The music sounded the same, the drinks tasted the same, the crowd was familiar but the environment was different. This was not Envy Club, K Club or The Junction. It wasn’t a house party hosted by a friend in Kacyiru or Kimihurura. Many participants had attended the so called jungle parties before but partying in the jungle was a new experience to them.
The Peakspot Lodge is normally quiet and laid back. It is a tranquil resting nest for tourists before and after physically taxing Volcano National Park’s expeditions. Located at the shadow of Virunga, this serene facility is ideal for kicking back, relaxing and nursing sore muscles after hours of gorilla trekking or hiking the likes of Karisimbi mountain. That was not the case one Saturday night in March when a group of Kigali-based party animals invaded the serene camping site and threw a party until wee hours of Sunday morning.
There was something different about this party. Something different is what this group was looking for when they headed north. For once, they wanted to take a break from the Kigali clubs mentioned above and take the party to the real jungle. To feed their creativity, they had to try out something new, satisfy their thirst for change and explore new possibilities. A little bit of perspective is all we need to gain a great appreciation and a sense of value for what surrounds us. This generation is always eager to visit new places and try new things. They are driven by the stimulation of new discoveries.
Volcano National Park is a blessing to Kinigi sector. Since its re-opening in 1999, numerous tourists have been visiting the area, thanks to assuring security and proactive marketing. Revival of the park and its emergence as a popular destination is proof that with the right strategy and implementation of appropriate policies, a post-conflict country can successfully focus on sustainable tourism and lift its people out of poverty.
Tourism has attracted both local and foreign investors in the hospitality industry. In response to the demand brought by the influx of visitors, a good number of hotels have been built in the area targeting both low budget and high-end tourists. Despite these developments, it is rare to find groups of local tourists visiting their own destinations. Most tourist attractions in Rwanda are mostly patronised by foreigners. A couple of years ago, I travelled to Nyungwe National Park with a group made up of 43 Rwandans. An official at the park’s registration office was surprised to see such a big number of Rwandans indulging in domestic tourism.
Many young Rwandans were born in Kigali or abroad. Some of them have been studying and working overseas for a while. Unlike our neighbours, most Rwandan families are uprooted from their rural homes and the youngsters barely know places outside Kigali. In Kenya and Tanzania for example, most families spend Christmas holidays in their villages and that is where they bury their beloved ones.
It is important for young Rwandans to explore their country and get acquainted with the rest of the provinces. There is a story behind every town and every community. There is something to discover in every new area you visit. However, most people overlook little details that hide important information. Observe and gain a broader perspective of each destination you explore. You can learn one or two things from members of the local community. You can see a business opportunity or pick a great idea.
A tourist is driven by the desire to experience something different. The shores of Lake Kivu are attractive to many people from Kigali and other parts of Rwanda but not as thrilling to a fisherman in Karongi or Rubavu. When this fisherman takes a day off, he would be excited to visit the Convention Center or watch a movie at Century Cinema. Nyungwe forest’s breathtaking beauty may not be as thrilling to someone in Nyamasheke who would rather see the towering street lights of Kigali. Similarly, as much as we love and appreciate things we see everyday, the tourist in each of us pushes us to seek amusement somewhere else and experience something different.
The trip to Musanze was much more than simply partying in the jungle. It created a story of the new generations getting out of their comfort zones and explore new places, discover new routes, getting lost in the process and asking for directions. Richard Branson, CEO and founder of Virgin Atlantic Airline says his thirst for adventure began when his mother abandoned him in the middle of nowhere at a tender age of five. He had to find his way home the hard way. He got lost, asked for directions and figured out how to get back home.
Development of cities and new trends in the lifestyle of the 21st Century urban African are dynamics that contribute to the rise of domestic tourism within the continent. The new tendency embraced by young Africans to appreciate their own destinations is a positive development that should be encouraged.