Friday, 27 June 2014

Proposed Serengeti highway gets a big ‘No’

Posted By Getaway On June 23, 2014 @ 9:24 am In Travel news

AfricaStay | picture by Juan Nel ©

A ruling from the East African Court of Justice on Friday, June 20 has shut down the proposed 53 km super highway intended for construction across the Serengeti National Park.

The judges have restrained the Tanzanian Government from constructing the road and have declared the operation unlawful. “The judgment in essence confirms that the treasured Serengeti ecosystem is an invaluable World Heritage Site; and that it deserves optimal protection and restraint from high impact development that can interfere with the functions of the ecosystem and have adverse effects on animals and humankind,” the Africa Network for Animal Welfare [1] (ANAW) said in a statement following the ruling.

AfricaStay | picture by Juan Nel ©

Southern African Tourism Update [2] reported that in 2010 ANAW filed a lawsuit against the move and a temporary court injunction was awarded to ANAW as deliberations took place. “ANAW fully respects Tanzania’s sovereignty and its need for national development. However, by taking up this matter, ANAW was in actual fact protecting a resource that would be of future benefit not only to Tanzanians or East Africans but also the entire humanity,” the statement continued.

 AfricaStay | picture by Juan Nel ©



“This was not a win for ANAW, not for our lawyer, Saitabao Ole Kanchory, not for Serengeti Watch, not for our expert witness John Kuloba, but for the millions of animals in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. It is a win for nature and God’s creation. Nature has won today,” said Josphat Ngonyo, ANAW’s executive director after the judgement.

Posted by: http://www.getaway.co.za/travel-news/serengeti-highway-declared-unlawful/ [27.06.2014]

Sources:
[1] Africa Network for Animal Welfare: http://www.africanconservation.org/explorer/item/africa-network-for-animal-welfare-anaw
[2] Southern African Tourism Update: http://www.tourismupdate.co.za/NewsDetails.aspx?newsId=73061

Our 2015 Wildebeest Migration package coming out soon. 

My Zanzibar Trip by Caroline Mhazo

Jambo!! The expression that you will become very familiar with in a few minutes of landing on the beautiful spice island.  It means Hello in Swahili and always delivered with a smile! 

AfricaStay | Best Value Holidays
Zanzibar Airport

As soon as we landed on Abeid Amani Karume International Airport, I suddenly felt overdressed in my early morning Jo'burg outfit of jeans, boots and a hooded jacket. We went at the end of May 2014, so the winter had just kicked off in Jo'burg and yet the weather in Zanzibar is always warm and I’m not really a winter person so I felt right at home.

AfricaStay | Best Value Holidays
The highlight of my Stone Town tour was the fish market

I enjoyed the Stone Town tour, this little town has a lot of history and you better have your camera ready.  The local markets sell meat, different types of fruits and fish.  Watch out for the scooters which race up and down the streets! The highlight of my Stone Town tour was the fish market.  My colleague and I went inside a structure where a fish auction was underway.  The highest bidder gets the first pick of the ocean’s bounty at the most reasonable price, after which market rules of demand and supply take over. I was awe struck by the market activities, busy snapping away at the proceedings when the next thing I noticed was my poor colleague having a completely different experience trying to keep her breakfast down. She ran out of the auction defeated by the strong smell of entrepreneurship.  I guess the fish market is strictly not for the faint hearted. As part of the excursions, there are different tours in Zanzibar, you can go for Safari Blue, Spice Tour, Prison Island Tours, Jozani Forest Tour, Kizimkazi Dolphin Tour. It is also the perfect place for both experienced and new divers.  Snorkeling, as well as different water sports can be easily organized at any of the hotels.

AfricaStay | Best Value Holidays
The white sandy beaches in Zanzibar are breathtaking.
As a travel consultant I had the privilege of visiting more than 20 hotels and I fell in love with the swimming pools. Most of the hotels have more than 1 pool so if you don’t feel like being in the ocean, you can always swim at the resort.

