“Welcome to your home for the next few days” said Eunice, as we sat down to enjoy afternoon tea at the outdoor reception of Le Bambou Gorilla Resort, Kinigi, Rwanda. After 12 hours on the bus, 10 hours from Kampala to Kigali and another 2 hours onto Kinigi we were delighted to be able to stretch our legs. (I think next time I’d fly!)
A troupe of dancers from the local village welcomed us with singing and dancing and we watched as passers-by gathered in a neighbouring field to enjoy the singing. What a beautiful way to start our stay.
The music stayed with me as we were shown to our private cabin, set amongst pretty flower gardens. Made of solid volcanic rock, the cabins give you a feeling of total seclusion from the outside world. It felt like home right away, even more so when at dusk a man appeared at our door, his arms laden with firewood, to light a fire for us. It was cold up in the mountains. (Staying on the edge of the Park should have been a clue I guess!)
We ate well: breakfast comprised freshly fried samosas, delicious omelettes and the tastiest yellow yolked eggs, the best passionfruit juice we’d ever tasted, local honey (crystallised in the cool mountain air), tea or coffee (Rwandese of course!) and more fabulous fresh fruit. There was, of course, the ubiquitous Blueband! – the favourite spread on many an East African breakfast table.
Many people only know the area for gorilla trekking, but there’s a variety of ways to spend your time – enjoying the peace and the wonderful view should definitely not be underestimated however!
Tourist activities in the Kinigi area
- The local area, formerly known as Ruhengeri, is best known for being the Rwandan access point to see the Mountain Gorillas and so, on our first morning, we hitched a lift down to the entrance to the park, just for a nose. Here you can visit the site of Kwita Izina the annual Gorilla Naming Ceremony, see beautiful bamboo huts, read more about the life of the Mountain Gorilla and visit a good quality craft shop, whose profits all benefit the local community. I came back to Kampala laden with baskets and woven pots!
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda now costs $750 per person (prices increased June 2012). We didn’t trek the gorillas that week-end – although I’d love to have what I hear is quite a different experience to Muzungu in the Mist – gorilla trekking in Uganda.
- The Kinigi park entrance is also departure point for walking and hiking tours of the imposing Sabigno volcanic peak
- A trip to see a group of habituated Golden Monkeys costs around 100 Rwandese francs.
- Bird watching
- The grave of world-famous primatologist Dian Fossey is within walking distance.
- Gisenyi, on the shore of Lake Kivu, is two hour’s drive away and transport can be arranged through Le Bambou. Lake Kivu is the largest of Rwanda’s lakes and offers a wide range of beach and water sports.
- To really get a feel for a place, a visit to the local market is an absolute must. As our hosts toured Musanze market doing their weekly shop, we caused quite a stir by trying the Yellow Passionfruit and the Tree Tomatoes (a cross between Passion fruit and Pomegranate) and sharing our fresh popcorn with the local kids.
- Cultural village and village walk
Rwanda travel tips
- Although English is now the official language, many people still only speak French or speak neither English nor French!
- Beware the Akabanga chilli oil! The small plastic bottle – on every dining table – of what looks like eyedrops is in fact a noxious equivalent of West Indian scotch bonnet sauce. Seek directions before use!
Some tips on traveling to Kinigi, Rwanda from Uganda
- Public transport is available virtually all the way to the lodge. (We travelled from Kampala, through Kigali). It’s easy, safe and cheap.
- Although many people would prefer to drive or fly, if you’re on a budget – or simply want to have a more African experience – there’s a good selection of bus services running several times a day from Kampala to Kigali. Smaller buses then go north to Musanze, from where you can take a car or motorbike taxi onto Le Bambou.
- We chose to travel from Kampala with Jaguar Executive Coaches, recommended to us by Ugandans who have made the trip many times. The buses were clean, on time, comfortable (enough) and we and our luggage all arrived intact, both legs of the trip.
- Now is a great time to visit Rwanda: Ugandans pay only 5,000 shillings to enter the country and I (a British passport holder) didn’t pay a shilling / franc / dollar.
Le Bambou Gorilla Resort, Kinigi, Rwanda is a small independent lodge owned by Jacky Gateram and Emmanuel Mujawayzu.
This is an edited version of a lodge review I wrote for The Eye Magazine Rwanda.