Part 1 finished with us having spent 3 days in Kigali getting around under our own steam Now time to head out of Kigali for the countryside. We had tossed up doing the whole trip independently but decided to go through a tour operator for ease of organisation and to have a set of wheels that I didn't have to drive.
We wanted a smaller, local operator that would tailor what we wanted to do. We found Individual Tours on the Rwanda Tours and Travel Association (www.rttarwanda.org). Right from the start, Aloys was fantastic, helping us fine tune our itinerary, organising accommodation (we wanted a mixture of budget through midrange to high end depending on where we were) and permits. His replies to our questions were always prompt. Our most nervous moment was in transferring a deposit (as we all hear stories of scams in sending money to Africa) but Aloys sent word once the funds had gone through and he sent us scans of the gorilla permits that the deposit was for. [For the record, he uses his father-in-laws' bank in Germany for the deposits as some Australian banks don't do international transfers to Rwanda. Aloys' wife is German]. Anyway, everything went smoothly and Aloys arrived at our Kigali motel to commence the adventure
We headed off to Nyungwe Forest National Park. It was Umuganda Day and we thought we may not have been able to leave until after 11am. However Aloys had organised a permit from the government so he could drive us and we left at 8.00am. We did the Canopy walk at Uwinka before heading to our accommodation at the Gisakura Guest House.
Next day was an early start as we were off chimpanzee trekking. We did the Cyamudongo group, located in the Cyamudongo annexe of Nyungwe forest. Then in the afternoon we hiked the Waterfall trail before heading back for a couple of well earned beers. The following morning we had an easy hike through the tea plantations then into the forest to view Colobus Monkeys before having a lazy afternoon catching up on some reading around the open fireplace.
The next day was spent travelling to Musanze. We had stops along the way at the Murambi Genocide Memorial and the Rukari Ancient History Museum and Royal Residence at Nyanza before arriving at La Palme Hotel in Musanze.
The next three days were spent in Volcanoes National Park with two days of gorilla trekking and a day of golden monkey trekking in the middle. The first day we went to the Hirwa group. Words don't do justice to how amazing the experience is. Yes it is expensive but the moment when you first come across the gorillas in the forest is priceless. Next day was the golden monkeys. This was somewhat anti-climatic after the gorillas. In fairness to them they are interesting without having the WOW factor of the gorillas. And it was a nice hike. In the afternoon, Aloys took us for a drive to Virunga Lodge to see the views of Lakes Burera and Ruhondo. Day 3 was another gorilla trek, this time to the Agashya group. Another fantastic day and it was interesting to see the different behavior of another family group.
The next day we departed Musanze and traveled via Kigali to Akagera National Park, where we spent 2 nights at Ruzizi Tented Lodge, my wife's idea of camping. After checking in, we set off on the first of our game drives with Aloys (his 4WD vehicle is one where the top opens). Next day was more game driving, right up to the north end of the park. We saw hippos, giraffes, zebra, crocs, various antelopes, baboons and buffaloes. Elephants were proving elusive, they seemed to be where other groups went but not where we were. We did have the bonus of coming across a leopard in daylight, who was quite content to sit for 10-15 minutes on the side of the track while we watched.
On our last day at Akagera we went on a boat cruise on Lake Ihema. We then set off on a final game drive as Aloys was determined to find elephants for us. I think he was saving them up till the end as we found a herd of some 20 elephants and then another 5 in a separate group. Fantastic.
We then drove back to the Step Town Motel in Kigali where we ended our travels with Aloys. We can highly recommend Individual Tours. We were able to draw on his experience when planning our trip and everything we asked for was professionally organised and ran smoothly. Aloys is an excellent driver/guide and we thoroughly enjoyed his company.
Back on our own and on to part 3