Getting lost in the Masai Mara

What would you do if you were moving in the middle of a game park and you were attacked by a lion? Do you run and climb a tree? Do you pick stones and throw at it? Maybe you put up a fight so that your ancestors can pat you on the back when you finally meet them, for not having been a coward at the final hour.

What about trying to bribe the beast with something to eat? Would that work? Isn’t that what the guys at the zoo always do? These weird thoughts filled my head when it became clear that we had lost our way in the Masai Mara soon after we had landed at Olkiombo airstrip after a short flight from Wilson Airport in Nairobi. The drive from the airstrip seemed smooth for a while until it became clear that our driver was not sure of which direction we were supposed to take to get to Olare Mara Kempinski, the luxury tented camp we were booked into.


A signature welcome Maasai dance. /Allan Brian Ssenyonga

Saved by the brave Maasai

He tried to make calls to the camp manager but the telephone network in such places is often close to useless. As we meandered around we met these two guys riding a motorcycle in the park. The passenger was carrying a goat and we stopped them to ask for directions. They were quite helpful but I could not stop thinking of how crazy I need to be, to ride a motorcycle in a game park and in the Mara itself!

However these were not your ordinary motorcyclists. These were Maasai. Yes, the guys you see on YouTube videos stealing meat from a pride of lions and walking away with a swag or chasing and catching a cheetah alive before handing it back to Kenya Wildlife Society. These guys are born brave. I think when baby lions are being naughty, they are told to behave or else daddy will call a Maasai. So for them riding or walking in the park is the same as this writer strolling on Kigali streets.


A herd of buffaloes just minding their own business. /Allan Brian Ssenyonga

We eventually got to the famous Olare Mara Kempinski and we were welcomed by a Maasai dance to further cement the fact that we were in Maasai land. Olare Mara Kempinski is a sister property to the exquisite Villa Rosa Kempinski Nairobi that prides itself in hosting all the big shots who visit Nairobi be it Barrack Obama or India’s richest man – Mukesh Ambani. We were given a brief tour of the facility and our bags were taken to our tents as we settled for lunch.


After lunch, we went for an afternoon game drive which to this day ranks as the best game drive I have ever had. Imagine seeing most of the animals after just driving for five minutes. We saw a pride of about eight lions, then we saw a leopard hiding up in a tree as well buffaloes and gazelles all going about their business of being wild. We returned to the lodge satisfied that we had seen more than enough on day one.

Simba’s heavy breakfast

The next morning we had a quick early breakfast and headed out for the morning game drive. It was a bit chilly and we were lucky once again. Our driver and guide, Rafael was alerted by a colleague that someone was having a heavy breakfast near a tree. The guys who work in game parks have this coded language they use to alert each other of where to find the big five so as not to waste time driving around in circles.

So we drove close to this tree and found the king of the jungle finishing up on his heavy breakfast. The lion was eating a zebra and we could see lots of hyenas, jackals and vultures all waiting patiently from a distance for the king to have his fill first. The lion later got up and walked just about a metre from our truck. You could cut through the silence and tension in the truck as the king of the jungle strolled away.


The boss takes a stroll after a heavy meal. /Allan Brian Ssenyonga



We followed him closely until he found a puddle of water and took some sips before continuing with his lazy stroll. We later took a different direction and found a huge herd of elephants. The guide told us that because elephants are so huge, they spend most of the day and night eating only sleeping for about four hours.

On our way back we found another leopard hiding in the grass watching zebras passing by. It seemed undecided on whether to grab one or simply watch them go by and hunt another day. Leopards can be so elusive and therefore being able to spot two of them in two days was quite a good score on our part.


In the Mara the animals can really be this close. /Allan Brian Ssenyonga

Olare Motorogi Conservancy

Olare Mara Kempinski is located in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, which is part of the Masai Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. The conservancy is managed by a board that has representatives from the Maasai landowners, tourism partners and donors to ensure sustainability and protection of wildlife and the environment in general.


The usually elusive leopard was in no mood to hide. /Allan Brian Ssenyonga

The conservancy system has proved to be a great way to achieve sustainable tourism in an ecosystem that some think is saturated with visitors especially during the great animal migrations from Serengeti to Masai Mara.

Even in the wild customer service is key

The service we got while at the Olare Mara was out of this world. The manager of the tented camp was very helpful and understanding. He always asked if we were having a good time or if we needed anything. The chef, who for some reason was called Bishop, ensured that we got the soul food we needed for us not to go wild.

The facility even has a swimming pool. Do you know how good it feels to swim in the middle of a game park? Monkeys stare at you from a distance and wonder why you have no tail like them yet you look like distant cousins.


Breathtaking sundowner with different drinks to extinguish your thirst. /Allan Brian Ssenyonga

To top up our experience was the sundowner where we drove out to a romantic spot where we sipped different types of drinks as we chatted and watched the huge yellow sun sink into the horizon. We were told that many visitors to the park use the spot to propose to their loved ones. How can she say no when you have come all this far and are now in the middle of the jungle with wild animals watching you?

The next morning we had a bush breakfast where everything is served and eaten while in bush. In fact a school of hippos was nearby making what I think were jealous sounds as we devoured our omelettes and sipped on spiced African tea. In the Mara you get lost in the wild and enjoy it fully. Indeed destination East Africa is where one can find such beauty spots.


This is Olare Mara Kempinski! /Allan Brian Ssenyonga

PS: This story first appeared here

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rwanda’s tourism menu is now a buffet situation

Restaurants can easily be categorised by the size and type of menus they have in place. I’ve been to quite a number and I am always fascinated by what they have to offer and how it is presented.

In some big restaurants you will be presented with a drinks menu, then one for starters another for the main course and lastly, one for dessert. I have also been to places where the menu has so many items that you have to flip through what looks like a children’s book. Oh! and we do have those that don’t trust customers with their menus. Instead they write everything overhead for hungry folks to crane their necks and read for themselves.


The colourful sunrise as viewed from Akagera Game Lodge. /Allan Brian Ssenyonga

The ones that fascinate me the most are the low cost eateries. In here the menu is only to be found in the head of the waiter or waitress. It is often just a summary of what is left in the kitchen. You hear things like, “Hasigaye amafiriti n’inyama gusa” (We are left with only fries and meat). As if that is not bad enough, the waitresses will often return with more sad news. “The meat is finished too but there is sauce.”

If you really love food like I do, then you’ll agree that when you are really hungry all you want is a buffet set up. Over time I think it is safe to say that Rwanda has moved from the memorised brief menu to a buffet set up when it comes to tourism. About 15 years ago there was very little to say about Rwandan tourism besides the mountain gorillas.

Efforts were and are still being made by the Government of Rwanda to not only diversify the tourism sector but also grow it in all possible ways.

