, , ,

Why Your Next Road Trip Should Be Through Western Rwanda

A week ago I did a grand tour of western Rwanda that I would rather term as a green belt.

Beyond Nyabihu there’s nothing but volcanic fields, green tea field and  luxury resorts.

For the past decade, travel to western Rwanda has meant sleeping in an unremarkable  hotels and day-tripping to the golden Gisenyi currently called Rubavu, that 130-km circuit of green waves and rolling hills outside of town, and then capping your trip with a pre-departure soak in the lush vegetation in Gishwati forest before heading to golden lake views of all times. All done along-side everyone else stopping over between the Rubavu and Karongi. But newly opened luxury-design lodges 3B Hotels who own Kivu lodge, on the lake—are restoring the fantasy of a Rwandan lunar frontier worthy of exploration beyond a weekend.

 

Kivu Lodge.

Kivu Lodge in Western Rwanda. Part of the 3B Hotels Group.

You could helicopter between their properties between Kigali, Musanze, Karongi and the soon to be opened close to Akagera National park in the east of Rwanda, but consider going by car, driving from Kigali to Musanze on Gorilla safari lodge up to the Rubavu peninsula via the more rugged north, then looping back down to the Blue lake Kivu.  If you spread out the 227-mile drive over four or five days, spending a night or two at each hotel, you’ll have time to take in the haunting volcanic fields and vast plains reminiscent of Rwanda. Out here, you’ll see more hills, vegetation, mind blowing views than people.

GISHWATI TEA FIELDS AND FOREST

Gishwati Tea fields are so amazing for both camping close and tour onlookers

Volcanoes close to Gorilla Safari Lodge where you can start off your journey to the western green belt

Once you land, you don’t have to drive too far to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. The concrete-and-green adventure is just 1 and 20 minutes from Musanze but seems a world away. Close to is Gishwati forest.  It has an outdoor hot activity for some of you who love birding life, that looks out onto massive green tea covered fields.

There is no artificial light and no noise of any kind (you will only hear bird chirp, since just there are so many trees). The other break from the silence is the gentle hiss of wind waves coming from the upper hills rolling down the valleys. It’s particularly spectacular during a soak of the afternoon, in the fading western sunlight (and even more surreal when you consider sleeping in Musanze at Gorillas Safari lodge and wake up on a mega breakfast to give you energy of stretching your eye lenses to grasp the endless fable mountains).

Luxurious 3B Hotels group restaurants.

From here, continue west to Karongi via Rubengera on the famous Congo Nile trail. Route 1 cuts through mile after mile of sharp bends and hills, but the only traffic you’ll encounter is packs of eucalyptus galloping next to your car sliding backwards. The drive to Kivu lodge Farm is nearly 2 hours, so plan to stop stare, stop, stare and stop to stare at the glamorous west. Packed snack and water is advisable as you will not find much stop centres where you can buy a trusted snack

CONGO NILE TRAIL

Part of the snake soft roads that make up the Congo Nile Trail in Western Rwanda

The 227 Kms long distance has been known as the best product so far to me Rwanda development board has ever developed, for the country that’s yearning for After Gorilla experience packages. I guess this forms part of your experience as you traverse via the western green belt in Rwanda. Here you need to plan for 5 days or so if you are to cycle around. Each stopover will usher you into another one. I did not get a chance to camp or stop a lot but managed to have a brief glance of Mugonero base camp that happens to be close to Kivu lodge where I was staying.

Warning !!!

Please do not forget to pack your camera, summer like wear as the place looks more like Hawaii and those other places you see in movies and celebrity shows. Stop take a photo and you will thank me later

In the next episode I will tell you life on water with Iliza boat courtesy of iliza expeditions.

IliZA House Boat owned by Iliza expeditions. Wait for the Iliza story next.

, , , , , ,

5 Days with Darius’ Trip to Iliza in Rwanda. Heaven on the Lake!!! Cont….

Iliza House Boat on the docking station at night

Its day four of my 5 Days with Darius’ Trip to Iliza in Rwanda. Heaven on the Lake!!! trip. Well, am finally obsessed by Kibuye archipelago and don’t feel like leaving. Even if it were you, I guess you would be the one doing this testimony. From the food to the enchanting water waves around Iliza, it becomes a police case to leave this nature’s hidden paradise.

I and my twins decide to go on an early morning sail on the lake and have a photo shoot in one of Lake Kivu’s islands and maybe enjoy nature, sunsets and the awe of the rolling hills of Kibuye and Eastern DRC I can’t deny the fact that Rwanda is blessed with such unique tourist destination.

