Day 1 - Kigali
Welcome to Rwanda! On arrival in Kigali you will clear Rwanda's immigration and customs formalities. In the arrivals hall you will be met by your Hills Of Africa Travel representative (look for your name on a sign).
IMPORTANT INFORMATION - US passports DO NOT require visas to enter Rwanda, but must have at least two empty pages in their passports for each country visited. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of departure from the last country visited.
You will then be transferred to the Mille Collines Hotel.
Mille Collines Hotel
Milles Collines Hotel was made famous by the film Hotel Rwanda which told the story of how this hotel and its staff provided sanctuary to over a thousand people during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The film version however was not shot on site, instead a hotel in South Africa was used, so don't expect to walk into the film set. However this hotel is the real deal, the true hotel Rwanda.
Guest can expect comfortably furnished rooms with their own private balconies, internet access and a minibar. There are 105 rooms available at the Milles Collines Hotel. The Hotel has a pleasant garden with some massive trees and a multitude of flowering plants, attracting the urban birdlife to its quiet depths. There is also a fully equipped business centre, a floodlit tennis court and a fitness centre.
The Panorama restaurant on the rooftop of the Milles Collines Hotel attracts patrons from all over Kigali as it is certainly the restaurant with the finest view in town. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served here and Kigali is quite a sight as it comes to life in the early morning as you sip orange juice and devour a full english breakfast.
1 x Double Room on bed & breakfast basis for 2 nights
Day 2 - Kigali
This morning at 10:00am, your private driver and guide will collect you from your hotel to show you Kigali.Located at Rwanda's geographical heart, the rapidly growing City of Kigali is not only the national capital, but also the country's most important business centre and main port of entry.
Kigali City, which started in 1907 under German rule as a small colonial outpost with little link to the outside world, is now 100 years old. Today, Kigali City has come of age as the capital of Rwanda and made phenomenal strides. It is a city that has not just survived, but has prevailed and grown into a modern metropolis.
Although (like all of Rwanda) it saw difficult and hard times through the genocide in 1994 and as power changed hands subsequently, Kigali now has a pleasant, buoyant air and is among the safest and friendliest of African capitals. Kigali City is blessed with a moderate high altitude climate that belies its tropical location, and is conveniently located within three hours drive of the main tourist sites. The Rwandan capital provides both a comfortable and welcoming introduction to this land of a thousand hills and an ideal springboard from which to explore this magical country.
The main shopping and commercial area is around the Mille Collines Hotel, with the government district on the neighbouring Kaciyiru hill. The markets, the handicrafts, the Muslim quarter and the Genocide memorial are some of the main places of interest.
Some of the activities you can do are (and we recommend you talk with your guide about your desires:
Kigali Genocide Memorial Center. Longstanding ethnic tension between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi people of Rwanda came to a peak on April 6, 1994. The airplane transporting Rwandan Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down and ignited one of the worst genocides in world history. In a period of approximately 100 days, somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million people, approximately 85 percent population of the Tutsi population of Rwanda, were murdered. Men, women and children were murdered by any weapon available, and women often were raped and humiliated prior to their death. The Kigali Genocide Memorial Center opened in April 1994 and is home to the graves of more than 250,000 victims. The center has three distinct areas, including an exhibition of the Rwandan genocide, a memorial to the children lost in the genocide and an exhibition of genocidal violence around the world.
One seldom visited monument in Kigali's backyard is the Presidential Palace Museum, the palace of former President Habyarimana, also known locally as Habyarimana's house. In case you are one of the five people in Rwanda who are unfamiliar with that name, Habyarimana was the president of Rwanda whose plane was shot down in April 1994, the event that sparked the Rwandan Genocide. Today the palace is a museum where visitors can see for themselves how the former president lived.
Kigali Hand Craft Market. Cooperative des Artisans Rwandais is one of the better craft shops selling locally produced carvings, cards and paintings. Prices are generally fixed, but small discounts may be offered. It is one of a number of craft shops located near the main post office in the centre of town.
Day 3 - Parc National des Volcans
This morning you will drive to the Parc National des Volcans. The journey north goes through the beautiful terraced hillsides that characterize much of Rwanda's landscape, gradually climbing to the base of the awesome Virunga volcanoes, sometimes with as many as five peaks visible.
In a spectacular location overlooking the Virunga volcanoes and shimmering lakes Ruhondo and Bulera.
The magnificent Virunga Safari Lodge, set on a stunning hillside, has eight bandas with a panoramic view of the Virunga volcanoes and the lakes Ruhondo and Bulera. The terraced gardens on this high ridge are now well established, with a magical sunken paradise garden as their focal point.
Aside from gorilla tracking, clients can climb a volcano, track the golden monkey, visit Dian Fossey's grave or go for gentle strolls around the picturesque villages near the lakes.
Accommodation: 1 x cottage on a full-board basis for 2 nights
Day 4 - Parc National des Volcans
For those interested in seeing the gorillas in their natural habitat Rwanda offers one of the best locations for Gorilla trekking. In the Park National des Volcans in Rwanda there are eight families of Mountain Gorilla living on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes that you can trek to see. For many, seeing gorillas in the wild offers a wildlife experience of a lifetime.