This last week I joined a select team of journalists from around the world to sample some of Rwanda’s tourism dishes. The journalists and communications professionals were selected from countries like South Africa, Kenya, Turkey, Uganda, USA and local journalists from the different media houses. There was also a media team from the East African Tourism Platform that included yours truly.

The City Tour

The first item that we sampled on Rwanda’s buffet was the city tour. The city tour is a great offering given the fact that most of what people outside Rwanda hear has to do with how Kigali is such a clean and organised city. Many see glossy pictures of Kigali city but remain doubting whether it is real or simply the work of some smart graphics designer.

The city tour affords visitors a chance to slowly move around enjoying the neat and orderly city that Kigali is. They also get to learn about the history of the city and the country, the present and get an idea about where the country is headed.


Rwanda Development Board’s Maurice Twahirwa briefs journalists before a tour of the Genocide Memorial Centre, Gisozi. /Allan Brian Ssenyonga

We toured part of Nyamirambo and the Central Business District before heading to the Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi for the vital lessons on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. We concluded the tour by checking out the Special Economic Zone where several industries are located.

Good tales from Akagera National Park

The next day we attended the Conversations on Conservation conference before setting off for Akagera National Park. We arrived at the park just in time for some sunset photos. Many just dropped their bags in the rooms and rushed to set up their tripods and cameras as the sun briefly posed for some golden shots.

After dinner, the park’s marketing guru, Sarah Hall gave us a presentation about the park and what African Parks (that manages the park) is doing. The park is on course to having the Big Five now that lions are back and already growing in number (fourteen if you are counting). White rhinos will soon be added to the Akagera menu as well.


The famous Mtware, arguably the oldest elephant in the park.  /Allan Brian Ssenyonga

We got up early again to catch some stunning sunrise photos overlooking the lake from the Akagera Game Lodge before embarking on a day-long game drive with a brief picnic lunch. Akagera Park that used to have just one lodging facility – the Akagera Game Lodge, now boasts of the exquisite Ruzizi Tented Lodge as well as mobile camping facilities and plans for another facility are in high gear.

A park that was known for people – wildlife conflicts, now has a 110km electric fence and a resolute law enforcement team complete with a canine unit that keep poachers wishing they had other career ambitions. The park is also fairing well when it comes to conservation with animal populations growing each day and grey crested cranes being reintroduced into the wild using Akagera as their home away from the brutal domestication in the city.

Musanze the home of the money makers

We all know that tourism is a big cash cow for Rwanda but Musanze is where a lot of that money is made. After all, this is the home of the famous mountain gorillas. The next day had us setting off for Musanze at 4am. Here we were divided into two groups with some going for gorilla trekking while others went to trek golden monkeys.

Musanze seems like the main course menu on those multi-categorised menus. Not only is the place blessed to have the prized primates, it also has caves and other cultural sites that we got to tour.


Dressing up in the right gear before you enter Musanze caves. /Allan Brian Ssenyonga

I enjoyed the caves experience most and I would certainly recommend it to anyone visiting Musanze. The highlight of the caves experience was that therapeutic moment when we all stopped somewhere and the guide told us to switch off our headlamps for a moment, to meditate in total darkness – literally, darkness at noon.

We ended the night by showing up at Red Rocks where Harriet Ingabire and her folks treated us to a marvellous cultural tourism experience. Red Rocks is not only about things from the past and camping. When it got really dark, there was nice music being played at their small club house. We honestly didn’t want to leave when it was time for us to do so.


Our trip ended with us showing up to cover the 12th edition of Rwanda’s premier tourism event and a celebration of the country’s conservation success story – Kwita Izina at Kinigi with President Paul Kagame as chief guest.

A total of 22 baby gorillas were named at the event that was well attended by the people living near the park as well as conservation enthusiasts from over 28 countries.


Journalists snap away at a school of hippos at Akagera NP. /Allan brian Ssenyonga

At the end of it all, one could tell that Rwanda’s tourism had come of age and the journalists will have lots of tales to take back home as they fly out of Kigali International Airport. Many will make a return trip to check out other tourism gems like Nyungwe Forest, Gishwati – Mukura forest, the Congo – Nile trail as well as the Lake Kivu resort spots of Rubavu and Karongi not forgetting Nyanza the cultural centre of the country. Rwanda is ready.

PS: This story first appeared here

Posted in Media, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ruhunda: A window into Rwanda’s living soul

EKOCENTER RUHUNDA 20161306 (11).jpg

The golden triangle of civil society, business and government all in one picture

On several occasions I have mentioned to my friends who have not been to Rwanda that the best thing they can do is stop just hearing about the country and come see it for themselves. This is because often times those outside the borders of this country only get to hear of it in exaggerated extremes. Either that it is the worst place on earth or that it is the synonym for Utopia.

Yet Rwanda is like a living thing with challenges here and there but with a resolve not to let those challenges hold it back. When you come down here and see it, touch it and smell it you can then not only know Rwanda but also understand it. When such people heed my advice and show up or show up under different circumstances, I am always delighted to help them understand certain things. Not that I am an expert on Rwanda but having been around, I can fairly be of help or point to where help can be found when it comes to unravelling this enigma called Rwanda.

A few days back I was in the company of some wonderful Kenyans who did a good job in making me feel like a cheaper version of Google. I was asked all sorts of questions about Rwanda each time we were together. Some of the questions only elicited breath-interrupting laughter like when one of lady in the group turned to me and said, “Allan, I have been told that I look like a Rwandan, is it true?” Then there was this time when Naomi Mutua let her ‘Kenyanness’ loose and asked, “So if I opened a cupcake business here would it thrive?” Aki Kenyans, does it always have to boil down to which biashara you want to open?

Naomi was falling in love with Rwanda so fast that soon her questioning had moved from cupcakes to land prices, prices for apartments and whether there were even people like her in this place – people who love cats. Others were just silently sitting and enjoying the taste of a cold Mutzig beer as they waited to laugh at the next joke while also wondering why the music in this place we were sitting was not that loud.

I enjoyed answering most of the questions given that I have a faint idea about things in Kenya and a better one about Uganda so my explanations came with comparisons which I assume made for easy understanding. But the thing with Rwanda is that the questions never seem to end because the country has undergone such a dramatic transformation that one needs not to just see Rwanda’s face but also its soul.

For a face, Kigali clearly out does itself. The streets are clean and lit. The construction of new structures can be seen almost at every turn. The changes are hard to keep pace with even for those living here. One day you are idly counting the palm trees as you move on smooth roads only to realise that some of them have suddenly given way to a new roundabout just where they formerly stood and sang with the wind. Rwanda is a country on the move.

An hour out of city to the east, there is a place called Ruhunda Cell in Gishari Sector which is in Rwamagana District. In Ruhunda there is a flagship EKOCENTER project that was recently launched by President Paul Kagame together with the Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, Muhtar Kent. They were accompanied by the famous Rev. Jesse Jackson. If you don’t know him, Google does.


