Rwanda - The beautiful country we can learn from

When the opportunity came up to join MAG Adventures group on an exploration trip to Rwanda, I immediately jumped on it because seeing the mountain gorillas has been top of my list for a while now. Other than that, I did not have many expectations as I didn't know much about the country.

Member of Umubano family

Have you ever landed in an airport, and the minute you stepped off the plane everything felt so raw that you just knew you're going to have a good trip? This is what I felt after we landed in Kigali. Rwanda was truly something else.

For a country like Rwanda to have such a big impact on the conservation of an endangered species like the mountain gorilla, it means they are doing something right. And I was on a mission to know more about the people who think this way.

Member of Umubano family

Rwanda is really beautiful. The landscape there is different from what you stereotypically expect from an African country. Because it's near the equator, the scenery really resembles what you see in places like Bali and Sri Lanka. Needless to say, it's stunning with a beautiful variety of animal species.

Seen at Nyungwe National Park

What was more striking though about Rwanda is its people. This is a country that is recovering from a very recent genocide -- just a bit over 25 years ago -- and it's fresh in people's minds. And given the occurrence of something so ugly, traumatizing and brutal, the country is actually doing well. In fact, Kigali is now considered the safest capital in Africa.

Kigali Market

I won't get political here, as this is a travel post, but what I really respect about Rwandans is that they're not trying to forget, they have forgiven (from what I observed), and the reminder of the genocide is clear and real in their Kigali Genocide Memorial, which is the final resting place of many of its Tutsi victims. It's right there in the middle of the capital: a reminder for its people to never go down that route. It's truly overwhelming. We as human beings forget our humanity at a point in time and end up doing horrible things, and for what really? I really invite you to visit it as we owe it to them to hear and see their story.

In 2019, Rwanda did a 100 days of mourning for the people they lost in the 1994 genocide - KWIBUKA 25. I want to pay tribute to this beautiful country and its beautiful people through this post. And I hope it inspires you to go visit them soon. We see great countries on the verge of collapse just because their people stop trying. This is not the case for Rwanda.

Woman at tea plantation

As I mentioned earlier, I joined this trip that was organized and prepared by MAG Adventures back in February 2019. I really do recommend traveling with them as they've been doing trips like these for many years and the program they select and design is outdoorsy and fun. It's my fourth trip with them.

Since this is not a trip I designed, I can't give you specific recommendations except that visiting the Mountain gorillas is a must as this will be an experience of a lifetime. If this is the only thing you're interested in, you can consider Uganda as well as it's cheaper there. But bear in mind that the money you spend on the ticket to enter the national park, goes to conservation of this endangered species.

Just before our hike to meet the Mountain Gorillas.

Favourite moment #1: Visiting the Mountain Gorillas

We visited Umubano family of 13 members. “Umubano” means: good relations. They’re a family of 13 members, including 4 silverbacks, 2 females, 1 three months old, and 2 kids and 2 blackbacks.

Rwanda has demolished poaching in order to conserve and help increase the Mountain gorilla population. 10% of the National Park entrance money goes to support the community (so they no longer have to poach or sell gorillas in order to survive) and the rest of the money goes to expand the land to provide more space for more families to co-create and increase the population. There’s over 600 🦍 on the Rwandan side. They were critically endangered. Now, there is over 1000 🦍 between Rwanda, Uganda and Congo.

Favourite moment #2: Massage at the hot springs

Another favourite moment of mine was when we took the boat and we visited hot springs. The people there were so fun to talk to. They give you a scrubbing with the mud from the hot springs and some sort of a plant to soothe the skin, then wash your feet with the hot water and finally give you a foot massage. And no, this is not in a fancy spa, it's all of us together enjoying this moment together!

Hot Springs Massage
They loved taking photos, and the lady in the red t-shirt was mute yet always smiling!

Favourite moment #3: Visiting the cultural village

On the way there, I was kind of dreading it thinking this is going to be another cliché experience. It was only our group visiting at that time and honestly, the next one hour was so amazing, the smiles never left our faces. The learning about their culture and habits, seeing samples of how their houses used to be designed, doing a mock-wedding and having the village people come together to throw a wedding ceremony for us from dancing to singing to playing instruments. It was truly amazing. The money spent helps them support the families who live nearby and the conservation of the national park.

Traditional House

Traditional Wedding Ceremony

Here's a list of things to consider doing and places to visit:
  • Canope Hike in Nyungwe Forest National Park
  • Kamiranzovu Waterfalls Hike in Nyungwe Forest National Park
  • Boat ride to get close to Congo Borders and visiting the Hot Springs (which was my second favourite moment after seeing the gorillas - photos will tell you the story)
  • Musanze City Tour
  • Mountain Gorilla Visit & Hike
  • "Mountain Gorilla View" Hotel lunch (Foot Massage & Shoes cleaning as a post-hike treatment and great food)
  • Cultural Village
  • Kigali City Tour
  • Kigali Genocide Memorial (website)
  • Kigali Market "Kimirinko"
  • Volcano / Lake Hike
I loved seeing all the colours in Rwanda. Everywhere you look you see pieces of art, whether it's their artefacts, fruits, beans, bags or simply their clothes. Rwanda, with its colours, its nature and its people, is a country of hope.

Rwandan chess game?
We saw many people, men, women and even children, walking on the sides of the roads for what was obvious to be a lot of miles, carrying very heavy and very big things on their heads.

One important tip, make sure you try their plantain dessert!

Not an appealing photo, but the taste makes up for it!

There were many more favourite moments. The hikes weren't as difficult as I expected and we ended up being in a mesmerising beautiful nature. It was a trip to remember.

View of the Volcano National Park

Thanks Mahdi, Emina, Mohammed and Alex for being great companions.


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