Indagare’s Kathryn Nathanson reports back from her trip to Rwanda earlier this month, where she found a blossoming fine-dining scene in Kigali and a new, must-visit attraction in Volcanoes National Park.
Heralded as the safest, cleanest and greenest country in Africa, Rwanda continues to amaze and surprise me. I lived in Kigali during a pandemic lockdown and returned exactly two years later, finding a country that came out stronger on the other side.
On this trip, I arrived for Umuganda, a national holiday and a community cleanup day held on the last Saturday of every month. The country shuts down for four hours and every citizen comes together to take part in community service. There is a smile on every person’s face you walk by as they take part in this national day of celebration—the streets, stores and restaurants are all closed.
Rwanda is a country of immense beauty, incredible wildlife and lush mountainous landscapes. What stays with me most after each trip, however (besides the primates!), is the friendliness and warmth of the people I come across. After my first Umuganda, this was even more evident.
I also spent time in Volcanoes National Park, where I had the opportunity to visit the new Ellen Degeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund on the one-year anniversary of its opening for a special livestream Virtual Experience, part of Indagare’s partnership with Bank of America’s Diamond Honors tier members. Dr. Tara Stoinski, CEO, hosted this program and brought everything to life, from stories of the endangered mountain gorillas to the groundbreaking work happening today. Each Diamond Honors member who attended the event symbolically adopted a gorilla, which monumentally helps in gorilla conservation efforts. A visit to the campus—ideally on a VIP, behind-the-scenes tour—is a highlight of any trip to Rwanda.
Restaurants On Our Radar
As a restaurant aficionado, I was excited to find a blossoming food scene in Kigali. Dieuveil Malonga, a celebrity chef in Rwanda, opened Meza Malonga, serving an Afro-fusion tasting menu. Reservations are essential.
Nearby in Kimihurura, Anda is the latest fine dining restaurant in Kigali by Chef Treasure Makwanise, who previously worked at One&Only Gorilla’s Nest. “Anda” was taken from the word “Kwanda” in Kinyarwanda, which means to expand—a nod to hoping to ‘expand’ how people view African cuisine.
Emmanuel Nkuranga, artist and founder of Choose Kigali—an immersive creative space in Kiyovu—opened an Italian restaurant at his gallery serving an à la carte Italian menu and a tasting menu with some of the best views of Kigali in the distance as you dine.
Hotels I Loved
Wilderness Bisate Lodge: Adjacent to Volcanoes National Park, Bisate, a Wilderness camp, is made up of a series of spherical fiber-thatched pods with domed roofs, including six sophisticated forest villas built into an eroded volcanic cone. This is the place to base yourself for gorilla-trekking, with visits to local villages and lakes, birding walks and participating in Bisate’s forest rehabilitation program.
- The suites with incredible views of nearby volcanoes
- The wine cellar, which is decorated with geometric patterned tiles and is a perfect spot for a private meal
- Spending time and planting a sapling with the lodge’s agronomist, who is in charge of an ambitious reforestation project
- The warm and friendly staff, who make a stay at Bisate feel more like one at a friend’s home
Read Indagare’s full review of Bisate Lodge
Wilderness Lodge: Sabyinyo Lodge–formerly run by Governor’s Camp and known as Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge–came under new management in 2022 and is now run by Wilderness (which also runs and manages Bisate and Magashi in Rwanda). Sabyinyo is known as the original luxury lodge of Volcanoes National Park and—with new management—is finally shining again. Sabyinyo is a perfect base for all trekking, and activities on-site include community visits, nature walks and in-room massages.
- The ideal location just across the street from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Campus
- The free-standing cottages including a fireplace, verandas and en-suite bathrooms
- The patio overlooking the Virunga Volcanoes and surrounding farmland, providing an excellent spot for breakfast and sundowners
Read Indagare’s full review of Sabyinyo Lodge
Also On Our Radar
Wilderness’s new luxury camp, Little Bisate, set to open in early 2024. And back in Kigali, Indagare favorite, The Retreat, opened a new lounge and bar area, plus eight pool villas, which take the crown for the most luxurious accommodation in Kigali.
Kathryn was in Rwanda filming for our Indagare x Bank of America Virtual Experiences. Exclusively for Bank of America Preferred Rewards Diamond Honors tier members, Indagare has curated one-of-a-kind, one-hour experiences that are live streamed with local production crews from some of the most special places in the world with the people who define and protect them.
Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning a future trip to Rwanda. Our team of travel experts can match you with the right itinerary and activities that are right for you.