JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH DARIUS DOSSANTOS FROM KIGALI, RWANDA!
Darius Dossantos is a full time traveller who has managed to visit over 46 countries on 4 continents and is still counting. In 1996 when he was a toddler he left home and toured Western Uganda in Rwenzori and since then life has never been the same for him. He got stuck in this thing called travel. He has guided a number of media houses including the famous BBC, New York times Journalists, famous photographers like Mark Metternich and many others. All the little money he gets is spent on his personal project called Travel With Darius TV.
Rwanda is a landlocked East African country also known as the land of 1000 hills. It’s highest point is Mount Karisimbi at 4507 metres and lowest is 950 metres. It is a part of Africa’s Great Lakes Region which is one of the richest regions of the continent in natural resources. The other countries which are it’s part are Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
Kigali is the capital and largest city of Rwanda. It is considered as one of the most modern and cleanest cities in the African continent. So much so that it has recently been nominated for the first edition of the Wellbeing City Award, an award that recognizes cities placing wellbeing at the center of urban design and planning. Kigali has appeared in the Public Health category in it where it will be competing with cities like Gothenburg, Los Angeles and Vancouver.
What is the best time to visit Kigali?
Kigali is an interesting city. First of all it is build on a high altitude. When its hot everywhere, you will find it cold. When its raining and flooding in other cities, you will find Kigali dry and clean. So all year around it’s a good city. But most importantly is visiting it during genocide commemoration time which starts around April and ends around July. The first two weeks are teasers. You feel the touch of what human kind can do to the rest yet you were not there. Everything is quiet in the city. Kigali doesn’t have peak time unless unusual conferences come over.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Kigali?
I will start with types of transport available. Kigali has city buses which are really on time and clean. City buses use swipe cards too, so everything is a bit modernized and cashless. Swipe cards are prepaid so that you can keep checking the balance.
Besides that you will get a number of taxi cabs parked in gazetted places. But the most common means of transport is taxi motto.
Taxi motto is basically motorcycles that you can call anytime, in any place around time. This is the most favored means of transport. Some companies have invested in extra cash to make it modernized with modern apps. You can pay a motto guy using mobile money for example. Kigali is on Google maps and streets are numbered so finding you is very easy. Sophisticated and transport companies like Uber have not hit Kigali market yet.
What are the top three must visit places in Kigali?
The best day trips would be Kigali city tours. You can tour on a moto or even walkable distances depending on where you are coming from. Kigali city is not that big and besides the cleanliness will give you a chance to walk with no dust. Kigali also has Nyamirambo that is best loved by urban lifestylers with mostly Swahili speakers.
Get an afternoon visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial site at Gisozi and see trauma and danger that befell humankind in 1994. It’s a hard story for me to tell. It evokes bad memories for me. Entrance is free but you can donate to help this work of preserving history go on. The Rwandan genocide has a lasting and thoughtful impact not only to Rwanda but also on its neighboring countries, read about it here.
Lastly don’t miss your evening sundowner at Ubumwe grand hotel rooftop where you will have an iconic view of Kigali at night.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Kigali?
Of course everyone knows Rwanda is home to the famous Gorilla. So my number one is Volcanoes National Park (Parc National Des Volcans). Apart from being the only place with volcanoes, this Northern part of Rwanda is so contagious. You don’t feel like leaving every time you go there. Karisimbi volcano is the highest peak and will greet you with a smile. Musanze town houses this park. Gorillas, people and hiking mountains will always come number one in this area. After seeing gorillas you will be given a dessert of Dian Fossey itinerary that will show you an amazing woman who sacrificed her life to save these amazing creatures that share 99+% of DNA with human beings.
There are various accommodation options available in and around the park. However, Bisate Eco Lodge, a luxurious and eco-sensitive safari camp, is considered as one of the world’s best new hotels. It focuses on Africa’s most immersive wild primate experience and has been recently shortlisted in the Global Ahead awards in ‘Lodges & Tented Camps’ category.
Second place to me is Kibuye, a city in Karongi District, around 110 km from Kigali. It lies in the western stretch of Rwanda along L.Kivu that touches Rwanda to the west and kissing Democratic Republic of Congo to the West. It is just 1 hour’s drive away from Volcanoes national park and Gisenyi. To me this place has been underrated by all bloggers and travellers. It’s the Caribbean type of environment you will experience in Rwanda. It’s enchanting, its extremely gorgeous and one Rwanda’s hidden nature paradise. It is hard to believe that it is the same place which experienced the most killings of Tutsis by Hutus in the 1994 genocide. To learn more about things to do in Kibuye, click here.
