Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kigali to Nyungwe: Rwanda Trip Report

The general manager of Classic Africa Safaris, Rachel Thompson, recently enjoyed an in-depth exploratory trip through Rwanda. Her trip review will be posted in a series of reports here on the Kusini Collection blog.

Airport: Canadians now have to pay for a visa for Rwanda – since November 2010 ‐ $60

Great place, good rooms. In the process of being renovating the ‘old block’ to be the same as the ‘new block’.

Service great in restaurants and around the hotel, but reception service needs patience. Checking in was a problem and took a long time. CAS representatives normally go to the Serena ahead of time and make sure that everything is in order before our travelers arrive. Food wasn’t particularly great – sounded better then it actually was. Overall, the Serena is the best place in this price range to put clients.

Select Hotel and Restaurant:
Very nice, boutique hotel. Rooms and restaurant were nice and up to CAS standard. Food was well presented and good – a little pricey but worth it.

Room types:
4x standard rooms
2x junior suite
1x grand suite
ALL ROOMS ARE HAVE ONE DOUBLE BED IN THEM – THERE ARE NO TWINS AVAILABLE. Which is a disappointment because otherwise this would be a good place to put our clients. For FITs who are OK with a double, this could be a cheaper option then Kigali Serena.

Nyamata Church:
50-60 minute travel time from Serena. About 3-4hrs for total visit. The visit/site was shocking and intense. If someone has a few days in Kigali would be worth it but if only one site to be seen, then the Genocide Memorial Centre in Town Center is better. Open 8‐5 weekdays and 9‐4 weekends.

Drive from Kigali to Nyungwe Forest, via King’s Palace in Nyanza.
Kigali to Nyanza = 94km – 2 hours and 40 mins.

King’s Palace:
Really nice, excellent activity – clients must do this if time permits. Medard, the guide, was very very good (personable, knowledgeable, polite, well spoken and a bit funny). The place is interesting, not too overdone (had some local feel), Ancient Museum very interesting too. Definitely worth the stop but consider that clients would likely want to stay about 2 hrs here. Art museum located in Nyanza (sounds very good actually too!). The King's Palace is a great stop en route to Nyungwe Forest.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge:
Kigali to Nyanza = 94km – 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Nyanza to Ibis = 42km – 1 hr 5 minutes
Ibia to Nyungwe = 117km – 3 hrs 45 mins

Amazing startling colour contrast of tea fields with dense upper montane forest. Brilliant accommodation. Excellent Service! See pics. Wow.

Nyungwe Hill Top Lodge:

New lodge opened this year. Spectacular 360 degree views (from Lake Kivu to tea fields to terraced gardens to Nyungwe Forest). Unique design and decent construction but poor finishing. Owner of Khana Khazana so presumably food could be good. Individual villas each with small living room, fireplace and large balcony. Furnishings definitely tacky (too bad!). Could otherwise be fantastic if tweaked a bit.

Accommodation in cottages. 10 rooms – 4 twins and the rest doubles. Double rooms are much nicer, larger and better furnished then the twin rooms. Manager said that they were going to redo the twin rooms in the same style as the doubles.

Nyonga Waterfall Walk:
Hike: Very beautiful, a bit challenging in parts (and slippery in rain) but very reasonable for anyone in relatively decent physical condition. Recommend waterproof rain gear. Some monkeys (blue, LʹHoest) seen, amazing orchids. Much better to do it in the morning (rains). Takes 3‐4 hours.

Canopy walkway:
Really interesting walking trails (Antony is a brilliant ranger/guide ‐ strongly recommend. Note that rangers rotate every 4 months between Uwinka, Volcanoes NP, Nyonga Waterfall walk). Canopy walkway aluminum but still very cool. Only 160m in total. Total walk takes about 2 hours, depending on how long you take on the walkway.

Black and white colobus trekking:
Excellent activity. 500+ individuals – amazing sight. Talked to clients who had done this and they loved it!
Two different colobus treks:
(1) From Uwinka – 500 individuals – this is the one to do!
(2) From Gisakura – 60 individuals.

Area: 1,012 km square – the largest single mountain forest block in Africa.
Altitude: 1600 – 2950m
Rainfall: 1600 – 2200mm per annum
Rainy season: September to May
Dry season: June to August
Trees ‐ more then 240 species
Orchids – over 140 species
Birds – 272 species with 24 endemic to the Central African Highlands
Primate – 13 types which represent 20% of all African Primate Species
Terrestrial mammals – include leopard, bush hog, golden cat, serval and 3 species of duiker.
The most distant source of the Nile is located in Northeastern Nyungwe. First documented by Richard Kandt in 1898.

Photos courtesy of Nyungwe Forest Lodge.

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