Kenya & Rwanda Girls Trip – Service & Safari

Kenya & Rwanda Girls Trip – Service & Safari Claimed

3-4 Weeks | October | Girls Trip | Service, Exploration & Safari

Average Reviews

Trip Overview

We booked the Rwanda and Kenya safari portion of the trip via Timbuktu Travel, and they are terrific and highly recommended - very responsive and worked with us to tailor our trip to just what we wanted. Our guides were amazing. At the bottom of this post there is a list of recommendations for anyone going to Rwanda in particular (things to bring, tipping, currency, cultural issues in Rwanda regarding the genocide, books to read etc). Additionally if anyone is interested in learning more about Provide International which runs 4 clinics in the slum areas of Nairobi, please feel free to reach out directly to me at This was a TERRIFIC trip! We all said it was one of our best ever. The combination of helping an incredible organization like provide, falling in love with Rwanda and its people, landscapes, animals and overall sense of beauty and forgiveness (and its gorillas!) and then the amazing lodge and animals at Meru - and all done with great friends - it was the perfect combination.

Full Itinerary

Oct 18 (arrived Oct 19) – Oct 25

Days 1-7: Nairobi, Kenya

I won’t provide a day by day breakdown but rather just highlight a few things we did. For the most part I was working with a group called Provide that runs 4 clinics in the slum area of Nairobi. With limited resources Provide, run by the wonderful Jonah Kitheka, has served over 600,000 clients since 1988 and currently offer services ranging from general inoculations and well care to pre-natal, delivery/c-section, and post-natal care. They currently deliver over 4k babies a year and an additional 1.3k via c-section. I worked with Jonah at Provide 30 years ago when it was just starting and was so glad to be back with them again to see how they have grown and to learn more about how I can help their future growth.

In addition to my time with Jonah and his family, while in Narobi I (and my friend Audrey who joined me part way through) did the following:

  • Nairobi National Park (via a car/driver from our hotel) where we saw lion, rhino and more- just on the outskirts of the city
  • Karen Blixen house tour (surprised at how much we enjoyed it)
  • David Shadduck Elephant Sanctuary
  • Giraffe Sanctuary (next door to the famed Giraffe Manor hotel – the same giraffes greet guests in their rooms in the morning and then spend the day next door where non hotel guests can feed and visit with them)

Hotel: The Fairview Hotel, which was terrific and I’d highly recommend. 

Day 8/Oct 25: to Kigali, Rwanda

Audrey and I flew from Nairobi to Kigali on an early morning flight. We were met by the wonderful Sibo who was our guide for the duration of our time in Rwanda. He gave us the rundown of our schedule, we got settled into our hotel and then he gave us a city tour and we made a stop at the local market to do a bit of basket shopping. We fell in love Rwanda from that first day!   That evening we went to the restaurant Heaven (we’d loved and recommend the book by the restaurant owners A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda) for dinner with the medical director of Partners in Health and with Claudine who works with them and who has an amazing story of survival and thriving. Our two remaining travel friends Joanne and Kirsten arrive and joined us at dinner as well. 

Day 9/Oct 26 Saturday: to Akagara, Rwanda

The last Saturday of the month is community day – Umaganda – where each community does clean up – so we didn’t meet Sibo til noon … we slept til 830 and had bfast – a massive buffet – and packed up and met in lobby. We drove to genocide museum – but it was closed til 2 because of community day … we decided to leave and come back on our way to volcanoes … drove to Akagara game park – drove through many small towns. Many people walk along the roads – many are walking with containers to public wells. Stopped at a market to buy bananas and stopped at “its coffee cake o’clock” for muffins and coffee – a modern coffee shop and artist collective. Drove to park and checked into Ruzzizi lodge … had a drink amongst the mosquitos out by the water and then moved inside to dinner which was spinach ravioli starter and beef and fish tacos …noisy night with all the animals – baboons and hippos mostly! 

