Rwanda Travel Guides for Backpackers

Hiking Napoleon's Hat Island

considered as the Singapore of Africa, Rwanda is one of the fast-developing and cleanest countries in Africa since the tragedy of 1994 where thousands of people where killed. Know as the country of thousand hills, Rwanda is home to different wildlife living in beautiful untouched forests, parks that house a diversity of animals and volcanoes that are home to several families of gorillas. Rwanda offers many different activities to do for tourists like sightseeing, hiking, birding, gorilla trek, and other various activities, Napoleon’s hat island offers three of these. Munini Island mostly known as Napoleon’s hat island is one of the islands of Lake Kivu which is a lake that is at the border between Rwanda and Congo. Napoleon’s hat is found in the part of Lake Kivu that is in Kibuye which is a city in Karongi district in the Western province of Rwanda. The island is called Napoleon’s hat due to its shape which is like the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s hat bicorne hat. Among the animals that live on the island, there are snakes, giant millipedes, birds and many more, this makes Napoleon’s hat island a perfect place for sighting, birding, and hiking.   My Journey to Napoleon’s hat Island My Journey to Napoleon’s hat Island started in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, I was with a nice travel agency named Sharama Events and tours and we departed from a place Nyabugogo in Kigali. before any journey, it’s always good to make sure to buy snacks in case you get hungry along the way and bring lots of fluids so you don’t get dehydrated, so in Nyabugogo shops we brought snacks and drinks before departure. From Nyabugogo is where our Journey started heading west to Karongi, it was around 8 am. Celebrating at the bottom of the Waterfall of Urutare Rwa Ndaba On our way to Karongi, we stopped at a nice waterfall named URUTARE RWA NDABA in Muhanga where we were greeted by friendly local kids that told us the story about the rocky waterfall in Songs. We descended the bridge where the waterfall passes and we went down to get a closer look and take pictures, it was magnificent.   We finally go to Karongi district in the Western province and headed to a hotel named GOLF HOTEL that is near Lake Kivu. At Golf Hotel, we had a very beautiful sight of the lake Kivu from the view of their Restaurant, we took our lunch there and prepared for the hike at Napoleon’s hills. After the Golf Hotel, we were ready to go to Napoleon’s hat island, we took a boat from Karongi shores and the adventure began. Lake Kivu is very enjoyable and fun, the view of the lake was beautiful, we saw other islands located in the lake of Kivu, I hope my next adventure will be one of them. After 3 hours of on the boat, we got to Napoleon’s hat island and began the climb. Boat Ride on the […]

Kigali: The main neighborhoods of the city

Thinking of visiting Africa? Visit Rwanda. It’s one of the safest places on the continent and is also one of the cleanest and most organized. Rwanda has come a long way since the genocide and has grown by leaps and bounds socially and economically. In the guide below, we cast a spotlight on the need to know places in town and what to expect from them. So you can make informed decisions about where you’d like to go to in Kigali. Let’s begin. Kimironko One of the largest and safest middle-income and middle-class neighborhoods you can live in, in Kigali, is Kimironko. Kimironko is popular for Kimironko Market, La Palisse Hotel (with Kigali’s largest swimming pool), clubs, bars, and Kigali Parents School – a sought after primary school. Kimironko Gare, the main bus terminal connects you to all major areas of Kigali. Remera The main attraction of Remera is the Amahoro National Stadium. On its premises, a new indoor stadium is being built which will host the Commonwealth Games next year. Remera is also home to Kigali’s infamous red light district, where ironically police patrol routinely, as they do throughout the city. There are however quite a few clubs, bars and lounges in the area for night crawlers. Pub-crawling in the area can be fun if you don’t expect a red carpet treatment. The area is however known for poor security, as there have been a number of break-ins and robberies reported from pickpockets who operate mainly at night. It makes the place not particularly liked by people to move to. Remera nonetheless attracts a great number of sports enthusiasts ranging from martial artists, basketball players, tennis players, volleyball players, skaters and more. It’s a great place to meet kindred spirits if you’re into sports. The neighboring areas of Remera are Kimironko, Gisimenti, and Giporoso. Kibagabaga The upper-middle-class sector of the Kimironko axis is Kibagabaga. It’s home to the upper middle class, where you can meet some rich people in their latest jeeps and luxury cars. While there are tons of duplexes in Kibagabaga, there are a huge amount of luxury bungalows, too. With a few condominiums being built there, it makes for colorful living in the residential area. Kibagabaga has roughly 40% tarmac roads and 60% bad dirt roads that are a nightmare to drive on. The problem of dirt roads is a Sub-Saharan one that til this day is prevalent on the continent and is not being addressed. There is the general notion in governments that because rich people live in areas like Kibagabaga, they should fix these roads and not the government. It is purely irresponsible governance by government officials across Sub-Saharan Africa. There’s a genocide memorial in the neighborhood as well as a large hospital, a church, and a private school. Security in Kibagabaga is good and there are not many break-ins although some have been reported. In Kigali, the main reason for break-ins is to steal flat-screen TVs, a large market for which exists in […]