Ngabo Darius Neumann and Ntwali Darius Young on Iliza. Dressed by Top Kids Kigali Store

Few meters from the docking site we landed on the first island that is more and best fit for honeymooners who want to pop the big question from the middle of nowhere. Ever travelled alone and you reach on some place then wonder why you didn’t tag someone along? I guess you understand what am meaning here. Never mind, its language for adults. But to be honest if you are an adult then get it from me and you will thank me later.

Some of the beautiful Islands where you can pop the question.

I mean its paradise for everyone. Even my twins reached there and connected to the world as I meditated watching over them. The island is safe for camping according to Captain Alphonse who doubles as my guide. “Many people come with tents and their food, they camp here for weeks and we keep moving them around touring” Says Alphonse.

 

The same was echoed by Aimable who is the manager for Iliza expeditions of which Iliza boat is part of. We have never gotten any single accident while on the island or on the boat. Safety of our clients is the key. Says Aimable. Meanwhile I came to learn that they actually don’t offer the boat experience but rather many other tour packages that include a 14 days itinerary for touring along Lake Kivu towards Democratic Republic of Congo.

You can Tour on Iliza boat even close to DRC boarder across Lake Kivu

Leaving Lake Kivu without enjoying the sundowners is as dangerous as touching the Leopard’s anus. I mean you would rather face a den of lions than leaving Kibuye without sailing in the evening. Since we were leaving the next day I could not risk sealing my Iliza boat experience with a sundowner. I know most of you are now imagining how you can get drunk on a boat rooftop bar while on water. Yes you are right I also had the same feeling until I found out its even safer to drink from the boat than an urban 4 storied bar. It’s even cleaner as you breathe fresh. It’s actually safer to sail on the boat than driving along Africa’s highways.

Darius enjoying sundowners on Iliza House boat

Kibuye ghost keeps haunting me to go back. Yes I just said so. You will want to pack your bags and go have a taste of this. It’s no longer a secret by the way! See you in the next destination

Ngabo Darius Neuman- Planner and Ntwali Darius Young- Social Affairs, enjoying the Bilharzia free lake Kivu with Darius Dos Santos – Implementer

Please note that all views expressed in this blog are my own and from my experience. They not the views of my sponsors or my partners. Images maybe subject to copyright. #twdtvshow.

Feel free to share this and follow us on social media for more insights of Darius travel experience.

,

20 Hygiene Must Pack Hygiene Products You May Need to Make Your Trip Successful Whether on Budget Safari or Luxury

Most of the times, there are certain things we take for granted. Recently I slept in a luxury hotel and time came to move. I didn’t have time to go and pass by the shopping mall and so the only option was to pack some of the things this hotel had put in my room for me to use. My friend laughed at me and you could be laughing at me too or wondering why I did that. Well our trip was almost 300 miles away. We woke up early and took our breakfast. You know these luxury Hotels Breakfast tables have a lot and its like everything is calling you “eat me please” So we packed our stomachs to the fullest and packed more for the trip aside. Guess what!! As we got somewhere a nature was calling and I needed to visit the toilet.  We borrowed that private behind room from the roadside local residence. These are toilets where they dig a hole and put strong trees on top of the whole leaving one small whole where you will pass all your shit from while squatting. Some are roofed others not depending on the household income but mine wasn’t roofed at all.

If you have ever pulled over to a far distance maybe with children or adults and nature calls and you start looking around for even an eucalyptus tree branches to help you and nothing can save you then all of a sudden you land on an old receipt in your bag or pocket then you will understand what am talking about. There are many things we rarely take into consideration. One of them is soft tissues or commonly known as Toilet papers while you are travelling.

From my experience as male traveler, in terms of hygiene there are key priority things I put on the list. Of course am not going to include women must carry things here although most of them are universal.  These are things you must pack in a different water proof bag since most of them need to be protected from weather effects of sunshine and rain. These 20 items will keep you going smoothly in any corner of the world and you will be a hygienic traveler. I will not talk about anything you have to wear as of now, maybe in my next article.

1. Sanitizers
These I came to learn about them when I was a guide back in the years. In Africa just like any other part of the world, the culture of greeting using handshakes is quiet unavoidable. Am not going to mention that some people scratch anywhere anytime or any part of their body…Did I say that? Never Mind but as you meet a food vendor you will just not remember to wash your hands. That’s where Sanitizers are handy. Most of them kill 99% of bacteria and you can just wash your hands without using soap and water.