Sunday: Akagara Game Reserve, Rwanda

Breakfast out on the water then we embarked on a 10 hour safari day crossing the entire park. The first half was not that exciting except for a flat tire and then the animals appeared – zebras giraffes buffalos impala topi baboons waterbuck and tons of birds … the terrain was varied from dense forest to open plains to acacia dotted hills … grazers stay/graze together and cats don’t like each other. We came upon a big herd of elephants. The matriarch stayed at the front – some of the males were HUGE and the babies were so cute. We had to forward and reverse around them and not go off road but “turn around” to avoid the two young males who were apart from the group and trouble. The last one had a micro trunk – probably born that way – we continued through the park – stopped at rhino beach for rhinos crocs and toilets – back to hotel at 6 and ran to shower. Had glass of wine at bar and dinner inside – Africa parks group gathered outside – dinner was stuffed mushrooms and chicken Kiev with spinach and potatoes and banana crepes for dessert and ginger tea …

Monday: Akagara Game Reserve, Rwanda

Woke to 3 hippos and a baboon in the front .. bfast in the blazing sun on the water – eggs french toast. Sibo late because he was fixing the tire. Did a morning game drive around the south part of the park – much less travelled and rougher road. Not a ton of animals but the eland was introduced. Saw a cute pack of baboons and babies sitting in the road grooming each other. A storm moved in and we batten down the hatches and returned to the lodge around 1230 for lunch – cheeseburgers lentil burger and tortilla wrap for Kirsten … ginger tea and Twix … took a short rest and met Sibo in the rain to assess the afternoon boat ride … drove to boat launch and met theo and had about an hour boat ride on the lake watching hippos eagles crocs and a litter of baby crocs … the Africa parks crew went out after us … did a short dusk game drive and tracked a huge elephant who warned us nonono don’t come any closer … and then aud spotted a hidden elephant and we watched him eat for awhile. Back for dinner – brochettes of beef and fish and twice baked potatoes and rice and a yummy butter pudding cake with Carmel sauce … and Sauvignon / Chardonnay …. 

Tuesday: Kigali & Volcanos, Rwanda

-Drive to Kigali – be sure to note the ‘zipline’ at one point on the side of the road that uses drones to fly blood from Kigali to remote areas for emergencies

-Genocide museum in Kigali – highly recommend

-Lunch at Mille Collinas (supposed site of Hotel Rwanda movie) in Kigali

-Drive to volcanoes – gorgeous terraced countryside

-Stay at 5 volcanoes hotel – nice with great view of the mountains

Got all set for the gorilla trek the next day! 

Wednesday: Volcanos – Gorilla Day!

Up at 5:30 bfast at 6 put gaiters put on (hotel provides them) as well as our waterproof shoes, hats, rain gear, garden gloves, water, small backpack etc. Drive to park HQ for briefing and we met the Patrick’s – our guides – and we drove an hour to trailhead. We had chosen a ‘medium’ trek and were given the Sousa tribe to visit. We picked up porters (for $10/day plus trip they carry your backpack, give you a walking stick and literally help you get up and down the mountain. Best $10 we ever spent, plus it does a long way to support the local community. Highly recommend using one even if you don’t think you’ll need it.)

We walked through a village and fields up up up to trackers. Switched trailheads as family of gorillas moved and we hiked with our porters through the bamboo forest holding hands up slippery slopes traversing through vines following the family as they moved to hide out from the rain … it was raining pretty hard and our medium trek turned to a ‘hard’ trek (per our guide) as the family kept moving … it was about 4 miles up and 1500’ – no switchbacks – just straight up the mud, and took about 1.5 hours. Good to have gloves and long sleeves to protect against the nettle bushes (they sting even through thin clothing). We found a group of 5 nestled in between trees … the young male was trying to get attention of the females so puffed up his chest and did a Tarzan yell and strutted about scaring all of us …. guess he was looking for some ‘jiggety jiggety’. We had been told how to act submissive and not look them in the eye if they made sudden movements. The guides knew the gorillas so well and were speaking to them and knew what their movements indicated. We moved down the hill on very unstable terrain and found another one huddled with a toddler and baby avoiding the rain … and then found a mom and baby perched above. We watched her for a while while Patrick found the silver back’s hiding spot … under a clump canopy – he was hiding inside to avoid the rain … he came out – HUGE – turned his back to us and took a huge smelly dump a few feet from us. The silverback weighed about 250 kilos and was about 6+ feet high. The silverback ate and settled above on a kind of Mesa … we crowded around him in unstable vines and took photos – a few others came down to join him and were rolling on their backs and playing. We were supposed to be 21 feet from them but given the hillside slope and the terrain we were just feet away from them. A young one was swinging on a bamboo stick like a gymnast on the parallel bars (a real jungle gym!) .. we stayed an hour with them and began the hike out … not easy.

