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Old Mar 22, 15, 7:11 am
Moderator: Trip Reports
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Dubai
Posts: 3,059
Day 1.

At Dubai Airport at 4am for my early morning flight to Kigali.

My flights for the trip were a direct flight from Dubai to Kigali (DXB-KGL) and returning via Mombasa (KGL-MBA-DXB) on RwandAir. I booked my flight through Kayak/Vayama for $339 (including $200 taxes/surcharges) as it was $200 cheaper than booking it directly through RwandAir ($339 + $200 taxes/surcharges) for some reason.

About to board the Rwandair 737-800 for the 6:25am flight to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

The Dubai skyline on the horizon and Emirates aircraft lined up on the apron after take-off from DXB.

Simple but satisfying breakfast that was served on the ~6 hour flight.

We arrived in Kigali on schedule at about ~10:30am. After getting my temperature checked (for Ebola) I lined up to pay my $30 visa on arrival, collect my checked bag and exit the airport by ~11am.

I was then met by my driver, who was aptly called 'Safari' (from the swahili word to travel).

My first visit to Rwanda would only last ~4 hours as the plan was to drive west and across the border to the city of Goma (the third largest city in DR Congo) via the Rwandan town of Ruhengeri.

We then began the drive west, passing the main Kigali bus station.

Riding pillion.

On the outskirts of Kigali (right). Easy to see why they call Rwanda the land of a thousand hills.

And some locals saying hello.

Schools out. We then drove through the hills and valleys on the road to Ruhengeri.

Stopping for a break on the way to Ruhengeri (Safari and the Landcruiser centre).

Fruits. Compared to other African countries, Rwanda felt relatively clean and orderly.

After a ~2.5 hour drive from Kigali we finally arrived in Ruhengeri.

I then got to meet Ms. Mercy from Amahoro tours whom I had booked and organised my tour with and paid the remaining balance for my trip.

Some delicious fish & yoghurt stew, beans, potatoes and rice for lunch.

We then continued the drive to Goma. Some tea being grown in the valley.

We got to Gisenyi on the Rwandan side of the border at about 2:30pm, and Safari handed me over to my guide from DR Congo, David. After completing exit formalities for Rwanda we walked through no mans land to the DR Congo side.

Entry formalities for DR Congo were quite easy, helped no doubt by having my guide David to assist me. If you are visiting Virunga National Park a visa on arrival can be easily organised in advance for $70. I had my yellow fever certificate but they never asked for it. A Canadian I would meet in a few days would have to pay a $20 'fine' for not having various other vaccinations they wanted though.

My hotel room for the next two nights at the Lablise hotel, which was right on Lake Kivu.

After crashing out for a few hours, I went for a walk on the streets near my hotel. My guide David recommended not walking about with my camera, so took my phone instead. It was close to one of the UN MONUSCO bases in town. The UN MONUSCO is the most expensive current UN deployment (>20,000 troops) and the only mission currently authorised to actively engage insurgents (as opposed to only shooting when shot at first).

Every second vehicle on the road seemed to be a white UN 4WD.

Dinner back at the hotel, kebab, chips and salad.

Day 2.

After a good sleep I was up early at 5:30am for a good breakfast.

I then got picked up by my guide David for the drive to Virunga National Park to go trekking for Gorilla's on the slopes of Mt. Mikeno. We would also pass Mt. Nyiragongo which I would be camping on the top of tomorrow night.

Just before 6am on the drive north with Mt. Nyiragongo, one of Africa's most active volcanoes, in the distance.

Stopping for a closer photo of Mt. Nyiragongo. The volcano last erupted in 2002 with at least 15% of Goma comprising 4,500 buildings being destroyed, leaving ~120,000 people homeless.

And Mt. Mikeno (left) and Mt. Karisimbi (right) further up the road.

An artillery piece used by the milita during the Congo wars outside a village as we head north.

Off to work.


We arrived at a village near the entrance of Virunga National Park at about 6:30am, ready to meet up with the Park Rangers and other trekkers.



The other trekkers arrived at about 7:30am after apparently being held up by some police in Goma who wanted a bribe before they would let them on their way. There were six other people for the gorilla trekking; one Brit and five Americans. All worked for NGO's in DRC.

Parc National des Virunga. Virunga is Africa's oldest nation park and is home to nearly a third of the world’s roughly 900 remaining mountain gorillas. The park lost thousands of elephants and hippopotami during the Congo war years, but its gorillas actually doubled in number. That is partly because they were of less interest to poachers and can hide deeper in the forests, but mostly because of Virunga’s courageous rangers. More than 140 rangers have died protecting Virunga park that was at the centre of the DRC’s carnage.

With my $400 gorilla trekking permit. There are mountain gorillas in Rwanda (permit fee = $750) and Uganda (permit fee = $600), but they attract many more tourists (up to 80 per day in Rwanda versus only 7 for DRC on my day) and are much less wild, while in the DRC you still have them to yourselves.

After a briefing by one of the park rangers/guide (in French, although luckily one of our group translated for us) we headed off through the surrounding villages to the park entrance.

Trekking through the dense vegetation after entering the park...

...and into the jungle. Apart from mosquitoes, we came across swarms of ants while trekking and had to literally run to avoid being bitten alive!

Bosko, our ranger/guide, stopping for a break. We trekked for 4 kilometres and as the vegetation was quite thick took us ~ 2 hours.

We were trekking along and Bosko asked us to stop. Almost on cue we heard a big gorilla fart! We then took off our bags, got our camera's and prepared ourselves for an amazing encounter with one of man's closest cousins.

Our gorilla family was in quite dense jungle/vegetation (can you spot the baby?).

And from a slightly better angle.

I was hoping for overcast clouds (i.e. soft, diffuse light) but no rain and thankfully we were blessed with perfect weather for photographing the gorilla's.

A couple of bigger guys.

Munch, munch.

A juvenile doing some tree climbing.

Best mates.

If you scratch my back...


Face to face.

Having a swing...

...until the inevitable happened and the vine broke and the baby landed back to earth with a gentle thud.

Green spaghetti.

Nap time.

After a magical and too quick hour amongst these magnificent creatures we bid our farewell.

And a photo with our ranger/guide Bosko after an experience of a lifetime!

The trek back where we were again inundated with hungry mosquitoes and stinging ants.

I met up with my guide David again and we drove back to Goma. A memorial for Belgian and German soldiers who fought in Congo during WWI.

And back in Goma at about 3pm.

We then went to lunch at a local restaurant and ate some delicious local food including beef, sweet potato and baked banana.

Next stop was the local grocery store to buy food for my volcano trek tomorrow.

And got some local bread, cheese and sausage (David on the right).

After the early morning start and the challenging gorilla trekking I took it easy back at the hotel and watched the sun set from my balcony over Lake Kivu.

The power then went out for most of Goma so dinner was by candle light in the hotel restaurant.
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