Musanze district is the hub of Rwanda’s tourism industry and a source of many adventures. It has a long list of adventure activities on offer. However, when the spotlight is put on adventure, most people will immediately think of the mountain gorillas.
This would be right since the primates have positioned themselves as Rwanda’s flagship tourist attraction.
But there are other must-see attractions in Musanze, such as the Musanze Caves, as well as other animals that reside in the Volcanoes National Park. There is also the historic Buhanga Eco-Park, which was a sacred forest where Rwandan kings performed initiation ceremonies.
Over the past few years, Musanze district has been striving to live to its image as a tourism hub, with different economic sectors registering varying degrees of success and this has also come with improvement of people’s lives.
The new district mayor, Jean Damascene Habyarima, says Musanze has the potential to grow economically and together with the district staff and residents, they are going to continue working to move the district forward, which will vindicate the its claim as the heart of the tourism industry in Rwanda.
In terms of its tourism potential, Musanze district is home to the unique and world famous mountain gorillas which attract nearly 30,000 tourists every year from all over the world. Musanze’s capital, Ruhengeri, is one of the largest cities in Rwanda and serves as a hub for tourists.
According to Greg Bakunzi, the managing director of Musanze-based Amahoro Tours, there have been tremendous improvement in infrastructure in Ruhengeri town and many investors in the hospitality industry have constructed first class facilities like hotels to cash in on the growing tourism activities in the region.
“When we started, there were only four top hotels in Ruhengeri. This number has significantly increased over the last few years, and we now have brands like Silver Buck Hotel, Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel in Kinigi, Snow Hotel, Red Rocks Hostel Rwanda, Lake Ruhondo Lodge and Tented Camp and many more offering both luxurious and back-packing accommodation to tourists in Ruhengeri,” said Bakunzi.
Bakunzi adds that the 2016 opening of the Dian Fossey Museum, named the Karisoke Exhibit, has also been a major development in the tourism industry in Musanze since the museum is deeply connected with the conservation of the mountain gorillas.
The museum is the brainchild of the Karisoke Research Center, which is run by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI), an international gorilla conservation organisation.
Many tourists who come here now know the efforts it took to preserve the endangered primates, and the museum also serves as resource center for the local community to learn about the importance of conservation, particularly around the Virunga massif that straddles Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Bakunzi adds that Musanze’s position as a tourism center was further boosted with the construction of Kinigi Community Commercial Center (KCCC) whose main mission is to help the local people develop interest in commercial enterprises, particularly the rural communities living in the areas bordering the Volcanoes National Park.
Since it opened its doors in 2013 in Butorwa 1 village, KCCC has been a home to 12 local cooperative members mostly selling handcrafts and clothes to tourists who visit the parks, and providing the opportunity for the locals to be gainfully employed. The center is brainchild of a consortium of organizations seeking to conserve the environment around the parks.
Francis Ndagijimana, a tour guide observes that over the years, Musanze’s position as the country’s tourism hub has seen development of several modern buildings and rehabilitation of the old ones.
“The construction of the Musanze Modern Market, Rwanda Social Security Board, and the rehabilitation of the Musanze Bus Park all has given Ruhengeri town a new metropolis look, and the town is now regarded as second to Kigali in terms of infrastructural development,” he says.
Jeanne Uwamahoro, a resident of Musanze town, says Musanze is now paralleling Kigali when it comes to cleanliness, adding that it’s refreshing to observe that its streets are now daily swept and plants planted along the streets to spruce up the image of the town as a green town.
“It’s also noteworthy to observe that for every new road constructed, there’s installation of street lights along the roads, and the town is now becoming a secure place to walk even during the night,” says Uwamahoro.
Her view is supported by Ndagijimana who says, for example, the newly tarsmacked eight-kilometer road leading to Buhanga Eco-Park is installed with street lights.
“The roads leading to the Volcanoes National Park has been paved, and the park has been fenced to prevent human-wildlife conflicts that were rampant before, and this has created peaceful co-existence between humans and animals,” adds Ndagijimana.
By Joseph Ondiek @theinspirerpubl