We Started hiking around 8:30am and finished around 3pm. There were 7 in our group – a nice couple from S. Africa and a no it all American named Celeste. As we finished kids all ran out to say hi and “give me money”. Adults shy to have photos taken. Drove back to hotel and the staff took off our shoes and gaiters and gave us juice and flip flops …. we went upstairs and had the worst lunch ever – it was supposed to be a falafel but it was some chick pea situation that was inedible so we had beer for lunch. And took ginger tea back to our rooms. Took the best showers ever and had a little down time to rest and look at photos etc. Dinner not so hot…but what a wonderful day!!!!

Thursday : Golden Monkey Trek

Today golden monkey trekking day. Same routine as gorillas – we left hotel at 6:30, went to park HQ – more crowded today. We met our guide and selected sticks and porters and began our hike to the bamboo forest … we crisscrossed fields of potatoes and other crops … the golden monkeys hadn’t been found yet or they were moving – so the guide kept stalling by telling stories to the group – we had the same S. African couple in our group as yesterday and another couple from Montreal. We had to re-route once and then we entered the forest (stone wall separates it from crops to keep buffalos out). Hiked for about 1/2 hour and then came upon the monkeys – they were playing on a low canopy – it was like watching whack a mole … swinging and jumping and falling around … they’d run right over our feet and find more bamboo to eat … which I guess makes them crazy. We got back at around 11:30 so it was about a 3 hour tour with a little elevation gain – there were two steep sections where the porters helped.

We paid the trackers $10, porters $10, and guides $20 and hotel staff $10 a night …

We drove about 5+ hours down the East Coast of Lake Kivu on a very windy windy road to Nyungwe. Our hotel is in a great location . .. but it needs a total re-do . . . the rooms unfortunate with not enough furniture and same with the bathrooms which didn’t even have shampoo. We met in the bar and talked to a nice couple from S. Africa who are on a driving trip. We went into dinner which was a buffet and it was inedible . . . pasta with ketchup, bad soup, the meat was so tough I couldn’t bite thru it . . so we had wine. We met a nice couple from Portland at the table next to us and they were on their way to the gorillas so we agreed to give them our gloves . . . . 

Friday : Chimp Trek

Chimp Trekking Day. Wake at 5:30 for 6 bfast and pick up at 6:45. There was a risk of a 430 wake up to see the chimpanzees but Sibo came thru with a later start time … bfast better than dinner but the coffee was so bad .. homemade bread good with butter cheese PB and a nice fruit plate with pineapple watermelon bananas. Drove to HQ to pick up guide – Cedric – and then hour drive + mostly down super bumpy road (African massage). Had another couple with group from Dubai with improper footwear. They were staying at the one and only – Audrey arranged for us to go there for a drink tonight. Walked on road and then a nice trail down down down through a forest for about an hour til we saw the chimps – high up in the canopy … then they took us bushwacking straight down the slope to find more chimps and Mona monkeys … the things we do to see primates … it was hot and sweaty and steep. Not great viewing of the chimps …decided to take the steep shortcut back cause of mustafa and dena from Dubai … drove back to hotel for lunch – veggie curry was good – showered and changed for the canopy walk. Drove there and once we signed in it started pouring – and we decided not to wait after about a minutes consideration. None of us cared – we drove to the one and only hotel… the long drive through the tea plantation was stunning and we pulled up to an amazing spot. The manager Jacques met us with hot towels and cold tomato juice drinks in chilled Moscow mule cups with stainless straws. He showed us around the public spaces and told us of all the amenities – boot camp, yoga, spa, movie nights with homemade popcorn, etc … Jacques used to work for Paul Allens conservation arm and Octopussy etc … we spent a bunch of time in the gift shop which was run by a young America girl named Eliza who had lived in Ethiopia and now lives in Kigali and runs a store there (and a tour company Go Kigali). The store sells locally made stuff – jewelry art baskets etc … we all bought bracelets made out of fabric and Aud and I bought bracelets made out of cow horn, Kirsten bought two pieces of art, aud bought a basket, Chrissie bought a horn ring holder … we sadly drove back to our hotel. I had a glass of boxed wine and aud smartly bought a nice bottle (the first bottle selected had gone bad and our waiter said it was very old and not in a good way). We went in for another terrible buffet dinner …. kate was having friend issues so we worked thru that … they had onion soup and garlic bread and some pastas and chicken stuffed with tomatoes and pumpkin. I had wine. We did a little more email and packed and went to bed … 

