Day 1: Arrive at London Heathrow Terminal 4 for check-in for the Kenya Airways overnight flight to Nairobi.
Day 2: On arrival at Nairobi, transfer onto the Kenya Airways flight for Kigali. You will be welcomed by your private driver/guide and taken to Hotel Mille Collines to stay overnight, breakfast included. During the day, you will be taken on a guided city tour of Kigali and also have the opportunity to change money and relax by the hotel pool.
Kigali is a small capital city built on a hillside with less landmark buildings. The city tour takes a couple of hours and includes; the new handicraft village and other shops, the Batwa pottery the old town (Nyamirambo) and Muslim quarter, a dance center and the Gisozi Genocide Memorial. The memorial is very moving, but I suggest that you do this later in your visit.
Hotel Milles Collines is a famous sanctuary that saved many hundreds of people during the 1994 genocide. At the moment, it is largely unchanged with a super pool and rooftop restaurant, and is soon to become internationally renowned with the anticipated release of the feature film, 'Hotel Rwanda', which is set in the hotel during those terrible times.
Day 3: After breakfast, travel by road to Nyungwe Forest for a two nights'stay at the simple Gisakura government Guest house, on the edge of the forest. Take a stopover in Butare (2½ hours from Kigali) to see the National Museum, and lunch at the Ibis restaurant. Opposite the restaurant is an excellent craft co-op shop stocking a wide range of items at fair prices. Inform the driver if you wish to stop at the Marimba Genocide site on the road to Nyungwe.
Extending for nearly one thousand kilometers square over the mountains of southwest Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park protects the largest single tract of montane forest remaining in Africa. It is a remarkably rich center of biodiversity, with 86 mammal species, 280 birds, 120 butterflies and about 100 varieties of orchid. It is the most important birding site in Rwanda.
The main attractions in Nyungwe the chimpanzees and the large troops of Ruwenzori colobus monkeys. Guides lead you through the forest in search of these elusive beasts. One of my clients realised a three high in the canopy during a three-hour walk and he believed it was worth it to be in the forest. sightings can be a lot better. Another one was impressed by also the good sightings of grey-cheeked mangabey monkeys and l'Hoest's. The national park has just been gazetted - and not a moment too soon! - to save this forest from the depredations of agriculture. Fields of maize, beans and bananas are intensively cultivated right up to the forest's edge.
Day 4: Day for going chimpanzee tracking and for guided forest walks.
Day 5: Take a panoramic drive (about 5 hours) on undone roads to Kibuye, on the shores of Lake Kivu. Stay overnight at Kibuye Guest House. If you get there in good time, you can take a boat out on the lake. Longish drives on un-made roads may not appeal to everyone, but they do offer the opportunity to appreciate the life trends for centuries, and essentially constant.
This scenic route provides the opportunity to see the people at work - cultivating ordinary food crops like sorghum, beans, bananas, cassava, rice, potatoes, and even coffee in their steep and tiny fields. In addition, there are several massive tea plantations, villages, innumerable tiny brickwork's, and surprises around every corner. Lake Kivu forms the border between Rwanda and the Congo. It's a beautiful and mysterious lake, always alive with traders and fishermen in their dugout canoes.
Day 6: After breakfast, proceed to the northeast, parallel to Lake Kivu, to Gisenyi for a two nights'stay at the Kivu Sun on half-board. This beautiful drive (3-4 hours) is largely on unmade road and takes you through an area of intensive subsistence farming, as well as the remains of the Gishwati Forest.
Gisenyi is a pretty faded lakeside resort - and also a border crossing point into the Congo. The shore monologue is lined with crumbling colonial villas. Today, it is enjoying a renaissance as it boasts its first international standard hotel - the newly opened Kivu Sun. It is a pleasant hotel, right on the lakeside, with its own private pool.
Take a launch cruise on the beautiful lake. Visit the Imbabazi Orphanage where you can still find the founder, appealing Rosamund Carr, now in her late 80s; take a drive into the ancient Gishwati Forest; or, when the border is open, cross into the Congo to visit Gomo, site of the volcanic eruption two years ago.
Day 8: Make an early start for the 2-hour drive to Kinigi at the Parc National Des Volcans for the first gorilla trek. On arrival at 0700 hrs, hosted by staff from ORTPN Park Headquarters, you are given bearings on conduct during gorilla tracking. The trackers then lead you into the forested slopes to seek one of the groups of Mountain Gorillas. Reaching the gorillas is unpredictable but if you are lucky enough, it can take a few hours. Return for lunch at the Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge. In the afternoon, visit the panoramic twin volcanic lakes of Burera and Ruhondo.
Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge is a reasonably modern lodge of fifty rooms in double chalets grouped around a central garden area in a nice wooded location. Rooms are variable, comfortable but with a close fitting. Apart from the two VIP rooms, they sometimes experience plumbing problems and the hotel is prone to occasional power cuts. There is a lively restaurant and bar, the food is variable but can be good here. The lodge is right by the trailhead for gorilla trekking.
PNV Volcanoes Lodge is the alternative, an upmarket lodge built in a stunning position atop a hillside with a splendid view over the twin volcano lakes, and, on a clear day, of the whole chain of volcanoes in the national park. Visibility is best in the rainy season (November short rains), otherwise the mountains can be obscured by haze. Check the brick chalets execute advanced environmentally sound technology.
It is really the best accommodation in Rwanda but it has three drawbacks: it is expensive, compared with Gorillas Nest; it is high up at 2200 metres and quite exposed; and it takes an hour to drive to the gorilla trail head from the lodge and therefore recommendable. Dinner and over night at the chosen place.
Day 9: Head for anther Gorilla tracking encounter. If you are sufficiently fit, we recommend the Susa group for the second expedition. In the afternoon, you are driven to Kigali (2½ hours) to stay overnight in Hotel Milles Collines, breakfast included.
Day 10: After break fast, depending on you program, tour the Genocide Memorial Museum before you transfer to the airport for your flight to Nairobi, where you connect with the overnight flight to London.
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