Like many people around me, I didn’t know much about the African country Rwanda, which was the exact reason for me to see it for myself and explore the destination. The other reason was the newly opened One&Only Nyungwe House, located in Nyungwe National Park.
I arrived at Kigali, the nation’s capital, which was beautifully organized and the people were exceptionally warm and welcoming. As I stepped out of the airport, I was welcomed by the lovely team of One&Only Nyungwe House before we made the journey to Nyungwe National Forest where I was to stay for the next few days. The drive from Kigali was breathtakingly scenic and a great way to see the country.
Once I was at the luxurious One&Only Nyungwe House resort, I was delighted to be greeted with the sound of drums by the welcoming committee. It was overwhelming to take in. My eyes were met with beauty everywhere they went—the surrounding green was so opulent and rich! Inside the main house, I was astonished by every little design detail, as well as their impressive commitment to recycling and sustainability.
Our surroundings were green, lush, and full of life. Only when I saw the canopy that we were about to walk through, however, did I realize how high we were! We were 60 meters (approximately 197 ft) above the forest floor, and I felt like a six-year-old filled with excitement. Stepping onto that suspension bridge made me feel like I was in one of the adventure movies I grew up watching as a child, it was incredible.
The amazing thing about this canopy walk is how it seamlessly integrates with the environment even though it’s made from steel and is very much a human-made structure. It both contrasts with the greenery, and blends in as it sways with the wind. People who are afraid of heights may not like the movement, but I loved it. The panoramic view of the valley is breathtaking, and if you look in the distance, you can see the mist coming in slowly.
Later in the day, I had an insightful conversation with Chef Treasure, who is Head Chef at One&Only Nyungwe House. He told me his incredible story of fleeing Zimbabwe and his humble beginnings living on the streets of South Africa. He was lucky to get asylum documents and a job cleaning the kitchens of One&Only-Cape Town. He was so passionate about food and so eager to learn that he was promoted to Head Chef at One&Only-Rwanda in just six years. Hearing his story made me realize what a gift it is to travel and meet incredible people like Chef Treasure who inspire me with their strength and spirit.
After sharing his amazing story, Treasure invited me to visit his garden at One&Only Nyungwe House. I’m not the best cook, and I’d never pulled a carrot out of the ground before. So it was an experience to see the process of growth in the garden, and to learn that Treasure actually grew many of the ingredients he used in his kitchen here. I imagined the enthusiasm he felt showing me around his garden would equate to mine if I were showing someone my climbing gear or vintage camera collection.
Learning archery was another fantastic part of my trip to One&Only Nyungwe House, a sport that is available to all guests at the resort. I quickly progressed at the sport, hitting the bullseye twice. It was nice to learn a skill that has been used for generations in so many parts of the world. In Asia and the Middle East, evidence of bow hunting dates back earlier than 10,000 BC, and it felt like I was participating in a communal historical exercise.
The next morning, we joined wildlife trackers on a Chimpanzee Hike. Nyungwe is lucky to have one of East Africa’s last intact chimp populations. It was fascinating to stand in the shadows of trees and watch the their mannerisms. They are so similar to us, especially their instinct to care for their young. I felt honored to witness their intimate moments.
Tea is another part of Rwandan culture that I was lucky to experience. A tea expert at the resort took me out to the tea plantation and showed me the entire process of harvesting African tea leaves. I was so fascinated by the process and how long it took to find the right leaves to harvest. The youngest leaves, which are at the top, are the most flavorful and are picked first to make tea. Once you get the hang of it, the process is relaxing and meditative.
I’m so lucky to have traveled the world as much I have and I’m grateful for each and every experience. Rwanda’s One&Only Nyungwe House and its surroundings is certainly one of the most special places I have been. Pictures and words cannot do this place justice—from the incredible scenery, the one-of-a-kind service, and the sheer luxury that truly celebrates this stunning location.
Raha Moharrak stayed at One&Only Nyungwe House in Rwanda. For more information please visit www.oneandonlyresorts.com
A version of this article was featured in Khaleejesque’s Tenth Anniversary, March 2019 issue.
Words: Raha Moharrak
Images: Jordan Snowzell