Often when we travel, it is those moments that we had not even considered as being a highlight in planning a trip that in fact turn into some of the most special memories. Building in downtime into an itinerary and allowing yourself to really savour and soak in every location can also mean that so many more opportunities present themselves, adding a real depth and richness to your experience. Spending time with local people, understanding more about their culture, relaxing into your environment and truly experiencing Africa is something that really touches your soul.
In the summer, I travelled with my family to Rwanda and Uganda. It was a very special trip as for my husband and teenage children it was their first experience of this magical continent. Of course, the gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking, safaris and lodges were amazing highlights and experiences they will always treasure but it was also some of the moments in between which they loved just as much.
Our two guides for our trip, Edmond (in Rwanda) and Milton (in Uganda) became like family. The conversations that we shared and the stories that they told gave us unparalleled insight into so many aspects of their life and the culture, history, people and animals of their countries. We also shared so much laughter and fun along the way as well as a great mutual respect.
In Akagera National Park, getting up at the crack of dawn just to watch the sunrise over lake lhema was so incredibly special. We never regretted those early starts and the sheer beauty of it all. For the team there, it was their daily view but for us it was something very magical.
Sundowners at the ‘top of the world’ overlooking the hills of Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo was breath-taking. We arrived whilst it was still sunny and light and got to marvel in the views whilst sharing stories with our guide and quietly watching some local children happily playing football on what must be one of the highest football pitches in the country! Watching the sun go down over such an impressive landscape is etched in all of our memories.
Whilst staying in Bwindi, Uganda, we joined a local walking guide for the day to hike to the shores of Lake Mutanda. As is always the case, by stepping just slightly off the standard tourist trail, we witnessed a slice of normal daily life in the fields, homesteads, tracks and hills of that area. Goats being herded, children playing, locals carrying their provisions and some of the most spectacular views we had ever seen. We even had the chance to drop in unannounced to a very remote village school and join them for their daily assembly.
Arriving by kayak to our lodge on Lake Mutanda is something we all appreciated so much more than we had imagined. Often, especially on safaris where you can spend a lot of time in vehicles, taking the chance to see things from another perspective be that on water, by air or on foot is so refreshing. It was such a gentle activity (helped by the fact that we had a master oarsman powering us along!) and allowed us to really listen to and observe the world around us. We added to this experience by later that evening jumping into the clear waters of Lake Mutanda and having an evening swim. Perfect!
A final African sunset from a rooftop bar in Kigali before heading to the airport for our late-night flight was just the perfect way to end a trip which had been truly unforgettable; not only for those big moments but also for those unexpected delights in between.
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