Explore Rwanda

Because I’ve always wanted to…

Issue 29 / November 2017

November greetings to you all,

Laura, our in-house Africa expert and total enthusiast for the continent returned to work for laterallife in October 2016 after 4 years running seasonal safari camps in Zambia. During closed seasons she took the opportunity to drive through Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique to further explore the continent. She has just returned from her latest recce – gorillas and chimps in Rwanda and relaxing at our favourite beach hangout, Kaya Mawa on Lake Malawi. Enjoy the read!

Laterally yours,

Kigali

Any trip to Rwanda will inevitably mean a night or two in what is likely Africa’s cleanest capital city. On the last Saturday of every month the whole population are required to litter pick! Rwanda’s plastic bag ban only helps further. Kigali is a juxtaposition of old and new. Modern low-rise blocks buildings butt up against the parliamentary building which is still covered in bullet holes and damage from grenades during the genocide.
No stay here is complete without a visit to the Genocide Memorial. It’s heartbreaking, but gaining knowledge of Rwanda’s turbulent past is, in my opinion a crucial part of any visit to this country.

Whilst in the capital stay at Hotel des Milles Collines. Of Hotel Rwanda film fame this is certainly a place with a story. During the genocide it was taken over by UN peacekeepers and the owner housed and protected potential genocide victims.

Visit the website here.

National Park, Rwanda

Just a couple of hours drive from Kigali and set high on the jungle-covered slopes of the volcanic Virunga Mountains, Volcanoes National Park is best known as a sanctuary for the region’s rare mountain gorillas. Treks through the forest allow you to spend an hour at a time with these incredible primates in their natural habitat. The experience is utterly humbling and quite unlike anything else you can experience in Africa.

Around 500 of the remaining estimated 650 mountain gorillas in the world are found in the forests surrounding the Virunga Mountains. In Rwanda there are 12 habituated gorilla families that can be visited. Every morning at daybreak a limited number of trackers and trekkers venture into the forest in search of these gentle giants and our second closest human relatives.

Volcanoes most swish crashpad is probably the latest offering from Wilderness Safaris – Bisate. 6 super sleek and stylish rooms nestle on the side of one of Rwanda’s famous hills. The lodge design is based on the Rwandan king’s traditional palace and even manages to incorporate an impressive wine cellar! However, for the very best views of Rwanda’s famed hill Virunga Lodge is the place to stay.

Beyond the gorilla tracking this area also offers Golden Monkey tracking, guided hikes, gentle canoeing, visits to Dian Fossey’s grave and research centre and local community visits.

Lake Kivu

Pretty Lake Kivu makes a great stop off between Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest for a little R&R. Take a dip safe in the knowledge that there are no crocs, hippos or bilharzia here to worry about. Explore the ‘Bay of Islands’ by canoe or kayak or relax on terra firma with a good book and lake views.
Cormoran Lodge with its chalet style rooms perched on a steep hillside above the lake is ideal for a couple of nights.

Visit the website here.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Entering Nyungwe National Park feels like you are walking onto the set of Jurassic Park. Huge towering trees perch on steep hillsides and an explosion of lush green vegetation abounds. Everything is supersized especially many different types of leaves. Tree ferns are dotted everywhere and vines drape across branches and down from the canopy. The forest receives 70% of all Rwanda’s rainfall—about 2.5 metres annually.

The biodiversity in Nyungwe is astonishing with 13 species of primate and 275 of bird. The most famous residents of all are the chimpanzees. (In case you’re wondering chimps are actually 0.4% closer to us genetically than gorillas!) There are 2 habituated groups which can be tracked via steep trails through the forest.

One & Only have just opened beautiful Nyungwe House. This hotel is to be found atop a sea of vivid green tea plantations and right on the edge of the Nyungwe Forest.

There is plenty here to keep you busy including chimp and colobus monkey tracking, a variety of walking trails around the property or in Nyungwe Forest as well as a canopy tour (at 90 metres high not for the fainthearted!), mountain biking, tea factory and plantation visits, traditional tea ceremonies and visits to Lake Kivu.

Visit the website here.

Akagera National Park

Just 2 and a half hours drive from Kigali is the little visited Akagera National Park which has a raw and authentic feel to it. 18 rhino were reintroduced into the south of park in early 2017 making it a ‘Big 5’ destination. On the central open plains an abundance of impala, zebra, waterbuck, topi and eland are found as well as regular sightings of a 17-strong pride of lion. Further north the views open up towards the papyrus swamps and you find giraffe and buffalo. Don’t venture here expecting the game densities of the Masai Mara but do expect stunning scenery from the hills on the western border of the park across the open plains and numerous lakes to the papyrus swamps separating Akagera from Tanzania.

Conservation specialists African Parks have recently taken over the management of Akagera and you can feel that this park is on the cusp.

Learn more about Akagera here.

Up Periscope: Kaya Mawa

Kaya Mawa’s 11 uniquely designed rooms are dotted across 2 headlands linked by a swathe of sandy beach. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was the coast but in fact this beach bolthole is situated on tiny Likoma Island up in the north east of the immense Lake Malawi. The perfect spot to relax post safari or just to escape to for some R&R. There is heaps to do here – out on the water kayak, snorkel, dive, kite surf, paddle board, sail, waterski, ringo…etc etc. On land mountain bike, quadbike, explore the church and the island.

Our latest travellers returned from Kaya Mawa last week and here’s what they had to say:

Worth every minute! What a beautiful place and what lovely people!! Everything was perfect! We ate, read, swam, snorkelled, took a boat trip round the island and Harry played football with the local village team.  We promised to send them a box full of footballs as they only had one… – Jenny, Bob & Harry

Visit the website here.

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