This is Spar… I mean, Ruhunda

The good fellows from Atlanta (The Coca-Cola Company) have of course set up many EKOCENTERs in Rwanda and other African countries. In fact there are over 100 such facilities across Africa with Rwanda laying claim to over 20 of them. However Ruhunda is not like any EKOCENTRE you will find elsewhere. It is so much more. It is a model of what The Coca-Cola Company intends to achieve with such projects.


In the first place an EKOCENTER is both a community center and a general store. EKOCENTERs are based on a social enterprise model weaved around well being, women and water. All this has to be aligned with what a particular community needs. However with Ruhunda, the partners who put together the EKOCENTER out did themselves. In the first place they brought on board several partners and in the process gave Ruhinda more than what other EKOCENTERs offer.

In Ruhinda, the solar-powered flagship EKOCENTER is set to benefit over 25,000 residents by easing their access to quality health care, 3G Wifi-internet services, mobile charging services, purified water, a retail store as well as a lit football pitch. To pull this off, The Coca-Cola Company partnered with Ericsson, MedShare, Pentair, Phillips, Solarkiosk and TIGO Rwanda as well the government of Rwanda and the people of the Ruhunda.

Ericssson helped to construct a new mobile phone tower providing connectivity while TIGO Rwanda is providing 3G-WIFI. MedShare provides medicines to the government-run Ruhunda Health Centre while Pentair operates two water purification units that provide up to 20,000 litres of safe drinking water to the people of Ruhunda. Phillips came in with the lighting of the football pitch and surrounding areas. Solarkiosk designed and operates the EKOCENTRE.



Ruhunda Health Centre

During the ceremony to launch the facility both President Kagame didn’t seem to have much to say, given that he has been at the helm of Rwanda’s recovery for the last 22 years and such a project is a mere window into the things he has championed all these years. Rwanda’s record on health particularly health insurance is a story that has been told several times. ICT in Africa is almost hard to touch without finding his name appearing somewhere. The same applies to basic hygiene (water) and his love for sports is not a government secret as well.

In his speech, President Paul Kagame said the well being and advancement of communities is a global responsibility, involving a cohesive public –private partnership. The Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company explained why they invest in such projects; “It’s because we know our growth and our partners’ growth can only be sustainable when the communities we serve are strong. By working across the ‘golden triangle’ of business, government and civil society, we believe we can support increased local investment and help make communities like Ruhunda more economically and socially sustainable.”

The Ruhunda story continues flowing even beyond the speeches of the big men. For example in this area the health centre handles close to 60 deliveries in a month but more importantly almost everyone in the area has medical insurance. This partly explains why they have not registered any maternal death in the last seven years!


Water is life


The sustainability of this project is ensured through training of the people in the area to be able to do things on their own. In other words it is not the usual philanthropy schemes but more of an ecosystem that serves as a catalyst for economic growth. It is a concerted effort to bring together different partners and government to do community work.

The project employs mainly women entrepreneurs, another key pillar of Rwanda’s success story. Time and again President Kagame has said the inclusion of women in the development process is not rocket science, given their numbers and their role in the family set up.

As the big men and women drove away leaving a trail of dust in the air of Ruhunda, the residents knew that the dust would settle and health will prevail. After all they now have a football pitch they can use any time since it has lights, they have ready to drink water and a health centre with quality service. They can also brag about all this on social media now that they have 3g Wifi access.


Ruhunda’s well lit football pitch

That right there is the soul of Rwanda, a people always ready to join hands and work towards a better tomorrow. They don’t give in to despair; they ride it like a wave to get to the next level. No wonder The Coca-Cola Company boss had to say, “Rwanda is on the move, marching towards a very prosperous future – and we are proud to be part of it as Coca-Cola.”

The Coca-Cola Company is not alone in this desire to be part of the new Rwanda; my Kenyan friends want to come back to visit, to invest, to live or just to open a cupcake business. To you Naomi and Magunga the word to remember is Murakazaneza. In the mean time let me find out about land prices in Ruhunda.


Launched in 2013 by Coca-Cola as a social enterprise initiative to empower communities while enabling business and local economic growth, EKOCENTER relies on partnerships across the public and private sector to operate sustainably.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Easter with a tropical feel at Lake Kivu

If you take a close look at your calendar right about now, you can’t fail to hear a small voice in your head whispering, “So what are we doing this Easter?” You may be tempted to respond with, “So who are we?” but this is not a time to argue about pronouns. After all, the Son of God did not die on the cross for you to win arguments about grammar and relationships.

What is clear though is that the first months of the year tend to be quite hectic for almost everyone. From the delightful Christmas break you suddenly find yourself wading through January where for some reason money loves to play and win, hide and seek games.

This is quickly followed by the miniskirt of months called February. Even the extra day in a leap year never seems to count for much.  March follows closely and comes with some goodies. On the eighth day women are celebrated and as far as this year is concerned the Easter package comes in at the end of the month.

We are now in the Holy Week that leads to Easter… an opportune time to give yourself that memorable treat something you can find easily at Lake Kivu Serena. This hotel is found in the lake town of Rubavu (Gisenyi) on the shores of Lake Kivu. This is incredible lake is shared by Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I call it incredible because it not only oozes of tropical beauty; it also now supplies Rwanda with electricity thanks to its methane gas deposits.

We cannot talk about the beauty of the lake without highlighting how Lake Kivu Serena completes the picture. You see this hotel is sited on white sandy shores with extensive tropical gardens and a refreshing breeze from the lake. If you are looking for an ideal escape from the city buzz to a therapeutic moment by the lake, Lake Kivu Serena is it.


Go on and pretend that you don’t want to be somewhere in that picture right now!

By the way, Lake Kivu Serena is just a stone throw away from Goma (DRC) and a few hours’ drive from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. If you choose to fly then 20 minutes is all you need. It is so strategic for those who want to see the famous mountain gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park besides just ogling at your hotel room key.


Why stare at a piece of wood when you can see the real Silver-back ?


Rubavu is a now a tourism hot spot on its own and from Lake Kivu Serena you can enjoy boat rides to different islands in the lake, you can take a ride along the Congo Nile Trail or simply stroll along the streets of Rubavu if you are not interested in climbing the nearby Mt. Rubavu for a spectacular view of Gisenyi and Goma.

You don’t even need to leave the hotel in order to get your money’s worth. How about just  letting your hair down, grabbing a drink, kicking off your shoes and throwing on your sunglasses and allowing the sun to kiss your skin as you relax by the beach or take stroll by the lake as the sand caresses your feet?


C’est Magnifique!

This hotel has 66 luxury room, executive suites and family accommodation all with stunning views of the lake. There’s a panoramic restaurant, indoor and beach side bars and a luxury swimming pool (with a baby pool) all offering cool spots for you to drown any stress the city life may have visited on you in recent day.