Kigali:The Land Of A Thousand Hills

General Aesthetic To say I was excited about this trip would be downplaying the enthusiasm I had for my stay.Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda, it is a modest city reflective of the country and its people.Upon arrival, I could clearly understand why it is dubbed the ‘land of a thousand hills’…and it sure is a hilly place. The positive trade-off from this hilly aspect is the picturesque views from almost anywhere. You can see the sprawling city which might I say is breathtaking at night.I haven’t even mentioned how clean the city is, there is literally no litter, the roads are ever clean even when it rains which for a country whose infrastructure isn’t the best may be a challenge but does not seem so for Kigali. The city makes the best of what it has and the mix of modern exquisite architecture blends well with the preexisting structures and the trees in a way that doesn’t make you think that something looks amiss.What stands out on the landscape is the Kigali convention center built by the Raddison Blue chain of hotels, I often used it as a marker during my random escapades around the city. Golden Tulip La Palisse Nested in a tiny town about 37km from Kigali called Nyamata is this spectacular hotel. The high ceilings at the entrance with exquisite lighting gave off this feeling of regalness. The staff helped us with our bags and gave us a little tour before settling us in our rooms. The rooms were tastefully furnished and I didn’t mind kicking it there for a few days. The pool was a huge plus and most of my time at the hotel was spent poolside enjoying Waragi (A type of gin native to Uganda), on the rocks which I conveniently ordered from their well-stocked bar. Navigation Being a small city I would say navigating isn’t all that hard although Uber doesn’t operate there and their equivalent of a taxi app feels like a cheap knockoff to be honest. Nevertheless, they have the best motorcycle transport system I have used in a while. I kid you not, I am not a fan of taking motorcycles anywhere but after seeing that’s how everyone gets around, who was I to challenge the status quo and I ended up using it my entire stay there. For starters they are efficient, drive safely, the rider always insists on the passenger wearing a helmet (the helmet enhances the whole biker vibe) and I would always find one around the corner. If I was with a group that wasn’t a problem I’d simply ask the rider to call his buddies and voila! we’d be an entourage on motorcycles which makes for great Snapchat content if I do say so. The only downfall to this is that some of the riders didn’t speak English so there was a bit of the whole language barrier situation but that’s where Google Maps comes in handy id just point on a location on […]