Gorilla treks take place in the morning and depart from the Park Headquarters at around 07:30am. Prior to departure you are given a briefing by park staff, assigned a gorilla family to visit and rangers to guide you. The treks take place on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes and clients should be in good physical condition as some of the trek can be physically demanding. The treks normally start in the cultivated land on the base of the volcanoes and then you are guided up into the beautiful dense misty forests. The trek normally lasts between 2 and 5 hours depending on the location of the gorilla family and a maximum of eight visitors is allowed per gorilla family. Once you reach the gorillas you are permitted to stay for one hour to view them. The minimum age for gorilla trekking in Rwanda is 15 years. A maximum of 64 gorilla permits are issued per day and during high season these sell out far in advance, it is therefore important to book gorilla permits as early as possible.
Day 5 - Lake Kivu
This morning at 9:00am, your driver will collect you from your hotel lobby and will drive you to Lake Kivu.
Lake Kivu is one of the Great Lakes of Africa. It lies on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the Albertine Rift, a part of the Great Rift Valley. Lake Kivu empties into the Ruzizi River, which flows south into Lake Tanganyika, another Great Lake.
The largest city on its shores is Gisenyi, known for its water sports and surprisingly tropical beaches. The town resembles a forgotten tropical beach resort with an endearing mismatch of architectural styles, sandy red shore, and lakeside extremely rich in birdlife. The northern shore of the lake where the towns of Goma and Gisenyi are found features lava formations from the eruptions of the nearby Mount Nyiragongo. And Gisenyi is also home to Bralirwa, the only brewery in Rwanda, nothing like a cold beer to relieve stress.
Visitors will be tempted to spend more than a few days here as the beachfront accommodation, bustling marketplaces, forgotten colonial buildings and treelined streets all add to the town's allure.
Lake Kivu Serena
Located on the shores of Africa's sixth largest lake and in the resort town of Gisenyi, Lake Kivu Sernena Hotel is the perfect spot to spend some relaxing time either before you head to the volcanoes in search of the gorilla or after you have been to see the amazing creatures and need a few days to sit still and slowly come back down to earth. With 66 well appointed rooms, all with air conditioning and satellite television and a variety of options, including doubles and luxury suites, there are plenty of comfortable options.
The hotel has two restaurants, The Kivu Sands and the Lake View Bar and Terrace. The dining experience includes stunning views out over the lake, and from here you can enjoy the sun sinking and turning the lake pink at dinner time and then rising and making the waters shimmer like gems as you feast on a hearty breakfast.
Lake Kivu Serena Hotel has recently opened a brand new watersports facility. This new facility offers canoeing, catamarans, hobie Cats, windsurfing and much more. There is also the opportunity to take a boat ride to a nearby island called Umucyo. Here you can spend the afternoon on the sandy island beach, explore the interior and snack on a delightful picnic basket lunch.
1 x Double Room on breakfast, lunch and dinner basis for 2 nights. Alcoholic beverages are extra
Other activities on offer include: Lake fishing, swimming, boating, Tennis, volleyball, walking, trekking etc. Also enjoy the Lake Kivu Coffee experience Crop to Cup boat ride.
Day 7 - Nyungwe Forest National Park
Today at around 9:00am, you will drive to Nyungwe Rainforest, about 6 hours drive. On your journey, you will stop at the old Royal palace in Nyanza. You will continue passing beautiful rolling hills and tea plantations.
The Nyungwe rainforest is a protected area and because it was one of the very few places on the African continent that did not freeze over in the ice age, it features a huge amount of biodiversity and more than half of all the animals in the continent are represented there.
Nyungwe Forest Lodge
Designed to integrate into the surrounding environment, the Nyungwe Forest Lodge perches on a tea plantation at the edge of the rainforest. Relax mere steps away from hiking and tracking the abundant primate species that call the forest home.
Each of the 24 rooms faces the verdant forest, best enjoyed from the privacy of your own balcony. Inside your cabin, a wood burning fireplace is just one of the comforting amenities at your fingertips. Find crisp bedding, fine wood finishes and a modern en suite bath with an inviting bathtub that overlooks the room and the picture windows. Thoughtful blackout shades and superior insulation in the rooms further contribute to the guests' comfort. Sightings of the forest's 13 different primate species are not uncommon mere feet away from your balcony.
At the main lodge, unwind next to one of several cozy fireplaces in the many vignette lounges scattered throughout the main lodge. The spacious bar and dining area feature floor to ceiling windows and a modern decor accented by traditional Rwandan arts including Imigongo paintings crafted from all natural materials such as fruits, cow dung and clay soil. Sample teas plucked fresh from the plantation at the cozy tea lounge and delight in the gourmet dishes served in the dining room. From the fresh cheese plates and fruit skewers to the sumptuous dinners, the presentations and tastes are impeccable.
Embark with skilled local guides on nature walks, birding expeditions and the most popular activity, primate tracking. Over 25 percent of Africa's primate species can be found in the varying terrains and climate within Nyungwe Forest National Park and though sightings are not always guaranteed, the trek through the lush forest only enhances the thrill of stumbling upon a troop of monkeys. Species found here include L'Hoest's monkey, owl-faced monkey, blue and golden monkeys, black and white colobus and the chimpanzee.
Room: 1 x double on all inclusive basis for 3 nights
Day 10 - Kigali
This morning between 9:00am - 9:30am, you will leave to drive back to Kigali at a leisurely pace.
Safe travels and we hope you have experienced the true magic of Africa!