If and when you go for gorilla trekking, endure a bumpy ride along the Congo Nile Trail or try out the steep climb at Mt. Rubavu then on your return your body can be reset with a relaxing massage or spa thanks to the legendary Maisha Health Centre. This place has the right settings for your comfort (true story!)

There are lots of outdoor games you can try out while at the Lake Kivu Serena like beach volleyball and the little ones have their own play area complete with caretaker staff to ensure their safety. If you’ve read to this point and are still in doubt or you think I am just bored and making this all up then how about you click here. Or simply go and see the place for yourself to prove me wrong. How about that for an Easter challenge? Happy Easter holidays.

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The serene secret of the Selous

In my previous post I described my journey from Kigali – Rwanda, to a place where nature rules. This place is called Selous Game Reserve. To get there we had to fly for about 45 minutes on a Cessna Caravan aircraft operated by Regional Air from Dar es Salaam airport to an airstrip called Stiegler’s.

During the flight you cannot fail to notice how urban and settled Dar gradually gives way to the clouds and then to the huge stretches of Miombo woodlands, swamps, lakes, meandering rivers and lot of animals. Through that small aircraft window one gets introduced to the mighty Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania.

When we touched down at  Stiegler’s we were welcomed with a cold glass of fresh juice before jumping into the open jeeps to where we were to spend the night. Our host was an affable gentleman called Nickson Kanyika. Nickson, the lodge manager of Serena’s Mivumo River Lodge, gave us a briefing on what the day’s programme looked then off we went.


Cooling down at Stiegler’s airstrip 

On the way to the lodge we started getting a real feel of the Selous Game Reserve. Which shall henceforth be referred to as the Selous  – feel free to treat the last S like a suggestion box; ignore it. Now that we have the pronunciation fixed  we can continue. The Selous was named after an English conservationist , Sir Fredrick Selous.

It is so vast that it occupies over 54,600 square kilometres. To put that into context, it is slightly bigger than Rwanda and Burundi combined! For those friends of ours who love to think Africa is a country and therefore don’t know what or where Burundi and Rwanda are, get this – the Selous is bigger than Switzerland.

The game reserve has over seven airstrips and Stigler is just one of them, named so because it is close to Stiegler’s gorge along River Rufiji. When it comes to flora and fauna (by the way those are not some girl’s names), Selous has it all and in big numbers. In most game parks one is bound to brag about how many lions they saw, in Selous you just talk about what they were doing.

The reserve is so big that as you drive around you often get the feeling you have been kidnapped by the driver but not yet aware because you can drive for hours or even a whole day without meeting another tour truck or van.  In some areas, all you can see are the green trees and shrubs.

Then in other areas you will find lots of trees that met their untimely death a couple of days back. By the way is it just me who is always bothered by that phrase untimely death? Is there like a right time for death? Isn’t all death untimely except when we are talking about suicide and executions? Anyway, I was talking about elephants. These beasts are not really interested in short cuts. The prefer using vectors and so the trees painfully have to pay for that decision if they  are in the path of the elephant.

Driving around the reserve, I noticed the nonchalant attitude of most animals. Around Lake Tagalala, the crocodiles could be seen just relaxing in the water with only their eyes exposed. I saw one leaving the land and heading for the water and I could not tell whether it was done with breakfast or looking for breakfast.

The problem with watching too many wildlife TV shows is that you keep thinking animals are always looking for something to eat yet sometimes all they want to do is chill and probably meditate about their life decisions like us. I think this is exactly what the hippopotami do with all the time they spend in the water.It’s the only explanation I can think of.

We later chanced on some lions. At first we met three of them sheltering under a tree. They were so close to the car and I was forced to pray that they were either fasting or vegetarians. You know there are times when your brain indulges in so much stupidity that you feel like it should never be donated to a medical school for research. Anyway those crazy thoughts helped me gather the courage to do what anyone else in my place would do – take a selfie!


Hey love birds, I know what you did in January 2016

We drove away and met two other lions, a male and a female. They seemed not to be on talking terms, you know like couples do once in a while. We chose not to interfere in their relationship matters and so we continued and this time found a lone male lion but about 50 metres later we stumbled upon the real show. We found two lions and after about five minutes they started making out. Since all of us were above age, no one looked away or pretended to. Would you?

Anthony just seemed bothered by the fact he could not zoom anymore while Bernard was asking all sorts of irrelevant questions like, “Is he done? Are they going to cuddle?  Morris didn’t pay much attention probably because he has seen it all on Youtube or maybe because he was sure Anthony would share with him the video soon after. By the time we left that place somethings were clear, lions do not cuddle after ‘doing it’ and some more lions will be born soon in the Selous.

Another thing that  fascinated me about the wild is how sharp the drivers’ eyes are. One moment he speeding down a track and the next moment he has stopped the car to show you an animal that is trying its best to hide behind the vegetation. however it is not always rosy for them. Our strong Toyota Land Cruiser at one time got stuck in a ditch after we gone off the main track to follow some shy elephants.


At the hot-spring where I took off my shirt and washed away my sins 

We spent time trying to dig the car out of the mud as once again my brain went into that ‘what’s the worst that could happen now’ mode. The driver called for help but before that the car behaved and soon we were heading back to the lodge. And this lodge brings me to the real secret of the Selous.

The Selous is not all about wildebeest, lions, Nile crocodiles  or elephants. By the banks of River Rufigi and its brown waters you will find the exquisite Serena Mivumo River Lodge. A property that comprises of twelve timbered chalets each with a private viewing deck complete with a Jacuzzi and outdoor shower.

I made it a point to use the outdoor shower each morning just to send a message to the hippos that some human beings are well endowed with very big thighs – I am sure hippos needed to know this. Yes, thighs, just thighs, what did you think I was talking about you perv…?

Away from big things, the chalets are so comfy and after a long game drive going to your chalet is such a rewarding experience. Just  throw off your shoes and feel the polished wood under your feet. Feel free to set the lighting to what you want because it can be adjusted with a knob. The furniture is generally from a time before now probably to relax you further so you can stop worrying about time itself.

In the chalets there is not TV to remind you of where death and destruction are happening or wifi for people to bother you with requests to type ‘Amen’ on pictures of strangers on Facebook. It is your time and space. Only best to share it with a special person. If you were thinking honeymoon. Oh honey this place has so much moon!


Do you really want me to caption this too?

There is a central dinning area and safari bar where we enjoyed many crazy stories about anything and everything over a drink. Often times someone would laugh so loud that I suspect the animals would stop what they were doing and talk about humans and the noises they make.

The experience at  Mivumo River Lodge is not complete without a boat ride along the Rufiji river where you get real close to the hippos and crocodiles. The best thing about the boat ride is that you get to see how incredibly beautiful the chalets you are staying look like from a distance. My favourite moment was seeing baby crocodile on the banks of the river. They just look like well fed geckos and yet soon they  will grow into one of the most skillful hunters in the animal world.


