Verdant Rwandan countryside (Andries3)
Article Words : Philip Briggs | 14 February

Rwanda: back on the radar

Planning a trip to Rwanda? Here are our must-see places for the trip of a lifetime...

Accepted into the Commonwealth at the end of 2009, Rwanda is unequivocably back on the travel map. “When I first visited in 2000 it was visibly scarred,” says Bradt guidebook author Philip Briggs.

“Today, while the 1994 genocide still looms large in the national consciousness, Rwanda is remarkable for the progress it’s made along the road to normalisation. It is now among the most economically buoyant and politically enlightened of African countries, as well as a superb ecotourism destination.”

And it’s not just gorillas: here are Philip’s top Rwandan experiences:

Gisenyi

“An al fresco night out in the largest of Rwanda’s Lake Kivu ports: poolside aperitifs in the lush Serena Lake Kivu Resort, fresh grilled tilapia on the deck of the lakeshore White Rock Restaurant, then around the corner to the Crescendo Bar for a last chilled beer below the swaying palms.”

Volcanoes National Park

“My first encounter with gorillas: the 40-odd strong Susa Group, a confusion of tumbling infants, elder siblings comically inept at climbing, an adult female reaching over my shoulder for a juicy bamboo shoot, the deep brown eyes of a gentle giant silverback… unforgettable!”

Kigali

“Lunch at Nyamirambo Women’s Centre – a full-on cultural experience, shopping for bananas, chillies and other fresh produce in the market, pounding the cassava to a pulp, lighting a traditional stove in the courtyard, then, finally, a nutritious and filling meal to be shared and eaten by hand.”

Akagera National Park

“Plenty of hippos, elephants and buffaloes on view here, and its vast network of marshes and channels has long been whispered to harbour the charismatically oddball shoebill – a rumour I confirmed in early 2009 when a solitary adult emerged before me on the opposite shore of Lake Birengero.”

Intore dancers

“I watched, entranced, a virtuoso performance of whirling ebullience by local villagers in a field adjacent to the hilltop Virunga Lodge, a breathtaking natural arena with the volcanic peaks of the Virungas soaring to the north-west and curvaceous Lake Burera glistening below.”

Nyungwe Forest

“The sheer scale of this 1,000 sq km forest was unexpected, as was the epic mountain scenery from the road – in stirring contrast to the intimacy of the dank forest interior, home to curious colobus, psychedelic turkey-sized turacos and fern-fringed waterfalls.”