Saturday: drive to Kigali, flight to Kenya

-Left around 7 for drive to Presidents Palace – it was a 3-1/2 hour windy rainy drive through coffee and tea and rice fields. The prisoners were working the fields wearing bright orange and red jackets … very picturesque . . . had cappuccinos at the palace and met our guide who took us through the post 1930 palace and the pre 1930 tent / yurt type rattan matted floor structure. We also saw milk jugs and grinding devices and beer goards and the traditional cows (Inynambo) with huge horns … we drove to near by hotel – Nyanza heritage hotel – for lunch – chicken curry pizza and lamb stew for sibo … upstairs outdoors on the terrace

– 2 hour drive to Kigali. We stopped at an ATM along the way to get hundreds of thousands of francs for Sibo’s tip . . . and more baskets . . . We went to the market and bought more baskets and a suitcase for the baskets for Kirsten to lug home.

-Drove to airport – had to go through a checkpoint and take everything out of the car …. and then sibo dropped us and we organized the baskets and gave him $250 each and checked in to our flight. The airport wasn’t crowded but there was no food or drink … luckily they had a preferred club and Chrissie and aud belong so we got in and could get some beer and salty snacks. We said good bye to Kirsten – sniff sniff – and flew to Nairobi

-… we met a woman photographer from Menlo Park who spent 5 days seeing the gorillas … her photos were amazing … we were in the back of the plane and missed the first bus to the terminal – got inside and had to fill our disease paperwork and work our way to passport control … and the line was super long … and wasn’t moving and it was 1130 and we hadn’t really eaten and we were getting grumpy. There was an empty Diplomat line and there was a sign for frequent flyers so I just went there and the guy didn’t ask questions and we all went though and saved ourself a lot of heartache

– … got luggage and found driver and got to hotel – ole Serena – checked in and went to the big 5 cafe for club sandwiches and fries and wine … our waiter was super slow so we had to find someone faster. Dove into bed cause we had to be up at 530 …. 

Sunday : Flight to Meru, Else’s Kopje Safari Camp

-Up at 530 – bfast buffet and pick up at 7 … it was Sunday so only took about 10 minutes to get to the domestic / Wilson airport and we had a long wait until our 915 flight

-… a small cessena for our 50 minute flight to Meru … a dirt landing strip and a shack for a terminal with smelly toilets – but toilets none the less. Martin picked us up and we walked to the truck which was parked under a tree … he had champagne glasses of juice and cake for us .. what a nice change!! The landing strip is in the park … and we had a little game drive on the way to the hotel.

-Got to lodge and boy oh boy. Met Esther – we were going to have 2 rooms but she put us in the family cottage which is 2 bedrooms and a 2 baths and a huge living room and balconies all around. Found out they had all inclusive laundry so emptied out of suitcases in the lobby and handed it off to them. Found the gift shop and started the process of buying out the place over 3 days. Wandered up to lunch and had tuskers – the food was incredible – freshly baked breads, butter, linguine with meatballs, and a platter of Thai fish cakes, roasted veggies, capsicum, cheese and sundried tomato fritters and salads. Dessert was Elsa’s layer cake with coffee syrup and then they brought out a cheese platter. We had died and gone to heaven and were a long way from the hilltop. We settled in – audrey did wash, Chrissie and I napped in the living room – and got ready for our afternoon game drive ..tea and blueberry cake at 4 and 415 departure.

