A guide to visiting Rwanda as the East African country re-opens for tourism

Samira Banat
Sep 3, 2020

From staying in a mountain-sanctuary hotel to kayaking across the Kivu coast, here’s what we’re looking forward to about visiting Rwanda as the borders reopen

We are unquestionably avid supporters of luxury resorts, who wouldn’t be? But we often find ourselves struggling to pick the ultimate destination for indulgence.

In accordance with the Government of Rwanda’s decision to lift the travel restrictions on the Republic of Rwanda, scheduled commercial flights are now operating to the Great Rift Valley country.

As of September 1, many hotels and resorts will reopen, ready to welcome guests from near or far who are able to travel. From the Gorilla-sanctuary hotel to discovering the process of coffee-washing on a picturesque shore, here’s what’s on our travel to-do list.

Spend a night at the One & Only Gorilla’s Nest resort

Stepping out of the bedroom and into the jungle. Image|Supplied

Situated in the green of the foothills of the Virunga volcano range in Kinigi, northwest of Rwanda, the One & Only Gorilla’s Nest marries adventure in the rainforest and ultimate resort-luxury.

Just five minutes away from the Volcanoes National Park, home to the highest number of mountain gorillas and five dormant volcanoes, guests are just a short walk away from a once-in-a-lifetime, personal encounter with the rare and majestic mountain gorillas wandering free in their natural habitat.

The opportunity to immerse yourself in an unforgettable African experience greets you upon arrival at the Kigali International Airport. Choose to absorb views of the flora-lush countryside and the towns residing in the valleys on a two and a half-hour drive, or buckle up for a 25-minute scenic helicopter flight to then step directly onto the resort’s private helipad. Talk about an extravagant welcome.

Visit Jack Hanna’s Cottage

If an ordinary itinerary isn’t convincing enough, how does a cottage hosting regular talks from local conservation experts, cooking classes and whisky experiences sound? Once owned by the celebrated conservationist, the stories preserved within the walls of Jack Hanna’s Cottage guide you on a remarkable journey to learn more about the famous ape-citizens and the conservation work to protect them. To reflect on your newfound knowledge, take to the games room, or tuck into the comfort of the ‘snug’ to watch films before bed.

Hike the volcanoes

An image straight out of the Jurassic Park franchise.

For a unique twist on the conventional trekking in a mountainous landscape, guest’s of the One & Only Gorilla’s Nest resort have access to booking a personalized experience catered to the physical strength of each individual.

If you’re more keen on the free-spirited, ‘see how it goes’ attitude, head towards the Parc National de Volcans (Volcanoes National Park), a rainforest and bamboo forest paradise where conservation, culture and love for adventure meet. This corner in northwestern Rwanda is only a two hour drive from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Home to five green giants and the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, this ultimate destination offers the chance to climb to Mount Bisoke’s impressive crater lake, embark on a two day trek to the 4507 m summit of Mount Karisimbi, Rwanda’s highest point and Africa’s 5th highest mountain, or of course, go on a hiking date with the gorillas.

Go on a safari

Only two hours from the capital by car, the Akagera National Park, named after the River Kagera, belongs to a world of savannah, papyrus swamps, small lakes and rolling hills. Enjoying the diverse landscape are lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros and buffalo. Taking to the skies are species of bird unique to the region, which helped the park gain recognition as one of the country’s best bird-watching spots. Relish in the first-class game drives in search of the Big Five and boat safaris among hippopotamus and nile crocodiles inhabiting the lakes.

Discover the culture at the Ethnographic Museum of Rwanda

The homes of Rwandan history.

Located in the country’s intellectual and cultural capital, Butare, the National Museum houses the finest ethnographic collection in East Africa. Displayed across seven galleries are historical, ethnographic, artistic and archaeological artifacts accompanied by visual aids to take plunge into the depths of Rwandan culture.

Coffee Washing

Coffee plantations by the shore.

Have you ever come across the label on your coffee that says “washed”, and wondered what it means? Washed coffee is said to create a much brighter and cleaner bean with a more enhanced flavour. Learn all about the process and find out if that’s true at the Kinunu Coffee Washing Station near the lakeside town of Gisenyi.

Kayaking in Lake Kivu

Traditional boating in Lake Kivu, Rwanda.

On the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes, and is in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. Glide across the still waters of the Kivu coast as your kayak transports you into another dimension, where the colours of the landscape envelop you from above, below and all around.

Watch Intore Dancing

Colourful Intore dancers against Rwanda’s breathtaking landscape.

Present at the core of wedding traditions and major events, this artistic performance unique to Rwanda blends complex choreography and graceful execution. Intore means dance of the heroes, and engaging in its gestures requires being a skilled professional.

Stay in a treehouse hotel

The chance to experience Rwandan culture with a luxurious and eco-sensitive twist can be found at the Wilderness Safari’s Bisate Lodge. Hidden in the eroded volcanic landscape, the spherical, thatched structures of the private treehouses mimic the Rwandan landscape, while the woven interiors mimic Rwandan culture. Here’s another great spot to soak in the unforgettable views of the green valley and the gorilla groups in the nearby Volcanoes National Park.

In need of a travel guide for countries reopening next year? Check out our Bali to-do list to get your plans sorted in advance.