In my last monthly recap, you read about my struggles getting a visa for Burundi. After almost a month waiting in Dar es Salaam, I was already feeling restless and wanted to carry on my trip so when I finally got the visa, I wanted to tick off so many countries as possible. June was possibly the busiest travel month of my whole trip, and I visited six new countries!
Countries Visited: Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia = 7
Cities / Towns visited: Tanzania: Dar es Salaam, Kigoma; Burundi: Bujumbura; Rwanda: Kigali, Gisenyi; The Democratic Republic of Congo: Goma, Virunga National Park; Uganda: Kampala, Jinja, Entebbe; South Sudan: Juba; Ethiopia: Addis Ababa
New Countries: 6
Country Count: 85/197
Finally Visiting Burundi
After three weeks waiting for the visa and a long overland journey from Dar es Salaam across Tanzania to Kigoma, I finally made it to Burundi. I based myself in the capital, Bujumbura, and spent five days enjoying the city. Reading all the travel warnings and hearing people’s stories how Burundi is a too dangerous country to visit – I was pleasantly surprised. Beautiful Lake Tanganyika, delicious food, friendly people and awesome hotel – I can’t complain!
Hiking to See an Active Volcano in Congo
This has been on my bucket list forever! I almost hiked an active volcano in Comoros but decided not to go because it was a rainy season. I’m happy that I saved this experience for later because the Democratic Republic of Congo is possibly the best place for seeing an active volcano! Nyiragongo Volcano in Virunga National Park is one of the few volcanoes where you can see an active lava lake. This also happens to be the largest lava lake in the world. I’m not lying when I say that this was the coolest thing I’ve EVER done!
I also ticked off another bucket list item in Congo: gorilla trekking! There are only three countries in the world where you can track these endangered mountains gorillas: Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I would say Congo is the best place to do this because the permit is cheaper than in Uganda and Rwanda, the hike is easy, and in Congo your money makes the most difference. A proportion of the money from the permits goes towards community projects like water and agricultural projects, and this can have a huge impact on local people’s lives. I rarely use tour companies but for my Congo trip, I booked everything through Green Hills Ecotours, and I was so happy that I did because my trip wouldn’t have been the same without their help!
Visiting South Sudan
If you’ve been reading the news at all, you know that the situation in South Sudan is devastating. The government is fighting against different armed groups, and overall the situation is very complicated. Famine is a real thing, and so many people have fled the country that the world’s largest refugee camp is now at the border of Uganda. What’s really sad is that most people don’t even have a clue what’s happening in South Sudan because the media is distracted by other things like the wars in Syria and Yemen. I’ve met some other travelers along the way in Africa who didn’t know at all that there’s a civil war in South Sudan. Because of this lack of media attention, South Sudan really needs help more than any other country. If you want to donate money as I did, you can do it for example here. I was also honored to meet the CEO of Second Chance Africa and learn more about their trauma care for refugees.
South Sudan is definitely not the place to visit right now, but I had decided to visit every country in the world, and now I was visiting all the countries on the Eastern side of Africa, so there was no turning back. For the first time during my Cape Town to Cairo trip, I had to fly. Overland travel wasn’t an option when it comes to South Sudan, and because I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks, I also booked everything in advance: a hotel, airport transfer, and city tour. A hotel manager of Crown Hotel Juba was very nice and helpful, and she organized everything for me. After all, my two-day visit to Juba went well, and I was actually prepared for worse with all my preparation. But better safe than sorry! I don’t have any good pictures for you because taking pictures is illegal in South Sudan. But I still managed to take a few sneaky photos with my phone.
Rainy Season in Ethiopia
Just before the month changed, I flew from South Sudan to Ethiopia where I was faced with yet another rainy season. So far I’ve had the worst timing ever because it’s been rainy season almost everywhere I’ve traveled in Africa. Ethiopia was also the first place where it was seriously cold, and I wasn’t really prepared for this kind of cold weather. I had big plans for Ethiopia, but the reality hit me hard when I got there. Not just the rainy season but also the fact that I couldn’t really leave the capital, Addis Ababa because I was stuck there getting visas for my next destinations.
I had heard a lot of good things about Rwanda before visiting, but it still surprised me how beautiful, clean, green and organized this country is. It’s such a huge contrast when coming from any other African country. Rwanda has a dark history, and I learned more about this at the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, but this fact makes it even more unbelievable to see how far they’ve come.
Virunga National Park:
Yes, I’ve already mentioned Virunga National Park twice in this post, but because it really has been the highlight of my whole trip, I have to mention it again. If you’re looking for some unique things to do – travel to Virunga National Park and the Democratic Republic of Congo!
Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, was also a pleasant surprise. I’m usually not a big fan of capital cities in Africa, but there was something about Kampala which made me really like it. Maybe it was just the fact that I stayed at a cool hostel (see below) where I met lots of interesting people or that I had plenty of gym options or that the food was good, people were friendly, and the weather was just perfect. I don’t know, but Kampala was a cool place.
Roca Golf Hotel, Bujumbura:
My stay in Burundi wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t stayed at Roca Golf Hotel. This is without a doubt the best hotel in Bujumbura! The location is perfect – it’s close to the city center as well as the lake. My room was nice and comfy, and it had a balcony facing the golf course. The hotel also has a gym, swimming pool, and restaurant. The breakfast buffet was fantastic, and they had great vegan options.
Serena Hotels in Kigali and Lake Kivu:
In Rwanda, I tried Serena hotels for the first time. I stayed one night at Serena Hotel Kigali and one night at Serena Hotel Lake Kivu. Serena hotels have lots of luxury hotels all over Africa and some in Asia as well. I was very impressed, especially with Serena Kigali. It had the best and biggest hotel gym I’ve ever seen, large swimming pool area and restaurants offering delicious food. My room was spacious, bed very comfortable and the wifi always worked like a charm. Lake Kivu Serena had an amazing location just by the lake with a private beach. They also had a beautiful swimming pool area with lake views. A perfect place to watch the sunset!
Fat Cat Backpackers, Kampala:
When you’ve been traveling a while in Africa, especially in rural areas and places where you don’t really meet other mzungus (white people), you kind of start to miss hostels where you can meet other travelers. To be honest, traveling in Africa can be a bit lonely sometimes because this continent is not like in Southeast Asia which is full of other backpackers and hostels. So when I finally made it to Kampala, Uganda’s capital, I decided to stay at a hostel just because they had hostels there. I had heard good things about Fat Cat Backpackers and as a cat fan, of course, I had to stay there just because of the name! I wasn’t disappointed. This hostel has the best atmosphere and is a perfect place for meeting new people. They also have a very cool rooftop terrace where you can watch the sunset. And of course, can’t forget to mention the cute cat who lives there!
A Beautiful Sunset in Ilha de Moçambique, Mozambique
Watching the Lava Lake at Nyiragongo Volcano, Congo
Coming up in July 2017
By the time I’m writing this, I’ve spent the past almost three weeks in Ethiopia trying to get visas for the last countries (Djibouti, Somaliland, Sudan, Egypt, Eritrea). If you follow me on Instagram and checked my stories, I got my last visa (Sudan) this week and I’m ready to continue traveling.