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22 October 2020
GABORONE - As part of a multi-phased conservation and tourism management programme for Rwanda’s Gishwati-Mukura National Park (GMNP), Wilderness Safaris is in the first stage of developing an exclusive chimpanzee and primate trekking experience in Gishwati Forest, in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Forest of Hope Association (FHA). To drive ecotourism to the region, this first phase will start with the opening of the Forest of Hope Guest House and Camp Site at the Gishwati Research Station alongside the park later in the year.
The FHA is a Rwandan NGO focusing on the conservation of GMNP and engaging with local communities, to play an important role in its protection. It is a true example of ecotourism at its best, with the proceeds of every visit contributing to the reforestation, protection and conservation of both the park’s diverse flora and fauna and the upliftment of its surrounding communities.
Operated and managed by FHA, the new Camp Site offers unserviced camping facilities for a maximum of eight campers. The serviced Guest House will feature two double en-suite rooms for a maximum of four guests, offering a basic standard of accommodation, three wholesome meals a day and non-alcoholic beverages. This gives adventurous guests the opportunity to explore everything this wonderful forest has to offer, including the chance to admire and monitor some of the world’s last remaining chimpanzees, golden monkeys and mountain monkeys in their natural habitat; there is also excellent birding as well as authentic cultural exchanges.
“The potential of Gishwati is undeniable, and we feel privileged to partner with the RDB and FHA to make a positive contribution to the protection and conservation of the park, and to unlock the tourism potential of this remarkable area. As part of our 25-year concession agreement with the RDB, which was signed in April last year, our collaborative focus areas include chimpanzee monitoring, community engagement and education. Another priority is the continued expansion, reforestation and restoration of Gishwati Forest, thereby bolstering overall biodiversity”, notes Rob Baas, Wilderness Safaris Rwanda MD.
Guests visiting the Gishwati Research Station will also be invited to visit the onsite indigenous tree nursery and to plant a tree as part of their reforestation efforts, as large parts of the park were cleared before and after the 1994 Genocide – a result of human settlement, agricultural practices and illegal mining.
With support from The West Chester University Foundation (WCUF) of Pennsylvania, FHA is operating the Gishwati Research Station to facilitate biodiversity research on GMNP. “We are also collaborating with Wilderness Safaris in the areas of tourism, conservation and community development, focusing on chimpanzee monitoring and habituation, community education, tourism product development and more”, notes FHA coordinator Thierry Aimable Inzirayineza.. “Our strength at FHA is the relationships that we have built with our local community partners over the years, and our collective mindset in the importance of the protection and conservation of Gishwati that will ultimately benefit the people too”.
“The current status of Gishwati, as well as the continued occurrence of charismatic mammal species such as chimpanzees, leads us to believe that there is now the possibility to use sensitive tourism to unlock the value of Gishwati Forest; to use revenue generated to enhance its protection and restoration, as well as to benefit the local rural people surrounding the forest. The opening of the Forest of Hope Camp Site and Guest House later this year is the first step towards a very bright future for Gishwati Forest”, concludes Rob.
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