To be honest with you, I did not intend to publish this report, however, the nice comment posted by fellow member 345tas on my previous TR, suggested otherwise:
RwandAir flagships:WB701 London to Kigali, A330-300 in Business Class
345tas wrote:Great detailed report. Surely they are going to kill the BRU-LGW tag if that's the loads they are getting?
Would be great to see pics from Burundi, too.
So let's have a deeper look into what you've clicked for
Burundi, the tiny landlocked country in Central East Africa, faced a deep political crisis back in 2015. Being based in Kigali – Rwanda at that time, I had to cancel a trip to the capital city, Bujumbura, one week only before protests, violence, fear, socio-economic decline and deepening social fractures characterised the beginning of the President’s third term in July 2015.
Rwanda expelled more than 1500 burundians after they refused to be moved to refugee camps. The crackdown followed a period of Rwandans being expelled from Burundi since April 2015, when Burundi’s political crisis exploded.
Bujumbura maintaining its accusations of meddling against its neighbour sparked the diplomatic row. Burundi’s president accuses Rwanda of supporting the rebels fighting against his government. Hence Burundians often look askance at Rwandan citizens (like myself) when traveling to its twin country.
Time to stop buying the blah blah that some western medias want us to believe and debunk some misconceptions that harm badly the image of this fragile nation.
While claiming miles online, a funny coincidence showed that my 100th flight with Kenya Airways occurred in June too, during the memorable NBO – CPT sector.
For your pleasure, this trip report unfolds these highlights:
1/ A glimpse of Bujumbura city and enchanting Burundi.
2/ Bujumbura – Kigali – Nairobi, KQ in Y & RwandAir in J.
3/ The Simba Lounge, T1A Nairobi airport.
4/ Nairobi – Cape Town – Nairobi, nifty souvenirs for the 100th with KQ in J.
5/ KQ's flagship Pride Lounge, T1A Nairobi airport.
6/ Nairobi – London, KQ in J.
If aviation related photos are all from a trip in June, non aviation pictures were taken on three different occasions this year, using different equipments. Thus I would like to apologize for the inconsistent quality.
PART I: Bujumbura city and the country of the southernmost source of the Nile River
Except during a compulsory business trip, any visitor should avoid staying at the too overrated Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika, not centrally located and lacking of genuine African ambience.
Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika with its distinctive clay tennis courts and pool
The best kept secret residence lies on the lakeside at Kabondo area (near the pitch where the current president likes to play/train twice weekly):
The hotel Safari Gate in the city center and near a western standards hospital, offers rooms ranging from usd 60 to usd 200 for suites, a 24h/7 security, 2 nice pools, a fitness center, 2 restaurants, meeting rooms and an excellent customer service.
View from the roof top restaurant "La Brise"
Safari Gate hotel recommended by the Lonely Planet travel guide.
A spacious executive room with A/C
TV screen on the small side, underneath you have a fridge.
Standard balcony towards the pool
Bathroom's view: garden covered with lush vegetation
Les Paillotes Beach restaurant (where breakfast is served)
Stunning view (hippos frequently come here in the evening to feed themselves), with DR Congo in the background
Regular ferry plying the route to the south
Part of the free breakfast: gorgeous fruit platter
Excellent for dinner despite closing a bit too early like 8h30 – 9ish pm ( mukeke meunière and grilled quarter chicken)
If you want to swim nearby (a 3 min car drive or 15 min walk), the public beach at the end of Avenue de la Plage next to the (quiet) harbour will satisfy your urgent need, especially with young children.
First things first; have you ever been millionaire in your life ?
A quick and cheap ride – allowed outside the city center ring.
Sandy beach in town
Fun playground for kids
A few ships
Let's go to Le Cercle Nautique (nautical club)
You can hire one of the many cuddy boats (up to 8 people) for only usd 150 per hour...
...Or you can chill out with a lager and fried ndagala (small fishes) at the sunset of your busy day.
If you are not yet tired of moving around, 200 meters away from this great boutique hotel, one can find the Musée Vivant (Living Museum). Entrance fee will cost you a ridiculous BIF 10 000 pp to spend a couple of hours or half a day here. (Bank/official rates: 1 usd/eur =BIF 1750/2060, forex/black market rates: 1 usd/eur = BIF 2700/3100).
