Further to our telephone conversation please find attached some comments that I hope you may be able to use in your reviews.
Flame Tree Village is one of the 3B Group of Hotels. Our accommodation was listed as a double room which in actuality is a villa with an open plan lounge with balcony, dining room and kitchen accessed from the entrance. Downstairs is a very large bedroom with doors leading to a small private garden, also a large en-suite bathroom with a large corner bath and separate shower stall. Great service from the friendly staff and a good meal made us appreciate that Rwanda really welcomes visitors.
Our arrival at Nyungwe Forest Lodge was after sunset and to see it with thunder and lightning crashing around the surrounding mountains was spectacular. The lodge itself is very luxurious with a large comfortable lounge, bar area and restaurant. Each area has access to outside seating and dining tables if required. The Lodge lounge is the best place to access the free wi-fi and relax before another excellent dinner and very good and comfortable night’s sleep.
If only we had had time to relax and appreciate all of the Nyungwe Forest Lodge’s facilities – maybe next time.
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge was the second of the 3B Group of Hotels in which we stayed. The lodge benefits from having very extensive grounds offering impressive views from the open areas and well maintained planted areas. The cottages are of a good size and very comfortable. Seating outside allows you to appreciate the great variety of birds that use the gardens. Inside the fireplace will be tended and a fire lit on cooler evenings.
All meals offered were buffet style with some of the meat dishes being finished on a BBQ. Possibly one of the reasons for this style of meal is that the lodge suffered a number of short power failures none of which affected our enjoyment of the location and facilities.
The services offered by the lodge included cleaning your hiking boots on your return from any activity and hot water bottles in your bed on cooler nights. The lounge and reception area is very comfortable and provides access to free wi-fi.
When we had read the itinerary and saw that our first activity was a visit to the Genocide Memorial Centre at Gisozi we found it rather discomforting but the brief film and visual presentation through the museum provides a really moving display of the recent history of Rwanda. The centre also symbolises the starting point for the integrated nation and future development of the country.
The drive to Nyungwe Forest included a stop at the King’s Palace Museum including an opportunity to see the Ankole cattle, such amazing horns. After a good lunch in a fairly large restaurant in Butare we drove to the National Museum and were given a guided tour. We were then lead outside to where the Intore Dancers gave an energetic performance for just five visitors, outstanding.
Chimpanzee tracking is very strenuous requiring a lot of energy. The terrain is such that you will be generally either ascending or descending slopes where there is no actual path. When you can find them the view can be quite restricted as the chimpanzees live generally in the canopy.
The Uwinka visitor centre has a map displaying the various walks they cover and the time required for each. The Canopy walk is part of a 2.1km hike and requires a descent of 204 metres at the start which, of course, requires an ascent of 204 metres to complete the hike. The actual canopy walk was constructed in 2010 by the Green Heart NGO with support from USAID. The amount of flex in the walk means that a firm grip is required on the narrow metal plates. The views can be spectacular if the weather is clear and sunny but regretfully not for our visit.
We were assigned to an easy access group of Gorillas, the Hirwa group. Our trip started with a 15 minute drive to the start point of the walk, followed by a kilometre walk to the park wall. Once inside the park we followed our guides up and up for about an hour until the trackers reported that the group had gone down to the river bed over 25m below our current position. Our guides then proceeded to hack a path to traverse the very steep slope down to the river bed. Leaving our bags with the porters at this point and climbing up the river bed we quickly got our first sight of a gorilla. This was immediately followed by spotting many others around us in the vegetation on each side of the river bed. While the other six visitors climbed out of the river bed in search of more gorillas we stayed and enjoyed the company of those nearest us but with views of the rest of the group.
Kenya Airways on-line check in 30 hour before take-off was particularly useful and the allocated seats were so good that I did not need to try to change our seating. It has been quite a few years since we have used Terminal 4 at Heathrow and we were surprised to find so few flights using this facility making our wait with no crowds comfortable.
The onward connection at Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport went very smoothly and after being bussed to the plane it was very gratifying to watch our baggage being loaded onto the same plane.
Kigali immigration was efficient with photos and thumb prints being recorded followed by a slight delay waiting for the baggage at the carousel. To then see the card for “Rainbow Tours” being held by our driver, Moses, reinforced the view that we were embarking on an exciting tour beyond our expectations.
Moses is an excellent guide and driver with whom we were always comfortable. Our journey times may have been slightly longer than shown on our itinerary but were appreciated when viewing the number accidents and hazards observed on the roads.
Nyungwe Forest Lodge very kindly supplied us with packed lunches for our long drive to Mountain Gorilla View Lodge in Musanze near Volcanoes National Park. It would probably have been preferred to have stopped at an hotel or restaurant somewhere in or near Kibuye where a Western standard toilet break could be taken.
Once again Dianne and I wish to thank you and Derek for organising our fabulous trip'.