It is Rwanda’s misfortune to be famous for a terrible event, the genocide of 1994. But that is no reason not to visit this beautiful little country, the land of mille collines: 1000 hills (in fact, they call their villages collines even on the rare occasions when they are on the plains). The country is green and fertile, with vistas of ridge upon ridge of hills and, as you ride north from the capital Kigali, on a clear day, the thrilling view of the Virunga: a line of extinct volcanoes. This is the area most visitors come to see because it remains the home of the rare mountain gorillas.

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Visitors should also visit the excellent national museum at Butare in the south of the country and the various memorials for the genocide. Of course, people are still scarred by what happened in 1994 and bitterness and division exist beneath the surface. However, the visitor will find a very efficient country with regular minibus services, not too much bureaucracy and no visas for British visitors – and a very nice German coffee shop in Kigali. In 2008, it also decided to make English its official language, rather than French, the language of its former colonial master.

Ethical Travel Issues and advice

gail (1)Ethical Photography: Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.

Taking photos of friendly local people is a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities. 

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