“What’s there to do around here?” I ask at the reception desk of a small, rural hostel.
To my surprise, the most enticing of the responses I got was, “walk around.”
That was after being here in Rwanda for about 3 weeks. In the seven months I've been here, I’ve heard similar responses too many times. It’s just not true – there’s a lot to do in Rwanda!
Don’t get me wrong; walking around is a great chance to experience a new place. It’s just that I sprained my ankle, on a rigorous high mountain run, and I have to respond to a few emails, and it’s hot, and really hilly; and sometimes I prefer to connect with people beyond what typically happens when walking around, standing out like a sore thumb…because I have a limp…because I sprained my ankle, remember?
Let’s get to the bottom of this. What is there to do in Rwanda? Let me summarize what an online search will tell you: Silverback gorilla trekking, Akagera National Park, Genocide memorials, Lake Kivu, Nyungwe National Park, etc. I’ve done them all and they are all very enriching experiences that travelers should absolutely not miss out on.
What about visiting people?
Rwandans are super friendly, helpful, generous, and interested in learning about other cultures. Even the muscular, sweaty guy staring at you, on a rural road, at dusk, with his shirt off, a huge tree trunk balanced on his head, and a glistening machete in his hand, will light up with a brilliant smile and an overhead thumbs up if you throw the universal thumbs up his way.
Fortunately for you, I've been doing the ankle-work to find the most awesome people in Rwanda doing cool things: the real gems of Rwanda so to speak. Allow me to elaborate.
Night fishing on Lake Kivu is perhaps one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in Rwanda so far. I had heard a lot about the fisherman, and seen and heard them singing a few times as well. So, on behalf of all the future travelers who would have the same experience, I set out to get on the fishing boats. Now, through Vayando, travelers can join the fishermen and spend about 4 hours in the traditional boats, helping and learning about sambaza fishing on Lake Kivu. If that doesn’t sell the visit, just know that you can bring drinks (be prepared to share). And there are modern life jackets on the boat, too.
Cows can swim! Yes, swim, like, really well. (Side note: hippos can’t swim!). So on your next visit to Kibuye, why not go see Samuel’s swimming cows? Samuel is a 28-year-old dairy farmer, managing his herd between several islands. When he wants his cows to switch grazing areas, he simply encourages his herd (with the slap of a stick) to swim to a new island. When he wants them to return, he gives his special call, and they come swimming back. He claims they can swim really far. Who knew? To visit Samuel and watch, or help him milk his cows, and watch them swim to a new island for grazing, visit this page.
Art: there are some brilliantly talented artists in Kigali. I’ve only scratched the surface and not a week goes by without someone referring another artist to Vayando. You’ll probably see some of their work on your Kigali art gallery hop. Many galleries offer a chance to spend time with the artists and get to learn about their lives and work, but we wanted to formalize those experiences and put them on our booking platform, ensuring that you get to actually work with artists when you visit the galleries. Here are a few links to just some of the artists we’ve met:
Kigali Art Scene with Ivuka
Art Creation with Inema Artists
Street Photography with Yakubu
Hip Hop, Afro House, and Dub Step with Poppin Chris
If you’ve been to Rwanda, you’ve seen tailors. Fashion designers, too, are cropping up left and right, and together they’re ready to update your wardrobe with some fantastic new gear. Wood and metal workers are also readily available to make the exact piece you’re looking for, at a fair price. Here is a tailor, a fashion designer, and a woodworker ready to teach you about their work, and get you going on your next custom piece, at an affordable rate:
Tailoring with Mama Claudine
Fashion Design with Rupari
Woodworking with Irenee
So, whether you’ve lived in Rwanda long enough to know the names of each gorilla, or whether you’re still considering a vacation / holiday in Rwanda, there’s always something new to do in the Land of a Thousand Hills, and Vayando is always here to facilitate that experience.