AfricaStay | Best Value Holidays

The people of Zanzibar were very welcoming and made us feel at home. The exotic dishes and spices offer a memorable culinary adventure.

AfricaStay | Best Value Holidays
Infinity pool, infinity fun!!

I would like to extend a special thanks to Karafuu Beach Resort & Spa, Meliá Zanzibar and Royal Zanzibar for accommodating us at your beautiful resorts.  Thank you SunTours team for taking us around the Island and a very big Thank you to AfricaStay for the experience of a lifetime!! 

AfricaStay | Best Value Holidays
Caroline Mhazo in Zanzibar

Thursday, 19 June 2014

SA travellers need visa for Kenya from the 1st of July



The Kenyan High Commission has announced that South African travellers wanting to visit Kenya will need a visa from July 1, 2014.

Ordinary visa applicants travelling to or transiting through Kenya will be required to pay a service charge of R 750 ($70).

All applicants will be required to produce the following documents:

1. Return Air Ticket
2. Invitation letter from the host in the Republic of Kenya
3. Letter from employer/institution/college/school
4. Proof of funds (bank statement)
5. Applicants must appear in person for Biometrics
6. Two Passport Photographs

The processing period for the visas is strictly five (5) working days.

Holders of official or diplomatic passports travelling on Government business are not affected by these changes and will continue to get visitor’s passes on arrival at the ports of entry.


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa - Opens on the 1st of June 2014


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Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa, the trendiest resort to hit Zanzibar's east coast will open on June 1, 2014.

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Eleven all-white villas are nestled in the island's lush landscape to provide privacy and create an enchanting oasis. Sea views, a private terrace and a private pool can be enjoyed from any of the one, two or five bedroom villas.

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Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa is the only resort in all of Tanzania to have a five-bedroom villa, talk about bragging rights! The Presidential five-bedroom villa includes a Jacuzzi. All villas are equipped with Wi-Fi, A/C, hanging beds, outdoor bathtubs and rain showers. Guests can watch the sunset from the rooftop lounge, have happy hour by the large swimming pool or get lavishly pampered at the spa.

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Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa strives to preserve and protect the environment. The resort is powered by wind and solar energy and has its own water source and desalination plant. Each villa is equipped with a solar water heating system. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables are grown on the resort's own garden and served at its first class restaurant.

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The resort is purposely located on Paje Beach, one of the top three kitesurfing spots in the world. The resort's owner is an avid kite surfer and Paje's beaches make it possible for him to share his passion for the sport. Beginners can take classes from certified instructors and more experienced riders can rent high quality equipment. Stand-up paddle, Blokart and kayak rentals are available for those guests not so keen on wind and speed.

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To celebrate its grand opening, White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa is offering a great special for the month of June. E-mail us for more details: sales@africastay.com

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Taken from: http://www.luxurytravelmagazine.com/news-articles/zanzibar-white-sand-luxury-villas-spa-opens-june-1st-21586.php [30.05.2014]

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

KENYA TOURIST BOARD PRESS RELEASE TO SA TRAVEL TRADE

KENYA TOURIST BOARD STATEMENT (19/05/14)


In light of the recent travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth travel advice. The Kenya Tourism Board would like to confirm the following to the South African tourism industry and consumers. While there have not been any incidents in Mombasa and Nairobi that have affected any tourists. Security in all tourism establishments remains high. Kenya?s coast is safe for tourists and business activities are operational despite evacuation of British tourists. Several travel agents continue to sell the Coast despite the evacuations by TUI of UK.

