I had already tracked Mountain Gorillas in Uganda back in Summer 2011, but somehow I wanted to live this unique experience once again. This was actually one of my main motivations to go back to Rwanda & Uganda in January 2017. And yes, even a second time it is pure magic, a very privileged hour spent with those majestic creatures in their natural habitat… An experience that should be high on anyone’s list!
Most visitors come to Rwanda to see the Mountain Gorillas and maybe have a quick insight of the Genocide at one of the many Memorials across the country (more often than not the Kigali Memorial Center), and then leave the country for some safari experiences in Uganda, Kenya or Tanzania. But there are various other aspects of the country that really deserve your attention and at least a few extra days!
Visiting Rwanda also means facing its tragic past, one of the darkest episodes in Human History. It is a haunting experience… The country is literally doted with Memorials. I had planed to only visit 2 of them. More I could not stomach!
I finally visited 4 different ones, each actually showing a different aspect of those horrid events: Kigali Memorial Center; Nyamata Genocide Memorial (near Kigali); Murambi Genocide Memorial (near Butare / Huye); Bisesero Genocide Memorial (near Kibuye / Karongi…
The Most Diverse African Experience?
Itinerary And Time Of The Visit
I visited Ethiopia 3 times over the last 5 years and spent approx. 2 months there. Nonetheless, I still have the impression that I haven’t seen it all:
- In December 2010, I spent 2 weeks in the Lower Omo Valley & the Danakil Depression
- Over Easter 2011, I took 12 days and focused on the Northern Historical Route
- In November 2015, I took a whole month to re-discover the Northern Historical Route (including Harar and the Rock-Hewn Churches of Tigray) & the Danakil Depression.
Depending On Where You Go!
Type Of Travel
The types of travel were completely different on those 3 trips, mainly because you cannot travel the different areas of Ethiopia the same way:
- To visit the Danakil Depression, you must be on a tour, both because you absolutely need one (you have to have two Jeeps, an armed Afar policeman, an Afar scout, a military escort for Dallol, …) and because it is the law…
- True, you can discover the Lower Omo Valley on your own, but as there are almost no public transports, you have to have your own wheels if you don’t want to spend weeks there. Moreover, communication will be quite tricky if you do not speak Amharic. So a tour seems to be the only viable way…
- On the other hand, the Northern Historical Route can be easily done independently.
Ethiopia is a stunning country that offers the largest Cultural Heritage of Sub-Saharan Africa, built over centuries by some of the oldest Jewish, Christian (Orthodox) and Muslim communities on earth, and by Empires which influence spread much further than African boundaries…
The Northern Historical Route (Bahir Dar, Gonder, Lalibela, Aksum, Tigray), in the highlands of Ethiopia, but also Harar in the East, take the visitors through the grandeurs of Ethiopian Christian Orthodox culture, with stunning Rock-Hewn Churches and Monasteries, but also through the vestiges of the various Ethiopian Empires, starting with the legendary Queen of Sheba and ending in the 20th Century. Continue Reading →
The 2 expeditions I made in the Danakil Depression (6 days in January 2011 & 5 days in November 2015) both rank amongst the most challenging and most expensive ones I have ever undertaken. But nothing, nothing will ever take away these memories: each day brought a new highlight, each minute something unseen, unique and spectacular!
Nonetheless, the Danakil Depression is no longer at the “End of the World”. It is now much easier and much cheaper to reach, and the number of tourists is increasing exponentially. Changes were already noticeable in less than 5 years… Continue Reading →
A Travel Guide To The Hottest Place On Earth… But No Longer At The End Of The World!
Still “Terra Incognita” in 2010 when I decided to go there (I had actually never heard about it and could actually only find very little information about the area, both in Travel Guides like the Bradt Guide or the Lonely Planet & Online), the Danakil Depression has turned increasingly popular in the last years, and is now easier to reach than ever… and hence changing at high speed! So let me start with a very practical advice: if you ever want to go there, go NOW! Continue Reading →
The Simien Mountains National Park, a World Heritage Site, belongs to the famous places for trekking in Africa: breathtaking mountain ranges, a large endemic wildlife, amongst which the “Cliffhangers” or Gelada Monkeys, … Continue Reading →
With around 120 Rock-Hewn Churches and breathtaking landscape with sharp peaks that rise from the desert highlands of Northern Ethiopia, Tigray has a lot to offer. Nonetheless, the difficulty to travel there makes it still quite Off The Beaten Track, except maybe for the 2-3 most famous churches where you might meet tour groups on their way from Aksum to Mekele or Lalibela. Continue Reading →