THE ADDRESS Magazine Summer 2014 - Page 368

Bourbon coffee in Union Trading Centre. It’s an international coffee chain where smart young professionals gather over lunch break. Dressed immaculately and often conversing at ease in several languages, this is a hub of the emerging educated classes. This is certainly not the Kigali I had expected. Poverty is still widespread and affects a majority, as is seen on other hilltops, where the mud shacks have been relocated. But the capital also shows signs of a growing middle and upper class. Few other cities in the world will challenge one’s preconceptions and expectations so strongly. Feasting that evening on king prawns and cocktails at the legendary Serena Hotel, amidst fun-loving locals and a few foreigners, I keep reminding myself I’m in Rwanda. Sat overlooking a large tropical pool, surrounded by vegetation and listening to live Jazz, the buzz amongst the Serena crowd is exciting. The African hotelier is a rapidly expanding brand right now and my ‘one-to-watch’. With expansion through it’s home continent and beyond to some incredibly emerging destinations, the Serena is identifiable with attainable luxury and consistency whilst retaining it’s true African soul. In cities such as Kigali, Nairobi and Kampala, it’s my choice of city hotel. Basing myself here at the Kigali property is ideal for morning walks around the upscale enclave. Positioned on a hill, sunrise is particularly beautiful here. I spend a couple of days in Kigali to fully appreciate the changes taking place in Rwanda. The city is the international entry point for onward explorations, namely Mountain Gorilla tracking, for which Rwanda has become most famous. The search for silverbacks takes us to Volcanoes National Park, a 3-hour drive from the capital. The search for silverbacks Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills, and some very famous residents, the Mountain Gorillas, has been given international status 368 by the tireless work of the late Dian Fossey. Living in and amongst the gorillas for 20 years, she dedicated her life to the plight of the last remaining gorillas, who faced extinction from poaching. The gorillas accepted her into their environment and enabled her to experience their threatened existence. Dian Fossey brought the plight of the gorillas to life, establishing the Digit Fund in 1984, named after her favourite gorilla Digit, who was brutally killed by poachers. The fund established the first ever ranger patrols. This was to signal the start of their journey back from the brink of extinction. She famously said that she preferred to be with the gorillas than humans. Dian paid the ultimately price for her mission and died in mysterious circumstances in the national park. Her legacy lives stronger than ever. The Rwanda Development Board is now credited with taking this and turning it into one of the best tourism campaigns; Tracking Silverback Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. ‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ experience, says my certificate, of admittedly exceptional quality, after completing 2 days of tracking and trekking. It really does feel like it was. Tracking mountain gorillas can be challenging, as I find on my second day, after a luckily easy first day. But the experience is worthwhile, a million times over. It’s Day 2. A guide runs on ahead and all I hear is hacking as his Machete chops through thick eucalyptus shoots and overgrowth that’s preventing our onward ascent of Bisoke volcano. Di