2. Soft Tissues
This is another thing. As I had earlier mentioned this soft tissue or commonly called Toilet par is handy when nature calls and you have to visit what we have always called “back office” There are many brands on the Market but as for me I have always used “CLEAR” brand from Trust industries

3. Hand wash
This is liquid soap like but basically made for hands. Unlike sanitizes this works with water but can eliminate up to 90% of germs that cause diseases. The most common one is from Movit products Ltd in Uganda and Trust Industries Ltd Rwanda. It’s well formulated in a way that is soft on the skin and hands.

4. Facial tissues
These are sometimes called facial wipes. Some are wet with cleansing fluids or even spirit to kill germs and bacteria. But depending on one’s skin you can choose anything you are comfortable with. I recommend dry ones from Trust Industries LTD also with the “CLEAR” brand on it.

5. Mouth Wash. This is another handy product especially if you have mouth infections and small injuries. This helps you to cure that with the fastest spread. I love eating raw fruits especially sugarcane and get small injuries on the tongue and mouth walls. I recommend one without alcohol mixture in it. Please note that it doesn’t cure big cuts. If you get kindly visit a health facility nearby or consult your doctor.

6. Shower gel or anti bacterial Soap or water cleansing tablets
Water purifiers are more important than anything else. You may be travelling and you find there is no nearby shop to buy clean water to drink or even wash your hands. Am suing CLEAR brand made by Trust Industries Rwanda You wanna try it?

7. Hair Shampoo
Okay, to be honest I have a bald head. But to be honest its not all bald. Of course I have hair left. Dirtiness and maybe fun on the beach will never leave you hair the same as it is. So you will need to wash it thoroughly well for relaxation and softness of the hair. I normally carry my hair shampoo. Currently am using Movit hair shampoo which is available everywhere

8. Hair Drier
Of course after washing your hair you will suddenly need to keep it dry and most luxurious hotels or even mid luxury have this service. But wait I did not say they are not available but I said just in case you don’t find them. I have traveled to many mid luxury reports in Africa and only few of them had this. Others would charge for this service. So the most cost effective way is to carry your own and be at peace without necessarily moving out of your comfort zone or paying an extra dollar after the hefty room bill.

9. Shavers, Scissors and Razor blades
Apart from this being useful to keep your hair short where you don’t have time for saloon or where there is no saloon, its even essential to carry them because they are first aid kits. Besides these days there are many rechargeable kits all over the shopping malls.

10. After shave powder and lotions foam
This is very key because bodies react differently after shaving. You will need to apply this to avoid any possible pimples and rush that may develop. I have personally used Gillette brand for after shavers.

11. Body lotions, sun lotions and mouth washing liquid
Travelling to anew weather area can be tricky. Some areas have scorching sun yet others have too much humidity while others are freezing. Basically if you are a fan of water games like white water rafting we did recently at Adrift Uganda please don’t leave your sun and body lotions behind. Mouth was is the same because it protects your mouth from any infections. I swallowed around 5 liters of water at Adrift Uganda white water rafting adventure because of little experience in swimming and so was my co-host Daphine

12. Perfume
I am a man of good smell or scents. Of course I can’t rule out the fact that some people are allergic to some strong scents. So please be cautious of the brand you chose depending on where you want to go and who you want to go with. Personally I have a range of them but if am travelling alone I can use any strong one.

13. Insect repellent
I remember one day when we made a very long trip across Uganda with my friend and customer Mark Metternich in early 2017. Mark is is the CEO of Mark Metternich Photography. Everything was moving well but one small poisonous insect spoilt his mood that was a wasp. It’s a very small insect but the pain you carry after it pushes its sting in your flesh, I would rather carry an elephant and it’s understandable. Of course as a guide when you client isn’t that happy, you are not sure whether your tip will come or maybe listen to what you are telling him. That brings bad memories. But well for Mark he had a lot of humor and that came to pass easily and we were back to our moods. Don’t forget this because many other disease causing insects like flies and mosquitoes are common. You can get many of these in a local pharmacy. The good ones are liquids or sprayers you can use on your body or tent or even your clothes.

14. Sun Glasses
They help you on dusty roads and sometimes weather in some countries the sun is too bright. To most of us its even fashionable.

15. Cigarette bag that is separate if you smoke
Personally I don’t smoke but if you do most national parks and hotels have no smoking areas.

16. Sponge
Ever been to hotels that don’t provide this and you start looking at your pants? Please carry one.

17. Tooth brush and toothpaste
Some hotels do provide others don’t. Better to carry your own

18. Extra body and facial towel
This will be handy just in case you don’t get good accommodation and you have to camp. Most camping sites don’t provide this service.

