RwandAir launches non-stop flights from London Gatwick to Rwanda

Rwandan airlines RwandAir is planning to launch the first non-stop flight from the United Kingdom to Rwanda, one of the emerging tourism destinations in Africa, on May 26, Gatwick Airport said in a release.

Operating three times a week from London Gatwick to the Rwandan capital Kigali, the service is scheduled with UK passengers in mind. The flights will be operated on a new Airbus A330-200, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The flight time is 8 hours 40 minutes, with return fares starting from £372.00. Passengers travelling on the new RwandAir service in Business Class will have the facility of fully-flat beds on overnight flights.

With the new service, British travellers can explore Rwanda’s incredible scenery and the rich ecosystems in its three national parks. Volcanoes National Park, along the Congo border, is known for its mountain gorillas as well as the endangered golden monkey. The Nyungwe forest in Southern Rwanda offers travellers rich biodiversity, with over 300 bird species, over 75 species of mammal and 12 primate species. Akagera in eastern Rwanda is home to all of Africa’s most famed game animals. With the arrival of the new black rhino, in addition to elephants, African buffalo, leopards and lions, Rwanda offers an exciting safari experience in Africa.

Guy Stephenson, Gatwick Airport Chief Commercial Officer, said: ‘This new service makes the adventure of a life time in the heart of Africa a real possibility for more people than ever before, be they spotting gorillas in the wild, game animals on safari or visiting the beautiful tea plantations.

‘Rwanda is the latest long haul destination Gatwick serves and we know proudly boast more than 50 long haul routes in total – a claim few other international airports can make. Only last week Gatwick became the world’s top low cost airport, a ranking helped by our growing low cost long haul services to North America and the Far East.’

Ms. Belise Kariza, the chief tourism officer at the Rwanda Development Board, commented: ‘Rwanda has seen a transformation in recent years and is now becoming one of the most sought-after destinations for premium travellers. With the new non-stop RwandAir flights to Kigali, and the opening of several premium lodges, Rwanda will be making a big impact as a must-visit country.’

Leading travel brand One&Only will launch a new lodge in Nyungwe this year, while Wilderness Safaris is planning to open Bisate Lodge near Volcanoes National Park, the airport said. Tour operators like Red Savannah, Expert Africa and Wild Frontiers are also offering personalised holidays and tours in the country, it added.

5 unique and memorable types of holiday

Why continue to repeat the same type of holiday as everyone else when you can just as easily create a unique and memorable holiday? Choose from any number of lesser-known ideas to ensure you avoid the travel masses and to create memories to last a lifetime. You might consider a narrowboat holiday or even tour the underground cities of the ancient world. Whichever adventure you choose, you will not regret your decision.

Narrowboat Holidays

Narrowboat holidays offer unexpected adventures for all. The intricate network of winding rivers and canals spread throughout the whole of the UK and offer relaxing time with your friends or family. You might sleep under the stars if the weather permits or if not stay snug and warm below deck. You will encounter a variety of friendly faces along your travels, navigate locks and bridges, explore quaint English villages, enjoy lavish countryside abundant with wildlife or stop off at canal-side pubs all in a day’s journey. One highly appealing aspect to this holiday is that you never know what you will encounter from one day to the next.

Underground Cities

Throughout the times of empires and war over the centuries, many societies built underground as a form of protection. One of the best examples of an ancient underground world created by centuries of settlers is in Cappadocia, Turkey. You will see the cultural and societal advances the further into the ground you explore. The most detailed network was completed by the early Christians who went into hiding to avoid persecution, as they were not yet accepted as a proper religion. Although you wouldn’t want to spend your entire holiday underground, it certainly makes for a memorable excursion.

Volunteer at a Wildlife Reserve

You might also consider giving something back to society whist discovering a new culture. Many wildlife reserves now offer volunteer programs. Such programs allow you to make a difference with your free time, as well as to interact on a more personal level with local communities. You are also able to take several days to explore the region as you see fit.

Explore the Great Canyons

In the US, the state of Arizona is home to two awe-inspiring canyons. The Grand Canyon is the largest of its kind and words can never do this epic place justice, you just need to see it for your own eyes. You are able to take a trek or take a donkey to the base of the canyon and spend days and nights camping and exploring the wonderment which awaits you. If you make this journey, you should not miss out on exploring Antelope Canyon. This canyon may actually be preferred by most. The walls of these canyons will create a sensation as if you are walking inside a painting.

Safari

An African safari is one of the most memorable holidays any person will experience. You might camp in the wilderness or to stay in a rustic cabin if you prefer. These safaris can be as basic or as elegant as you prefer. You will get the opportunity to see the ‘Big Five’ – the most majestic creatures on the planet, as you set out on this adventure of a lifetime.

