We decided to take this trip because we wanted a new adventure, and Tanzania and Rwanda seemed perfect for that. We love traveling off the beaten path, and visiting the mountain gorillas in Rwanda has been a dream of ours for a long time. We decided to work with Audley because of excellent previous experience on a Vietnam trip back in 2014. Audley and our specialist Donna provided us with the opportunity to learn about the countries and their individual and unique cultures.
The sites and activities that Audley arranged for us allowed us to experience the true Rwanda. We learned about the wildlife, the history and people in a way that deeply impressed us.
We have always wanted to see the gorillas in Rwanda, and that was our primary reason for the visit. Not only did we see them, we also learned about Rwanda’s gorilla conservation efforts. We went to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and visited a cultural village which aims to improve the lives of reformed poachers and communities around the park. It is a remarkable success story of how gorilla conservation is harmonized with the needs of the local population. Proceeds from tourist visits to the park provide income to the community and therefore provide a reason to protect the gorillas.
In Rwanda we were also able to meet many of the local people and children of the villages. We visited the villages adjacent to Volcanoes National Park, including the village in the very northwest of the country called Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village.
We also paid a visit to the Mayange region, which is a little south of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Our visit to this region made a powerful impression. Mayange has several settlements which the government built to house returnees after the 1994 genocide. Nyamata Church, where two mass graves hold the remains of 40,000 genocide victims, is contained within the village cluster and our visit to this site was not only shocking, but it added another dimension to the overall story of the Rwandan genocide that this memorial tells so well. A visit here removes any abstraction from the picture of that horrendous event.
In the Mayange region we visited a Reconciliation Village: a small town where victims and perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide are now able to live side by side. In one of the homes we listened to the incredible, almost unthinkable story of reconciliation and forgiveness. A Hutu perpetrator and a Tutsi survivor sat next to each other and gave us their testimony of the events of 1994.
After Rwanda, we made our way to Tanzania to the Serengeti National Park and Selous Game Reserve. The guides in both parks were instrumental to the success of our safaris. We were very lucky they were able to find wild dogs and cats for us, wildlife we were told not many people get to see.
In Selous we stayed at the Impala Camp. The staff at this lodge was absolutely incredible and went above and beyond to make our stay special. The picnic they organized for us on New Years Eve was remarkable; during our boat safari, they surprised with champagne on a lonely river bank next to a river full of hippo’s and crocodiles. What a great way to start the New Year’s celebrations! We were the only guests at the lodge that day, and the staff organized a wonderful dinner for us which we enjoyed together with them.