Rwanda’s civil war may have been the first time that many people heard about the small African nation, but some of the most famous residents played no part in the conflict—the endangered mountain gorillas. Volcanoes National Park, one of the oldest national parks in Africa and home to five volcanoes of the Virunga Mountain Range was also the home of famed animal activist and scientist, Dian Fossey (the subject of Gorillas in the Mist) who worked to protect these remarkable animals until her death in 1985. The park is still home to her Karisoke Research Center. Visitors can hike the hour-long trek to Fossey’s grave (and the grave of her beloved gorilla, Digit) through rainforest still inhabited by these amazing primates. Even experienced safari goers often describe the experience of meeting a gorilla as unusually moving—a surprising moment of connection when some unspoken bond connects the two species.
Volcanoes National Park offers environmentally correct gorilla encounters where travelers can come as close as possible to these remarkable survivors. Survival of a different kind is the story at the Hotel Des Mille Collines, in Rwanda's capital, Kigali. It was here that some 1200 refuges found refuge during the Genocide in 1994. Today, it's a working Kempinski hotel where you can stop for lunch during a day exploring the city and meeting residents eager to give you a better understanding about Rwanda’s difficult past and bright future.
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