Sue is an award-winning writer who specializes in African travel and conservation. She writes for national newspapers, magazines, Rough Guides and Lonely Planet.
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It looks like the Rwandan government might have stepped in just in time to save Gishwati-Mukura. What was once 2500km2 of primary rainforest in western Rwanda has diminished to just 35km2 today, suffering through illegal mining, human encroachment and cattle grazing by returning refugees. In 2016 it became a national park, but won’t open officially until 2019 and plans are afoot for chimp tracking, tree planting, new walking trails, and lodges and camps.
When I visited in 2017, the coordinator of the aptly named NGO Forest of Hope Association (FHA), whose mission is to engage local people in the protection of the forest, guided me on a walk into its fragile heart. Trails hadn’t been maintained because of a dire lack of funding and it was a tough hike climbing over fallen trees, wading in bogs and crawling through thickets. But the beauty of the forest was clearly apparent, and we were rewarded by the refreshing Kazeneza Falls tumbling down rocks, the sounds of squealing chimps (notoriously difficult to see at the best of times) and the sight of 15 mountain monkeys grooming each other contentedly. Give it some time and TLC, and this forest will be a joy to explore.