-Game drive – found lions! Looked like they were going to kill a buffalo but they ended up falling asleep and the buffalo got away ….. we stopped for sundowners gin and tonics and salty snacks and got back around 7 after following giraffes in the road in the dark.

-Park rule is u can’t be out after 7. Hit the bar and talked to the only other people there – a couple from Britain who are retired and like to take ludicrous trips … they worked in advertising. We moved our tables together out on the lawn and had a fun meal under the stars: beetroot and goat cheese salad, lamb OR roast vegetable curry, and roasted veggies. To bed … lizards and hydrox running around … heard mooing thru the night

Monday – Else’s Kopje, Meru, Kenya

Coffee and biscuit delivery at 545 and hit the road at 615 … saw all kinds of animals and the light was perfect – zebras giraffes gazelles and went to rhino preserve and saw rhinos and had a surprise champagne bfast in the bush … unbelievable – tables set, hand washing basin, yogurt and cereal on one table, the chef behind a grill making eggs and bacon and sausage in another … crispy little pancakes, croissants and muffins on one plate on the table and mixed fruit on another plate … coffee tea etc … two tree bathroom … Chrissie got caught with her pants down by one of the bfast staff … saw ostriches – males so much prettier than females – back to hotel for lunch with eggplant terrines, some tuna soufflé, onion tempura, and a kind of caprese capped off with the most amazing banana cream pie. Chrissie had massage, aud took a nap in the room, and I took a nap in the sitting area near the bar. Another round of tea and cake (vanilla pound cake with chocolate drizzle) and off to the afternoon game drive – went to hippo pool and had Surprise sundowners on a big rock – bar set up, pillows on the ground, hors doeuvres, great sunset. Drive back in the dark and Michael found the lions lying on the road – just lounging about … back for dinner – we had the entire place to ourselves with Alex and Moses and Morris and esther etc … good dinner – Chrissie and aud had lamb and I had some veggie dish …


545 wake up, coffee and biscuits in room and headed off to find a leopard but didn’t … …. had a packed bfast at a “campground” of baboons – cereal yogurt fruit bagel sandwiches Scottish eggs coffee tea etc … back to the lodge for a great lunch (but new noisy group arrived) our first buffet at Elsa’s a Swahili lunch with yummy samosas and curry and mukimo (spinach, potatoes, and peas), kennel pilau rice, kachumbari salad, and green salad and cinnamon dusted Kenyan mini mandarin stuffed cream puffs and cheese and crackers … swimming and massages and relaxing afternoon.

Final tea and cake

We settled our bill with Patrick – he gave us 10% off for our efforts in the gift shop…

Afternoon – found lions again and risked being caught by rangers .. saw the mating game and the cubs and a female lying in the sun … found the biggest herd of buffalo in an opening and a big slew of elephants walking toward the river and set up for our last sundowner … so sad … back to Elsa’s for dinner – crew of 6 from Germany England and Michigan at bar … we had dinner on the lawn with Ester who said we had good energy especially around the gift shop … gorgeous night outside … started was a spiced lentil kofta with labneh cream and papadam. aud and I had beef Milanese with veggies and Chrissie had a veggie tart …. finished packed and got to bed

Wednesday – to Kenya

545 wake up and cappuccinos … final packing and showers and went up for bfast. Morris told us we were the best guests ever … delicious bfast – Jacqueline showed us kitchen and outdoor bread oven … we said our good-byes and had our final game drive to the airport. Tons of animals were out – and we watched the biggest group of elephants head to the water … waited for plane to come in and had two stops at Samburu and Lewa before Nairobi. Walter met us with our overflow bags and Jonah picked us up and drove us to through the slums to his first clinic. Visited the Provide clinic and found out about all the good work he is doing for this very poor population. Then time to fly home :(.



Time of year


Type of Trip

Adventure/Active, Nature, Service


3-4 weeks

Who Went

Solo, Girls trip, Friends (45-65 yr old)

Accommodation Type

Hotel, Other


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