Jan 2015 trip report

Vincent writes:


La Corniche in Rubavu has recently been extended and renovated, giving it more rooms than the four you mention.

Congo – Nile trail

The hike is great, but the walking time mentioned in the description seems overestimated for any reasonably fit hikers. There are decent guesthouses in Cyimbiri, Kinunu and Bumba. Musasa is nothing but a very simple campsite. A four day hike with the following stages seems convenient:
-Rubavu / Rubona – Cyimbiri (6 hours)
-Cyimbiri – Kinunu (3 to 4 hours)
-Kinunu – Bumba (this is a long hike, with a 2 hour hike uphill at the end). The guesthouse in Bumba is basic, but the manager is a great guy.
-Bumba – Rubengera

Practically, it is possible to use a motorcycle to carry your luggage from one point to another. The guesthouse managers can assist you with that.

We’ve noticed that the children along the way all tried to get their hands on our water bottles. We’ve been “robbed” once by the most audacious one. It might be a good idea to mention in the guide NOT to give any money, candy, etc. to the children. One has to be careful at the Nkora market; little children’s hands tend to check out your pockets.

the New Cactus restaurant doesn’t seem to exist anymore
at the end of the road where the Serena hotel is located, there is a military camp where one can visit the site where 10 belgian para-commando’s were brutally murdered in 1994. This is free of charge.


The Matar Supermarket and the Cheers Coffee & Fast Food went up in flames a couple of months ago


The Chinese are putting tarmac on the stretch of the road that runs through Nyungwe.

New trip report from independent travellers

A reader writes:


We spent two weeks travelling around Rwanda in the early European summer and I wanted to share a few things that might be useful for others considering independent travel around the country – which is very easy to do.



Overall a fantastic city. The Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel is great value (we had a private room) and a really nice set-up with good communal areas, a basic but decent breakfast, and quiet location – noise in the hostel itself wasn’t too bad either. While it’s a bit of a distance from the centre of the city (we walked in about an hour and a half) there is quite a bit nearby that’s worth going to including Café Magda, Shokola Lite, and the Great Wall of China restaurant. I’d also recommend Sol e Luna for very good pizza and a fantastic view over Kigali. We also ate at Africa Bite, which was good but not amazing, and quite hard to find.

The Genocide Memorial is not as visible on the approach as the guidebook makes out. Also, Kimironko market is well worth a visit for things like traditional baskets and cloth.

We also stayed at the Goodnews Guesthouse which is not in the guidebook, but it should be as it was excellent. $60 a night, with probably the best breakfast we had in Rwanda and a decent restaurant – Ben, the owner, also picked us up from the airport for $20.

We picked up our gorilla and golden monkey passes in Kigali, from the RDB office in the centre of town – go to this office rather than the large one to the east of the city, as that one was shut on a Sunday and seems to be more of an admin rather than public building. The office we went to shuts by noon at the weekend.


Travelling from Kigali to Huye/Butare & Nyungwe

As a few people have said before this is perfectly possible to do independently. While we could have done the whole journey in one go on the same bus, we broke it in two. We did the first step from Kigali to Huye with Volcanoes (which drops you at the office in the centre of Huye rather than at the bus station) and the second bit from Huye to Gisakura with Sotra on the way and Impala on the way back. We had to buy a ticket for the whole journey (5,000) to Rusizi on the border but asked the driver to let us off at Gisakura – quite easy to spot as it’s the first group of buildings you come to after emerging from the forest, and everyone on the bus made sure that the bus stopped! On the way out we bought tickets from the Sotra office in the centre of Huye although it’s quite tricky to find (in an office just behind the Gemeca petrol station) and not quite in the location on the guidebook map. The buses themselves leave from the bus station north of the town centre which is not actually marked on the map, near the museum (a rough patch of ground by the Kobil petrol station) – not from the bus station near the stadium. We did get a sense that quite few things were changing and under development in the town, so things may be like this temporarily. For the way back, our hotel in Gisakura booked us on seats on the bus on the way back, which was needed as it was otherwise full when it came passed.

There’s not a huge amount of room on the minibuses so you’ll need to be able to cram it between your legs and/or on your lap – you might have trouble with full-size bergen rucksacks. The express minibuses (as opposed to the local, stopping ones) didn’t seem to put anything on the roof, but they did have a small boot which was sometimes used.


Huye / Butare
There are a few changes to what’s specified in the guidebook. The Matar supermarket seems to be closed, as does the Cheers café – just lots of building work being done. The location of the bus station is now further north than specified, towards the museum – we ended up getting a moto-taxi to it as the bus to Risizi went from there rather than the town centre.

The Ibis hotel is a great place for food and drinks, better than Hotel Faucon which was more on the basic end of the spectrum with only one option at lunch, but cheaper. The CxC Coffee Shop is well worth a visit towards the south of the town.

