed in partnership with the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda and Rwanda Development Board to increase the number of tourism activities in terms of historical and cultural tourism,” said Jean Bosco Kubwimana, Tourism Advisor at GIZ Rwanda and Head of the Regional GIZ Office in Rubavu.