Several years ago, Rwanda was getting good publicity for its gorilla trekking and the comeback it was making in Kigali and the countryside after the 1994 genocide. Tourism was slow in coming, however, and luxury accommodation for travellers was in short supply. Fast forward, and several five-star lodges have opened, one for $25 million.
In the last three years five lodges and camps have been built by South African-linked safari operators and companies, who are often regarded as leaders internationally in the design, planning and offerings in luxury outback lodges. In Rwanda, the new accommodations have been created by Singita, Wilderness Safaris and One&Only. Singita’s $25 million Kwitonda Lodge opened in August and One&Only’s Gorilla’s Nest this month.
Leading the way was Bisate by Wilderness Safaris, adjacent to Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda’s first “luxurious and eco-sensitive safari lodge.” While the focus is on gorilla trekking, the lodge also has “a pioneering vision of reforestation (in which guests can take part) and community partnership.” From the camp one has dramatic views of the peaks of the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes and Afro-alpine forests.
Six en-suite forest villas open up on to great views but adhere to environmentally responsible principles and “reflect the rich culture of rural Rwanda.” Bisate is close to the park headquarters from where the gorilla treks depart.
One&Only’s Nyungwe House, which opened last year, is just south of Lake Kivu on the Burundi border. It is set among the rich tea-plantations of Gisakura, on the edge of the iconic Nyungwe National Park, which covers more than 1,000-square kilometres of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps and bogs, and is one of the last mountain rainforest habitats on the planet.
Earlier this year, Wilderness also opened Magashi, six luxury tents situated in the productive and diverse northeastern corner of Akagera National Park, overlooking Lake Rwanyakazinga. Teeming with plains game, Akagera now also boasts a healthy population of lion, which were reintroduced in 2015 after a 20-year absence, as well as black rhino, which were reintroduced in 2017. Magashi – the only exclusive-use area in Akagera – also harbours a good density of leopard.
Kwitonda Lodge, which Singita opened in August, is on 178 acres close to Volcanoes National Park. One-bedroom suites can be had for $1,495 a night, while the lone two-bedroom suite fetches $4,485. The interiors, as in many of Singita’s luxe properties across Africa, were done by HK Studio and Cécile and Boyd. The lodge’s namesake – Kwitonda – was a great silverback whose legend lives on in Rwanda and was known for his humility and gentleness. On the property is also Kataza House, an exclusive-use villa.
The most recent, the barely opened One&Only’s Gorilla’s Nest, surrounded by mists and eucalyptus trees in the Virunga foothills, and the closest lodge to the Volcanoes National Park, offers gorilla trekking and golden monkey tracking. There are 21 lodges and suites.