Look at these dudes and the splendid view behind them 

About an hour’s drive away you will find another Serena Hotels property, the Serena Selous Camp. Here you will also find twelve widely spaced safari tents with natural thatch roofs, elegant Victorian-styled bathrooms and private viewing decks. I am talking about canvas walls, opulent rugs and elegant rosewood furniture. What more would you want?

Then there is the villa for those who really want to live like or are royalty. Words cannot describe it. And I will not pretend to. Indeed the real secret of the Selous, is that amidst all the abundant natural beauty, one will still be blown away by the awe-inspiring beauty of the Serena properties therein. My only regret was not using the Jacuzzi. As I left my chalet on the last day, I felt as if I was leaving behind a new friend that I never got know quite well and yet I should have. For that one reason, I will be back!


Serena Mivumo River Lodge: A real paradise in the jungle


Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Finding the serene secret of the Selous

What do you do with all the time on your hands while on a long trip by bus? Do you pull out a book and devour some chapters before sleep comes knocking? Do you start that awkward conversation with the fellow sitting next to you about their strange accent? Or are you the kind that move around with those huge headphones that make it normal for you to shout each time someone tries to talk to you?

Recently I was on bus for a long trip. Kigali to Nairobi. It is slightly more than 24 hours if nothing terrible happens to make it longer. In other words, whether it is reading a book, sleeping or conversing, there is more than enough time at your disposal.

In true East African style, I was on a bus that set off from Kigali whose owners probably live in Mombasa and yet it had Ugandan registration plates and a mud flap with the name KANSIIME. Yes, that famous ‘brief’ girl from Kabale with the ability to shatter your ribs without touching you as she rants about everything and anything, has a bus branded with her name.


Somewhere in Nakuru…Kansiime took a short break to allow some passengers to buy some fresh food (potatoes) by the roadside

In the bus I sat next to a young man from the Democratic Republic of Congo who put my scanty French to the test. We talked about a lot of things but I felt pity for him having to part with $100 to pass through Uganda and $50 to enter Kenya. I wanted to apologise to him for how East Africa was treating him and his people. How do you charge $100 to the citizens of a country that gave us Franco, Papa Wemba, Tshala Muana, Koffi Olomidde and Fally Ipupa?

There were moments when I  would get bored and start using my phone to tune into random Kenyan stations or simply staring out of the window like people do in American movies when they jump on a Greyhound bus to a far off destination. At around 10pm we finally arrived in Nairobi. And this is where the core of my journey was to begin from.

I didn’t have to wait for long before Anthony came to pick me up. We then looked around for a cab to take us to Nairobi Serena. Before we could identify a cab guy to negotiate with, Anthony went into brag mode and asked me if Uganda or Rwanda had Uber services. I am sure he knew the answer but you know how Kenyans love to rub it in sometimes. To you Anthony, sawa tu.

Tired as I was from the bus ride, I had to hold it in and find some rest at the Nairobi Serena before getting up at 5am to beat the Nairobi traffic on the way to the airport. As soon as I checked into the hotel, I ordered a quick dinner and sat in the bath tub for a while to cool my battered body.

The morning hit me so fast and at exactly 5am, I threw some clothes back on picked my bag and headed out of the hotel with Anthony and Morris. I knew I had not rested enough but I was consoled by the fact that my brother from Uganda, Bernard had actually just arrived that morning by bus from Kampala and was driven straight from the bus office to the airport (insert loud evil laugh).

When we got to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, it was pretty obvious that Bernard was not one of us. Sleep was written all over his face and his red eyes made him look quite ‘presidential’ if you know what I mean.


You can see Bernard (L) trying to look cool but his red ‘presidential’ eyes could not hide the sleep deficit he was exporting to Magufuli-land

Now this is a caution to other East Africans that are not Kenyans. Please if you find yourself talking about your country’s main airport remember to lower your voice a little or find something else to brag about. Don’t argue, just remember to do it. Anyway we then boarded our flight to Julius Nyerere International Airport which took slightly over an hour.

At the immigration check-in we had to have our yellow fever vaccination certificates in hand. I still don’t know why Tanzanians insist on this yellow fever thing but anyway you cannot complain much when you are in a country whose leader answers Hapo ni kazi tu to almost every question.

There is a harsh reminder that you are now in Dar and you get it the moment you step out of the glass doors of the airport. The humidity! A sudden temperature rise will have you thinking you just strayed into Mama Ntilie’s open kitchen and are now staring at the big sufuriya with that huge juicy samaki. Have you noticed that I now seem to be showing off my thin Swahili vocabulary? I can’t help myself you know.

Besides the heat you also have to deal with a drop in verbal communication confidence now that you are faced with unapologetic speakers of Swahili sanifu. We got a brief reprieve of the Dar heat as we were driven to the Dar es Salaam Serena. Some of us gazed at the wide roads and the huge high rise buildings along the way. There were loud conversations with the inevitable comparisons of the different EAC member states. It was like a mini EAC mobile summit.


The picturesque Dar es Salaam Serena

At Dar Serena, we could not wait to jump from the car and rush inside the hotel because you know… the heat in between those two points was not funny. The Serena in Dar is undergoing some renovations to give it that signature Serena touch that wows you with a local theme. Nonetheless it does have its fine edges here and there. It is the biggest Serena property in the region with 230 rooms. It is so close to the Indian Ocean yet it surrounded by big business properties giving you that holistic coastal city feel.

After a brief tour around the facility, we had lunch and we were driven back to the airport for our flight to Stigler’s which is in Selous Game Reserve. The 45 minute flight aboard a Regional Air light aircraft was manned by two young pilots Kwame and Brian who made their job seem like it was an older version of a video game – so easy.


Selous here we come…

Selous is vast. Selous is serene. Selous also has two splendid Serena Hotels secret pearls. In fact I need another blog post to tell you all about Selous.

To be continued…

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

When I toured my country and loved it…

This is a summary of the two stories that appeared in The New Times Newspaper mid November 2015. ( When Uganda showed off its beauty spots and Experiencing Uganda’s remote and adventure-filled treasures)

There’s absolutely no doubt that the East Africa region is a hotbed (if I can borrow words from the CNN’s annoying vocabulary) of beauty. This breathtaking beauty has for years fuelled a vibrant tourism industry that pours millions of dollars in the economies of each of the East African Community member states.

For ten days, I was part of a team of regional journalists and tour operators from all over the world who were hosted by Uganda Tourism Board and given a glimpse, of what Uganda has to offer when it comes to tourism as part of the second Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo.

The regional journalists were selected by the East Africa Tourism Platform (EATP). EATP’s vision is to turn East Africa into this vibrant and diverse single tourism destination.

In a bid to promote intra and inter-regional tourism, EATP invited journalists from each EAC country to be part of the experience so they can spread the word around and lure others East Africans to destination Uganda. Efforts like the single tourist visa, open borders and the use of national IDs are some of the milestones that EATP has lobbied for in the recent past in a bid to ease access to tourist sites for the close to 140m fellow East Africans.