  • Tour Operators are still continue to sell safari circuits in Kenya and the coastal resorts of Diani, Malindi, Watamu, Kilifi and Lamu.
  • Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and all safari circuits throughout Kenya continue to operate as normal and Kenya Airways and SAA and other scheduled carriers continue to operate their usual flight schedules to Kenya.
  • Kenya had always been a leading destination for safaris and we expect to continue with customers on safari in Kenya 59 national parks which are unaffected. Current insecurity incidences are global and not confined to Kenya. Regardless of which part of the world one travels, it is important to be prudent.
  • Nigel Vere Nicoll, CEO, The African Travel and Tourism Association said, "There is no doubt this is going to affect tourism. It is incredibly important that tour operators and consumers are aware that the majority of the Kenya Coast, as well as all international airports and safari circuits. Continue to operate as normal."

The Kenya Tourism Board would like to clarify that the following areas of the Kenya coast are not affected and continue to operate as normal:

North of Mombasa to Lamu:
  • Kilambla
  • Kilifi
  • Watamu
  • Malindi
  • Che Shale
  • Mambrui
  • Lamu
  • Manda
 

South of Mombasa and Tiwi:
  • Diani Beach
  • Galu Beach
  • Kinondo
  • Msambweni
  • Funzi Island
  • Shimoni
  • Wasini Island
 

Monday, 28 April 2014

MY ZANZIBAR EXPERIENCE by Chane Barker


 

I have recently been to Zanzibar and would like to share my experience with you. If you are looking for a place full of history, culture, lush green gardens and forests plus a beautiful beach vacation Zanzibar is the place for you. From the first moment stepping off the plane you can feel the warm ocean air hitting you, it’s a true feeling of being on a tropical island. I visited Zanzibar in July being the best time as it is there winter season.  The Island does not really experience cold winters therefore weather was excellent as it was warm but not an unbearable kind of heat as in the summer season. 


Our first experience was meeting our guide Genes who is a local in Zanzibar and excellent at what he does. We then headed for Stone Town were we had lunch for the day. Stone Town is the old Town on the Island with beautiful Arabian style Architecture. As we drove to Stone Town Genes shared some information with us on the locals and some of the history. The locals are some of the most humble and friendliest people I’ve ever met. During the trip I’ve learnt they don’t have much of the finer things we are used to but yet they remain happy with what they have and very proud of their Island.


Juan Nel ©

Driving through stone town reveals the islands history. The town was built with coral stone and till today they have maintained it and kept it that way. The doors on the buildings are all hand carved by the locals and one of the attractions as they are some of the biggest doors I’ve ever seen. There are also various shops were you can purchase your souvenirs. The market, some mosques and Arab houses is also located in town. The streets in Stone Town are very narrow therefore it is best to walk through the town or hire a scooter to get from place to place as it also gives you the full experience of the town. A day or 2 is a must in stone town if you are into the history and cultural side of Zanzibar and gives one a chance to mix with the locals. I suggest 2 nights before moving to one of the islands beach resorts. 



As we drove to the different Beach Hotels we passed some of the villages which are also nice to meet the locals and see how they live. Over the next few days we stayed at different hotels on different parts of the Island, each one unique in their own way. For the family travelers hotels in the Southeast and Northeast have some of the most beautiful and family orientated hotels and for the more romantic traveler the North and west would be perfect but both offers a bit of both. The most beautiful sunsets and close to home feel resort would definitely have to be sea cliff which is situated on the West of the Island. If you are young and looking for a backpacker type of experience Amaan Bungalows and Paje would be an excellent choice for you as they are vibey and filled with the younger crowds. The Hotels from on the South East, Northeast and North has the most beautiful beaches on the Island, those long stretches of beaches which are great for morning walks with some of the local people and maasai’s selling various things for tourists to buy. Most hotels also have boutiques were you can buy your souvenirs to take home with you.


 Guests can also arrange different tours from all the hotels in Zanzibar, also if they are interested in diving, snorkeling, fishing etc most hotels has a dive center or there is one close or around the hotel they could use. At some hotels some of the water activities are free except the motorized ones which you have to pay for.  The Island also hosts different beach parties were transport can be arranged from the hotel at a price. Some parts of the Island can be explored with scooters which one can hire if you would like to do some self-exploring but not available all over the Island. 

