My trip to Rwanda with Hakuna Matata Tours


Jan 29th, 2009, 12:48 AM
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My trip to Rwanda with Hakuna Matata Tours

Rwanda is a stunningly beautiful country and the people are a joy. I had 3 fantastic weeks with Kennedy of and his guides. These guys took great care of me and had wonderful time

When you visit the gorillas, not only is it cheaper than visiting the mountain gorillas, you won't be herded in with another group of tourists. I had a look at the visitorís book and saw that there was at least 70 person(s) visiting the gorillas there every day. You will be spellbound by the gorillas, and your money will really help in their conservation. Their behaviours are significantly different from the mountain gorillas - the juveniles are good fun!

The guides are good, and speak good English too so make sure you give them and the tracker a decent tip. The headquarters are beautiful, but as you would expect, Rwandese are desperately poor. The guide books are full of warnings, but you will be perfectly safe with Kennedy and his staff.

While you are there, make sure you spend some time in Nyungwe Forest. the staff there are fantastic and the forest is wonderful. It was busy when I was there, so plan ahead for this one.

Kennedy knows what he is doing, and if you want to see something or go somewhere, he will arrange it for you. I decided that I wanted to take a drive from Ruhengeri into Uganda to Kabale and it was easily arranged. I realised while I was there that Kwita Izina - the Gorilla Naming Ceremony - was going to happen while I was there, and Kennedy promptly produced tickets and arranged everything for me, They all work hard, have a fantastic sense of humor and won't rip you off, and are good value for money.

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May 31st, 2010, 04:08 AM
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I traveled with Hakuna Matata Tours and Travel Company recently and was lucky to meet kennedy the director in Gisenyi/ Rwanda and Goma/ Congo. What I realised; kennedy is a Nice guy who knows what he is doing .He organised my full day of Gorilla Tracking in the DRC where these photos were taken. He organised everything via email before my arrival in Rwanda and met me personally in Gisenyi, Rwanda. One of his senior guides then escorted me across to DRC and my visit with the Gorillas. He is able to organise any sort of tour you would like and match any budget you have. Throughout my stay in East Africa Kennedy was in touch with me and my guides at all times.

I found him to be very friendly, professional and organised. I would absolutely recommend his tour company to anyone visiting East Africa. His company has a fantastic 12 day tour of Rwanda, Burundi and DRC including the gorillas if you want a super tour. He can also organise a (live) volcanoe tour, viewing of Golden monkeys, safaris in Kenya or Tanzania as well as land transport and accommodation..

For more I Invite you to visit my Congo page at Virtual tourist
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May 31st, 2010, 04:10 AM
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My picture in congo
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Aug 26th, 2010, 10:26 AM
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Hi guys

I am currently in Goma having crossed at Bukavu so here's a full run down. I also went out last night with 4 NGO-guys and they gave me a full run down on the security situation which I have had confirmed by some local people today.


From Cyangugu/Rusizi you walk across the border - getting out of Rwanda takes no time. You walk up the hill for 5 minutes to the DRC side. I was asked for my vaccination book - just showed it, no problem. Got my visa no problem - USD35 and was given 7 days. Outside the immigration there are loads of taxis - I paid USD5 (DRFr500 = USD1) for a taxi to the port changing money on the way - the money system uses both USDs and DRFr - this seems a fair price. It is a good few kms into town and a bit further to the port. I crossed the border just after 7 and was at the port not long after 8.

Bukavu is not a pretty place - I could not find anything of interest there - but was fine to walk around - the roads are a mess once you get a few kms from the border post. I saw 2 hotels in town - Hotel Résidence (USD50 according to the taxi driver) and another just a bit further down and to the left by the roundabout where they plan to make a big statue but have not got round to it yet - I can't remember its name but it looked a USD10-15 (maybe cheaper - but I honestly do not know). My taxi driver was very honest and as so few tourists have passed through here in the last few years I would say that if you want to stay in Bukavu, just tell the driver you choose at the border you want a hotel in your price range. If you decide to change money there are two banks but no bureaux de change - there are several people on the street who are moneychangers though and make sure you get as many DRFr500-notes as possible (the largest denomination = only USD1) to avoid having a very thick wad of notes - the first two changers had only DCFr100 notes).