Although being one of the main tourist attraction in Bujumbura, unfortunately it is almost neglected. Several species of animals have disappeared and are not replaced. The space is very small because they rely mostly on foreign donors and funds. Thus, this worldwide call to anyone who is willing to send animals or, for a good cause, invest her/his precious time or more to rehabilitate this dusty but well governed institution.
Tempête grounds, the Living Museum (Musée Vivant) at the far right.
You can even pay usd 4 to sacrifice a cute guinea pig for the reptile snack. Yup so cruel, but extremely distracting for a few minutes!
Eating a slice of pineapple
One female and one male but no offspring yet (according to the guide, the male doesn't want to )!
Even though this python is just a teen, would you be brave enough to cuddle up it?
At a local joint for more meat yeah, delicious beef shank and classic Burundian grilled goat skewers
While temperatures are still warm, why not keeping on walking further north at an average pace?
You reach already the city centre after 15 min. Unlike Kigali or Kampala, moto taxi (or reckless boda boda), three-wheeler Bajaj and bicycles are not allowed to circulate in city centre.
So, if you want to get around outside the center, head off to main bus station at the central market where the good network links the outskirts of the town.
Boulevard du 1er Novembre, still no skyscraper, but the new 2045 Masterplan will put some nice ones!
Central bus station next to the previously devastated main market
"Brussels Airlines, non stop flights from Bujumbura to Europe and the World" advert
Uphill, the posh area of Kiriri
A typical place for mzungu, le Marché Fleuri (The Flowery Market)
No need of special bargaining skills, prices are usually ok
The future presidential palace in Gasenyi suburb
Built by the Chinese, it should have been inaugurated this month in December 2017...
A huge sharing platter of tender goat leg (akaguru kimpene) with fried plantains and cassava (uburobe), picture doesn't do justice to it, my bad
Nyakabiga area with a power outage; in the background, Mutanga
History and architecture wise, welcome to a crossroad with lots of trouble in the past. Most symbols honor short term local presidents, friendly nations which help the country or European grand influence. Coupled with the Kenyan and Congolese visitors, that makes a surprising mix.
A very light sample:
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume "...
The monument engraving: Livingstone – Stanley, 25th of November 1871
Mugere river and palm trees, near the meeting point of the two British explorers
On duty soldier reconverted briefly as a photographer
At the bottom left, is the aforesaid man station
Mausoleum of Prince Louis Rwagasore: Unity, Work, Progress
Hazy view towards the city and lake
Japan is definitely involved in Burundi!
Monument of the Unknown Soldier
A tour can't be completed without a sport venue:
In East Africa, soccer/football reigns along with running, anything else represents just hobbies...
I.e. When was the last time you've heard an East African country winning a major trophy in sport?
The main football stadium in Burundi, named after the very first Prime Minister Prince Louis Rwagasore
At current President's hometown Ngozi, the spanking new pitch (built by the Chinese) is in much better shape for half the capacity. Just go figure...
Total seating capacity of 12 000 when the Intamba m'Urugamba (= swallows) play !
Certainly not the comfy Recaro seats...
From the presidential box
Where his Excellence President P. Nkurunziza sits during official games
The astonishing journalists box
Don't judge a book by its cover! this is one of the most renowned restaurant countrywide, for wealthy people/expats and locals: Kwa Mama Solo
All Bujumbura have been here at least once to this simple yet delicious West African eatery, thus you have to queue here eveyday at lunch/dinner time (visited at around 4pm)...
Sample of today's special
Another one: mukeke with rice pilau and her homemade secret sauce
UN's World Food Programme compound on the road to DR of Congo (Chaussée d'Uvira)
Fancying a private and/or custom made tour with an expert? Contact Home Tours leader, Hippolyte, at the hotel's reception desk for day drips or any special request. Surely he will suggest you a safe and problem free journey according to your needs at a very competitive price!
Welcome to the Rusizi National Park
At the time of visiting, half of park was closed off for improvements, to be completed next year (2019).