Juan Nel ©

The food at the Hotels truly exceeded my expectations. It is all Buffet style at the main restaurants except when visiting the other restaurants on the resorts which you pay for.  There was a wide variety of choices with all kinds of food. My advice when visiting Zanzibar is to do an all-inclusive as things is really expensive there. The advantage of an all-inclusive is that you get a variety of meals to choose from for breakfast, lunch and supper and it includes your drinks. Some resorts also offer snacks in between meals and have waiters coming to you around the pool area and beach area in case you need anything.  Beach dinning and private dinning can also be arranged at some hotels. 

Juan Nel ©
All in all this was truly an amazing experience for me and my first time out of the country. I would definitely visit Zanzibar again and would just like to thank the staff from exotic tours and all the hotels we have visited for making this a really great experience for me and to African Encounters for making it all possible


Chane Barker & Andisa Mesatywa in #ZANZIBAR

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Rwanda: Land of Beauty & Forgiveness by Juan Nel


 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel
 
I was invited to go to Rwanda for three nights in the beginning of June this year by Rwandair & the Serena Hotel group. I must be completely honest in knowing that the trip would not include a trip to see the Gorillas (Rwanda is one of only two countries in which mountain gorillas can be visited safely) I wasn’t expecting much of this country in the middle of Africa. People just see Rwanda as the country with gorillas and of course they see the country for the devastating genocide that rocked the world in 1994. Unfortunately there is just no way of talking about Rwanda without somebody bringing up the movie Hotel Rwanda & the genocide. Not exactly the only thing this country wants to be known for, but they are content in the fact that they might be a lesson to the world to prevent something like this happening again. But before I get into detail on this let me get back to my trip.

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Flying Rwandair for the first time, I was a bit sceptic flying on a middle Africa based airline that is not that well known yet. But after receiving good service and having a good take-off I was having a relaxing time watching the beautiful continent unfolding under us with the flight crossing the Great Rift Valley and Lake Malawi. Luckily I had a nice window seat. It was just little less than a 4 hour flight but time flew by quickly. Landing was a bit bumpy due to the mountain winds and the misty weather, but we landed at the small airport in the capital of Kigali. It was just before landing at this airport on the 6th of April 1994, when President Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda was returning from a summit in Tanzania when a surface-to-air missile shot his plane out of the sky over Rwanda's capital city of Kigali which triggered the genocide. Strangely enough the plane crashed into the president’s own barracks and after the investigation of witness’s testimony years later it was found that the missile was launched from one of the president’s own military camps.

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

The Airport is small but what really surprised me was the sign behind the immigration counters that was promoting people to bring their businesses to Rwanda and the 5 easy steps to obtain business rights. There was also an automated counter for locals to scan their passports to re-enter the country in a few seconds. Something the South African government can definitely invest in.  And if that wasn’t the only surprise I was handed scissors to cut the plastic from my bag that was wrapped at OR Tambo International Airport (me and my scepticism flying airlines I have never flown before). I was told that I wasn’t allowed to step out of the airport with any plastic bag or even the wrapping around my suitcase, to prevent littering in their country. I was very impressed with this rule but I doubted the implementation of it, as a lot of good rules like this never get implemented properly. Stepping out of the airport I was already looking around for plastic bags and litter just to see if I was right with my cynicism, but I was proven wrong. Not even a cigarette bud in sight. I have just arrived in the cleanest country I have ever travelled to. Again I was thinking that there is so much South Africa can learn from this country after just being there for a few minutes.

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

We were picked up by two 4x4 vehicles at the airport and we were off to the Kigali Serena hotel situated in the middle of Kigali city. On the way to the city centre we passed the parliament building. From the distance the parliament would appear like any other normal parliament in the world, yet there are shell holes in the town-facing-side of the parliament. Rebels occupied the parliament and government troops fired rockets onto the parliament to recover the parliament. Hence today those scars from the civil war are still visible.

