Residents and visitors to Kigali now have a place where they can enjoy a nature walk and a breath of fresh air, following the opening of the Nyandungu Ecotourism and Recreation Park to the public. .
The park is nestled between the Kigali Special Economic Zone and Kigali International Airport, along the highway to Eastern Province.
What was once a degraded wetland has been transformed into an educational park in the heart of the city, thanks to 4.5 billion Frw (4.6 million dollars) from the Rwanda Green Fund (Fonerwa) with the support of British governments and Italian.
The park covers 121.7 hectares, including 70 hectares of wetlands and 50 hectares of forest, and is home to more than 100 species of birds and more than 62 species of local plants.
The government signed an agreement with QA Venue Solutions – which also managed BK Arena, to run the eco-park, creating 4,000 green jobs.
The project has restored critical habitats including a native fig forest, wetland and rehabilitated streams and ponds to mitigate flooding and reedbeds.
The restoration also saw the planting of 17,000 trees of 55 native species, a medicinal garden, a garden of the Popes, five catchment basins, three leisure ponds, an information centre, a restaurant and 10 kilometers of footbridges and cycle paths. The park was open to the public for free, seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Images and sounds
I visited Nyandungu Ecotourism and Recreation Park on one of the hottest days this month. After a few minutes of walking, surrounded by bamboo and other overgrown, well-kept shrubs, I had refreshed myself.
Paved walkways dotted with beautifully carved wooden signs and cement benches, while listening to the chirping and sounds of birds in this sanctuary is the perfect escape from the bustle of the city.
I see a young woman wearing a backpack, headphones plugged in, visibly enjoying her day. It’s the kind of place you can come to meditate, declutter and relax.
Couples sit on benches in various places, chatting and looking into each other’s eyes. On the other hand, children play under the watchful eye of their parents not far away.
Along with the picnic area, cycle and pedestrian paths, the eco-park has a stone cottage-style restaurant that offers a variety of food and drinks.
Some people are working on their laptops, and I mentally note that I could do the same and maybe finish writing my poetry book.