19. Toilet cleaner
Ever gone to the toilet after the last person and all your problems are solved at the entrance? Some like CLEAR will even solve it better because they kill germs at the same time provide a nice scent since you deserve comfort everywhere on your trip.

20. Washing powder
Well, well once in a while you will need to wash small items. Dry powder is the best because soap may require another water proof container

,

10 Must Have For a Successful Group Tour in Rwanda, Number 2 & 3 Will Surprise You

Its early morning me and my friends decide to take a road trip from Kigali to Musanze found in northern Rwanda, then to Gisenyi and finally Nyungwe national park found in the western part of the country. Basically from the north to the south and finally settle to the west of the country. To be honest it’s one of the memorable trips we have taken during our recent trips in Rwanda.

7 of us decided to put together the little resources we had and took the road less travelled by many in Rwanda. What do I mean?  Camping, street food, budget food and budget accommodation in case we failed to get where to erect our tents. Let me first put for you the basic needs you need to pack before taking this kind of trip.

7 Seater Land cruiser provided by Amahoro Tours.

7 Seater Land cruiser provided by Amahoro Tours.

 

  1. Most of the trading centers and towns in Rwanda have markets but there is one problem. They sell locally produced foods like veggies and the likes. If you are a person who likes fresh food then don’t pack any because fresh food is available everywhere. But if you like manufactured food, please don’t leave the big towns like Kigali without packing enough. If your intention is to adventure and eat what you like at a minimum budget, this is the way to go.
  2. Cooking Gas. This is a must pack. These days we are lucky to have a variety of choices and different sizes that can fit your car boot or side car mobile store. For us we were lucky to grab one non-explosive cylinder from Safe Gas Rwanda. It’s a 12 Kgs gas cylinder with plastic cover to avoid scratches on your car in case you don’t have its holder and as you hear it its non-explosive meaning safer than the common metallic gas cylinders. Their stores are available everywhere in the country. I know you want to ask me gas for what? Of course we are looking at ways of saving your money on a trip and cook the best dish you want. Isn’t that a sweet thing? This you avoid hefty bills charged by hotels and restaurants and you still go unsatisfied. You can prepare you freekin finger leaking food anywhere anytime. You just stop and set up your kitchen in two minutes and the next five you are eating your food. No waiter, no chef and nor big bills after eating. It’s that simple!!!
  3. Gas stoves and cooking oil. Of course this is a cooking companion like all of you know that. We got one family stove from GLAMSTAR INTERNATIONAL Rwanda office with three stove cooking space and the best side of it is, it has a self ignition. So no need for matchboxes and whatever. Isn’t that a good thing? In the same store we found Mala cooking oil and we got ourselves a 5 liter jerry can. I bet we still have balance from the trip for all our families at home or maybe for the next two trips of the kind.
  4. 7 Seator car. Of course the number matters. You are well conversant that in Rwanda there is no excess passenger just like in any other part of the world. We had this 7 seator Monster from Amahoro Tours, the number one travel company in Rwanda. It has extra space behind for luggage, enough seating area and comfortable seats to make your trip memorable.
  5. Musanze is very cold and so is Nyungwe near Kivu Lake. Temperatures can go for as low as 15`c and some of us who are used to hot areas you can catch up a cold.
  6. Rain coats. These two areas of Rwanda are so surprising. In few minutes it rains and in the next few seconds it’s damn sunny. But most of the times it’s raining or drizzling. If not one of the two then it’s cold cloudy. We got some from Narayan Uniforms store located just after Chezlando round about in Remera on airport road. It’s the best so far we have used.
  7. Hiking shoes. Take this more serious please!!!! 90% this part of Rwanda is hilly and mountainous. Most of the places with fun or good adventure lie between 2,500 ft to 9,000 ft above sea level. All these places are steep and slippery or maybe with sharp volcanic dry lava stones. These we still got from Narayan uniforms store on the same address
  8. Walking stick. This we managed to get one on Rwanda development board offices but in case you are not comfortable with theirs which is locally made wood, then it’s better to carry yours. This will support you on the steep slopes while hiking the volcanoes, and steep hills of western Rwanda. At Gorilla Mountain view hotel in Musanze they are always kind enough to give you one if you request early enough from reception.
  9. Protective gear. These include helmets, gloves and more. We had a plan of visiting Musanze caves and many more jungles that are quiet risky on the body. Bats droppings for example can damage your skin. Bats are found in Musanze caves. You can still get this from Narayan Uniforms store. Good quality and reliable. At RDB reception in Musanze you can as well get some for park guests.
  10. Tents and beddings. Camping is not a common habit among Rwandans. But to be honest its even the most safest country you can go camping in Africa. You will not expect to find your shoes or side mirror of the car missing. You just need to let authorities know that you are around. Late in the evening we would see police and army patrolling the whole place and that would give us an assurance that we are safer. More still there are so many places all over that give you an option of setting up your own tent at an affordable cost. For example in Musanze we slept at Redrocks on a peanut budget. In Nyungwe we camped at Uwinka on the same size budget. Tents are available in many stores in Kigali.
Camping is Available at Red Rocks Rwanda on small budget.

