Land of a Thousand Hills: Exploring Rwanda

Land of a Thousand Hills: Exploring Rwanda
In a country known as the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda is becoming increasingly noticed for its environmental policies, gender equality, stable government and breathtaking beauty. Positive internal and international support for infrastructure, education, security and eco-tourism has made it an attractive African destination.The friendly greetings, bustling city and countryside belie reminders of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994.  There are an increasing number of tourists descending upon this beautiful lush land of national parks, mountain gorillas and terraced hillsides. Contrasting styles of traditional mud huts and dress are interspersed among paved roads, modern amenities and comfortable accommodations.

Most hotels in Kigali are reasonably priced with amenities that include breakfast, dining facilities, TV, computers with Internet access and daily room cleaning.
Most hotels in Kigali are reasonably priced with amenities that include breakfast, dining facilities, TV, computers with Internet access and daily room cleaning.

I traveled to Rwanda with my wife and son primarily to work at El Shaddai Center for Orphans. However, we take advantage of the opportunity to explore Kigali, the nation’s capital, and discover a modern city center.

We find an excellent coffee shop with free Internet access named Bourbon Street where we are able to kick back and keep in touch with friends and family back home. Just a block away from the shopping center is uptown Kigali, which offers numerous shops and wares for both locals and tourists.

Our accommodations are within walking distance to most of the city center, as well as some of the best restaurants we have ever visited, bar none.


The Presbyterian Guest House, connected to a Presbyterian Church, is in the middle of other hotels that cater to tourists from every continent and is only a few blocks from the well-known Mille Collines (Hotel Rwanda). Most of the hotels, including the Guest House, are reasonable (about US $50 – $90 per night) and provide breakfast, dining facilities, TV, computers with Internet access and daily room cleaning.

Local Rwandan food is offered at numerous diners and cafes around town, with prices ranging from US $5 to $10 per meal. However, area restaurants also include “foreign fare” such as at Khazana, an exquisite Indian place, Shangh Hai, a Chinese restaurant with great service and food and Sole Luna, an Italian restaurant near the airport.  Expect to spend from US $15 to $30 per person at these establishments.

The Gorilla Nest Lodge is a luxury hotel that blends into the jungle.
The Gorilla Nest Lodge is a luxury hotel that blends into the jungle.

Staying at the Gorilla Nest Lodge in Ruhengeri and visiting the mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park is another highlight of our trip.

It takes about an hour and a half to travel to the lodge in north Rwanda, which is right on the outskirts of the gorilla sanctuary and is one of the most beautiful drives we’ve ever witnessed.

Terraced hillsides, lush green valleys and waterfalls are seen on both sides of the well-paved two-lane road. The Gorilla Nest Lodge is a luxury hotel that blends into the jungle.

Permits to see the gorillas cost US $500 per person, but are worth every minute of the experience. The mountain gorillas in the park have 97 percent of the same DNA as humans and are incredible to behold.

Like human families, they eat, sleep, play and nurture their young.  The money from the permits helps the rangers protect the gorillas, continuing research and assisting the surrounding communities with building schools, health clinics and crafts centers.

Visiting Rwanda requires vaccinations, passports and time, all well worth it. It’s a small country that is packed with adventure, beauty and a rich tradition of welcoming visitors with open arms. “Murakaza neza . . . murisanga.” “Welcome . . . feel at home.”

If You Go

Flights are available via Kenya or Johannesburg, South Africa to Kigali. The national language is Kinyarwanda, although many people also speak English or French. Vaccinations are required.

Money is the Rwandan franc and equals about 550 francs to every US dollar.

Money from the permits to see the mountain gorillas goes toward protecting the gorillas, continued research and assisting surrounding communities.
Money from the permits to see the mountain gorillas goes toward protecting the gorillas, continued research and assisting surrounding communities.

The Rwanda Tourist Board

www.rwandatourism.com

Accommodations

Chez Lando

www.chezlando.com

Presbyterian Guest House

www.africapoint.com

Hotel Gorillas

www.hotelgorillas.com

Hotel Des Mille Collines

www.millecollines.net

Gorilla Nest Lodge

www.rwanda-mountain-gorillas-nest.com

Hotel Muhabura

www.hotelmuhabura.com

Iris Guesthouse

E-mail: iris1@rwanda1.com

Gabriel Constans has written for numerous magazines, newspapers and journals in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.  His latest books are Paging Doctor Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest (Cacoethes Publishing) and The Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales (Cacoethes Publishing).  Visit his web site at www.gogabriel.com. Contributions to the Rwandan Orphans Project can be made at www.rwandanorphansproject.org.

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