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Take Me To 09.10.2020

Trekking with the Gorillas of Rwanda

Intro Stay Highlights itinerary

Rwanda is a country famous for its gorillas, but its history makes it the epitome of a country that found light despite the darkness. The country embraces its challenging past by implementing unconventional methods to reset as a unified nation. The Rwandan people yield a story where love comes first so if you are indeed looking for “heaven on earth,” then search no further than Rwanda, their philosophy you ask? Love thy neighbor.

It’s important to note that the smallest country in East Africa is also one of its most progressive and fastest-growing. Rwanda’s efforts for the past couple of decades to rewrite its narrative shouldn’t be taken lightly. The government implemented policies over the years to ensure there is a high literacy rate among the population; Rwanda also has one of the highest rates of gender equality in the world, with a parliament that consists of 60% women. On the conservations front, it champions the conservation efforts of the endangered mountain gorillas by banning all oil extraction.  And finally, a true testament to its commitment to wildlife rehabilitation, Rwanda is the only place in the world where you can see the Big Five in addition to the famed gorillas.

From the mountainside to the city, Rwanda offers a multitude of experiences imaginable that is available year-round. A chopper ride over five adjacent volcanoes, home to the largest population of the last remaining wild gorillas in the world; Hovering high above the lushest mountains across the sparkling freckled lakes in the middle of Magashi National Park; and, finally ending your adventure at the peaceful and sophisticated city of Kigali, where you can find a vibrant nightlife and art scene, not to mention some of the best coffee on earth.  In Rwanda, we find that heaven is truly a place on earth.

foreword by Miami-based SmartFlyer agent, Kyle Seltzer.

Weather in Rwanda

Rwanda has a tropical highland climate, albeit also with plenty of rain. Temperatures vary between locations depending on their altitude, but very little from month to month in the same place. In the capital, Kigali, the average daily temperature is about 70°F.

What to Pack

For all outdoor activities, we recommend suitable outdoor clothing, appropriate to the season and weather, particularly covered or closed shoes for the hike and bird watching. A hat, sun protection, and a waterproof jacket are strongly recommended.

Time Zone

The time zone in Rwanda is set two hours ahead of GMT (GMT +2). The sunrise is usually between 5:30am and 6.00am and sunset is 5.30pm and 6.00pm.

Pair It With

Kenya or Tanzania

Stay

From the city to the mountainside

One&Only Nyungwe House

Alongside the ancient rainforest, within the lush green expanse of a working tea plantation, One&Only Nyungwe House offers an exclusive window to Africa’s fascinating wildlife and culture. Immersed in wild beauty surrounded by awe-inspiring jungle views, every element of the resort has been carefully considered with inspired farm-to-table dining, spa and wellness offerings that embrace nature and local traditions, and curated, authentic experiences to discover.

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The Retreat by Heaven

Explore the bustling and sophisticated city of Kigali during the day and come home to The Retreat, Kigali's first luxury boutique hotel created by the American owners of Heaven, designed by Italian architects, brought to life by an extraordinary team of Rwandan builders and technicians. The 12-room five-star boutique hotel is Kigali’s first entirely eco-friendly solar-powered resort.

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One&Only Gorilla's Nest

Cushioned in the foothills of the breathtaking Virunga Volcanoes mountain range, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest makes the magical possible as you enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime, personal encounter with the rare and majestic mountain gorilla, roaming free in its own natural habitat. You will be captivated as exotic and colorful birds, and one of the planet’s greatest array of primate species flourish before your eyes and welcome you into their world. Retreat to a spectacular modern haven, where every creature comfort is yours to behold

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Highlights

  • Experience the rainforest on the famous Canopy Walk Day 1
  • Spend the morning with East Africa's last intact chimpanzee populations Day 2
  • A visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Day 4
  • A visit to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International Day 5
  • Gorilla Trekking Day 6
  • Trekking to see the Golden Monkeys Day 7

ItineraryItinerary

1 Gisakura, Western Province
Arrival into Rwanda

Upon arrival into Kamembe, you’ll be met by your driver and guide to take you to One&Only Nyungwe House, a scenic 50-minute drive from the city center going through weaving hills and tea plantations. Located in Southwest Rwanda, just south of Lake Kivu on the Burundi border, One&Only Nyungwe House is set amongst the rich tea-plantations of Gisakura, on the edge of the iconic Nyungwe National Park. The park itself covers approximately 1020 km² of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps, and bogs, and is one of the last mountain rainforest habitats on the planet.