Camping is Available at Red Rocks Rwanda on small budget.

 

I know now you are asking yourself that all this luxury how much did we spend? Well its just USD$960 for this 5 days trip 7 people. Including all everything. Unbelievable!! Isn’t it?

What do you think?

Watch our trip here in this episode – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YHcKkyD1ks

, ,

So What Do You Put On A Family Camping Packing List For An Ordinary Camping In Rwanda

In reality the answer is LOTS of clothes and as little other stuff as possible!  You basically have to pack for a whole fashion house in one weekend or the longer you will stay on the road the more items you will need which means it includes wellies, flip flops, trainers, rain coats and sun hats, but you can’t park your car next to your tent like you can do on an ordinary camping trip so it means carrying everything (sometimes quite a long distance) from the car to the tent!!. On my recent visit to Musanze in Northern Rwanda I met a couple on a road trip camping at Red Rocks Campsite and they taught me a lesson..

Here are some of the lessons I learnt from them:

  • Camping trolley to transport everything to your tent, bedding etc. However depending on the place you are going to, this can be more of a hindrance, particularly if it’s muddy.
  • Large back packs work better for us with clothes in, leaving hands free for other items!
  • Walking and Hiking Shoes – Northern Rwanda is a mountainous place and best place for hiking and all other community walks. Some of the village community walks are muddy so you may need good soled shoes. Others are rocky so you may need good rubber shoes comfortable to walk in the sharp volcanic dry lava stones
  • Trainers – If I can fit them in (and I usually do) I like to take trainers for us all to wear when we get back to the tent and are chilling out.  I hate wearing wellies for longer than I have to and I also detest wearing wet shoes. Extra socks and dry trainers are a luxury for me.
  • Sleeping Bags – worth investing in good quality ones as they pack down small and keep you actually warm.  Musanze has a lot of cold nights and it may be tricky if you land on a very cold night. Some hotels will always give you an extra blanket but then for camping its quiet challenging to rely on their provision
  • Picnic rug – We favour a tent carpet when camping for longer periods of time but a waterproof backed picnic rug is multipurpose for a camping trip as you can take it into the picnic  I still love small and light when am packing.
  • Spare Bag!  – However organised I think I am, I always find myself carrying more things around at every trip, whether it is near or far but I have always found myself with extra luggage. Try an extra small pack pack bag that can save your day.
  • Raincoats for all the family!
  • Sun cream – I’m a black or dark-skinned man as you call it. That means I absorb a lot of sun rays than anyone. One of the things I don’t forget is my sun cream to protect me from the too much sun heat.
  • ID bands with your child’s name and your emergency contact details on them, or you can write your phone number. Children are very funny, they can jump in the neighbourhood while you are away
  • Sun Hats and Sunglasses- I mean you never know.
  • Tent – However don’t let the lack of a tent put you off camping as most camping sites now have ones that are already erected that you can hire for the weekend. If you are going to buy one make sure you buy one for more people than you think, as a tent for 4 is not comfortable for 4 people!
  • Water and Snacks – Once you’ve reached on the site you and you kids will ALWAYS want a drink and will inevitably be be hungry. We take a large box of cereal that they like to eat dry too.
  • Clothes – Basically lots of layers.  They will get mucky, likely to get wet and they will want fresh clothes to change into!
  • Footless Onesies – Thick and warm to put on before bed, but without the feet means they won’t get damp feet.
  • Potty for children if you have – Regardless of the age of your children, I might* have used it myself in the past too.
  • Self inflating sleep mats – much easier to transport than air beds and pretty much as comfortable.
  • Toilet Paper – Essential – enough said.
  • Wet wipes and Hand Sanitiser – Lots. In Africa disease causing germs are many and you will always want to greet people by shaking hands. If you even white its more worse because children touching mzungu-White person.
  • Mini First Aid Kit – Although most camping sites will have this it’s good to have plasters, antiseptic wipes, and aspirin etc with you.