Together with the Ministry of Trade, Post and Tourism as well as the Burundi tourist board and with the support of Brussels Airlines we organized a very special fam- and press trip to Burundi. 8 days, 3 journalists and 3 tour operators from Germany as well as 2 COMPASS consultants accompanying the tour, Guillermo Ribes and Henriette Stieger.
The first 3 days of this adventurous trip are lying behind us, thus our first insight report directly from Burundi. While writing this we are all sitting in the bus on the way from Gitega to Rutana. But let’s start at the beginning.
Arriving on Sunday night with a Brussels Airlines flight from Frankfurt and Berlin via Brussels, we were warmly welcomed not only by the warm temperature of 25 degrees but also from our very passionate guide for the trip Valentin Kavakure. Valentin is working for the Burundi tourist board and puts all his heart into showing us “his” Burundi and he is definitely the right guy for this job: passionate and enthusiast and always smiling, that’s the Burundian way.
Straight from the airport we arrived at our first accommodation, Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika, a 4 star hotel directly situated at Lake Tanganyika. After check-in we were warmly welcomed by the owner. We finished the evening off with a marvelous dinner with regional fish and beer. Beer is sacred in Burundi that was one of the first things we learned.
The next morning we started our journey to Kibira National Park in the northern part of Burundi that borders Rwanda. On the way we stopped at Mwabutsa’s Waters, the former king’s water, a place where water comes from deep down to the surface. The sprinkling water is used to feed some fresh vegetables and flowers that are nicely arranged by local farmers which also can directly be bought at site. With a bag of fresh carrots we continued our way to the National Park.
At the entrance to Kibira National Park our park guide Deus was already awaiting us as we were running a bit behind schedule. But no problem Burundians are always relaxed! Deus took us on a 1 hour tour explaining the park’s flora and fauna. A fact that surprised all of us from the very beginning is that Burundi has very green vegetation. Different types of green colored trees and bushes meet with redly clay and grayish rocks and form beautiful sceneries.
The coming night we spend in Kirundo at the Top Hill Residence. Before getting rest, however, we were served delicious foods by an elderly Dutch couple in the Maison Fleurie. Seeming like their private backyard, we were sitting under a beautiful African-styled pavilion.
The following morning then started already quite early, 5:45 am departure. But for a very good reason: canoeing and bird watching at Lake Rwihinda. With 3 canoes of which one even was a traditional one made one whole tree trunk, we toured the lake for around 1 hour with a short walk on one of the lake’s island. The morning mist as well as the many birds offered great photo opportunities.
Next, we had a stop-over at a pineapple wine manufacturing, followed by a performance of the traditional Intore Warrior dancers in the stadium of Kirundo. With traditional costumes and bells around their ankles, we learned that all soldiers used to be dancers and that is was part of a war ritual. The whole community must have been hearing about this performance as we were quickly surrounded by a whole bunch of people, from old to young, smiling and watching at us curiously. We would find out that this would happen at any given location, friendly smiling and waving people welcoming us with a very natural but definitely unthreatening curiosity.
After enjoying a quick breakfast, we continued our journey to Ruvubu National Park near Muyinga bordering Tanzania. Our park guide Silvestre informed us about the history, vegetation and the park’s animals. Besides a huge number buffalos the park is home to antelopes, monkeys and hippos. Hippos actually gave the river Ruvubu its name. Ruvubu is Kirundi and means river of hippos.
The final part of this day tour led us to Muyinga where strolled over the local marketplace watching traders and everyday life activities. From there we continued our way to Gitega where we spend the night at the newly build hotel Tropitel.
There are 5 more days lying ahead of us, we are very excited about our next adventures! We keep you posted.
All the best from Burundi,
Henriette and Guillermo