Start your stay by settling into your suite in the midst of the tea plantation with the backdrop of Rwanda’s hilly mountaintop, from here it’s easy to see why the country is known as Land of a Thousand Hills.  Take your time and enjoy a leisurely lunch at the Dining Room, Executive Chef Treasure Makwanise and his team of chefs’ curate every menu daily, based on your preferences and the best of the season’s ingredients. Savor the natural flavors of Rwanda prepared with rustic tradition and served with contemporary flair in the comfortable restaurant with idyllic plantation views.

After a leisurely lunch, we’ll take you to experience the rainforest from a dazzling new perspective – on the famous Canopy Walk. The only walkway of its kind in East Africa, this breathtaking construction hangs 75 meters above the forest floor between giant trees and towers, revealing a stunning view of the flora and fauna, both below and above. An iconic experience, not to be missed. Suggested Dress Code: hiking boots and rainproof outdoor clothing (appropriate to the season and weather). Close the day with an early dinner by Chef Treasure, and get ready for your first full day in Rwanda tomorrow.

2 Gisakura, Western Province
Chimpanzee Trek

The mornings here start before the sunrise, meet at the main lodge for your transfer to Cyamudongo for Chimpanzee Trek. Dashing at high speed through the flora, hooting, and clanging – it truly is an exhilarating experience to encounter chimpanzees playing, wild, and free. Home to one of East Africa’s last intact chimpanzee populations, Nyungwe is an ideal place in the early morning to observe chimps in their natural habitat. Allow experienced, expert trackers to guide you on a deep forest trail, learning about these fascinating creatures and the enchanting forest they call home. Suggested Dress Code: hiking boots and rainproof outdoor clothing.

After lunch, head to the resort’s Jungle Spa, cocooned in the heart of a working tea farm, the intimate spa features two treatment rooms and reflects the best aspects of Nyungwe Forest’s irrepressible beauty. An expansive deck leads off from the welcoming entrance, connecting you to the uplifting surroundings. Enjoy the rest of your day at leisure, or partake in a tea tasting experience and sip black tea grown in the local area of Gisakura while learning about the process of growing and processing African tea leaves with a beautiful visual presentation.

To wrap up your stay here, be sure to experience a traditional African BBQ at the Boma, the perfect setting to gather and catch up on the day’s activities, accompanied by the sounds of vibrant musical entertainment performed by a local cooperative while you savor freshly grilled meats, local fish and vegetables from the Chef’s Garden under the stars.

3 Kigali, Rwanda
Kigali City

This morning, say goodbye to the One&Only Nyungwe House and board your flight to Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. This vibrant and sophisticated city sprawls across hills, ridges, and valleys. With a lively dining and nightlife scene, a thriving art world, and some of the best coffee money can buy, Kigali easily holds its own against any international city in the world.

Upon arrival in Kigali, you’ll notice right away that the city is incredibly clean and organized, a quick comparison to Singapore comes to mind. Here, plastic bags have been outlawed for a number of years now, in fact, you can’t even leave your plane with it in tow.  But, the thing that’s been credited with keeping the country clean and organized is ‘Umuganda,’ or community service.  Umuganda practiced on the last Saturday morning of every month, for three hours at least one person between the ages of 18 and 65 in every Rwandan household must get outside and clean, fix or do maintenance work. Not only this is a coordinated effort, but the practice is also seen as a social gathering, instilling a sense of ownership in every single citizen.

Explore the bustling and sophisticated city of Kigali during the day and come home to The Retreat, Kigali’s first luxury boutique hotel created by the American owners of Heaven, designed by Italian architects, brought to life by an extraordinary team of Rwandan builders and technicians. The 12-room five-star boutique hotel is Kigali’s first entirely eco-friendly solar-powered resort.

4 Kigali, Rwanda
Understanding Rwandan History

If this is your first time visiting Rwanda or Kigali, a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial is not only historically significant but a must when it comes to understanding Rwanda as a country and its complicated history.