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

The city was almost knocked to the ground during the 100 days of the genocide but today new modern buildings are shooting up everywhere thanks to the governments stand on promoting other countries to invest and bring their business to Rwanda. The Serena hotel is situated in the middle of the city facing the mountain from witch Kigali derived its name from. The name "Kigali" comprises the Bantu prefix "ki" and Rwanda "gali" meaning "broad." Seeing a glimpse of the other hotels in Kigali I will rate the Kigali Serena as the best looking by far. The service and the staff are very good, starting from the welcome at the door to the service in the restaurant. The beautiful kept gardens and swimming pool made it look like a hidden oasis surrounded by the hotel building itself. Here we had a very nice buffet lunch before our drive to the west of the country. 

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Just after lunch we jumped in the 4x4 heading to the road to the west that started immediately with a steep pass. Suddenly it dawned on me why they call Rwanda the country of a thousand hills. Already after the first kilometre we have raised a few meters higher than the city. Not the greatest road to get stuck behind a truck. Although a lot of the cyclist appreciate these trucks, because they hang on to the back going uphill. A dangerous ploy but saying that I really don’t blame them for doing it with steep passes likes these. The maximum speed limit in Rwanda is 80km/h which sounds very slow but with a country that mostly consists of mountains, steep passes and villages on the edge of the road it’s understandable. This also gives you a chance of enjoying the beautiful mountainous scenery with the locals vegetable gardens filling up the inside of the valleys next to the rivers with their self-made channels to give everyone fare access to the water. 

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

On the road to the west we passed a lot of small villages and a few beautiful waterfalls. At a distance we even saw bits of the Volcanoes National Parks Mountains sticking out through the mist. These mountains  consisting of five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo)and the park is also home of the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The park was the base for the zoologist Dian Fossey.

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel


 We were on our way to Lake Kivu; the name comes from kivu which means "lake".  It lies on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and is in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. Lake Kivu empties into the Ruzizi River, which flows southwards into Lake Tanganyika. Just before arriving at the lake the landscape changes from the smaller vegetable gardens to bigger tea plantations. Tea & coffee are the biggest exports of the country with the high altitudes, steep slopes and volcanic soils providing favourable conditions.

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

We arrived at night with just the absences of light showing us the lines of where the lake should be. It was also a Friday night which I think was the reason why all the locals were gathering and playing in the streets, which didn’t make it easy for our poor driver. It almost looked like the locals were in the streets to make use of the lights of the cars passing by.  Dangerous!

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel
Arriving at the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel we were again welcomed by the friendly faces of the reception staff. After being showed to our rooms we were taken to the restaurant where we were spoiled by a variety of food on the buffet table including beautiful grilled goat fillet. A lot of people will pull up their noses for goat but at least here they tell you it’s goat where in other African countries you will be told that it’s a nice piece of lamb. After a very good dinner I was off to bed after a long day of flying for almost four hours and then driving for four hours. It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep with the sounds of people getting together in the streets and now and then a vehicle that hooted most probably for another pedestrian taking a chance in the darkest of the night.

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

The next morning I was surprised by the lake that was just in front of the hotel. What a beautiful scene with the green mountains on the one side and the beautiful lake on the other. The lake covers a total surface area of some 2,700 km2 and stands at a height of 1,460 metres above sea level. 58% of the lake's waters lie within DRC borders. The lake bed sits upon a rift valley that is slowly being pulled apart, causing volcanic activity in the area, and making it particularly deep: its maximum depth of 480m is ranked eighteenth in the world.  Another thing that makes the lake unique is that’s it’s one of three lakes in the world, that experience limnic eruptions.  Lake Kivu has recently been found to contain approximately 55 billion cubic metres of dissolved methane gas at a depth of 300 metres. First being extracted to supply the local brewery with electricity, it’s now being extracted on a huge scale to supply the country with electricity. 