Lastly I will not go without visiting Akagera National park. OMG. African parks in partnership with Rwanda Development board partnership have done a great deal of this Eastern Rwanda gem and tourism archipelago. Named after the Akagera river, this park is at the country’s border with Tanzania. Have a great time here by going on a wildlife game drive, fishing in lake Shakani, boat safari on lake Ihema or birding in the park. Here you can forget about being on the news for the introduction of the big five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo), but also a number of other animals, plains and luxurious resorts inside the park will never make you delete memories of this park.
Which is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Kigali?
A local brewery company called SKOL has started igniting Kigali city and its revelers. Currently they have started treating and giving back their loyal brew consumers an end of year party to beer drowns. Why not? So far my best!!
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Kigali?
French fries, chips or call it “ifiriti” as called in the local language. A meal without Ifiriti in Rwanda is not complete. As you move in the local suburbs you will find many small posters reading AMATA NA FANTA BIKONJE. This literally means, COLD MILK AND FANTA. Lol. A homemade meal without milk is equally meaningless in Kigali. Vegetables are available but not common since most of them are imported from the neighboring countries.
Are there any popular markets in Kigali which tourists must visit?
A visit to Kimironko market and Caplaki Craft Village, both local markets with art and cultural items from the Rwandan market would be ideal.
Kimironko market is one of the largest markets of Rwanda located in the outskirts of Kigali. All kinds of goods are sold here, from food to clothes to hardware. An added advantage is that it remains open every day of the week. To shop all you need is some patience and good negotiating skills. To know more about Kimironko market, click here.
Located in the Kiyovu neighborhood, Caplaki is an ideal destination for souvenir shopping. It is full of handmade fabrics, beads, baskets, carvings, ceramics and texture. It’s a great place for finding crafts from nearby countries too, all under one roof, however, almost the same items except maybe a few, can be found in Kimironko and at a much cheaper rate. Nevertheless, it’s worth a visit.
Farmers markets are organized periodically for resident foreigners especially who want to buy organic foods.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Kigali?
Because Rwanda is a land of strong culture, you will find souvenirs which are 100% Rwandan authentic. Examples are Imigongo made from cow dung and gorilla sculptures.
Imigongo art is a type of art that is made by making patterns using cow dung, mainly in the colours red, black and white. It is a popular art in the whole of Rwanda but it first started in the Igisaka region. In this art, cow dung is given geometric shapes on a wooden board and let to dry before it is painted in different colours.
Which are the best streets of Kigali worthy of taking a stroll on?
Kimihurura. This once used to be a diplomat residential place is now full of high end classic clubs and restaurants. From local to international cuisines and dining places. This area is in the centre of the city making it easier to travel to other parts. Overall a great place for accommodation, restaurants, cafes and night life.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
Rebero Hill. Its known to be the highest point of Kigali and will give you a chance for a panoramic view of Kigali city. Over 70% of the city can be seen from this hill. Besides it has something else to see. Genocides heroes’ mausoleum.
Would you suggest any shows in Kigali to drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in Kigali?
Well am not an art person neither do I love music performances. However, if you love it then Isaano Arts is an annual music festival that celebrates African music. The festival is one of the largest and most popular musical festivals in the country in which many top local and guest musicians take part.
Besides travel I love comedy and my Friend ARTHUR NKUSI makes me laugh my ass out. He has Seka Live on Arthur Nation done at Camp Kigali.
For street art check out the work by Rwandese organization, Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga – which translates in English to “To Create, To See, To Learn”. They create works of art that transform spaces and places through color and creativity.
How hard is it to travel in Kigali without knowing the local language?
You need a guide. Almost hard. Unlike other countries in East Africa, people in Rwanda don’t direct anyone like that. English is a problem. Maybe use cops on the roadside. They are friendly than ordinary citizens. Cops will direct you with ease or else get a guide.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Kigali?
Yes!! Hello food, Jumia food for food delivery at your doorstep.
Yego moto and Safe moto for motorcycles and taxis. But I would advise you to get out of the gate and whistle at the moto. The only thing these apps would help you is if you are not good at bargaining, here the price is set. Remember if you don’t get a set price you will get muzungu price. Don’t ask me what that one is. Smiles……
Good bye till next time.
IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING TO KIGALI OR WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT DARIUS’S TRAVEL EXPERIENCES THEN BE SURE TO FOLLOW HIM ON FACEBOOK/INSTAGRAM/YOUTUBE