My trip started with a flight from Kigali to Entebbe aboard Rwandair, one of the key sponsors of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo. As I sat on the plane trying to suppress weird thoughts about plane crashes and what was expected of me as someone sitting by the emergency exit, I had no idea what awaited me and the rest of the team for the trip.

After checking into our hotel rooms and getting some rest for the day, we all met for a cocktail at Sheraton Kampala where we were briefed about the trips we were to embark on soon. We were also split into two groups. I was initially supposed to be part of the group that was to visit Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable forest but I opted for the trip that would take me to Kidepo Valley National Park which is the only park in Uganda with cheetahs.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
On the road our first stop was at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary a 7000 hectare private facility that was set up to oversee the reintroduction of Rhinoceros, a highly endangered species, back into the national parks of Uganda through a breeding and release programme. These huge beasts that can weigh up to three tonnes were finished off by poachers by 1983.

The first six rhinos were introduced during 2005 from Kenya and others were brought in from USA. Before we could go and see them, we each had to sign a document that basically spells out the fact that these are wild animals and something could go wrong. Then our guide reminded us that a white rhino can run up to 45km per hour when charging at what it considers an enemy.

It was interesting to learn that one of the rhinos born at the sanctuary is named Obama because its father is Kenyan while the mother is from USA. I wonder if Barrack Obama knows he has a namesake in Nakasongola. Because of how lucrative the trade in rhino horns is, the rhinos are guarded 24/7 by armed rangers and there is an electric fence around the sanctuary.

I think I did great when it comes to hiding my fear

I think I did great when it comes to hiding my fear

After having lunch at Amuka Safari Lodge, we drove to the oldest hotels in Uganda, Masindi Hotel for our overnight stay. The hotel was built in 1923 by the now defunct East Africa Railways and Harbours Company and is a historical gem in its own right.

Kaniyo – Pabidi Ecotourism site
After an early breakfast we set off for the Budongo Eco lodge, also known as the Kaniyo Pabidi Ecotourism site that is located in the heart of Budongo Forest Reserve in Murchison Falls National Park. We went into the rain forest for chimp tracking covering over 4 kilometers and breaking a sweat while at it. This place has some of the best tour guides I encountered although it was not so funny when they talked about the big snakes they sometimes find in the forest and tales of falling in ditches.

The amiable Birungi explaining to a journalist all about chimps

The amiable Birungi explaining to a journalist all about chimps in Budongo Forest

The forest has over 600 chimpanzees and lots of hard wood trees including one Mahogany tree estimated to be over 600 years and the oldest in the region. Do not ask me how the years were counted. Chimpanzees are our closest relatives with whom we share 98.4% DNA. Apart from the legendary mountain gorillas, Uganda hosts 17 other primate species making it a prime destination for primate lovers.

Murchison Falls National Park
The main attraction in this park is none other than the breathtaking sight of the Nile River forcing its way through a narrow gorge only seven metres wide and then tumbles down 43 meters. I am talking about Murchison Falls, also known as Kabalega by the more Pan-African leaning folks like yours truly.

The breathtaking Kabalega Falls

The spectacular Kabalega Falls

We later enjoyed a boat ride upstream to see the falls from below while catching glimpses of the lazy hippopotami and their Jacuzzi antics as well the famous Nile crocodile. We saw one that was about four meters and I remember the goose bumps forming on my arms as imagined what things would be like if I found myself in a one on-one situation with this massive reptile.

Murchison Falls National Park is the largest national park in Uganda measuring approximately 3,840 square kms and boasts of over 76 species of mammals and 450 bird species. During the two days we were there we got to see a pride of lions, herds of elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, giraffes, warthogs and lots of birds. We spent our nights at Pakuba Lodge where you would think giraffes were also part of the staff thanks to the frequent sightings of the gentle tall animals.

Kidepo Valley National Park

After two days, we were driven to Pakuba Airfield where we boarded a chartered flight (Aerolink) to Kidepo Airfield in Kidepo Valley National Park located in the North Eastern tip of Uganda in the Karamoja region with the South Sudan and Kenya borders close by. Here we stayed at the luxurious Apoka Safari Lodge where each one had a whole canvas-walled cottage to themselves.

By the way Aerolink is doing an amazing job 

The cottages do not have TVs and internet access only happened briefly near the main reception area that has wifi that we could only use if the generator was switched on and we were nearby. I guess the message was clear, relax and enjoy the jungle.

Apoka Safari lodge...

Apoka Safari lodge…

The cottages allow you to sit on the patio and gaze at the beautiful landscape and watch animals like warthogs, buffaloes and antelopes grazing freely in front of you. At night the cottages seem farther than usual with every sound evoking wild thoughts of a lion, leopard or cheetah roaming close by in search of a quick bite. And by the way each cottage has an outdoor stone bathtub!

Kidepo Valley is rich with wildlife with arguably the largest herds of buffaloes and hundreds of bird species for the bird lovers. The famed tree climbing lions could be seen perched on top of rocks in typical I-am-the-king-of-the-jungle manner on the rocky throne. The only depressing bit was the old Landcruisers that kept breaking down in the middle of the park. Not cool if you ask me.

Not so funny when the car breaks down in the middle of the park

Not so funny when the car breaks down in the middle of the park

On our last night in Apoka we enjoyed some tasty nyama choma washed down with some drinks around a fire place.

Jinja town and its adventures
Uganda’s tourism circuit is incomplete with a trip to Jinja town. Here you not only have the Source of the Nile but also a rich range of options for those who love adrenaline-filled adventure excursions. We had to choose between quad-biking, white water rafting and bungee jumping.

I settled for quad-biking and I had so much fun riding around wet-dirt tracks while waving to curious children along the way. There is a reason why we were given helmets as some of our colleagues fell off the their bikes. Quad-biking is certainly something I will be doing again and again.

Quad biking must be the second best invention after Chapati

Quad biking must be the second best invention after Chapati

At the bungee jumping site, I opted to settle for a cold drink instead of jumping into the Nile with a rope tied to my legs. You can call me a coward all you want but I don’t really care. I just feel like my vital organs would abandon me during such a jump. You know like the way your computer or phone hangs as you use it.

As if to cool down from a week of adventure we spent the following day inspecting some of the finest hotels in Uganda, with breakfast at Speke Resort Munyonyo and a late lunch at picturesque Lake Victoria Serena before retiring to a Ugandan cultural gala at Ndere Centre.

Cultural night at Ndere Centre
The event at Ndere centre was aimed at showcasing the cultural diversity of Uganda a country with over 56 different ethnic groups. We were thus welcomed by a medley of dances from the Banyarwanda, Karamojong and Baganda communities all dancing to the captivating Kirundi drums. A journalist colleague from Burundi could not hide his joy for long so he put his Nikon camera aside and joined in the drumming.