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

We were picked up at the hotel after a good breakfast for a drive through the town of Gisenyi and to the border post of the DRC where our cameras were almost confiscated because we “might” have taken a picture that “might” have had a police officer in. After deleting the necessary pictures under the watchful eye of the police we were off to see the hot springs.  The hot springs is a source which is used by a lot of the local people for bathing.  But also because of the high temperatures of the water coming through the surface of the lake shore,  locals even use this water for cooking as we saw some locals cooking a fish and a piece of corn directly in the water.

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

After this we were taken to a small lodge on the edge of the lake, where we boarded the Serena hotel boat for a cruise back to the hotel past the methane rig. Only then you realise how big the lake is. The rig is situated almost on the border with the DRC on the lake. A lot of birds use the rig as resting place when crossing the lake. About 10minutes from the rig we were back on the beach in front of the Serena Hotel.

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel



Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel


Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel
 
At the hotel we were treated to a nice “beach” braai with local dancing and singing by the Intore dancers with their long white mains. After another busy day I was off to bed where I didn’t even hear the locals in the street as the previous night because I was sleeping as soon as my head touched my pillow. 

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel


Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel


The next morning we were picked up by the vehicles for our drive back to Kigali. At least we had a nice clear day in which we saw more of the scenery the road had to offer and we stopped at one of the waterfalls. We also stopped at a small village where some of the hottest chilli sauce was being produced. I am not sure how healthy it is but it is HOT!


Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel


Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel


Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel


Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel



Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel


Back in Kigali we checked in at the Kigali Serena Hotel and then we were off to the Genocide memorial. I am a huge fan of history and not knowing too much about the genocide than what was betrayed by the movie Hotel Rwanda, I was looking forward visiting the memorial. 

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel


I could just feel the morbid atmosphere as we arrived and I was soon to find out why. The museum hosts a few exhibitions of other genocides that occurred in the world and then it had the main exhibition explaining the series of events that caused the Rwanda genocide of 1994. It also had a room just with pictures of people, mothers, fathers, grannies, granddads, brothers, sisters, etc. that was killed in the genocide. Then it had a room with clothes that was worn by the victims and then a room with bones of some of the unknown victims. 

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

The worst room that actually got me gasping for air was the room that had pictures of the baby & child victims. Each picture had information on their favourite food, favourite toys, their friend’s names and the way they were killed. I couldn’t stay in this room for too long because I just couldn’t take anymore and I had to go out for fresh air.

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Outside they have a mass grave where 250,000 of the unknown victims were buried which I passed on my way back to the vehicle for our transfer back to the hotel.  The drive back was in silence with everyone just trying to get to grips on what they have just seen and experience. 

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Back at the hotel we were given time to refresh and get ready for another well varied buffet dinner. A group of us decided to have refreshment next to the beautiful pool and we got stuck there talking about what we saw at the genocide museum and how surprised we were with the beauty of the country. 

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel



The next morning we were on our way back to the airport for our flight back to South Africa and I just couldn’t stop thinking of all the lessons us in South Africa can learn from a small country like this that was demolished to the ground not just with the genocide, but also after years of tribal fighting, suppression & discrimination. We have no idea what it is to keep our country clean; with people throwing out rubbish out of their car windows like it’s their duty to create job opportunities. We have so much fraud and here is a country which has big signboards giving their word to their citizens that they tolerate 0% fraud. Looking at the presidential residence you can see not a lot of funds were wasted on unneeded luxuries. We have no idea on what it is to do our bit for our country, with the Rwandese people doing their bit once a month for a whole day doing something for their country from maintaining the streets to the maintaining of government gardens, etc. But most of all what we need to learn from them is forgiveness. The way the one tribe forgave the other and now live in harmony is unimaginable, but still they did it and still do it. Not forgetting all the hardships and the evil that happened in the past like the genocide and civil/guerrilla wars, but learning from it. 

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

In South Africa forgiveness is still to be found and unfortunately the Rwanda lesson is still to be learned.  

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel


Pictures and text by Juan Nel