The Motel du Mont Huye was a great and affordable place to stay – they had rooms available when we arrived, which was lucky as our reservation from the day before which had been phoned through when we were in Kigali did not seem to have been recorded – levels of English and French amongst the staff are limited. The restaurant in the motel is basic but fine, although we did take nearly an hour and a half to get our food.


Nyungwe National Park

Couldn’t recommend this place highly enough. It takes about five hours to reach from Kigali so we did three nights, at the Hilltop Hotel. They’ve recently put their prices up to $200 per night but we negotiated down to $150 a night – they don’t seem to have too many guests, and we were the only ones there on one night. It’s a great hotel, with a fantastic view, very friendly and helpful staff, good lunches and dinners (although always having three courses was sometimes a bit much).

We did the Waterfall trail on one day and walked to the start from our hotel, so didn’t need any transport – an absolutely superb trail. We also did chimp trekking for which we did need a 4×4 and driver, which the hotel organised for us – it was $150 for the morning which seemed quite pricey but was necessary. This was possibly the highlight of the trip as we saw the chimps on three separate occasions and had a great guide. But it was incredibly tough and strenuous, much, much more so than gorillas – but I got the impression it can sometimes be easier depending on where the chimps are. I’m also not sure how easy this would have been if we’d had tried it in the wet season.


Travelling from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park

We used Virunga Express which took us to Musanze, which was fine. I’m not sure how typical it is but we got practically the only real hassle of our trip in the bus station and (stupidly) ended up being persuaded into taking a taxi (his mate’s car in reality) by someone who claimed to be a representative of Amahoro tours, to Kinigi for 15,000 which was at least 5,000 more than we should have paid. He claimed buses didn’t run on Sundays, although we say lots coming back from Kinigi. However, if we had got the bus we would have still have a km or so to walk to the hotel, as it’s outside of the (very small) village. On the way back our driver (in the 4×4 we hired) kindly dropped us at the bus station in Musanze and we quickly bought tickets there for the bus back to Kigali (1,700 each way).


Volcanoes National Park

We stayed at the Kinigi guesthouse which I would really recommend. It’s a great location for gorilla trekking at it’s only about 300m from the RDB office where you meet in the morning. There’s a basic but decent restaurant but make sure you order breakfast the night before, and a nice communal seating area inside with a fire, and an outdoor terrace.

Our hotel booked our 4×4 and driver for two days (one for gorillas and one for golden monkeys) at $100 per day, which we needed to pay the driver in cash. It was provided through Amarhoro tours who were excellent, particularly our driver Safari.

We visited the Kwitonda gorilla group which was a large group, including three silverbacks and several babies. It was a pretty easy walk and shorter than some, so if you want something harder or longer maybe consider another group. While we didn’t have time to do it, we heard a lot of good things about the trek to Diane Fossey’s grave.

Golden monkeys was a completely different experience but well worth doing.


Nyungwe National Park practicalities

Many thanks to Tina Sloane for these very detailed updates for Nyungwe Forest National Park:


I arrived by bus, and felt this chapter somewhat overplayed the difficulty of getting around without a car:

Getting there, the bus from Huye (or Kigali) to Rusizi will stop anywhere along the main road in the forest if you warn the driver. You will however have to pay the full 5,000 fare for the journey. When booking in Huye or Kigali simply ask for a return and explain where you will be getting on so the seats are reserved. The advantage of booking with Sotra Tours is they have a booth at the bottom of the hill which Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel is on (5mins from Gisakura guesthouse) so you can ensure they warn the driver to stop for you!

Nyungwe forest lodge, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel, Gisakura Guesthouse, KCCEM and Uwineka campsite are all short walks from the main road. Although it is easier to access the activities which start at the reception center nearest to your accommodation when I inquired about other activities the park rangers were happy to arrange a car for $100 or a moto for 10,000rwf to take me to canopy from Gisakura, wait for me and take me back – so all the activities were in effect accessible.

Park fees p.157
Still operating the Byzantine fee structure I am afraid! Waterfall walk has its only price now – $50 for nonresidents and $40 for foreign residents.
A trip to colobus monkeys is also separately priced – $60 for nonresidents and $40 for foreign residents. As they are both in their own category now it is not possible to benefit from discounts for combining them with other activities.

Accommodation p. 167
Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel is now $200 for a double and the drinks are heavily marked up, even compared to other hotels, but the location makes this a stunning place to stay and worth every penny.

Trails and activities p.170
Despite visiting in low season, activities were going on throughout the afternoon (at the times given in guidebook) including after lunch.

Birding at Nyungwe & Lake Kiva

Nick Johnson writes:

If you want great birding in Nyungwe (from Gisakura) ask them to phone Narcisse their bird man who is great and a lovely guy. I spent a morning with him and saw 29 species inc 11 endemics including. 3 turaco species.