It costs only usd 30 pp with a private guide to get in (or equivalent in the local currency at the beneficial bank rate, not the black market rate, as managed by the government)
Professional and knowledgeable staff provide you binoculars and suggest some itineraries according to your interests or animal movements.
You can cruise upstream or downstream Rusizi river, the entire boat, for only usd 100 (same rate as above in local currency). FYI as the natural border, this small important river splits Rwanda and DR of Congo plus Burundi and DR of Congo.
Pont de la Concorde! Well, it reminds me something in Paris – France
Unfortunately, on the half of the park allowed; with my crappy pos camera, only hippos – again (you must be fed up of them now lol) could be caught. Antelopes, crocodiles and birds were only visible through the binoculars.
One of the four great viewing decks.
Where the Rusizi river meets Lake Tanganyika with some nice bird species (did not carry my photo lens sorry!)
"Black and White Pub" near the Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika
Burundi should also impose the community work, like in Rwanda, to keep the beaches clean and attractive.
Very lively during the week end or after 5pm...
Gitega, the 2nd largest city located exactly in the middle of the country, is also a tourist destination on its own for a couple of days or even three. The mild climate and the few attractions make it a pleasant city. One should definitely visit the National Museum, the German boma, Tambourinaires (Drummers)... etc...
This time though, it was just a transit point before going to the south in the Rutana Province!
Iwacu Center Hotel
National road RN2 to Bujumbura
Monument of Melchior Ndadaye (can you spot the police officers group behind?)
Main street, taken from the rather good Helena Hotel (mostly used by NGOs and/or for provincial government meetings)
Rutana town, capital of the eponym Province
The main goal you should have in mind for coming to Rutana is undoubtly to see the White Nile river source, that joins later the Blue Nile river in Khartoum – Sudan.
As there are still no indication/roadsign, you need a vehicle (preferably a 4wd) and a guide to reach there, after a short 20 min drive from Rutana town. Of course other natural beauties must not be skipped.
The Karera Falls consist of four waterfalls that have a height ranging from 30 to 60 meters.
From the top of the biggest fall
The hot springs of Muhweza, in phase of modernization thanks to the UNDP, are formed by two basins supplied by ascending springs ( up to 37.3°C), one for men and the other one, more secret reserved to women.
Beautiful natural landscapes.
The ingenious Pyramid of Rutovu
If you are wondering!
The southernmost source of the longest river in the world spurts at an altitude of 2 044m and at 6 895 km from its contact point with the Mediterranean Sea – The Nile river in Burundi
In case you are thinking of it, a big no, you can't swim in it !!
Back to the capital
All in all, many interesting places to keep you busy for at least a full week. My next 3 must do are doubtless:
- Admiring a live performance of the UNESCO recognized drummers (Tambourinaires) ,
- Exploring the Kibira National Park,
- Hiking the German Fault near the Tanzanian border,
- Bathing in the newly built Mugara Hot Springs infrastructures
Concerning the vibrant nightlife, when you fancy going out, various respectable spots are dotted in cluster at the sort of CBD. Be ready to lots of Congolese influences. The struggle you will have is to make up your mind on the place to choose...
The French Cultural Center or Institut Français du Burundi holds weekly a few appealing events, one of them was for the yearly launch of the Beaujolais Nouveau red wine (always crap, if you ask me..) the 3rd thurday of November. A party in Bujumbura was organized, while we were there, so we had to give it a try.
Many activities, attractions and shows, such as the sublime Choir of Bujumbura performing international songs ( in dire need of support/sponsor to level up their talent if you can/wish to help them financially or with your skills).
An official version of this photo is available here ( you can aslo see yours truly) .
A hilarious comedy, also intelligible to non French speaking expatriates/visitors, from Karla Pollux and Aurélien Kairo
The Arena Club in town, a classy bar to invite clients/friends (notice the VIP-like table in the middle of the pool)!
Not sophisticated but decent catering too.
One of the greatest Congolese singers, Koffi Olomidé; too bad leaving the country happened 3 days prior his giant concerts
The Zion Beach venue, perfect for a karaoke, concert, drink and at 2 mins walking distance from the Hotel Safari Gate.