Gavis, our driver, was a very likeable young man, and met us at Kigali Airport with a nameboard - already fulfilling one of Sheila's dreams. We were slightly disappointed not to meet Brian at any stage, but Gavis was a very good ambassador for present-day Rwanda, the local partners in Rwanda, and for TL. Accommodation was interestingly varied. Heaven in Kigali is a wonderful concept and the staff could not be faulted for friendliness, enthusiasm, commitment, thoughtfulness and sheer hospitality We hope the move upmarket with the Retreat (extra 8 rooms currently in build) will not be achieved at the expense of the more affordable Residence and Villa areas. The Residence rooms are very pleasant, if a little small (while a lot of space is wasted on landings and lounges). Some of the Villa facilities are looking a little tired (eg cracked tiles in the bathroom) but the rooms are a better size and include tea-making facilities. The Residence pool is very pleasant for swimming but rather chilly. The Heaven Restaurant offers better food (in our opinion) than the rather more expensive Retreat, but we feel it needs a revamp and redecoration. Akagera Game Lodge seems to be in the middle of a complete makeover and total refurbishment. Lobby and bedrooms were excellent but the absence of a lounge bar, swimming pool (undergoing rebuild) and proper dining room (the restaurant resembles a works canteen) rather let it down. Service attitudes were a little inflexible - packed lunch could be provided, but a packed breakfast was not available - or possible. The boat trip and drive through the park were excellent and the park rangers very informative and patient. Gavis was very patient and helpful in locating some places Peter wanted to see from his previous visit (in 1972/73). The canopy walk we would certainly recommend, but the access walk is fairly strenuous and appropriate footwear essential. Emeraude Kivu Resort is accessed through what looks like a building site, and is rather quaint and old-fashioned. The manager and our waiter at dinner were excellent, but the receptionist needs a fair amount of training in customer service. Kitchen staff were helpful, too, and a packed breakfast was no problem. Chimpanzee trek was excellent but, again, strenuous and muddy. The trackers were excellent. The entertainment by local dancers was an unexpected bonus. The drive from there (Nyungwe Forest isolated section) to the Volcanoes National Park was really too long and left little time for lunch or for a hoped-for diversion to Kumbya (which P remembers as the most beautiful place on Earth...). Villa Gorilla is very African, with haphazard plumbing and slightly bizarre decor. Gilbert (the proprietor/manager) is delightful, as are his staff, and all very keen to please and to build up the business which G started with a $20K loan five years ago. He probably needs another similar cash injection to upgrade the facilities (plumbing, decor, wifi - he has some kind of dongle system which is rather erratic) for the European market, which may not be as welcoming of eccentricity as we are (having travelled in Africa in our youth). The visit to the gorillas was unforgettable and we were privileged to have Francois - a veteran of Dian Fossey's team - among our guides. To be so close to these lovely, yet totally wild animals and without their showing fear or aggression was amazing. To be honest, a lay-day between the chimps and the gorillas would have been a good idea. As it was, we were exhausted, and golden monkeys would have been an anticlimax - we had seen some during the gorilla trek, so we were happy to skip that last visit and head back to Kigali. P was very impressed by the progress Rwanda has made and by the efforts to get away from the old tribal rivalries. People seem far better dressed than in the seventies and the whole country is tidier and more advanced. Metalled roads and mains electricity are the most obvious markers. Kigali is very safe and almost everybody we met was friendly and welcoming.
See comments above.
Communication via the website was sometimes a little difficult in that it put an additional step into the process. Direct communication (eg by email/whatsapp) with Brian might have been better, but we appreciate that would then not allow you to keep track of what was going on or review it in the event of problems.
All were absolutely charming and very helpful - especially to a couple of senior clients!
Allow time for travel and impromptu stops. The roads are good - but it is a mountainous country and travel will always take longer than you expect.
The gorillas were a highlight, but meeting the people was probably the greatest pleasure.