Weekly Companion — Online Picnic in Musanze

It was a massive relief to watch the Zoom recording of our first Online Picnic at Virunga Valley Academy. Previously I had little idea about how the event would look to somebody who wasn’t with us in Musanze but was taking it in through a screen. And … the concept worked!

The Picnic was more than just an experiment. It was the prototype Jane and I had submitted to Tourism Inc, a MasterCard-supported program for young tourism entrepreneurs in Rwanda. We received 1,000 dollars to try out three events by mid April, with a chance to get 10x the money if the prototype proves successful.

Beyond Tourism Inc, the Picnic was conceived to be the most high-value part of the Gorilla Highlands Experts service. And the participants seemed to have enjoyed it! Most surprisingly, after the event Chef Rama received requests from fans who wanted to pay to physically join future picnics — something that we totally didn’t plan for, but will certainly carefully consider.

Fundamentally speaking, our Picnics are an entry into virtual experiences that we hope will culminate in online gorilla tracking and similar digital delicacies. We want to help people travel in their minds, and feel the warmth of our community.

photo by Maani Logar


  1. This is amazing, actually where there unity eeverything goes well , let focus on this platform and soon we’ll see the fruits of our hands .

  2. It was lovely to watch this! For an “outsider” like me, it’s great to get a real feel of the people behind GHE, little bits of your life stories and how you are all connected even years after first visit to the region. A feel of a real and diverse community. I loved Marcus’s photo presentation of the nature and primates, the speedy tour on the main street, the school and the kids, the introduction to the businesses that GHE partner with. Thank you for the virtual travel experience! Hugs to everyone!

  3. I’m smiling and salivating, wishing I was there to hit the volleyball around with everyone. VVA may need a good net and a team, and Musanze a competitive league. You make us dream, Miha.

  4. Wow, great summary. I am sad it just lasted for 30minutes, I could have watched forever 🙂 I hope I can join live next time! Also to make it 2 Austrians participating 😉 It definitely exceeded my expectation and I am sure also the one of Tourism Inc! 🙂 Great footage, great stories, great to see new and familiar faces, great food,… The list is neverending. Such a great job! Exciting times ahead. Big applause to Miha and everyone involved.

  5. Let me give you a the perspective. I came here to look at the video for a few minutes… When I saw it was over 30 minutes, I almost decided to add watching this to my to-do list.

    Unfortunately for me, i played a few minutes of the content and guess who was glued to his phone. This picnic and tour was so captivating and enjoyable to watch. I could not stop. ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? Great job team ?? ?? ?? I am actually speechless.

  6. We have some extremely positive Picnic comments here (and many more in direct messages to me) but to make this less of a victory lap and more of a critical reflection, let me quote an old friend of mine, Al Podell:

    “I watched it. It is misleading to call it a picnic. although the best part was the frying burgers.
    The only other part I liked was the photographer and his photos and the few shots of the gorillas.
    At more than 30 minutes long it is a boring bunch of talking heads. If you are trying to attract tourists, you’d better to cut it down to an exciting six minutes. Otherwise, you will lose them.”

    I find this different take extremely valuable. Are we so happy with the Picnic because it shows people we (want to) know? Was it wrong of me to only cut it down to 30 minutes, intending to keep the gist intact? … Can we ever be attractive to a traveller who has no intention of going in-depth with our region?

    1. In my opinion, no 🙂 every other video you do is short, engaging and to the point, the picnic is another format. It’s about an event, bringing people together, sharing stories, information and food. The purpose is not a commercial 2min spot, it’s creating space. People can decide to just watch the short clips or join the event. By missing out the event (if you don’t have the time for example), you don’t miss out tourist relevant information, but you do miss out an experience. I also think the name picnic is on spot. To me, it was also not just people talking. Everone involved shared valuable information, using the format of storytelling. For example the chocolataire and your co-host, I found their stories really interesting. I had no idea that a school like that existed and I got inspired by his words that out of passion they achieved this. Also that he tries to change the perception of missionaries. Like I said before, I could have watched for way longer although nowadays your attention seems to go after 2 minutes. And that’s a great achievement!

      1. Wise words… Nobody can stop us from creating a 2-minute teaser for the Picnic, and then those who want to watch the whole thing will watch. ?

  7. Very interesting!! I find the shared experiences from different people amazing and informing. The food looked really so good!! Great work Mihar!!

