Video: 2 Weeks In Rwanda

“Rwanda, our beautiful and dear country / Adorned of hills, lakes and volcanoes / Motherland, would be always filled of happiness…”

These first three lines of the Rwandan national anthem are epitomized in this video created by Missouri based video production company Mammoth Media. This past summer, they were invited by the Rwandan tourist department to spend two weeks capturing video that would encapsulate the breathtaking nature of the country. Ultimately, the group aimed to collect footage to be shown in the country’s airports and welcome centers.

According to the video’s description on Vimeo, the tourist department ultimately decided, “to omit most of the footage showing people, poverty and real life.” The video you see above is a re-edited version to include that footage and it is beyond breathtaking. I had personally never thought about traveling to Rwanda before watching this video, if only from a lack of knowledge. But now I have an appetite to see those hills, the green savannah, the rare birds and those gorillas in the mist.

Rwanda pledges to save the environment

Rwanda has vowed to protect its environment The United Nations has declared 2011 as the “Year of the Forests” as it continues to work to encourage nations across the globe to take sustainable actions to protect the planet’s woodlands. One of the first countries to answer the call to action is Rwanda, which has laid out an ambitious plan to protect its jungles, even as it struggles to develop economically.

As most people know, Rwanda was devastated by civil war and genocide during the 1990’s. That struggle extended throughout the country and caused untold damage to its natural resources, including the rainforests that are home to a host of amazing creatures – not the least of which are the endangered mountain gorillas. Since that time, Rwanda has been experiencing plenty of growth and prosperity however, with the economy making strides forward in recent years and the population expanding at a rapid pace. Those conditions have put demands on the country’s natural resources, including the jungles. One report says that the Gishwati rainforest, for example, has shrunk in size by as much as 90% since 1960.

Earlier this week the Rwandan government vowed to change that pattern. Minister of Land and Environment Stanislas Kamanzi has pledged that “By the year 2035, Rwanda will have achieved a country-wide reversal of the current degradation of soil, land, water and forest resources.” A bold statement indeed for a country that faces many challenges to its continued growth.

The pledge was met with applause by environmentalists across the planet, who say that the commitment to protecting the environment is the first of its kind from a developing country. The plan is to not only re-plant and replenish forests, but to also build an infrastructure to improve water, work on soil conservation and build more sustainable agriculture as well.

One area that may aid Rwanda in their efforts is tourism. The country is already seen as a model for how ecotourism can be put to great use, as it is viewed as one reason why the population of mountain gorillas is increasing. Visitors to their protected habitat are willing to pay a hefty sum to spend a few hours with the creatures, and that money goes directly to preserving the forests that they call home. That same approach may be extended to protecting other regions and species in the country as well.

Rwanda’s landmark pledge to protect the environment is a good thing and hopefully they’ll be able to put it into action. In the long run, it will be an important piece to the country’s continued development and its ability to support its population. As an eco-conscious traveler, that’s just the kind of place that I want to support with my dollars.

[Photo credit: d_proffer via WikiMedia Commons]


Mountain gorillas making a comeback

gorilla, gorillas, mountain gorilla, mountain gorillas
In the latest in a spate of good news about wildlife conservation in Africa, BBC Earth reports that mountain gorillas have increased their numbers on Virunga Massif, their core habitat stretching across Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From a population of only 250 thirty years ago, their population has almost doubled to 480 today. Another 302 live in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park .

The rise is attributed to increased cooperation between the three countries to protect the gorillas and stop poachers.

Safaris to see mountain gorillas have become increasingly popular with adventure travelers. Uganda has expanded its gorilla safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Rwanda is also offering safaris to see the gentle giants.

African nations are getting better at preserving their wildlife. Namibia and Zimbabwe are clamping down on poaching and last year we reported how Niger has pulled a unique subspecies of giraffe from extinction.

[Photo courtesy user KMRA via Wikimedia Commons]

Daily Pampering: Seven chances to try a new job around the world

Do you feel a bit confined by your gig? Sure, the cash is great, but you are held hostage by it. You can’t throw it all away and chase your low-paying dream. Well, now you have a chance to turn the paycheck that keeps you in the office 14 hours a day into the chance to try something new, even if only briefly. Cox & King is offering several packages designed to give you a once-in-a-lifetime shot at living your dream.

1. The Textile Expert
The “Textiles of India” tour takes you to some of the most famous weaving centers in the country, including Varanasi (known for Benarsi silk wedding sarees), Kanchipuram (zardozi embroidery work on Mysore silks) and Jaipur (handmade block printed cotton fabrics). This experience lasts 22 days and comes at a cost of $12,735 per person (based on double occupancy).

2. Painting Papyrus
With the “Splendors of Egypt” and “Discover Egypt” tours from Cox & King, you can satisfy your jones for Egyptology and learn to paint, draw and write under the tutelage of one of the masters. Participate in the rare and fine art that dates back thousands of years (trips start at $4,075).3. Fine Wine … in Lebanon?
The Phoenicians sold wine to Lebanon more than 4,000 years ago, and it’s believed that the Lebanese brought it to Spain and Italy. The fertile soil of the Bekaa Valley is the secret behind Lebanese wine, and you can get all the details on the “Lebanon & Syria: Empires Past” tour. Spend a day at Chateau Ksara, the oldest running winery in Lebanon, and learn the intricacies of the process of making Lebanese wine. This 15-night tour starts at $6,585.

4. South American Shutterbug
Click like crazy in Argentina on the Cox & King “A Photographic Journey: Buenos Aires & Northern Patagonia” tour. You’ll travel with Diego Ortiz Mugica, known as the Ansel Adams of Argentina, and pick up some tips and tricks, against the backdrop of the Argentinean culture. This unique opportunity is only available from November 6 – 13, 2010 and starts at $5,894.

5. Study Primates in the Wild
Startin Kigali, Rwanda on the “Gorillas in the Mist” tour, and you’ll climb into the world of gorillas. After a briefing, you’ll enter Parc National des Volcans, where you’ll enter their habitat and get great views of these massive creatures. The experience lasts four days and starts at $4,195.

6. Jewelry Craftsman
You could make jewelry in your living room … but wouldn’t be more interesting to try it in Mozambique? Go to Ibo Island, and experience classes with traditional silversmiths. You can even bring your old jewelry to melt down and use as a starting point (creating a bridge between old and new) or buy materials from the locals. This trip starts at only $1,585 a person.

7. The Origami Master
Put your fingers to work on an art form that dates back to the seventeenth century. You’ll learn to fold paper into amazing creations and gain an appreciation for the history behind origami on the “Treasures of Japan” tour, which starts at $12,525 per person.

For more Daily Pampering, click here.

Uganda expands gorilla safaris

Uganda has started work on habituating another mountain gorilla group to humans in order to expand safaris in its famous Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Habituation involves gradually exposing gorillas to humans in order for the highly territorial groups to get accustomed to human presence. Once the gorilla groups become used to humans being around, they are much less likely to get frightened or aggressive when safari tours show up.

Safaris are big business in Uganda and those that track gorillas constitute about half of the country’s tourism revenue.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
, located in southwest Uganda, is made up of 331 square kilometers of thick jungle. Visitors have to travel through it on foot. It’s a tough journey but allows adventure travelers the chance to see one of the richest varieties of wildlife of any East African park. About 340 endangered mountain gorillas live in the park; sadly that constitutes half of the total population in the world. Because of its importance in protecting the gorillas and other plant and animal life, Bwindi is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.