Travelling to Kenya – the smart person’s choice

Tourism is now Kenya’s largest foreign exchange earning sector and has helped to position the country as the largest economy in East and Central Africa.

For the indigenous tribes, tourism has brought the opportunity for employment which has provided a lifeline following the introduction of intensive farming as the tribes were stripped of their lands making it increasingly difficult to follow a traditional nomadic lifestyle as livestock ranching expanded.  Investment in infrastructure has been heavy to accommodate tourists and this has also increased industrial and agricultural growth.

Tourism raises awareness of the declining population numbers of wildlife and funds conservation activity in the region.  This has resulted in increased media coverage building the awareness on a global scale.

The vast influx of tourists and tour operators is not without its downsides though and it is the negative impacts of tourism which are often dismissed but pose a real threat.

In the 1960’s there was only 1 lodge and 100 beds in the Mara ecosystem – fast forward to 2011 and there are now over 100 camps and lodges within the Masai Mara Reserve and along its boundaries which equates to over 4,000 beds.  This figure is still increasing as a safari holiday becomes more and more popular.  The potential to have 4,000 tourists in the region who are all looking to spot the best wildlife has resulted in too many vehicles crowding the animals as well as spoiling the visitor experience.

The reality is no longer the ‘Out of Africa’ experience people expect, rather more a glorified safari park with hoards of tourists and minibuses.

The vehicles erode the land, disrupt and scare the animals and pollute the air.  The luxury lodges leave a permanent blot on the landscape and the swimming pools and hot tubs steal water from an area prone to drought.  Restaurants have altered birds feeding habits and monkeys now scavenge from bins.

The luxury safari camps are owned and run by foreign investors who make a healthy profit from the camps and are under no obligation to plough the money back into local development.  Locals are employed at minimum wage offering them little opportunity to afford education or healthcare.

The current situation is far from the rosy picture often painted of the tourist industry in Kenya however it doesn’t have to remain this way.

Porini Ecotourism is a Kenyan company founded by Kenyan national Jake Grieves-Cook.  All of Porini’s safari camps operate under the ‘Conservancy Concept’.   This is a new model of safari- tourism which benefits the locals, the wildlife and the tourists.

A quick outline is:

  • A conservancy is an area of at least 7,000 acres of community owned land made of individual parcels leased from the owners and set aside exclusively for wildlife
  • Payment to locals is by acre, not per tourist, and is made monthly regardless of tourist numbers and is paid directly to every individual landowner and not via a central committee
  • The lease is paid by the safari operators who operate the tourism activities in the conservancy
  • There is a maximum density of 1 tent per 700 acres and normally a maximum of 12 tents per camp
  • The area is vacated by the owners who remove all homesteads and livestock bomas
  • Grazing of domestic livestock and cattle incursions are controlled.
  • The conservancy is managed by a warden and rangers whose costs are covered by the safari company

The tangible benefits of a conservancy are numerous and offer a real and viable alternative to the current safari-tourism model.  The benefits of the conservancy concept are as follows:

  • The Masai see the benefits of tourism and it provides a profitable alternative to animal husbandry.
  • No more over grazing in the conservancy so grass and vegetation recovers
  • Virtually no poaching or wildlife killing within the community owned conservancies
  • Warden and rangers to protect the wildlife in the conservancy
  • Continued ownership of the land by the community as it is leased
  • Camp staff, guides and rangers are all drawn from the families of the Masai landowners
  • Small intimate eco-camps where the focus is on guiding and the safari experience
  • Wildlife viewing without the crowds or minivans
  • Guiding by KPSGA qualified Masai guides

This concept has been proven to work and in the Selenkay Conservancy elephants have returned after an absence of over 20 years.

If you want to make an informed decision and use your holiday to help support both the wildlife and local community of Kenya then consider one of the four Porini Camps.  If you’re unsure a quick look on TripAdvisor should persuade you as each camp is rated 5 star and Porini Mara Camp won TripAdvisor Travellers Choice 2012.  One customer wrote:

’The Porini Camps Concept of engaging the Maasai in gainfully using their land as a conservancy has allowed wildlife to return in large numbers.  Moreover, it has allowed the Maasai to step into the 21st century whilst staying in touch with their roots and yet earning a modern wage.

From the point of view of the tourist, you get an authentic experience of the African bush and its peoples, whilst staying in camps that have most of the creature comforts that urban mankind has got used to.  The drives are individual and off the beaten track, the guides are English speaking Maasai who naturally have an intimate knowledge of their land.

In brief, the Porini people are the flip side of the parasitic tour operator.’’

As tourists we need to be aware of the impact of our choices, and through a unique Kenya safari experience you can help to support a model which will protect this environment for future generations.