Rwanda is considered to be one of the greenest countries in the world. As the country pushes forward as a leader in technology, women’s rights, and environmental policies, they are also emerging as a major competitor in tourism in the greater East African region. The region as a whole offers an unparalleled escape into nature, abundant in Lakes and rolling hills, all at jungle’s edge.
More so the region has been ranked as the newest luxury safari destination. Last year Rwanda increased its gorilla trekking permits from $ 750 to $ 1500 USD per person and introducing new luxury programs among them include the exclusive and behind the scene experiences.
With the introduction if such programs the park has attracted the establishment of new sophisticated luxury safari lodges and exclusive camps including the Singita Game Lodges and One & Only Resorts (Kwitonda Gorilla Lodge & Kataza House and One & Only Gorillas Nest Lodge & Nyungwe House) among others as you will see below detailed article piece.
Bisate Lodge, Rwanda’s newest eco chic escape, which perches in the greenery of the hills like so many enormous nests. I arrived early with the intention of spending the morning getting lost in the nature around the property, but heavy rains postponed my plans, forcing me to stay inside and indulge in the cozy thatched lodge, designed after a traditional Rwandan palace.
The front windows of the lodge open up to expansive views of Mt. Bisoke and some of the smaller peaks in the Virunga mountain range. With a warm cup of tea in hand, I settled in front of the fireplace to learn more about Bisate’s story and the intention of the lodge.
It evokes a return to nature, with its infrastructure and furniture constructed from a hybrid of woods and woven grass. Each detail has been carefully cultivated to both reflect the local culture as well as give back to local communities by supporting Rwandan artists and builders. The ceilings are made from recycled plastic; the chandeliers, in opaque grassy green, are constructed from recycled glass. Volcanic rock from the region was used to build the fire place and local woods make up most of the structure. The chairs, baskets, and pillows were among many of the artisanal goods specially designed for the lodge by Rwandan artisans.
Bisate aims to invest in the surrounding environment. Immediately on the edge of Volcanoes National Park, the hope is that one day the lodge will be within the park itself following efforts of reforestation. The lodge was constructed with the intent to reintroduce plant species that have become endangered in the park, to extend the reaches of the park by planting new trees, and to encourage the increase of endangered species in the park by careful monitoring of wildlife on the lodge’s premises. When the sun finally did clear, we embarked on a hike through Bisate’s surrounding property, which encompasses trails through cutting through local villages at the edge of the rain forest.
The rains commenced as we boarded our bus from Kigali to reach Virunga Lodge. As if on cue, they thinned out as we made our final leg of the trip deep into the hills where the lodge is located. Wrapping around the lodge’s property are the twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo, and the deep blue silhouettes of peaks in the Virunga range are stacked on top of one another, fading into the distance behind the lakes. If you’re seeking the best of both the jungle and lakes, this is the sweet spot.
Rooms are constructed in free-standing stone huts, stacked into the hills. Each individual lodge has a private, expansive balcony offering views of the lakes – it’s the ideal place to practice yoga and mats are even provided in each room.
The view is most remarkable at sunrise when pale pink clouds encircle the volcanoes, tinted indigo blue from the early morning light. To warm up after a wet day in the rain forest, gather around the open fireplace in the center of the living room, while appetizers and drinks are served before guests gather in the dining room for a family-style dinner.
The verandah of the main lodge sits high up in the jungle, offering panoramic views of the twin lakes and of the Virunga volcanoes; it’s the perfect place to pass an afternoon. Rich hues of reds, mustard yellows, and fiery oranges bring a warmth to the interior of the main cabin. Decorated with textiles, masks, and wood carvings collected from around East Africa, the common room pays homage to the traditional art of the region.
In fact, venture outside your room, and you’ll have the pleasure of talking to local artisans as they weave traditional baskets from grass and sisal fiber on the veranda, their products exclusively for sale at the lodge. They may tell you a bit about Virunga’s role in community development, which is significant.
The lodge has built a school and library in the local village, and profits from the lodge have been dedicated to provide water access to villages, solar power panels, and many more projects seen as crucial to sustainability.
Beyond their dedication to community development, Virunga captures the importance of exploration and ecological conservation in the region as well, as is reflected the lodge’s latest addition: a map room dedicated to the career of Dian Fossey.
Photos and notes from her work with gorillas decorate the walls alongside maps and dedications to early explorers of Central Africa. Adventurers can also pay homage to this great woman by hiking to her grave to leave flowers.