Rwanda: Heart of the Hills

A shot of Rwanda's landscape I literally left my heart in the hills of Rwanda, in the heart of its myriad hills that fence around the capital in Kigali. Rwanda is a landlocked country and has a very rich green landscape. The gorilla trek is one of the main attractions at the Volcanoes National Park. We visited the country as a family from Kenya 2 years ago for Christmas and in our mapped circuit of the East African countries. Never had I seen a town so clean and orderly on the eastern end of the continent; Friday is their national cleaning day of Rwanda and everyone gets involved! Accomodation Back to the trip, we used Kenya Airways and landed at the Kigali airport which is not a very busy place and their service was reasonably fast. Now, if you're embarking on a trip to Rwanda, do not carry any polythene bags or materials, they take environmental matters very seriously. Use paper bags or cloth bags as the staff will carry out a search at the airport. Thanks to my first campus roommate who is a citizen of the country, I knew of this. We took up accommodation at the Kigali Serena hotel. If you're on back pack and looking for other options, you can check out a list of them here: Affordable hotels in Rwanda Once we had lunch, we settled in the hotel and took a tour around it. It's a spacious hotel with 2 restaurants, a large atrium showcasing cultural artwork, many boardrooms and lush gardens that host events every now and then. There's a lovely pool deck too, a gym with the Maisha spa & health club and a lovely concierge with very high walls that are embellished with granite. Brief Town Tour The next day, we took a cab around town to identify places, landmarks and shopping centres. If you're a luxury traveller, you will enjoy using the cab company, Limoz Rwanda, that you can hire at the Kigali Serena hotel. We stopped at Union Trade Centre (UTC), which was more like a mini-mall that houses a common supermarket chain in East Africa called Nakumatt. Other than that, it has shops with clothes, African crafts, travel and tour agencies and also restaurants. I found their food rather pricey because we tried a mid-range local restaurant on the ground floor and for a quick lunch-on-the-go, we paid about $35 for four. It was sumptuous and very fresh so you could say that it went well. For a taste of Rwanda coffee, there was the Bourbon coffee shop a few steps from the local restaurant. We grabbed a packet for my aunt who is a keen coffee lover and she has it was intensely tasty, it still tickles her tongue! Akagera National Park It was now time to take our trot to the park. We settled on Akagera National Park that's towards the North East of Rwanda. Volcanoes National Park was too far to the west and being on a 5-day timeline, our bargain […]

Mountain gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is home to the majestic mountain gorilla. With only 880 remaining in the world, Rwanda is one of only three places that mountain gorillas are found along with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. One of the obvious highlights of a visit to Rwanda is trekking in Volcanoes National Park to spend an unforgettable hour with a group of mountain gorillas, in their own natural habitat. Looking into the brown eyes of one of these hairy, gentle giants who are so much like ourselves is not to be missed, definitely the stuff of bucket lists. Treks are timed to coincide with the gorilla’s feeding and resting time, meaning that they are relaxed and calm and often not moving around too much. Watching the juveniles play together, the mothers feeding their babies and resting plus beholding the sheer size of the silverbacks is a mesmerising experience. Ntambara, Silverback Mountain Gorilla It is important to have a moderate level of fitness, as they are mountain gorillas, meaning you need to trek up part of a mountain to see them! We were designated to see the Ntambara group, who are typically a one and half to two hours trek from the car park. This is one of the ‘medium difficulty’ groups, the ‘easy’ group are typically one hour from the car park and the ‘hard’ groups can be up to four hours trek away. Although these are wild animals, they can move around as much as they like! The first part of our trek was through farmland. Once we entered the national park the terrain changed and was steeper and a lot more muddy. It is worth remembering that you will be trekking at altitude. We began at 2,300m above sea level and the gorillas were at 2,900m, which makes the trek feel harder than it would do if you were at sea level and if you are not used to being at altitude, you may find it quite psychically exhausting. However, the guides, rangers and porters don’t try to rush you; they allow you to go at your own pace, take lots of breaks and are both patient and motivating. There are 10 habituated groups of gorillas, meaning that they are used to a maximum of eight tourists coming to observe them for 1 hour per day. As there are only 80 permits issued per day, it is important that you purchase your permits in advance. During the peak seasons (Dec to Feb and June to Aug) you may need to purchase your permits six to nine months in advance. Permits cost $750 per person per trek. You can either book them yourself directly with Rwanda Development Board (Government Tourist Board) or you can ask your travel agent/tour operator to book them for you. Permits during the rainy seasons are less in demand (Mar to May and Sep to Nov). Link to official permits The money from the permits is being put to excellent […]
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