In collaboration with Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide, the Aegis Trust raised $2 million to build the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The memorial was opened in 2004 to mark the tenth commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. It is the final resting place for up to 259,000 victims of the genocide and serves as a place where people can grieve for their lost loved ones and remember them. It also serves as a museum where both local and international visitors can learn about the history, implementation, and consequences of the genocide.  The memorial also runs a number of education programs, both onsite and in communities across Rwanda with a mission to prevent mass atrocities from ever occurring again in their communities.

Departing Kigali this afternoon, weather dependent, your journey to the One&Only Gorilla’s Nest could be accomplished by car (2 hours and 40 minutes) or helicopter (30-40 minutes).

5 Virunga Volcanoes Range
Understanding the Gorillas

Cushioned in the foothills of the breathtaking Virunga Volcanoes mountain range, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest makes the magical possible as you enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime, personal encounter with the rare and majestic mountain gorilla, roaming free in its own natural habitat. You will be captivated as exotic and colorful birds, and one of the planet’s greatest array of primate species flourish before your eyes and welcome you into their world. Retreat to a spectacular modern haven, where every creature comfort is yours to behold.

Pay a visit to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International in Musanze, the largest and longest-running organization fully dedicated to gorilla conservation. The organization’s mission is to protect gorilla families, study how they live, and teach future scientists and local communities to do the same. Here you can learn about their efforts as well as the life of Dian Fossey, a world-renowned scientist and the founder of the Karisoke™ Research Center in Rwanda’s Virunga mountains to protect and study the endangered mountain gorillas, Dian ultimately gave her life to the protection of gorillas.

A pre-requirement for gorilla trekking is a meeting with a Gorilla Doctor or conservation experts, these Doctors are dedicated to conserving wild mountain and eastern lowland (or Grauer’s) gorillas through life-saving veterinary medicine and a One Health approach. The international team of veterinarians is the only group providing these critically endangered animals with direct, hands-on care in the wild. You will learn about what to expect during your trek, the proper gear to wear, and the terrain that you might be assigned to.

6 Virunga Volcanoes Range
Gorilla Trekking Day

Meet at the Main Lodge for transfer to Volcanoes National Park headquarters for Gorilla Trek briefing at 6:30 am. You will then be transferred to the starting point of your guided trek, ready to begin this amazing adventure at 8 am.

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is often described as “life-changing” and with good reason. With only an estimated 880 Gorillas left in the world, to see these gentle creatures in their natural habitat are a truly unique moment. Hikes in the mountains can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours+ depending on the family allocated to your group and their location. The journey back can take just as long, but you are often carried along by the euphoria you feel after seeing the gorillas,

The largest gorilla group ever studied is in Rwanda and was led by Cantsbee. He was the oldest known mountain gorilla in the world. A gorilla family is led by a Silverback and includes several younger males, adult, and juvenile females, and infants. In addition to providing protection to group members, Silverbacks maintain order and decide all activities within their troop. They schedule feeding trips, resting time, and travel. They also father the majority of young in the group.

After a most memorable experience encountering these creatures, you will return to the resort for lunch. The afternoon is at your leisure, with an array of captivating activities on offer, should you wish to keep discovering.

7 Virunga Volcanoes Range
Meet the Golden Monkeys

Your last early morning wake-up call in Rwanda sets you up for a full day of discovery. You’ll journey to the park headquarters for the Golden Monkey trek briefing at 6:30 am, before being taken to the head of the trail, ready for your guided walk at 8 am.

Trekking to see the Golden Monkeys is an absolute highlight of Volcanoes National Park. The Golden Monkey (Cercopithecus Mitis Kandti) is a local subspecies of the widespread Sykes Monkey, also known as the ‘Blue Monkey’, and is endemic to the high altitude forests. The monkeys are playful and inquisitive and often spend their time leaping from bamboo branches or frolicking on the forest floor. There are two habituated groups of Golden Monkey, one group comprises around 80 – 100 members, with its home at the foot of Mount Sabyinyo.

The trekking process usually takes around 4 hours, and once you come to the habituated monkey families, you’ll spend a fascinating hour with them as they go about their daily life.

8 Virunga Volcanoes Range
Departure Day

Your adventure in Rwanda is coming to an end. Departing to Kigali this afternoon, weather dependent, your journey from the One&Only Gorilla’s Nest could be accomplished by car (2 hours and 40 minutes) or helicopter (30-40 minutes). You’ll fly directly to Kigali International Airport where you’ll catch your flight back home.

For even more Rwanda inspo, watch a complete video here.

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