Wednesday, May 8, 2013

“Rwanda – Land of a 1000 Hills”.

Bonny Robb, our intrepid General Manager, recently undertook an extensive visit to Rwanda and came back totally inspired by the Land of a 1000 Hills. Rwanda is a small landlocked country, bordered by Uganda to the North, Tanzania to the East, Burundi to the South and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the West.
Even though it’s one of Africa’s smallest countries, it has approx. 10 million inhabitants, making it one of the most densely populated.

Key Areas:

KigaliThe capital city, Kigali, was completely destroyed during the genocide in 1994.  There is now a lot of construction going on and a buoyant rejuvenation of the city centre. Our favourite hotel was the Serena Hotel Kigali which boasts an 800-seater auditorium for conferences. The Rwandan Genocide Museum is a stark reminder of a turbulent past but well worth a visit. Kigali Airport, the main hub for all flights coming into Rwanda, is a short 20minute ride from the city centre.

Nyungwe National Park
Located about a five hour drive from Kigali, Nyungwe Forest is predominantly an area you would visit to enjoy guided nature trails and walks in the spectacular indigenous mountain rain forest.  The forest is acclaimed for its biodiversity and for being one of the most endemic species-rich areas in all of Africa. The forest protects one of the region’s largest and oldest remaining patches of montane rainforest.
Accommodation is recommended at the Nyungwe Forest Lodge, part of the Shamwari Collection. It is beautifully laid out on the edge of the spectacular indigenous forest and set on the tranquil grounds of a tea plantation.  The lovely, large sized rooms have been carefully designed to be eco-friendly.

Chimpanzee Trekking is also available at three different areas of the park, although a separate section of forest, known as Cyamudongo Forest, approx. 40minute drive from the lodge, is known as the best viewing area.
The chimpanzees are still not that habituated to man so you have a 50/50 chance of seeing them. We see this developing into a more formal activity in the next two years.  You definitely need to be physically fit to enjoy this excursion.
Other activities include a visit to Banda Village, Canopy Tree Top Experience and a tea estate tour.

Lake Kivu & the town of Kibuye
Kibuye is a picturesque town on the shores of Lake Kivu and has been put on the map, due to a first-ever methane gas to electricity conversion process. This was developed in Rwanda and is now considered a tourist attraction because of its uniqueness and ecological value by contributing to energy saving....It currently produces more than 4% of the country’s electricity supply.
Another lake-side town is Gisenyi, sold as the “St Tropez of Africa”. This may take a while to live up to its name.

Volcanoes National Park and the Gorillas
Musanze is the nearest town for departure of the Gorilla Trekking, approx. a 25 minute drive. This is approx. a two to three hour drive from Kigali.
The Gorilla trekking day starts with a 7am registration, followed by a ranger briefing on the lawns.
Of the 13 groups of Gorillas in the area, 7 – 10 of the groups are visited by tourists during trekking. Three are still not habituated and the other three are being used for research purposes and are seldom exposed to tourists. Gorilla families are very territorial and will generally be found in a similar region. With this knowledge, the park rangers have categorised the various gorilla treks into easy, medium and hard treks. 
Easy generally means a 20minute walk up to the edge of the park through farm land areas and a further 15- 30 minute walk inside the actual forest. 
Medium generally means a 20 minute walk up to the edge of the park through the farm and then a 45 – 75 minute walk uphill, inside the actual forest.
Hard – means a 20 minute walk up to the edge of the park through the farms and then a serious climb up to the top reach of the mountains.  These are generally not offered, except in the peak season, and guests would need to be really fit to reach these Gorillas.
Once you reach your family of Gorilla’s a few rules are in place; to minimise the possibility if transmitting human diseases, visitors are asked to maintain a distance of 7m from the gorillas. Guests need to be fit and healthy when visiting the gorillas.
Viewing time is limited to one hour and a maximum of 8 visitors are allowed per group. Photography is allowed, although no flash photography of the gorillas is permitted.
We do not recommend a day trip from Kigali as it is an early start (you need to leave your nearby accommodation at least by 6am to reach the starting point) and you finish the trek around 1pm. It is worth spending at least 2 nights in this region – apart from the Gorillas, there is also the opportunity to trek Golden Monkeys and a visit to Dian Fosseys grave.  The area really offers very beautiful scenery.

There is a lot of accommodation in the area to choose from.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge (5 double cottages, 2 suites and a family cottage) * highly recommended
Gorilla Mountain View Lodge (36 rooms) * 3 star but very close to National Park entrance
Shamwari Gorilla Nest Lodge (currently under renovation)
Virunga Lodge (8 chalets with spectacular views) *highly recommended, although furthest from the National Park entrance

Weather: Rwanda has a temperate climate with two rainy seasons from February to May and October to December.  It has two dry seasons: the short dry season – January and the long dry season from June – August

Interesting Fact: Plastic bags are banned in Rwanda – making it a very clean country.  Guests should be advised to leave all plastic bags behind else they will be confiscated on entry.

Getting around: Generally guests would drive between destinations in 5-seater 4x4 vehicles. Charter flights are available in some area, although very expensive.

Our thoughts:
This most definitely is a niche destination, but it is an once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is off the beaten track and it most certainly is wild!
If these attributes “tick the boxes” for your next incentive, then Rwanda may just be the destination you are looking for.  

No comments:

Post a Comment