Perched on the slopes of an eroded volcanic crater in northwest Rwanda lies Wilderness Safaris’ Bisate Lodge. Comprised of just six thatched villas nestled in the greenery, the intimate retreat is the go-to destination for gorilla spotting. Early arrivals can head straight to the Bisate Kwanda Day Lounge to relax, refresh and enjoy a bite to eat before check-in.
Since opening in 2017, Bisate Lodge has garnered attention for offering guests a truly exhilarating safari experience. Intrepid travelers can choose from a range of activities during their stay at the luxurious eco-lodge including golden monkey trekking, visiting the ruins of Karisoke (primatologist Dian Fossey’s former research center dedicated to saving gorillas from extinction) and hiking to the top of Mount Bisoke for sweeping views of the rainforest.
This summer, Wilderness Safaris took luxury to new heights by opening the Bisate Kwanda Day Lounge to accommodate early arrivals and late departures. Tucked out of sight behind the main lodge, the rustic yet stylish new lounge features wooden beamed ceilings, striking volcanic rock walls and a traditional fireplace surrounded by comfortable leather couches.
Bisate Lodge is comprised of just six thatched villas nestled in the greenery / ©Wilderness Safaris
The cozy day lounge has four spacious en-suite changing rooms (each with a private chill-out space) where guests can shower, change and unwind with a massage. There’s also a dining area with sliding doors that opens onto a peaceful organic vegetable garden – another perfect spot for relaxing after a long day’s gorilla trekking while taking in the breathtaking mountain views.
Bisate Kwanda’s chefs have created a delicious menu that uses plenty of produce from the garden and fresh seasonal ingredients sourced from the local community.
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Everything in the lounge has been hand-crafted by local artisans, from the hand-woven baskets and placemats to the pots, cooking utensils and crockery. Dedicated to supporting small businesses in the area, the sustainable safari operator has also opened the Bisate Boutique stocked with an array of local art, tea blends, coffee, handmade beeswax candles and jewelry.
“Bisate Kwanda is the first of its kind in Rwanda – a proud showcase of Rwandan creativity, resourcefulness and commitment to conservation, and a testament to our team, which is dedicated to creating impactful Rwandan journeys,” says Wilderness Safaris Rwanda MD, Rob Baas.
The stylish lounge features wooden beamed ceilings and a traditional fireplace / ©Wilderness Safaris
The dining area with sliding doors that open onto a peaceful organic vegetable garden / ©Wilderness Safaris
Of course, Wilderness Safaris’ commitments to conservation extend far beyond the new lounge. During their stay, guests can visit the on-site tree nursery where the Bisate reforestation project is well underway providing indigenous saplings to Volcanoes National Park.
“We estimate that some 50,000 trees – principally hagenia, dombeya, neuboutonia, lobelia and bamboo – have to date made it to a stage of maturity that makes them independent of our care,” notes Bass. “We’re extremely proud of our reforestation program that has inspired other operators to follow suit, and which has resulted in the return of numerous endemic species to the area.”
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Wilderness Safaris has also set in motion its War on Waste initiative, working with local communities and businesses in Rwanda to tackle waste, find sustainable alternatives to harmful packaging and foster a circular economy. One innovative example of this is the locally produced re-usable kitenge beeswax wraps (made by Bee Light) used in Bisate Lodge’s kitchens instead of cling film.
“We are constantly looking for innovative ways to reduce our waste,” explains Wilderness Safaris’ operations manager, Ingrid Baas. “The Bisate team recently started a new recycling project that uses toilet roll cores and lint from the drying machines to make fire-lighters, which are used to light the fires in the main area and the guest villas.”
One of the spacious en-suite changing rooms at the Bisate Kwanda Day Lounge / ©Wilderness Safaris
Inside one of the luxurious thatched villas at Bisate Lodge / ©Wilderness Safaris
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Only too aware that in order to make a real difference, conservation efforts must extend beyond the environment to the communities themselves, the safari operator has been hard at work with its non-profit partner, Children In The Wilderness (CITW). This year, CITW awarded 30 six-year scholarships (in addition to the 80 scholarships already in place) to students at three Rwandan schools.
Funding was provided by guests at Bisate Lodge and Magashi (Wilderness Safaris’ other camp in Rwanda, located in Akagera National Park). The comprehensive scholarships will cover school meals, books and uniform costs for the children’s entire education at secondary school.
“Some of our donors have been supporting the CITW program in Rwanda since we launched our first Eco-Club in 2018 and are still committed to helping. Other donors have stayed at Bisate or Magashi recently, where they learned about the program and decided to offer their help,” explains Ingrid Baas. “Each donation truly helps us to make a difference at the schools, in the communities, and especially in the daily lives – and future – of the children.”