Where did you go?
Kigali, Akagera National Park in the east, Nyungwe National Park in the southwest, and Lake Kivu and Volcanoes National Park in the northwest.
Where should our guests start for unique experiences in Rwanda?
Every trip to Rwanda should start with a tour of the Kigali Genocide Memorial to understand what the country has been through and how far it has come. The memorial shows you the immense cruelty of the genocide, but also serves as a powerful reminder of the resiliency, compassion and humanity that the Rwandan people have displayed in its aftermath.
I also recommend doing a chimpanzee trek in Nyungwe National Park. You can venture off-trail with expert guides who know exactly where to find these elusive and fascinating animals. Standing in the middle of an African jungle with the howling of chimpanzees echoing around you in the canopy is an unforgettable experience.
A sunset boat cruise in Akagera National Park is a great way to get a unique perspective on the wildlife there. You’ll cruise up close (but not too close!) to hippos and crocodiles, spot baboons settling in for the night in the trees around the lake, and see an abundance of aquatic birds nesting on the shore.
Describe some can't-miss experiences and destinations.
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is the experience of a lifetime. After joining a team of knowledgeable and friendly guides, we ventured into the jungle in search of the highly endangered mountain gorilla, which makes its home in only three places in the world. We found our family of 17 gorillas munching on bamboo stalks not far from the park boundary, and spent the next hour watching them in awe. The youngest ones were the most active, playing with one another and spinning in circles to entertain themselves. The silverbacks of the group were much calmer, quietly watching over their family. The hour you spend with these magnificent animals flies by. I wished I could come back to see them again the next day.
In Akagera National Park, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour with the park staff to learn more about the park’s ongoing conservation efforts. The staff showed us their high-tech control room where they monitor the movement of their tagged animals and explained the work they have put in to grow their animal population. For anyone fascinated by conservation issues, this tour is a must.
If you spend time in Kigali, stop at Nyamirambo Women’s Center to shop for fabrics, clothing and bags made by local women. The products are part of a project to provide education and vocational training to women in Rwanda. The bright colors and patterns will inspire you to add a little color to your own wardrobe before you leave.
You stayed in some remarkable properties. What made them special?
Virunga Lodge in Volcanoes National Park offers the perfect setting to unwind after a long morning of gorilla trekking. Enjoy a massage or relax in their sauna to feel the strain of your hike melt away. Sipping on a cocktail as you look across the misty lake isn’t a bad way to spend the evening either.
I also loved One&Only Nyungwe, which sits on the edge of the rainforest in the middle of a tea plantation. You can sit on their large porch with a cappuccino as you watch the morning mist dissipate, revealing the mountains behind the property.
Luxury meets safari at Magashi Tented Camp. Situated on a lake in Akagera National Park, the camp is beautifully appointed and serves delicious meals al fresco as you look out over the water.
Describe some of your favorite food experiences.
The meals at One&Only Nyungwe were spectacular. Dinner consisted of an array of small bites, each more delightful and beautifully prepared than the last. I recommend enjoying a meal on the patio overlooking the tea fields and jungle for a peaceful and scenic dining experience.
My favorite meal in Rwanda was at Republika in Kigali, where they serve traditional Rwandan cuisine in a relaxed setting. We sat on the upstairs patio, munching on plenty of tasty dishes, including the classic Rwandan delicacy of lightly fried sardines from Lake Kivu, known as sambaza.
What surprised you about Rwanda?
I have never felt more welcomed as a traveler than I did in Rwanda. Driving down the road in our safari vehicle, children would run up to wave as we passed. In Kigali, strangers on the streets stopped to enthusiastically welcome us to their country.
Rwanda is also one of the most pristine countries I have ever visited. An abundance of community-minded initiatives have been launched in recent years to provide creative solutions to problems that many societies face. One example is the monthly cleaning day, during which all members of the community come together to clean their neighborhoods.
This is just a sampling of the experiences that our Luxury Custom Travel team can arrange for you in Rwanda. Get in touch with our travel consultants to start planning your own bespoke journey to this captivating country.