Diary week 11 and 12 | Uganda and Rwanda

After a few adventurous days in Jinja, we picked up our rental car and we have started an eighteen-day road trip through Uganda and Rwanda! Our first destination? Lake Bunyonyi in the south of Uganda.


Uganda | Lake Bunyonyi: the most beautiful lake I have ever seen

Our time at Lake Bunyonyi is wonderful. Cooking on a camping stove, sleeping in a tent and enjoying the beautiful lake: I love camping! We make a small canoe trip visiting multiple islands and furthermore we take it easy. Because it is a bit hazy every day and the lake is surrounded by green hills, the environment does not feel look at all like Africa. It sometimes even has something from out of space, with the dozens of islands and a vast horizon full of hills. Read our travel guide for Lake Bunyonyi here.

After two quiet days, we pack our bags and leave for Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

Rwanda | Kigali: the genocide memorial centre

Rwanda is a special country. Twenty-five years ago, a horrible civil war took place here that led to a 100-day genocide. Nearly one million people were murdered in a horrible way. Driving around modern Kigali, it’s hard to imagine that just so recently, the streets were filled with dead bodies.

To find out more about this horrible event, we visit the Genocide Memorial Center. Impressed and horrified we are outside again three hours later. The centre is a museum which gives you a clear picture of the genocide in Rwanda. It is horrible to see what kind of violent things people have done but it’s also admirable (and a little scary) to see how quickly the country has managed to build itself up. Rwanda is nowadays known as one of the safest, cleanest and most modern places in all of Africa. This is something that will occupy our minds a lot in the coming days, while we drive through the small villages and highly regulated national parks.

Rwanda | Nyungwe National Park: Spotting chimpanzees

We only stay one night in Kigali since have managed to get last-minute tickets for a chimpanzee trek in the Nyungwe National Park. After a long day of driving with a maximum speed of 60 km per hour, we reach the beautiful Nyungwe National Park. The highway winds through the park and along the road there are many monkeys. The park is a rainforest and even though it is not raining, we see the clouds hanging below us, a very special sight!

We sleep at Uwinka Campsite, in the middle of the national park. It is a nice experience with a campfire in the evening and the sound of monkeys in the morning! The next morning it’s time to meet some of these monkeys: the chimpanzees. It takes a while, but when we find them, it’s great. The animals scream, play and don’t care much about us. An extensive blog about the chimpanzee trekking will be online soon!

Rwanda | Relaxing at Lake Kivu

After sleeping a second night in the national park, Lake Kivu is on the planning. This is one of the largest lakes in East Africa. It borders Congo and from our first campsite, we can see this neighbouring country on the other side of the lake. We sleep the first night in Kibuye, a cute village with a small harbour. You can take a boat trip here, but we just want to enjoy the sun and read a bit.

We drive through rolling hills full of tea and coffee plantations to our next stop on Lake Kivu: the city of Gisenyi. This is the tourist hotspot of Rwanda, but we are a bit disappointed. There is a lack of atmosphere and the normally very friendly Rwandans are not too happy here and sometimes even a bit aggressive. Perhaps it is because we are less than two kilometres from the border with Congo, one of the most dangerous countries in Africa.

Therefore we decide to move to the neighbouring and quiet Rubona peninsula where we are at a nice eco-campsite and relax for two days. In the mornings we start with yoga, after which we have a nice breakfast, read a bit, write and cook a big meal on our camping stove. We usually make vegetarian pasta (with fresh herbs that can be bought on the local markets here in Rwanda) or a big rice salad. Nice, easy and since we have lockable containers we can prepare food for multiple days!

Returning to Uganda

On the fourth morning on Lake Kivu, we pack the car again and drive towards the border with Uganda. Before we pass it, we visit the Volcanoes National Park, a park with seven large volcanoes at the bordering point with Congo and Uganda. We don’t climb a volcano here, but we do take some pictures and drop by at the brand new Singita Kwitonda Lodge. Just opened by the President of Rwanda, with a great view of the volcanoes and in the National Park, it is a wonderful place to sleep, but unfortunately for us at $750 per person per night, just a little too pricey.

Once we cross the border and are back in Uganda we drive towards Lake Matunda. Normally I always plan our trips, however, this time Ries did all the planning for both Uganda and Rwanda. He had read good things about Lake Matunda, but because we have seen such beautiful lakes in the past week (Lake Naivasha, Lake Bunyonyi, Lake Kivu), it is a bit disappointing and so we decide to continue to the next place on his itinerary: Bwindi National park.

Uganda | Bwindi National Park: spotting Gorillas!

Bwindi National Park is thé place to spot gorillas. Initially, we only intend to drive past this because a gorilla trek is very expensive ($600 per person). But after hearing so many good stories about it, Ries really wants to see and photograph these animals. However, the chance that a permit is still free is close to zero, most people book this months in advance.

