Tour Operator: Amohoro Tours (via Good Earth Tours)
Accommodations: Gorilla Nest Lodge (for the gorilla treks) and Kivu Sun (night after the trek)
Time of year: mid-November 2008
We were picked up at the airport by Mike, of Amohoro Tours, and whisked away to begin our adventures. Our first stop was at the Genocide museum as we had arrived first thing in the morning. Really moving, sad, confusing and frustrating as to how such a thing could have happened.
Afterwards, exhausted by the flight and day, we headed to the Gorilla Nest Lodge. We were served the yummiest hot ginger tea upon arrival, well appreciated on a chilly day. Mike made sure we were comfortably settled in before he left us for the evening. Dinner was fine. The staff was nice, and one lady in particular was an absolute angel, who brought over hot water bottles for us when she heard we’d asked for extra blankets in our cold room.
Next day, early morning wake up call (good thing our internal clocks were already messed up!). There were these hilarious birds outside our room that reminded us of young teenagers with their call “Naw! Naw! Naw! Awwww….”. Wish we knew what those birds were! =) Anyone??
Quick breakfast, then off we went to the Gorilla headquarters. We were assigned to the Kwitonda group, and had two guides. After a short overview of what to expect, we drove over to where we would meet up with the guards. Happy to report we had a lightly cloudy day. No rain during our hike! The trek itself was pretty easy through lightly wooded areas. Lots of mud. Not too many nettles. Within 45 minutes, we came upon our group, sprawled out in a small clearing lit by weak sunlight. Pretty good lighting for pictures overall! After a glorious hour with the gorillas, we had an easy hike back, approx. 45 mins.
We had told our guide, Mike, that we were interested in trying ‘real’ Rwandan food. So that night, Mike took us over to another lodge, run by widows of the genocide. He’d arranged for a special dinner of typical Rwandan stew (takes a long time to make apparently) for us. SO good!!
Next day, we went on our second hike. We were assigned the Amohoro group and had just one guide today. This trek was completely different from the previous day. We went through bamboo forests. Two different types of nettles, one which, when you were stung, hurt for about 10 minutes each time. Youch! Then we clambered up and over and through mountains of vines. Amazingly beautiful! Much more difficult hike than yesterday, and the altitude did affect some of us. But so worth it when we found our gorillas! At first, where we found them, we almost had to hang off the side of the mountain by holding onto vines. But then our guided managed to find us some other less precarious perches (still on more vines). Again, no rain! Yippee!
So sad to leave the gorillas at last. But we had a wonderful time! I’d also mentioned to our guide that I’d just read Rosamond Halsey Carr’s ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’. He’d known her and brought us to visit the orphanage she’d created (she recently died). We were able to tour the orphanage and meet the children. It was a wonderful experience. Looking around, it was easy to see that Rosamond Carr was an amazing woman, well loved and respected by all.
We stayed at the Kivu Sun that night. Walking into the hotel, we had very high expectations. It is a beautiful property with a gorgeous view of the lake. I hate to give negative reviews to anything, so will keep it brief. But I would never stay there again, simply because of the horrible service we encountered. Note to others – if you stay here, do not under any circumstance give them your laundry (three shirts and both of our hiking boots ruined). And if you have dinner, expect a loooong wait.
We left (and will not go back) after breakfast to head back to Kigali for our flight out. On the way, our guide brought us over to the Mountain Gorilla Vet Project headquarters (I’d mentioned someone on Fodors had just been – thanks MyDogKyle!), and lucky for us, Dr. Spelman was there! We had a nice, short talk with her, and even got a signed copy of her new book, ‘The Rhino with the Glue-On Shoes’!
What a fantastic way to end our time in Rwanda!!! Next – Tanzania for our Safari!!! =D
Misc. general impressions: Despite initial trepidations, Rwanda turned out to be quite safe – from troubles over in the Congo as well as in general. People walked everywhere in the dark, and we were assured by our guide that it was safe to walk around. The children all seemed excited to see us when we drove by. Most waved to us happily, just to say hi. Those who gave us a thumbs-up sign would get a HUGE grin on their faces whenever we returned the sign. =) Only a few asked for empty bottles or money. Some more enterprising youngsters would run alongside our car, trying to sell pictures they’d drawn. The roads… wow. bUmPy! Overall, a wonderful country!
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Tour Operator: Amohoro Tours (via Good Earth Tours)