Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mountain Gorillas: Gorilla thrill in Rwanda

NOW Toronto Magazine is running a feature article on Mountain Gorilla eco-tourism in Rwanda. The article discusses how the tourism efforts and gorillas have been affected by habitat loss, poaching, disease, the 1994 genocide, and the impact of award winning motion picture "Hotel Rwanda".
The tourism office here is full of wazungu, the East African term for white people. The group of six surrounding the front desk are from Canada, equipped with Lonely Planet guides and seeking gorilla permits.

Charles Tabone, a 21-year-old Queen's University student from Toronto, tells me his mother was nervous when he told her he was going to Rwanda. He admits that his idea of the country was influenced by the media.

"My whole image came from Hotel Rwanda, which was filmed in South Africa!"

That's true for a lot of people, but the Office Rwandaise du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN) in Kigali screens another movie: 1988's Gorillas In The Mist. The endangered mountain gorillas in the Parc National des Volcans are bringing tourists from around the world back to a new Rwanda. Even Sigourney Weaver, who played gorilla conservationist Dian Fossey in the movie, returned in 2005 to visit.

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