By Candyce H. Stapen
When Bisate Lodge opened in June 2017, it became the first luxury hotel near Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park. Located in the Bisate region, about 20 minutes from Kinigi, the park's trekking headquarters, Bisate Lodge offered the convenience of a short drive to the park as well as the promise of pampering. Long ago my husband and I learned that the best way to encourage us to try something difficult was to dangle creature comforts.
When we first looked up at the hillside camp from the farm fields in the valley below, we didn't know what to expect. The camp looked to us like a cross between thatched huts and space capsules. Each of the six units consisted of spherical-roofed double pods that perched on the slope of an eroded volcanic cone.
But when we opened the door to our accommodation, we felt safely cocooned. That soothed us since we remained a bit apprehensive about our gorilla encounter to come. Among the sweet luxuries in the oversized room were an extra-long balcony and a two-sided fireplace that warmed both the bedroom and adjacent large bathroom equipped with a deep tub.
In the morning, white-necked ravens on the balcony peered at us, hoping for food. In the early afternoon, we sat, wineglass in hand, and savored the sweeping view of trees, fields and the Bisoke volcano in the distance. Even without a gorilla trek, the pastoral panorama seemed worth the trip.
The lodge's browns and greens echoed the earth's colors. The bamboo on the walls, the volcanic rock fireplace and the goatskin hassocks reminded us we were in Africa. The bar's glass chandelier, constructed from 300-plus recycled bits of bottles, and the dining area's wire lamps added contemporary industrial touches.
Bisate's staff, tending to no more than12 lodgers at one time, quickly learned our names and needs. They found ways to make mingling effortless and the trek less arduous. One night the manager hosted a tasting of South African wines before dinner. The morning of our gorilla outing, the staff served us a hot breakfast at 5:45 a.m., packed snack boxes, and handed us gaiters to protect our legs from thorns and thick gloves to help us pick our way through the vines.
After the gorilla trek, Bisate treated each guest to a 20-minute complimentary neck and shoulder massage. Both my husband and I paid the up-charge to indulge in a 60-minute rubdown in front of the fireplace in our room. After all, it had been an extraordinary day. We came within 6 feet of a family of wild gorillas, who appeared to us to be much like any human family picnicking in a park — except for the occasional vine-swinging and grunts.
WHEN YOU GO
For more information: www.wilderness-safaris.com.To contact Wilderness Safaris: [email protected]
Wilderness Safaris' Bisate Lodge rooms from $1,299 per person, double occupancy.
Candyce H. Stapen is a freelance writer at www.gfvac.com. Follow her at @FamilyiTrips and at @CandyceStapen. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
The Bisate Lodge in Rwanda is an excellent base for gorilla-trekking. Photo courtesy of Candyce H. Stapen.