This article was written by Alex Meyer from his recent trip to Rwanda and Burundi.
A trip to Africa is usually associated with an itinerary that involves adventure tours or game drives for those looking for a wildlife experience with the Big Five- lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, and leopard. However, there is much more to do beyond just wildlife activities. Experiential tourism is becoming the travel industry trend with more tourists taking into trips focusing on local and authentic experiences.
This form of tourism allows travelers to learn more about the cultural and historical aspects of the countries they are visiting. Yes, they can mingle with the locals through tour local travel experts At this stage, you need a local travel expert who will facilitate this experience in creating an itinerary and putting together all required needs from the ground transportation to their guidance. Local knowledge is an important component of this process.
A life-inspiring trip experience in Rwanda and Burundi
We finished my 18-day Burundi and Rwanda trip with memorable and positive impressions.
My wife and I have been on the road to many countries for about 20 years for business or vacation trips but some of them have been highlighted on our travel map with a permanent ink pen. When we visit a certain country, our travel wish-list is usually composed of culture, history, and wildlife visits. We don’t mind coming back to a site or museum we visited two or three days before to ask questions to understand more. To plan trips, travel, and live with locals offers us a life-changing experience and we feel more connected with the country from the tour planning to the on the ground service.
The on the ground staff were professional, thoughtful, friendly, knowledgeable, and eager to make our trip a memorable and pleasant one. From assistance in obtaining a visa on arrival to hotel accommodations and sightseeing their arrangements were perfect for my needs. Hypolite (our guide) and Albert (our driver) could not have been better.
Choosing the local tour operator for a purpose
The new technologies have obviously changed the way we travel in this modern era. Travel information and things to do in a certain country or destination are easily found online and everyone with an internet connection can plan and book trips. However, online guides and guidebooks can limit trips to landmarks, and the travel experience can be superficial.
Why not using a local travel expert? We prefer trips we book and customize with the locals. They allow us to mingle with them and ushering the firsthand information for an authentic experience on culture and history besides the wildlife safari. Kelly put together a fabulous tour for us to Rwanda and Burundi. She was responsive and knowledgeable and helped us to devise the best itinerary possible at a reasonable price.
We enjoyed our drivers, our tour guides, and local people. We trekked for gorillas in Rwanda, visited many historical and cultural sites in the two countries, and met with a family in Burundi. We felt enriched by this trip. We provided our wish list for what we wanted to see in Rwanda and Burundi. Kelly fulfilled and surpassed our expectations in every way with a custom tour well within our budget. She was able with her local expertise to guide us to customize one of their basic itineraries by focusing on our own priorities. Wonderful suggestions, awesome guides, and even made it possible for us to get a visa for Burundi at the airport (which is unheard of…. except for Kelly’s magic).
What we learned from our trip
No matter what your travel wish list is, the local expertise will be always be needed. Planning our trip with a local didn’t only give us a sense of an authentic experience in Rwanda and Burundi, but it also did shape our minds regarding the consciousness of the local reality. Nobody knows better than the local, be it the African cultural heritage or wildlife riches. There is no “one size fits all” in tourism for each destination is unique with activities.
Tourism may refer to travel, but it goes beyond flying to different countries, staying in beautiful and driving around beautiful cities, taking pictures of white sand beaches, green hills. Tourists with varied demographics from younger to older generations including upscale, budget, or eco-tourists alike can enjoy tours designed and run by locals while contributing to the local economy.
The three weeks feel we spent on our tour felt too short. As the tour moved to end, we wished we had the opportunity to extend it and spend more time getting to know those countries and enjoy deeper. The trip transitioned from experiential into transformational and empowering. Our experiential trip has been also educational and allowed us to carry with us fantastic memories and very positive impressions on our trip back home.