Tourism is down but not out. We are staying home today so that we can travel tomorrow. When the dust settles, the industry will bounce back stronger than ever. #TravelTomorrow has become a common thread championed by the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The online campaign is in line with the enduring values of responsible tourism.
Before the acronym COVID- 19 was coined, I was visiting different parts of Rwanda and sharing my experiences through different platforms around the world. In doing so, I connected with travel enthusiasts from every existing continent and inspired a good number of them to visit the destination I cover. I had memorable tours with some of them and created memories I will cherish for the rest of my life.
While staying home today, I am looking forward to the day I will be able to resume my awe-inspiring journey of discovery. As I wait patiently, I can’t stop reminiscing about the good old days. Today, I am remembering the day I visited Gihaya Island in Rusizi District, courtesy of Emeraude Kivu Resort.
Water bodies may be fountains of our amusement but they are workshops to others. When we kick back and relax on sandy beaches while sipping beverages prescribed for holidaymakers vacationing in exotic destinations, someone happens to be looking for his daily bread offshore. When we indulge in thrilling water sports on those ruffled waves, someone is grinding there in an effort to provide for his family. When we call it a day and retreat to the warmth of our resort rooms, someone is reporting for duty aboard a chilly fishing boat.
The day I discovered Gihaya Island, I was amazed by the way members of the local community utilize the lake we escape to whenever we feel the need to take a break from our fast-paced urban life. En route to Gihaya, I bypassed a couple of stunning islands whose allure can entice anyone yearning for a tropical getaway.
If you have been reading my stories for a while, you must be aware of my obsession with Lake Kivu. However, chilling at the beach and admiring those dazzling waves isn’t enough to quench my thirst. Any offshore activity does the trick and boating is definitely one of them.
Upon arrival, I was treated to a heart-warming reception by a group of women doing business under the umbrella of a cooperative known as Noza Ubukorikori. I didn’t have enough time to gather specific details of their endeavors but our brief interaction gave me a preview of their daily routine. They always wake up at dawn and paddle their small wooden canoes to different fishing spots. Then they buy fish from fishermen and proceed to the market.
Delivering fish to the market is not the only thing these proactive women do. They are also traditional dancers. Entertaining tourists is a way of expanding their business portfolio and diversifying their sources of income. In addition, they weave and sell souvenirs to visitors.
Canoeing is physically taxing but Gihaya women do it effortlessly. It’s amazing how easy their strokes look. I was surprised to see them traversing the lake without life jackets. I know their swimming prowess is superb but I thought the regulations enforced by the authorities elsewhere applies to them too.
A visit to Gihaya changed my preconceived impression that islanders are slow and idle. I came back to the mainland with a different perception and a deeper appreciation of resources we are blessed with. Most importantly, I was inspired by my hosts’ work ethic.
The suspension of tourism must have delt a big blow to Gihaya women but food security in their area is not an issue. Besides, their resilience will undoubtedly get them through these challenging times.
The author is a travel enthusiast who is staying home today so that he can travel tomorrow. Follow him on Twitter @ExposureRwanda