Coming to the end of our 7 months of travel, people ask what the highlights of the trip have been. There are countless, but one of the top experiences that comes to mind is gorilla trekking in Rwanda. It's impossible to put into words the feeling when you stand only feet from an 800 lb Silverback gorilla and stare into eachother's eyes with a certain familiar understanding. With 98.5% of our DNA shared, it truly feels like you're seeing a distant relative, with similar facial expressions, mannerisms, and even verbalizations.
(Get an unfiltered take in our update posts)
Rwanda Itinerary and highlights – 1 week with 4 days in Kinigi and 3 days in the capital, Kigali
We arrived in Kigali and immediately jumped in a call to drive up to Kinigi, a town on the edge of the Virunga Mountains, which lie across Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. In Rwanda, the Mountains are in Volcanoes National Park, a government-protected area.
North Rwanda // Kinigi, just outside Volcanoes National Park
Stayed at Villa Gorilla owned by a lovely guy named Gilbert, who previously worked at several other high-end hotels in the area. It’s much more affordable than other lodges in the area and includes all meals. We met some amazing folks during mealtimes, comparing our own gorilla experiences and travel tips. We stayed 4 days, but I’d recommend 3 days as a healthy amount, unless you need to recover from jetlag.
How Gorilla Trekking works: Each morning, trekkers gather at 7:00am for the guides and trackers to assign groups based on fitness level and interests. Then the trackers take their groups to get briefed, travel to the trail head and hike into the area. It’s pricey - $750 per person per day – but it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime adventures that we felt we had to splurge on.
Hiked up Mount Bisoke, to a volcanic crater lake at 10,000 feet, which was one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done. Not sure I’d recommend that one, but exploring more of the area was fun.
Went to the local market where they sell all kinds of locally grown food and used clothing, often from the US.
Kigali – a pristine, newly developed capital
Stayed at Hotel Gloria, centrally located and lovely.
Must visits in Kigali
Genocide Memorial Museum – beautifully done memorial for the genocide, explaining the historical context that led to the ethnic divide and hostilities. It’s emotional, especially seeing portraits of people and children who were killed. Bring tissues.
Inema Arts Center – artist collectives that foster expression from locals, especially orphaned children. Meet the artists and see beautiful, inventive work.
Heaven Restaurant – where all the NGO workers and other Western expats go for delicious, yet expensive food.
NY Times article on gorilla trekking here. Also, a great tour of Rwanda
We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families by a journalist recounting several personal stories from the genocide, plus many interviews with Paul Kagame, the infamous leader of post-genocide Rwanda.