Discover Rwanda: Week 4 – The Art of Life

Discover Rwanda: Week 4 – The Art of Life

Week: Sept 1-7, 2023

My trip to Rwanda is coming to a close. After 4 weeks of traveling all over Rwanda, I dedicated this last week to relaxation and enjoying the art aspect of Rwanda. I traveled out west to Gisenyi to visit the beautiful Lake Kivu. Lake Kivu borders The Democratic Republic of the Congo. You can basically walk to the city of Goma from here. I also went to the Volcanoes National Park. This is where travelers can visit the gorillas and golden monkeys. To trek these, a permit is required and should be scheduled in advance. I did not and my team and I decided to do the Musanze Caves. Following a weekend of adventure, I wrapped up my trip with visiting local art shops in Kigali. 


1. Lake Kivu

My team and I made the 4.5 hour drive to Lake Kivu. We hired one of our favorite drivers, Shukaru but because it was his daughter’s birthday, he could not make it. Instead, he hired two of his friends for the 2-day trip. We paid $500 for the 2-day trip. It was worth it! 

The drive was long but scenic. We were making good time so our driver asked if we wanted to drive up to the border of DR Congo. Of course, we agreed. The border was not as well marked as it is back home. There was a building that said arrival on the Rwanda side, and a small yellow barricade that separated DRC from Rwanda. Looking into Goma, DRC, we felt how chaotic the city with. Rwanda is very clean and organized. DRC, not so much.


After our short detour, we checked into our hotel in Serena. The check-in process was long and not organized but we got our rooms. My room had a wonderful view of the Lake and the pool. We changed and headed out to lunch at the Lake View Bar in the hotel. 

After lunch, we were lying out on the beach. My colleague had this great idea to rent out a boat to enjoy the lake. Boat rentals were pricey. We rented a small speed boat for $150/hr. Our driver asked us if we wanted to go to a hot spring. I absolutely did not want to go. I knew what it entailed but my team was enthusiastic about it. The “hot spring” was a small pond that is on the edge of the lake. It cost 5,000 RwF to enter. Then they asked us if we wanted a massage. Everybody said no and I said, maybe my feet. Somehow, my entire crew got massages. They charged us 15,000 Rwf for a 5-minute massage! It was not very good. After the short massage, we headed back to our hotel. 



It was about dinner time now and we decided to venture out a bit. We’re not in Kigali anymore. We were getting close to our restaurant when 5 motorcyclists cut us off on the sidewalk one by one. I think they were trying to scare us. We walked a few more steps when we decided to turn back. We felt a little unsafe. We ended the night at our hotel restaurant listening to live music and watching locals dance to the songs.

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2. Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is famous for its Gorilla trekking in Rwanda; however, the permit itself is a pricey $1,600. A good alternative is the golden monkeys which are indigenous to the region. A permit for the Golden Monkey trek is $100. Both treks could be sold out weeks in advance. Permits can be booked here or through a tour company. It is important to book and plan ahead. The gorilla trekking in Rwanda can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours to locate the gorillas. After locating the gorillas, the group will spend an hour watching the gorillas at a safe distance. Gorilla trekking can also be done in Uganda and DRC for a fraction of the price; however, Uganda can be quite treacherous in comparison and DRC has a lot of unrest in the country. 

Both tours were sold out so my team decided to do the Muszane Caves for $50. There are lots of caves in Rwanda but this specific cave is through the Rwanda Development Board. The Muszane Caves is nowhere near the entrance to the Volcanoes National Park. We only located the caves by passing a small sign. The website does not give any insight on how to reach the caves. I have attempted to reach out to the RDB but received no response. 

When we arrived at the Muszane Caves, we were greeted by two guards. They had no clue that we were there for the tour. The permit did not give us a time frame, just a date. There were no tour guides on site, so the guards had to contact the park to send over our guides. We waited about 1.5 hours and almost lost all hope. We packed up our car, ready to head home when a truck full of guides and guards pulled in front of our vehicles. They apologized and stated that they had to drive from the Volcanoes National Park to get to the caves with the equipment. They handed us helmets and flashlights. 