I saw the fourth Turaco species in Rwanda – the Ross’s – down by lake Kivu at a place called. Kumbya last weekend. Kumbya is the last place on the Rwandan side of the lake which has original vegetation and trees, hence the good birds.

Lodges at Nyungwe and Rusizi-Cyangugu

Alex writes

I’ve been using and appreciating your guide during my two months in Rwanda this summer.  I wanted to send along a couple of quick updates.

The first is about Kageno Eco Lodge, listed for Nyungwe National Park on page 167 of the 2012 edition of the guidebook, and now finally open (http://www.kageno.org).  It’s a delightful place (and Banda is a beautiful, if remote and inaccessible village).  But you have it listed as “Upmarket”; in fact, it’s very much a budget hotel.  There’s no electricity or indoor toilet.  Anyone coming here expecting an upmarket place will be in for a rude surprise.  That said, I think it should definitely be listed.  We loved it and stayed twice, and Christine, who prepares the food and looks after the place, does a terrific job.  But it’s an out-of-the-way, difficult-to-reach, very simple budget guesthouse.  For tourists with slightly rugged inclinations, it’s great to hike down through the Nyungwe forest from Uwinka (where the main tourist reception center is) to Banda, spend the night at the Kageno lodge, and then hike back up a different trail the next day.  The views are terrific, and the village is beautifully situated.

Secondly, a new upscale hotel has just opened in Kamembe (next to Rusizi-Cyangugu), right on the waterfront.  It’s called the Emeraude (see also https://bradtrwandaupdate.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/emeraude-kivu-resort-at-rusizicyangugu/). It has been open only two months–but it’s a gorgeous place. Each room has a balcony opening out over the lake, and the Belgian owners have put some effort into the design and the restaurant, which serves good food. It seems a cut above anything else in town, so it’s definitely worth including in the guide.

Nyungwe for independent backpackers

Matthias de Beenhouwer writes:
I have recently returned from a 3 day trip to Nyungwe with 5 friends. I want to recommend it as a perfect budget location for independent travelers.
We went at the end of june and I was supprised by the ease of accessing the park, and getting around, with public transport. Therefore, independent travelers should not at all be afraid to go there with public transport (at least not after the rainy season). We first took a bus around noon from Huye (Butare) to Gisakura which goes to Rusizi (we had to pay full price, 4000 rwf, though this would not be the case if you find a minibus). There are several bus companies like Sotra tours who drive every hour before noon and about every two hours after noon. It isn’t so hard to find empty seats on every bus, so if you travel with few people there seems no need to reserve in advance. The Gisakura Tea Estate Guesthouse has closed down, what leaves the Gisakura guesthouse the only site on the western boundary of the forest to put your tent. This is no fantastic option because they charge 10.000 rwf per person (if you bring your own tent), there is no view, you are not allowed to walk to the nearest forest patches (because that’s where they do the colobus tracking) AND you are not allowed to put up more than 2 tents. So one tent for 10 persons is just fine but don’t try with 3 tents of 2 persons each… There is another option for campers, however, in Buhinga, which is a 3 kilometers further away from (to the west of) the park. There should be a more cheap community campsite with plenty of space for tents although I have no further details on that.
We did the waterfall trail from Gisakura, which is very nice. If you are interested in monkeys and birds, it is recommended to stress to the guides that you want to take your time in the forest. It was not possible for them to leave before 9 am so by taking it very slowly you will exit the park only around 4 to 5 pm, ideal for forest birds, squirrels and monkeys (we saw grey cheeked mangabey, angola colobus, dent’s mona and blue (subsp. Dogetti) monkey). This was all without monkey tracking, just by taking your time once inside the forest.
Next day we left early to Uwinka and it was rather easy to find a lift to get there (even with 6 people + bags). In Uwinka we again first convinced the park staff to combine trails but as we wanted to get to Kitabi in the evening they stressed to stop the walk early enough. So by 3 pm we were at the roadsite and immediately found another lift to Kitabi. There we stayed at the campsite of the Friends of Nyungwe, which I would definitely recommend. The staff is incredibly nice (especially mr. Rick), there is a superb view over the forest + tea plantations and it is much more cheap (5$ p.p.) than Gisakura or Uwinka. Food can be arranged for you if you call them in advance. Next morning it was again very easy to find public transport to Huye so the forest seems very accessible without private vehicule and even without reservation of public transport (except of course if you just payed 100$ for early morning chimp tracking).
One more thing, the forest walks are indeed not cheap but if you discuss with the guides than you can do a nice full day walk making the price really worth it. Plus, by buying a permit for several days, the price goes down.
Contact for Friends of Nyungwe (coordinator: Jeanbaptiste 0788845941/0725681010, community tour guide: Rick 0783233579/0722233579)