Ndere troupe entertained us for the whole night with energetic performances of dances from all the corners of Uganda including the famous Intore dance from Rwanda. The troupe leader, Stephen Rwangyezi made it a point to introduce each dance with a brief but quite hilarious history of the dance, instruments and ethnic group known for a given dance.

The dances were briefly interrupted to allow us enjoy a sumptuous meal of local food as the drinks continued to flow. For a country where every 80kms introduces you to a new language, the night was never really enough. Likewise a mere blog post cannot be enough to exhaust Uganda’s beautiful story. You have to visit the country for yourself.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

#FuelUpWithVisa: A Visa to a better road experience

Anyone who has driven a car within East Africa will concede that Rwanda offers the best road experience in the region. The roads are nearly flawless. Potholes would sound like a new vocabulary if mentioned to a car owner in Kigali. Save for a few speed bumps that allow pedestrians to cross some roads the ride on roads here is often so smooth.

The drivers are quite decent with many sticking to their lanes and not obsessed with checking if the horn works. Cars with loud blaring music from cheap speakers are quite rare to find on Rwandan roads. Old rickety cars are condemned to garages and scrapyards thanks to regular car inspections by the traffic police department.

Neat and orderly

Neat and orderly (Internet photo)

Once you drive out of town then you have to be ready to be tortured amazing sights that bring out the real curves of this country Rwanda. Yes I know you were thinking of the curves on the beautiful Rwandan ladies but I am talking about topography here. Driving along the countryside makes one feel like they are in a car ad without knowing who to invoice once the pictures are taken.

The commercial motorcycles commonly known as boda bodas in most parts of East Africa but Motos in Rwanda have even been added to must do things by several travel blogs. This is because of the comfort and safety that comes with using these ‘naturally air conditioned’ bikes. With a helmet for both driver and passenger you can dash off to any destination and ogle at either the new buildings that keep coming up or use your boredom to count palm trees as go along.

Palm trees

Yes you can enjoy the breeze and count palm trees at the same time

In Rwanda the traffic police are always visible and professional. If you are thinking of even bribing any of them just send the money to me. Trust me it is a much wiser decision. At the end of the day, they do a remarkable job in ensuring that our road experiences don’t turn into hospital or cemetery experiences. (feel free to clap for them and then continue reading)

As if all that road awesomeness is not enough, something else has been added to the mix to take the experience to a whole new level.

Enter #FuelUpWithVisa.

In short; you no longer need cash in your pockets to get fuel in your tank. You just need a Visa card. And if it is one issued by a Rwandan bank you could be rewarded with some free fuel. A total of 30 fuel stations in Rwanda belonging to 5 brands (SP, Engen, Mt. Meru, Source Oil and Hashi) are part of this smart initiative.

Convenience at its finest

Convenience at its finest (Photo/The New Times)

To be honest driving a car is cool. Having cash for fuel is cooler…but fueling with a Visa card is way too cool… I even feel my fingers freezing as I type this. These cards offer unprecedented security, control and convenience compared to transacting with cash.

The cool people have been flashing these cards at restaurants and supermarkets and now they can do the same at 30 different fuel stations. The secret behind this awesomeness is the fact that these Visa cards are so easy to get. Just walk into your bank and ask. The government of Rwanda and Visa want you to experience convenience at its finest.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Dear Ugandan Politician…

…a letter from a Digital Youth

Although general elections in Uganda are set for early next year, the political games are already intense. The big boss is moving around the country launching everything that can be launched just to get that headline of “Museveni donates…”

His main rivals are yet to be clear about how they plan to take on the man who owns all the money and oil in Uganda. At other levels would-be aspirants are also sizing up themselves for the vote with all tribes of promises they will never fulfill.

We the youth make up the majority of the voting population but many, especially the urban elites, never bother to vote. For us voting is a very boring exercise. Imagine waking up early in the morning and having to spend hours in the queue with people who are not even on Twitter or Facebook.

If we eventually vote, then we have to spend days with that funny ink on our fingers, a sign that we were bored enough to go out and determine the future of our country. I however think that if politicians were addressing issues that really impact on our urban lives then maybe, just maybe we would step out and vote.

By now it should be obvious that we your prospective voters do not really live in Uganda but on the internet or precisely on Social Media. Do you have anything in your manifesto that aims to ease this our lifestyle?

Hey you! I am talking to you...

Hey you! I am talking to you…

We want to hear you talking about lowering the price of internet data bundles. We are living very miserable lives thanks to the speed at which data bundles disappear each time we mistakenly tap the Instagram app. very soon we shall hit the streets to protest this gross violation of our rights.

If you can’t promise lower data prices at least assure us that as a leader you will ensure that there are more places with free wifi other than those coffee shops whose prices make us feel like we are actually buying off a coffee farm when the bill is placed on the table.

How about free wifi in all public toilets. Do you know who many female voters this can win you since most selfies are taken in front of bathroom mirrors with the lips extended in a manner that most ducks we spoke to consider to be outright copyright infringement?

Quack! that's copyrighted you stupid human

Quack! that’s already copyrighted you stupid human

We could also do with free wifi at church so we can use the Bible app during the sermon or more importantly send out Mavuno Church tweets. We surely cannot be worrying about tithe and data bundles at the same time.

When it comes to security please do not tell us about the benefits of sending UPDF troops to fight in Somalia or Juba. We just need to be assured that we can take a selfie on a boda boda in Wandegeya without someone snatching our phones. For us security is not just assurance that I will be mugged for my cheap HP laptop but also that I can leave an annoying work/family WhatsApp group without being looked at like a treason suspect.


I honestly don’t understand how you keep telling us about how bad things were before 1986 yet we still go to restaurants and can’t find a place where to charge our phones from. I will not even mention UMEME’s terrorism if only you can assure my people, the young voters that the price of power banks will go down the moment you are elected. The way things are lately, some of us need power banks for our power banks. I am sure you don’t know how much the development of this country suffers each time a young productive person like me with a folder for memes fails to join a trending topic on Twitter just because UMEME thinks power is a luxury.

That look we give when UMEME leaves us in darkness..

That look we give when UMEME leaves us in darkness…

Of course we love it when you give us those brown envelopes with money and the cheap T-Shirts with your face on them. They really come in handy when one wants to wash a car or mop the house. But the real magic if you want young urban votes to step out and vote then you ought to start by following back those of us who follow you on Twitter? Is that so much to ask? As for those who block us when we tweet some funny things about you, hoping to get some retweets from our friends, I hope all your votes are stolen when the counting is done. 

When Hon. Anite and Tumwebaze block you yet Amama Mbabazi refused to follow you back.

When Hon. Anite and Tumwebaze block you yet Amama Mbabazi refused to follow you back.