For the boats you have slow boats starting at USD10 which only leave in the evening and arrive in Goma the next morning so you will not see anything of the lake. I have heard rumours about USD20 boats but none of my enquiries around the port did not find any of these. Then there are the two USD40 boats - at least one every day - one is called IHUSI EXPRESS (3 hours) and the other MARINETTE EXPRESS (allegedly 2 hours) - the IHUSI starts and finishes in Goma, while the MARINETTE goes just one way each day. Here are the timetables:

MONDAY - IHUSI departs Goma at 07.15 and then leaves Bukavu at 11.00; MARINETTE departs Goma at 07.30.
TUESDAY - IHUSI none; MARINETTE departs Bukavu at 07.30.
WEDNESDAY - IHUSI departs Goma at 07.15 and then leaves Bukavu at 11.00; MARINETTE departs Goma at 07.30.
THURSDAY - IHUSI none; MARINETTE departs Bukavu at 07.30.
FRIDAY - IHUSI departs Goma at 07.15 and then leaves Bukavu at 11.00; MARINETTE departs Goma at 07.30.
SATURDAY - IHUSI departs Goma at 07.15 and then leaves Bukavu at 11.00; MARINETTE none.
SUNDAY - IHUSI none; MARINETTE departs Bukavu at 07.30.

From the information I found out, if you want to see the lake these are the ones to take (I took the IHUSI and the MARINETTE timetable is courtesy of a Frenchman resident in the DRC) - and it is beautiful. Ignore a post here from Bearet elsewhere that says that if you want to see the lake take the slow boats - you can stand upstairs at the back of the boat and get great views of the lake all the way to Goma, including Nyiragongo on the way into Goma. Both companies have offices on the opposite side of the road to the Hotel Résidence about a 7-minute walk up the hill some 100m from each other. On your way to the port you can stop at the offices and buy a ticket for boats on the same day if there is availability. For the IHUSI a rep from the office appears at the port at 10.00 so you can also buy a ticket there. There is also a weight limit of 10kg on both boats - my bag weighs 19kg (they have scales) so I had to pay an extra USD6 (0.75 per kg). I also had my bag searched by two soldiers, had my vaccination certificates checked again and had to fill out an exit form (USD1, but like a beer tax for the guy).

I then committed the cardinal sin of taking a photo of the IHUSI and was hauled into a hut and interrogated for 30 minutes - as a French-speaker we had a few heated words but it may pay to play dumb (I have so far come across very few people who speak good English - French and Swahili are widely spoken) - I got away with it, anyway. The guidebooks are right - they are paranoid here about photos of things like ports. Finally, the boat has 42 seats (there were about 45 people allowed on board), lifeboats etc and on this day pretty much left on time. Your USD40 also gets you a cold drink and a cheese roll and a movie on a plasma screen if you choose to stay inside and a clean toilet. The journey is great and you get a singing, drum-banging departure from Bukavu, to see Congolese river life and life along the shore, as well as some beautiful islands and scenery on both sides of the lake.

On arrival at Goma you will no doubt bump into the Head of Immigration (a big-bellied bald-headed man with olive-coloured skin). Try and avoid him as he will make a beeline for you as a mzungu. This man has a lot of power and is the most forceful official I have had the mispleasure of coming across in my many years of travelling and only the third one I have lost out to in the waiting stakes. He asked to see my visa and then seized my passport - again I find Bearet's response that just play-the-waiting-game and he will give up as mis-information. He told me that my visa was only valid for Bukavu province (this is strictly-speaking true as a holdover of a lack of central government policy following the civil war) and his first asking-price was USD130 (this is still illegal) ... when I refused, he simply locked my passport away and dealt with other passengers leaving me to the last. For an hour he refused to drop his price and then he was finished for the day - he told me to report to the Chancellery on Monday (this was Saturday) to discuss the matter further. Fortunately at that point a French guy from the boat returned with the owner of the Ishango Guest House, who after about 20 minutes discussion told me to pay USD30 or I would be put on a boat back to Bukavu (another USD50 to end up back where I had started with possible questions about why I had left Bukavu Province in the first place). You must remember that to check into a hotel in the DRC they will need to see your visa with its number etc. I am not easily beaten but realised that this was a lose-lose situation in a very fragmented country where this man had this down to a fine art and USD30 was a small price to pay. How threatening was all this? He was firm but friendly and the French guy had told me that he had done exactly the same to him the first time he came through and he was the only official who had got the better of him. Apparently, he only does it once. Good luck!

After his help I am staying at the Lava stone Hotel - it is USD50 a day but very nice, although well above my usual price range. Don't be put off Goma by the black everywhere - it is lava left over from the 2002 eruption. If you have a wander around town you will see evidence of this - houses practically submerged, a car graveyard, where people have used the lava for their own benefit and doorways that are a couple of metres below the new road level. There is nothing else really of tourist interest apart from the lake but I have found it a very interesting place and the Congolese people to be very friendly. It has made me want to explore this fascinating country more but I'm out of time this trip. There is nothing I have seen or heard that would make me say that going to Bukavu and up the lake to Goma is not completely safe as of this time. However, my conversations with some Agency people last night and some in-the-know locals today would make me advise people to continue to monitor the security situations south of Bukavu and north of Goma for the foreseeable future.


I am going tomorrow. I applied for my permit this morning through Kennedy at Hakuna Matata Tours, so it is possible to get permits for the next day. If you want to use his agency send him an email at [email protected] and he will send his driver, Kanga, along to pick up and take to his office to make the reservation ... you will need a photocopy of your passport details and your visa.

All the information I have seen on this branch is very accurate. I met a couple of people who have done it and confirmed what I had already read. I also read the report written about the girl from Hong Kong who died up there and the information posted earlier confirms what I read.

I hope this is useful and not too drawn out? Safe travels ...

Jb1967 is offline  
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Aug 26th, 2010, 05:19 PM
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JB, very interesting information--not too detailed at all. I hope you write again after your gorilla trip. I would like to visit and see the gorillas on the DRC side too...someday.
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Sep 3rd, 2010, 07:16 AM
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Leely, Now I m back from congo, will post the review tomorow
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Oct 10th, 2012, 04:31 AM
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Let me share with you My Photos and Travel story in Congo with Hakuna Matata Tours.

I love traveling, and at an early age, I was taught by my parents to pack my things and enjoy the fun. Apparently, having an extended family in different places has few perks because I got to see new sceneries, do some exciting adventures and taste the most delicious foods.

Last summer, something unexpected happened. My routine visit didn’t push through because one of my friends told me about volunteering to Congo. I never had any international travels in the past. A bit hesitant and excited, I called another friend and we 3 agreed to meet and discuss the plan.

The initial plan was to fly to Congo and become a volunteer in Mweneditu, a village in the Kassai Province. Based on my research, the strategic location of this village will give us the advantage of exploring the whole Congo, from Kinshasa Goma to Kisangani. Gorillas have always fascinated me and if our plan realizes, I should be able to see them first-hand. Aside from this, Congo is also particularly well-known for its Nyirangogo Volcano mountain climbing and hunting with the Pygmies, an ethnic group locally known as Bambenga. And, who would ever forget to visit the capital city of Congo – Kinshasa, with its scores of tourist attractions, distinct culture and architecture.

Our plan went smoothly except for one thing. It took us a hard time to convince our parents to allow us to fly to Congo. They felt that the program tour is too dangerous for us. My parents knew that Congo is a tough country and we could be kidnapped or killed if we insist going there. Perhaps due to bad publicity, I couldn’t blame my parents if they felt that way.

But Kennedy from Hakuna Matata Tours assured us that our visit would be safe. Having known the place for years, he knows how to enjoy the country in the safest way possible. He even told us that Congo isn’t like Iraq, Somalia or Afghanistan with extremists hunting down western visitors. Congolese's welcome visitors and they love to showcase what their country has to offer. Looks like Kennedy did his job really well, and before we knew it, we’re all flying to Congo.
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Oct 10th, 2012, 04:32 AM
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Story 2

We arrived in Congo where we will be staying for the next few weeks. I did my homework so I wasn’t that surprised how the place would look like. Like other African countries, the people here are friendly, good looking, and pleasant to visitors.

Our one-month stay as volunteers helped us realized that the country isn’t really that bad after all. Yes, conflicts arise but that does not necessarily mean that the whole country is in chaos. It’s just sad to know that some journalists have been exaggerating the news, portraying the entire country as unsafe for travelers like me. On the contrary, we had fun and felt safe all throughout our stay.

Time flies and our volunteering job in Mwene-Ditu village is about to end. I’m super excited because our much-awaited tour is finally about to start. Okay, the tour started in Kinshasa, the capital city of Congo, where Yves, Kennedy’s cousin would meet us. Yves drove us to the hotel for some needed rest. The next day, he picked and dropped us to the airport. The flight took us to the eastern part of Congo where the tour is supposed to start.

Honestly, I felt worried not to mention this is my first tour outside Europe. But, when Kennedy, the boss of Hakuna Matata Tours Company, appeared right in front of us at the Goma airport, his assurance was soothing enough to keep us from worrying. He drove us to the hotel, helped us checked-in, and there we are in this new, exciting adventure ahead of us.

By the way, Goma is a city located in the eastern section of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is particularly famous among scientists and mountaineers as it lies near the great Nyiragongo Volcano. The bitter but rich history (e.g. volcanic eruptions and Rwandan Genocide) of this city are forever remembered by its people and the rest of the world.
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Oct 10th, 2012, 04:33 AM
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Story 3

After a sumptuous breakfast and pleasantries, Kennedy quickly briefed us about the tour; what to expect, what to do and not to do, where we are heading, and stuff like that. Hours later, we joined Kennedy to his home village in Bunagana where his mother is operating a budget hotel. It was named after Kennedy’s Hakuna Matata touring service. Bunagana is relatively a small and peaceful town, about 90 kms of Goma, located in the North Kivu Province, east of DRC bordering Uganda and Rwanda. We’re pleased to know that the gorilla tracking will start the next day. This gave us enough time to rest and to explore the place with our lenses.
We got up early, and by 5am, we are all heading to Jomba for Gorilla tracking. It would be my first time to see gorillas out in the wild and this close to nature. The whole wildlife experience would take anywhere between 1 to 8 hours depending on the tour program and the walking ability of the group. The walk was exhilarating but as we go deeper into the fields, our efforts were rewarded with breathtaking mountain views in all directions.
Gorillas are huge primates that live in large social groups. Each group is headed by a huge Silverback male, often with a subordinate Silverback and a harem of 3 to 4 females, black-backs and infants. Africa is blessed with mountain gorillas as it offers a natural habitat. On this trip, we’re looking for lowland gorillas living in the dense green forest and swamplands.
Gorilla tracking is not a walk in the park; you got to take some effort to reach the site. The bushes are thick, mountain slopes steep and stinging plants. When we reached the site, we were able to track one group with six members. I was particularly fascinated with the two youngsters, clinging in the trees like Tarzan. The adults were just sleeping, eating and scratching one another. All our efforts were paid off after spending an hour with them in that closeness!
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Oct 10th, 2012, 04:35 AM
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Story 4

Gorilla tracking was such a moving experience for me. I felt blessed that I’ve seen them in the wild but at the same time, felt sad knowing there are less than 400 of them left.

The next day, we drove to Epulu to continue our trip. It was quite a long, long ride for all of us... took us 2 days to get there. Nevertheless, we were continually greeted with spectacular sceneries as we passed through the Visrunga National Park. Mountain gorillas live in this vast mountain range too, but their population has been seriously depleted in the recent years.

Congo’s history is hard to ignore. Past conflicts left behind immeasurable damage to people’s lives. And while the rest of the world sees Congo as portrayed in the news, it was quite on the contrary as I observed. This country and its people are slowly getting on the right foot, building their roads, hospitals and park stations, and they’ll get there sooner than most of us would have thought of.

There was a little problem when we are about to cross the Ituri River at Komanda. The bridge was impassable; it broke down. People had to use huge boats to cross to the other side, and we were literally stuck there for hours.

Moving on. It took us 4 hours to reach to Epulu station, a small village situated in the middle of the Congo Jungle. The place is famous for the Okapi, a zebra-like mammal but actually closely related to giraffes. It is also the starting point towards the Ituri Rainforest where the Pygmies live. We spent the night in Epulu, preparing and packing things needed for the next day’s hike.

With our porters and ranger guide, we hiked for hours and ended up in this place called the “heart of darkness.” It is located in the middle of a rather huge forest where the Pygmies dwell. We were all astonished how these people lived without hospitals, schools and modern amenities. Having no contact with the outside world, it’s not a surprise that they know nothing who Obama or Osama Bin Laden is; not even their own president. Isn’t that amazing!

We spent the night in their humble village. The next morning, we were with them hunting. The way they hunt is special; seeing them yourself makes you appreciate. As hunters and gatherers, their peaceful and simple living is far from what is happening around the world.
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Oct 10th, 2012, 04:36 AM
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Story 5

After 3 days in the Pygmy village, it’s time to move back to Goma, the place where Nyiragongo Volcano climbing starts. This volcano is about 20 kms north of Goma and Lake Kivu. Recorded eruptions tell us of its bitter past; nonetheless, the volcano garnered scores of tourists year after year because of its unique lava lake of spectacular beauty.

So there we are climbing again to the volcano’s summit. It was a tough ascent but soon thereafter as we reached the top, our efforts were rewarded. We stayed at the summit for one night, which is a must for every climber to do that in order to admire the real beauty of the lava lake. After that breathtaking and once in a lifetime experience, we headed back to Goma, stayed there for another day before taking our flight to Kinshasa, and finally to Europe.

All I can say is that I felt blessed and privileged to visit this humble country in Africa. In fact, I’m recommending it to anyone to see and explore the beauty and vastness of nature. The pictures I took were a source of envy to all of my friends!

I personally extend my thanks and appreciation to Kennedy and to all the accommodating staff of Hakuna Matata Tours who helped us realized our dreams of exploring Congo. I highly recommend him to anyone who wants to experience the best of Africa in the safest way possible.
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Oct 17th, 2012, 10:27 PM
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Hey Friends,

I just return from my trip in Rwanda congo and Uganda to see Gorillas and Climb Nyiragongo volcano! Hakuna Matata Tours organized the trip for me. I went with my family and the experience was awesome!

Hakuna Matata Tours not only organized the trip but also take care of all little thing for us, as we are from different country, language was the major problem, but Hakuna Matata Tours’ people always help us and being very friendly and helpful. I really appreciate their service and recommend them to my friend circle. Whenever you go Rwanda congo and Uganda, ask Hakuna Matata Tours to organize the trip for you! You will enjoy that is very sure!

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