Rwanda… a land of a thousand hills
Rwanda is truly a land of a thousand hills: you are never far away from an incline or a beautiful, undulating horizon. My week in Rwanda has left me with wonderful memories of this stunning scenery and the friendly people that inhabit it.
Volcanoes National Park was my first destination on this trip and, after trekking for an hour, our trackers managed to locate a family of gorillas. After watching many television documentaries, looking at pictures online and reading several guidebooks, I formed an idea of how it might feel to see gorillas in their natural habitat. The actual experience proved to be more fascinating than I imagined.
It was mesmerising to see how human-like they really are and at times you had to just drop your camera and take in the experience. The gorillas seemed unperturbed by our presence as the trackers hacked away with their machetes to enable us to get a better view of them.
Gorilla up close
I was very lucky to be in a group that only had to trek for a relatively short time to see the gorillas but getting the perfect picture was not easy! At times, the undergrowth was very slippery and steep making it difficult to take photographs or even get a solid grip underfoot. The gorilla trekking was definitely the highlight of my trip and I was happy to hear that the gorilla population is increasing in Rwanda and poaching is now almost non-existent.
After a chance to see golden monkeys, which were more orange than gold, but I suppose the name ‘golden monkey’ has a better ring to it than ‘orange monkey’, we continued to Lake Kivu. The route was filled with scenes of green hills, tea fields and construction workers, a clear sign of Rwanda’s surge towards modernisation. With hardly any traffic around, I could really appreciate the scenery and tranquillity in this part of Rwanda.
We continued on to Nyungwe Forest National Park, a vast area also covering neighbouring Burundi. We went in search of chimpanzees but they proved very uncooperative and stayed up in the canopy of the forest. You could hear them everywhere; the cacophony of sounds was exciting at first but grew frustrating as I was unable to get a good view of them. I was not able to get too close to them as this would frighten them away but I managed to follow a couple of them, only for them to disappear as soon as they noticed me.
I was happy to embark on the canopy walkway once I learnt that there had been no selfie mishaps or other such incidences….until I reached the middle. At this point I became fully aware of how high up I really was and tried not to look down. I managed to brave it out and reach the end.
I ended my trip with cultural visits including the Ethnographic Museum and the old Royal Palace at Nyanza, formerly the capital of the Kingdom of Rwanda from 1958 to 1962. The guides here were dressed in traditional attire that added authenticity to the site. The reproduction of the traditional homes of the Rwandan kings was well structured and stood in stark contrast to the capital Kigali, our final port of call.
Kigali is a vibrant, modern and busy African city with high-rise offices and banks dominating the area around our hotel. The Genocide Memorial was a sobering experience and an important reminder of the horrors this wonderful country faced not so long ago and how far it has progressed since. The Presidential Palace Museum is not on many people’s itinerary when visiting Kigali, but I would highly recommend it. The guide was brilliant and told some fascinating stories about the place, my favourite being the one about a giant pet python that went missing at the exact time that the former president died!
I have travelled with Cox & Kings many times and each trip ends up being better than the last. Rwanda was no exception and I look forward to more future adventures!
Cox & Kings can arrange tailor-made holidays to Rwanda. See here for more information.