When B&R asked me to put together a unique African experience in Rwanda for a trip, they didn’t need to ask twice: I’ve long believed this extraordinary country—far removed from its politically tumultuous history—will be the new, hot destination in Africa. So I flew into Kigali, the cosmopolitan capital city, to add those personal B&R touches and blaze new trails through the verdant green mountainscape of forests and plantations that are quintessential Rwanda.
Gorillas in the Mist
En route to the town of Gisenyi from Kigali, we explored villages and wilderness. We tracked Silverback Gorillas on the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes above Ruhengeri, where Diane Fossey lived Gorillas in the Mist and spent time in a village with conservationists—who were once poachers themselves.
I have to say that, for all the ‘Big Five’ safaris I’ve done, seeing these magnificent gorillas in their high-mountain habitat ranks up there as an exceptionally memorable experience.
Our travels took us cruising around Lake Kivu, where we discovered the rich coffee culture (some of the best in the world, they say, and we concur). In Akagera National Park, herds of elephant and myriad species of gazelle created a dynamic backdrop as we toured around in a 4×4, planning special details for the big-game safari leg of the trip.
An Ascendent People
But the story of a country is best told by its people—and this is what excited me most: I had humbling conversations with genocide survivors while searching for perspective; discussions with passionate individuals at NGOs like Right to Play, as well as the trackers, conservationists and former poachers who have made gorillas their life story today; and last, but not least, a memorable meeting with Rwanda’s esteemed Minister of Finance.
I also shot the breeze with rural farmers, traders, smugglers and plantation owners over some rather tasty urwagwa, a home-brewed banana beer, and “enjoyed“ a huge babalas (that’s South African for hangover) the next morning as a result. And I hooked up with the captain of the Rwandan Cycling team for some torment on the roads and trails of rural Rwanda—I’ve only just recovered.
Rwanda—what a ride! The countryside is beautiful and there is a positive, truly infectious, attitude that “anything is possible.” This is fast becoming my favourite place in Africa. All in all, it was an amazing visit to a remarkable country that truly deserves closer attention.