There are a few times when we get off social media to see how other human beings live. Here too we find problems that if you could fix then you would take all our votes and more. Can you for instance include in your manifesto that each time it rains in the evening the traffic will not be so bad and get worse when you show up with your annoying escort cars to bully us off the road? How can going to your home be an emergency, don’t you have hobbies. Would you die if you got home late and told your spouse that you were in a meeting? You can even just find a place and play a game of pool as the traffic eases.

Did you also know that you can be a politician for life if you dared to assure us that the number of curtain raisers at concerts will be cut down to just one. When we attend these concerts we have to live tweet so our friends can know we are cooler than them. Therefore we can’t be wasting our battery and bundles on chaps like Khalifa Aganaga. Duh!

Do you really have to count the pieces of meat even when the doctor recommended I eat at least 4?

Why do you look at me like that yet my doctor recommended I eat at least four pieces of meat…

Then there are days when we go for lunch at these places that not only serve food but it is a buffet. I swear I will rig an election for that one candidate that is patriotic enough to assure me that at the buffet table there won’t be a mean lady to give me that look that compels me to pretend that I didn’t want a second piece of meat.

But is this form of food terrorism even legal? How come with all the vegetarians in this world we never see anyone at the buffet table counting how many peas one puts on their plate. Why do they discriminate against us who love meat and chicken?

Last but not least, I really think if you want us to come out and vote for you then you should just create Twitter accounts and the ones with most followers take the day. We honestly don’t have time to stand in long queues just to show you we love you. Remember we are too lazy to even write Happy Birthday in full. HBD does it for us. That should tell you something about us the Digital Youth of Uganda.

PS: The views expressed above are of a deluded jerk that accessed this blog without permission. Investigations are still going on to establish his intentions but thank you for reading all the same.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Kigali Serena Hotel; Rwanda’s epitome of comfort

Over the weekend, the people that matter in the travel industry met in Seychelles for the 22nd World Travel Awards to recognize and reward outstanding achievements within the global travel industry. At the awards that The Wall Street Journal dubbed the ‘Oscars’ of the travel industry, Kigali Serena Hotel was named the Leading Hotel in Rwanda.


The terrace

To the folks that came up with decision, allow me to inform you that did make me laugh a bit when I got the news. Let’s be honest guys, this must be the easiest job you have ever done for any amount of pay. I am sure anyone who doesn’t know that Serena Kigali is the leading hotel here also thinks Rwanda’s capital city is Lagos.

Established in 2007, Kigali Serena is just 10 minutes away from Kigali International Airport so you won’t have to witness those movie scenes where the film star is stuck in traffic with a cab driver who doesn’t speak his language but only steals looks through his rear view mirror. It is just a smooth ride from the airport to Kigali Serena.

Serena is not looked for, it is discovered. It is located in a very serene area that as you approach it the tone of your voice goes down unknowingly as though you are heading for confession at an old cathedral. You are welcomed by the soothing sound of a fountain that calms your nerves as you go through the security checks.

The reception area is an enigma in itself. It is built around a polished granite atrium so beautiful that you pray the receptionists delay to attend to you so you can spend time marveling at the deco with its obvious Rwandan cultural theme. The people who designed it clearly owe an apology to future designers for I can’t see what you can change to make it look better than it is.

Rwanda is written all over this place from the staff uniforms, to wall murals, to thepaintings as well as to the bed covers, not with the alphabet but with only breathtaking art. It is at moments like this that I wish I had gone back to school for a Masters degree in pretending you are not blown away by your awesome surroundings.

The executive lounge and bar is a nice place to relax at while you send that email you promised to send to your boss or partner after settling. Do you remember what I said about Rwanda being written all over the walls of this Serena? Well, while at this lounge, you will agree that the writing is even in the air. This place makes you forget the perfume you wore as the tantalizing aroma of Rwanda’s fine coffee cunningly teases your nostrils.

Not far from the lounge is the Milima restaurant whose Swahili name is a quick reminder that you are not just in Rwanda but East Africa. Still with the Swahili theme, the other magnificent restaurant in this hotel is called Sokoni Café and Bar, best known for its mouthwatering African buffet on Fridays. I am sucker for African food you know.

There is no need to worry about what you eat at these restaurants because Serena’s Maisha Health Club is just nearby. I am talking about a fully equipped gym, sauna, steam bath, Jacuzzi and aerobics with instructors that look like instructors and not club bouncers. Did I mention that there is a hair salon too? Well I just did.

Maisha Health Club

Don’t the staff at the health club look so healthy already?

The hotel rooms just show why the experience you get from Kigali Serena is top notch. The hotel has a total of 148 rooms but any of them will blow you away with the abundance of comfort therein. Don’t even ask me about the usual satellite TV, AC and Wifi.

At Kigali Serena each and every room has a shower and a bath tub? Let me rephrase. You can sit on one side or stand on the other side to do just the same thing. If that is not spoiling a guest then I need a new dictionary.

These guys really pay attention to detail for I honestly do not know many hotels whose rooms have a weighing scale in the bathroom and hairdryer on the dressing table. Once there your heart won’t skip over what you forgot to pack. It’s like they see through your mind before you make your booking. They have facilities for people with disabilities, baby sitters and a doctor on call. They got you!

As you walk to the rooms, the corridors have this thick wall to wall carpet whose sole purpose is to mute the sound of your shoes. You will need to wear those ankle bells that I see with traditional dancers, to make any noise as you walk to your room.


If you fail to relax while here then there’s something wrong with your DNA.

The superior rooms are quite the treat. Complete with a sitting area that has a sofa set for your guests, a dining table, work table and a flat screen TV. What I really mean is that while here you have two TV screens! So while other people are thinking of how to solve real world problems you will be struggling to decide which TV screen to look at.

Sitting by the poolside just feels like heaven (not that I have died and gone there) if you allow me to explain. It would be unfair to just say the hotel has a swimming pool. It doesn’t. It has a hypnotic pool experience. Apart from the shimmering sight of the pool as it negotiates how much sunlight it will take in, the waterfalls on one side offer the right soundtrack that holds time still.

While sipping my spiced African tea at this spot I even got my Lupita moment. Yes, my dream to eventually write a book become more valid for this is the very place where great writing inspiration happens. While here you get to see a bit of the different aspects of the hotel be it the exquisite rooms, Maisha Health Club, the swimming pool, open air shower by the pool and the restaurant terrace.

Kigali Serena is also the ultimate spot for conferences and social events. I have watched Anne Kansiime perform here and attended lots of conferences in the same venue. Oh and there is the gift shop that has all the Rwandan crafts to pick from so you can prove to others that you were here without showing them selfies on your phone.

The author at Lake Victoria Serena

Chilling at Lake Victoria Serena…one of the finest Serena properties I know of.

I have been to four different Serena properties in Rwanda and Uganda so far and what I can assure you is that each of them offers a unique feeling and yet there is that Serena experience that cuts across thanks to the amiable staff and quality services you are sure to find at any Serena Hotel. Whatever magic you guys do, please don’t stop.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment