Kigali to Arusha – Gretchen’s trip report #5

January 10, 2011  By: Gretchen

After reluctantly leaving Clouds Lodge, I headed back to Kigali and an afternoon city tour. Kigali is a vibrant, clean and organized city. Taking a half day city tour allowed me to see and learn more about it.

By far, the most moving part of the city tour was my visit to the Genocide Memorial. Rwanda experienced a tragic genocide in 1994 and the Kigali Genocide Memorial is one of many memorials throughout the country that stand as a reminder of the genocide with the intent of preventing it from ever happening again. While touring the memorial is definitely a sobering experience, it provides a deep understanding of what happened in 1994, as well as giving insight into other genocides around the world. If you are in Rwanda, you will not know the country as well without this learning experience.

I once again stayed at the Kigali Serena for my final night in Rwanda. After a good meal and a great, but all-to-short sleep I was off to the airport for my very early flight to Arusha. As I was on a charter flight, we had a few stops along the way, including in Mwanza on Lake Victoria so that we could clear customs.

Arusha is a bustling city and the starting point for most safari activities in Tanzania. There are myriad lodging options from basic to luxurious and most travelers going on safari will spend at least one night here. This trip I stayed at Rivertrees Country Inn in Usa River, about 25 minutes outside of Arusha. If you are joining us on Africaid’s Tanzania safari this May, you will have a chance to stay at this delightful property.

I stayed in a cottage on the river. All of the rooms are very nicely appointed, however the two
cottages have added privacy and nice touches such as day beds, outdoor showers and pretty patios facing the river. The property rambles along the riverside and is a quiet respite from the city. There is a pool, a bar and restaurant as well as common areas with books, games, cozy gathering spots, and if you must – Internet access. The guest computer has a nice view of Kilimanjaro on a clear day. I’d recommend getting up early to see it before it clouds over!

The food was abundant and excellent, and the staff and owner were very welcoming. Most especially, I needed to recharge a bit after the excitement of the prior week. Rivertrees allowed me to do just that – a quiet spot with lots of nooks to relax in; both indoors and out.

While in town, I also visited the newly reopend Mt. Meru Hotel. It had only been open for two weeks when I visited, however with the polished service and the professionalism of the staff, you would never know it had just opened!

The hotel is elegant and luxurious. There are a variety of room types for the needs of every traveler, and all are very well appointed. Things like flat screen TV’s are standard, and little luxuries like upgraded toiletries, robes and slippers are found throughout. The views are excellent; the front of the hotel faces Mt. Meru, while the back overlooks the amazing pool facilities and a beautiful golf course.

There are two restaurants as well as a coffee shop, and a sleek cigar and Cognac lounge. They claim to have the largest selection of wines, cognacs and spirits in East Africa. You’ll have to visit to find out for yourself!

Mt. Meru hotel also has a world class spa with ‘guaranteed relaxation’. If you need to wrap up a bit of business or check in on what’s going on at home, they have state-of-the-art conferencing facilities. Internet speed and availability appears to be above average here.

I would recommend this hotel for travelers that want a bit of luxury before heading off to or coming back from the bush. It would work well for couples as well as families. If you’re staying elsewhere in Arusha and just need a cool down, they also have pool access available for a fee.

Next: On safari in Katavi National Park