Hoping to be lucky, he enters the park gate at 7 am in the morning. But it is way too early and he is told to come back at 8 a.m.. “For sure I am not going to get a permit,” is what he tells me at ten to eight. But when he is still not back an hour later, I know for sure: a spot has become available and Ries is one lucky guy! And indeed, a little after midday he returns to the campsite full of enthusiasm. It was amazing! A blog about his experiences will follow soon!

Uganda | Queen Elizabeth National Park

We quickly pack our things and then spend the rest of the afternoon in the car. The kilometres are rolling beneath us as we get closer to the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Together with the Murchison Falls, this is the oldest national park in Uganda. We stay here for two nights, during which we try to see as much as possible of this vast park with our 24-hour admission ticket. We start in the southern part (Ishaha) and then continue to Kasenyi.

Unfortunately, we don’t see the rare tree-climbing-lions, but without a guide or spotter, we manage to spot a lot of beautiful things during our self-drive safari. An extensive blog about the Queen Elizabeth National Park will follow soon!

Uganda | Fort Portal: reunification with our Canadian friends!

After a final morning safari, we drive on to Fort Portal, a village in central Uganda. Here we are reunited in the pouring rain with our Canadian friends Erin and Carlann. We met them in Kenya on the bus to Maasai Mara and had already travelled together for two weeks. We are going to do that again in the next seven days and are looking forward to it!


Where did we sleep these two weeks in Uganda and Rwanda?

  • Lake Bunyonyi: We stayed at Edrisa Campsite, a cosy campsite with a beautiful view of the lake. $4 per person per night camping.
  • Kigali: ViaVia Guesthouse has just opened up and is run by the Belgian Astrid. It is a beautiful hotel with private rooms, dorms and the option to camp. $10 per person per night camping.
  • Nyungwe National Park: Uwinka Campsite is a beautiful campsite in the middle of the rainforest. $15 per person per night camping.
  • Kibuye (Lake Kivu): Macheo Ecolodge is a cosy ecological campsite in one of the nicest villages around Lake Kivu. $10 per person per night camping.
  • Gisenyi (Lake Kivu): INZU Lodge has beautiful glamping tents, a good restaurant and grass to pitch your own tent. You camp here for €12 (two people) per night.
  • Bwindi National Park: Ruhija Community Rest Camp was certainly not the best campsite where we stayed at. There was no running water but it is close to the park gate. $10 per person per night camping.
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park: in the Ishaha gate we camped at the Enjojo Lodge, a beautiful lodge with good facilities (no WiFi or telephone range). $10 per person per night camping. At the Kasenyi Gate, we camped at the luxurious Kasenyi Safari Camp overlooking a beautiful crater lake. $15 per person per night camping.
  • Fort Portal: YES hostel, located a bit outside the city but has hot showers and good wifi. €10 for 2 people in a private room.

Camping Rwanda

Statistics for these two weeks:

↠ The number of hours in the car/bus/boat: +/- 45 hours
↞ The number of chimpanzees and gorillas spotted: we spotted six chimpanzees and Ries saw seven gorillas including two babies!
↠ The number of nights camped: 13
↞ The number of police officers bribed: 1 time … and not even voluntarily!
↠ The number of concussions by speed bumps: at least 490!Tea plantation Rwanda

Crazy discoveries about Uganda and Rwanda:

The roads in Uganda versus Rwanda:
The border crossing from Uganda to Rwanda and visa versa is not something that goes unnoticed. Apart from the fact that you have to change sides (in Uganda you drive on the left, in Rwanda on the right) and therefore drive with the steering wheel on the right-hand side on the right lane, the roads are also completely different. In Uganda, the roads are not well maintained, while the Rwandan roads are in perfect condition. However, driving fast isn’t a possibility since in most of Rwanda you can only drive 60 KM per hour. On the other hand, in Uganda, there are the most terrible speedbumps. Even at a speed of 10 km/h you’ll get a mild concussion.

Milkmen in Rwanda
Rwanda is the land of milk, at least that’s how it felt to us. Wherever we were, we always saw boys on bikes with large milk cans. You know about those steel barrels as you used to see them fifty years ago. A beautiful sight!

Bribing the police in Uganda: the most normal thing in the world!
On day one in Uganda, we already hit the jackpot: the police pulled us over, claimed that we were driving too fast. We had the feeling that this was not the case, but it could be. The policewoman pushed rather hard on the fact that she wanted to turn a blind eye if we were to give her all the money we had in our pocket. We, not that crazy, indicated that that was only 20,000 UGX (converted € 5). So after being told that we had to take more money with us next time, we were allowed to drive on…


All my travel blogs on RwandaClick hier for more blogs on Rwanda!


Other travel blogs on Rwanda

Budget tips: What did we spend in two months traveling through Madagascar?
Travel guide Lake Naivasha, Hells Gate and Mt Longonot.

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