After trekking in the rainforest to spend time with the gorillas, we then went to visit the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village where we spent time learning all about the local life in the Rwanda countryside. It was a very interactive experience as we were given the opportunity to play drums, grind sorghum for banana beer, and test our archery skills. As we walked among the huts, our local guide explained to us all about daily lives of the people that have lived in this part of the country for hundreds of years.
From the moment that we entered the village, we were warmly greeted by the music of drums and the local villagers dancing in their authentic ceremony garments. The men wear dramatic blonde wigs, which they flip dramatically around as they dance making for quite the impression. We also had the opportunity to visit the king’s hut with its large bed and learned of the local traditions and rituals. Whether it was making banana beer, creating bee hives, or learning about the role of the medicine man, each hut that we visited was fascinating.
As with many villages that provide these types of cultural experiences, there is also the opportunity to buy handmade goods created by the villagers. The money goes towards the community, which is important as it encourages the local communities to embrace tourism and keeps them from poaching wildlife from the surrounding national park. Prior to tourists coming to Volcanoes National Park to trek to the gorillas, many of the villagers would trap gorillas to sell their hands as well as trap the mountain elephants and other animals to sell to people outside of the country. Rwanda has made great strides in reducing the number of poaching incidents and ensuring that the local people make enough money without needing to resort to trapping animals.
Although spending time with the gorillas is clearly the highlight of going to Volcanoes National Park, visiting the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village was certainly still a wonderful experience. Considering we did both the trekking and the village visit on our first full day in Rwanda, we were certainly off to a tremendous start to our time in this interesting country. We definitely slept very well that evening before getting up early to move on to our next adventure within Rwanda.