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The Muszane Cave consisted of 3 conjoint caves. The first cave was the longest and had several bats sleeping. The cave required a lot of stairs and uphill trekking. It was difficult to see that we had to use multiple flashlights to get by. Our gives gave us a brief history of the caves. They were created during a volcanic explosion. During the genocide, several people took shelter in the caves and only came out at night for food. We traveled with 3 armed guards in the caves. We felt protected. 

Cost: $50/permit | Time Spent: 3 hrs


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3. Waterfall

On the way back to Kigali from Volcanoes National Park, our driver took us to a waterfall. There were kids nearby who all ran and greeted us. Rwanda has such natural beauty. 


4. Caplaki Craft Village

The Caplaki Craft Village is a local art market filled with souvenirs for purchase. The market is located on the top floor of the Masterpiece Mall. The vendors here all want your attention, but they are less pushy than most bargaining markets that I’ve been to. The prices are a little bit steeper than the Kimironko Market but I prefer to come here. 

5. Azizi Life

What do you do when it is pouring outside in Kigali? You visit Azizi Life. Azizi Life is a space to create your own Rwanda artwork. This studio offers drop-in classes to paint Imigongo paintings or piggy banks, create garlands, or roll candles. I created an Imigongo painting. Imigongo paintings are traditional Rwanda canvases covered in cow dung. There were several designs to choose from with different sizes. The costs ranged from 7,000 to 15,000 RwF ($7-$15) based on the size of the canvases. I chose a medium size for 10,000 RwF. 

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Where to Eat:

Lunch at Lake Kivu: Lake View Bar

→ Ave de la Cooperation, Gisenyi, Rwanda

Lake View Bar is located in the Serena Hotel where I was staying in Lake Kivu. The restaurant had a large menu offering every type of food option you can think of. I ordered the chicken tikka marsala for 16,000 and let me tell you, it was the best meal I had in Rwanda. I ordered this for lunch but it was more of a dinner meal. I also ordered an overpriced margarita for 23,000. I did not look at the price tag when I ordered it. The Lake View Bar is located right in front of the pool and at night, they have live music. 

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Lunch in Musanze: Migano Hotel & Cafe

NR 4 RD, 43, Rwanda

Migano Hotel & Cafe is an adorable coffee shop that serves food. I was a bit disappointed with the food. I ordered the spicy chicken for 14,000 thinking that it was fried chicken but instead, I was served something that looked like chili. I will probably order something safer next time if I everfind myself here. 

Dinner at Kigali: Inka Steakhouse

→ 2a, KG 605 St, Kigali, Rwanda

Inka Steakhouse is an upscale restaurant that specializes in steaks. Inka means cow in kinyarwanda. This steakhouse offers different cuts from sirloin to ribeye. Inka provides a variety of sauce options including red wine, green peppercorn, mushroom, whole grain, chimichuri, salsa verde. Sides also include mashed potatoes, mizuzu, sauteed vegetables, garlic herb roasted potatoes, ratatouille, and creamed spinach. Reservations is recommended. 

Dinner in Kigali: Rooftop Rendezvous Bar & Grill

KN 67 St, Kigali, Rwanda

Rooftop Rendezvous Bar & Grill is hands down my favorite restaurant in Kigali. The restaurant is located in Ubumwe Grande Hotel on the top floor. To access the restaurant, visitors will need to take the elevator to the rooftop. The restaurant gives a panoramic view of the city of Kigali. I have been here both in the daytime and in the evening and can say that it is worth it no matter the time. Everything here tastes amazing. During my first visit, I ordered the chicken majestic for 14,000, and a glass of the Savanha Pinotage Shiraz. During my second visit, I ordered the bolognese for 12,000 and a margarita for 13,000. 


Dinner in Kigali: Pool Bar Restaurant

2 KN 6 Ave, Kigali, Rwanda

My colleagues and I have been talking about visiting the hotel in the movie Hotel Rwanda, Mille Collines. In the movie, the owner saved several Tutsi’s during the genocide by allowing them to take refuge in the hotel. The hotel still stands and has multiple restaurants on the property. I visited the Pool Bar Restaurant located on the ground floor. The restaurant gave off a tropical vibe with the hut-like roofing and lounges surrounding the pool. The restaurant offered a variety of cuisines, but I just settled for the standard buffalo wings. It was tasty and I would probably return for the ambiance.