  8. Well done @Rwebandira and everyone involved. What a milestone!
    I enjoyed watching recording but I’m glad it was only half an hour. The pace was good but does that reflect the actual picnic itself? Are you planning to record / edit the picnic every month? Seems like an extraordinary amount of work.

    @Marcus photos and commentary. Great content, nice length.
    Good mix of aerial shots, volcanoes, wildlife across the region.
    Nice balance of different speakers and activities.
    Musanze town. I found this interesting but that’s because I have been there. I think most visitors are going to be more interested in stuff that happens outside towns.
    Lovely to see a lot of people I know / have met – but will newbies feel the same?

    **Needs improving
    I didn’t like seeing meat on the barbecue as the first image. Sorry. Remember that veganism is a big thing now globally.
    Give an introduction e.g. what is coming next. I tuned out in a couple of parts. You might lose viewers if they find one conversation boring (and don’t know what to ‘hold on for.’)
    At end, list names of people who have appeared in the footage. This encourages people to connect / build network.
    The chocolatier. He seemed to be talking about his life in Rwanda. Not much about chocolate?
    Remove masks when you’re speaking to the camera. I feel very strongly that viewers should be able to lipread you as much as poss. My sister is deaf and more isolated than ever. Alternative is subtitles which won’t work for live and is a lot of information for the edited version.
    Information about the school was interesting but I don’t have kids and I would have switched off if I had not been to Musanze and met the people interviewed.
    Tell @Jane what 5 metres look like! LOL.

    1. Ha ha, Charlotte, there’s some contradictory advice there… Yes, editing takes quite a while — and subtitles introduced because of masks would take even more… (But over time we will subtitle all our videos, the Bunyonyi team will work on that.) Rwanda is very strict and we didn’t want to get the school (!) into trouble so we followed the regulations.

      Outside of that, thank you for your detailed and thoughtful feedback. Important to note: this was a very specific first trial run; towns and insiders won’t feature again.

  9. Waw, so many interesting stories from so many interesting people. Looking forward to hearing more from you all. Musanze seems to be an extraordinary place, hope to visit soon!

    1. Concerning the format I totally agree with Katharina. There’s enough content already for people who want short bits of entertainment, I for one was really happy to get to know some of the experts and felt there was enough variance to remain interested for half an hour, even if not every topic is as relevant to you.

  10. This was so delightful to watch – congratulations! You know how much I miss that neighborhood. Keep up the brilliant work – looking forward to hearing and seeing more people from the region share their stories and experiences! Thank you for bringing us all closer together. xo

  11. to be honest, i’m not 100% sure what i think.
    part of me agrees with Miha’s friend Al: if you’re not already quite in the sphere / the scene of GHE, you’d be watching some (definitely lovely) people introducing themselves and a ride through a nice but unspectacular town.
    part of me also thinks: cool, if i was in germany locked-down maybe i would have been craving something that feels live and inclusive and in africa. and it doesn’t have to be spectacular because that way it feels more real.
    btw: i really loved the chocolatier explaining his lifestyle and how this can give hope to other people looking for a new start 🙂
    and of course also marcus’ pictures, although they could go a little faster (like, switching to the next).
    videos of the jungle and of late-afternoon light between banana leaves and crickets and bushbabies sounds?
    maybe i am imagining too much of a ‘planet earth’-like thing which it just can’t be.

    overall, i enjoyed it! i’m just not sure if it would attract many ‘strangers’ outside of our network or not.

    1. another idea: going a bit more into the lives of ordinary rwandans / ugandans / congolese? i’m absolutely not sure about my ideas here, but never having been in rwanda i might be curious about the rural lifestyle and family ties. even more so in bukavu, about their stories including wars.
      and goma with its volcano lava in the street! how that came along. i remember meeting a UN official who was responsible for the evacuations at that time and was the last of the UN to drive out … but of course, most of the goma population did not get out. and now there’s lava in some streets and is used as landmark.

      am i looking for too much stuff that’s spectacular? then again, it could mix the normal with the spectacular. and by spectacular i mean the beauty and the terror – both are engrained in the region – which makes it what it is. special.

      1. (the UN guy had me absolutely fascinated by his stories. he’s now working in South Sudan (last time I met him) and married a Congolese woman who’s absolutely amazing)

        1. Crisi, a very interesting take and new ideas! I very much wanted more locals talking in length but it proved to be impossible this time.

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