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“RUSTIC CHARM”
Review of Virunga Lodge

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Virunga Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Cape Town, South Africa
Level Contributor
28 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“RUSTIC CHARM”
Reviewed 29 April 2013

Let me start by saying that this is a solar powered eco-lodge and it is advertised to top end travellers. However, if you are expecting the lodge to be of standards you are accustomed when travelling in cities and first world countries, you may be slightly disappointed.

The drive from Kigali took us just under 2.5 hours. The scenery all the way is just beautiful and I enjoyed seeing how well the country is run. The last Saturday of every month, everyone in the country (bar hotels and hospitals) have to tidy up for the morning as community service. As a result, the country is spotless. We were also impressed by how up to the gate of the lodge, all land is utilized and farmed. 85% of Rwandas people live off the land and are subsistance farmers.

Check in was done by David and his team, where they offered us juice, briefed us about the lodge and showed us to our room. We had booked a room a while back so were disappointed to see we had been put into a room with two single beds especially since it was my husbands birthday and I had requested the trip be made special for him. After discussing it with the staff, we were told we would be moved the next day once the lodge had emptied.

The rooms are rustic and pretty basic and the views are to die for, I mean truly breathtaking. The view from our room was of the lake and during full moon was magnificent. Downside, the room was very muggy and the towels smelt bad but it's because it is quite damp and I think drying them would be difficult. The beds are great. Extra length which for a tall husband is something quite unexpected all the way in the bush. We also appreciated the hot water bottle in our beds when we retired later that evening.

Once settled we were told to meet for dinner at 7pm. The dinner is served with everyone staying at the lodge at one main table and it was a nice opportunity to meet people from all over the world. The food was enjoyable and more like home cooking. Great portion size and rustic.
I asked the waiter to do something for my husbands birthday and was pleasantly surprised by a cake and all the staff who came in to wish him and another visitor a happy birthday. Nice touch.

We spent two nights at the lodge and trekked the gorillas twice. The lodge packed us a snack box which was great because what was supposed to be an easy walk for us, landed us walking for 5 hours, mostly vertically through stinging nettles etc and by the time we needed a break, we were starving! Spending time with gorillas was worth the walk and will be an experience I will always remember!! It's truly very special. I would suggest to fellow travellers to :
Not only wear trekking gear, wear two pairs. Pants and waterproofs over your pants as stinging nettles still get you with normal pants and top. Gators or Wellington boots are a must, it's muddy and especially in wet season, it's a no brainer to use wellington boots like the trackers. Use a porter, they pull you up that mountain, carry your goods and help you down. My porter was a gem and more than helping me, by using a porter, you help the community. That one porter supports his whole family on the $10 it will cost you. Take cash to tip the trackers as well as your guide. I would also advise packing snack bars and other nibbles to keep you going.

The Lodge-

The positives: Comfortable lodge, fabulous views, a diverse group of travellers and opportunity to meet other people, good food, spacious rooms and warm and friendly staff.

The negatives: No visible management and service was pretty average. The small things that one expects at a lodge of this calibre were missing : e.g. Us having to ask for drinks on several occasions when there were plenty staff around, having to ask for a fire to be made in a freezing room and for it to be topped up with wood when it burnt down etc Also, staff have no concept of how noisy they can be and several other guests commented on how they were woken with the men leaving late at night and coming in early in the mornings talking really loudly. Not all guests wake up early to trek the gorillas so it's logical to have staff try enter and leave quietly. We asked after the first night for this to be mentioned to the people who walked past our room, but it didn't change and the noise was quite invasive.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay. This lodge could be really amazing, we found it enjoyable. Everyone who works at the lodge are warm and friendly and the finer points which we found lacking would not deter us from returning in the future.

Room Tip: As always, I ask for a quiet room away from the main entrance and main lodge. This usually ensures...
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  • Stayed April 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
5 Thank Ashleigh7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Rating summary
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Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (70)
Date | Rating
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  • English first
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English first
Moshi, Tanzania
Level Contributor
22 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
Reviewed 18 April 2013

I stayed here with a couple of friends for what was originally only one night, but we liked it so much we stayed another. The rooms are beautifully done, not over-done, but very tasteful, with everything you'd need and no extra tat. The bed is huge, extremely comfortable, and the staff will get it ready for you before you go to bed, with a couple of hot water bottles in there to keep it warm. A nice touch, as it can be quite cold and, being an eco-lodge, there is no heating.

The main area is very nicely done with a small bar and outstanding staff who are not over-bearing, but easy to ask for things. Every evening a small snack is provided and it is so nice to sit by the fire, either indoors or on the terrace, and chat with others or enjoy a drink. The chef comes round to ask you what you want for lunch and dinner and dinner is served in the dining room, with the other guests, which we quite liked. The food is not pretentious and the portions are generous, which suits perfectly after an afternoon of hiking up a volcano. Breakfast is served with a brilliant view of Lake Bulera.

One of the staff, Dieudonne, a young Rwandan, took us town to the lake to go on a little boat trip. He was excellent, with very good English and interested in where we were from in a genuine way, and eager to discuss his country, his life and his opinions. The lake was beautiful to swim in. Apparently not many people do this, but we'd highly recommend it!

Our favourite part of our stay was sitting on the terrace playing scrabble, with the volcanoes and the plain laid out in front of us. All in all, we loved this place and would happily return.

  • Stayed April 2013, travelled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Rafael H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Santa Barbara, California
Level Contributor
72 reviews
22 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
Reviewed 9 April 2013

Virunga was the third of the Volcanoes lodges we visited and it's as good as the two in Uganda. The mountain and lake views from the main lodge and the individual accommodations are spectacular. At this solar-powered Eco-lodge, we experienced comfortable, spacious rooms, accommodating and efficient staff, and very good food served family style. After a gorilla trek, it was nice to relax with a massage, enjoy a drink while appreciating the magnificent surroundings, and warm up before dinner in front of the fire in the main lodge. Everything (massage, food, drink, laundry, boot cleaning, local entertainment, Internet) is included and there were no extras. It's a bit difficult to get to on what seemed like a five-mile bumpy dirt road, but once you arrive, it's all relaxation and enjoyment.

Room Tip: All the individual cottage rooms are away from the main lodge/dining area, which is lovely for priva...
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  • Stayed March 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank SeamomInSB
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
78 reviews
63 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 112 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 April 2013

We stayed here in Feb to see the gorillas. We had no airport pick up when we arrived at 5am in darkness at Kigali airport but we think this was the local agent, not the lodge. When we finally arrived at the lodge, the view was spectacular and the lodge had the potential to be amazing too. The rooms were spacious and rustic, which suited the environment perfectly. The staff were friendly and very relaxed. Food was simple, home style cooking - nothing too elaborate or fancy and absolutely no complaints - delicious and hearty. Overall, we enjoyed our stay - this style of lodge and their service is not super polished compared to other lodges in Africa at a similar price point. The approach here is far more relaxed and the staff are happy to leave you in your own space without being over-bearing yet always happy to help, if asked.

The gorillas were the highlight of the trip. It is recommended to ask the lodge for gators as the mountains can get quite muddy so this helped to keep the pants dry as well as keep the ants from crawling up your legs and biting you! Also, think about taking gloves for the stinging nettles. We opted for the easy to medium walk and we were able to see the gorillas within 90 mins. We heard stories of more difficult (and painful) walks with loads of stinging nettles and challenging paths. We were happy we opted for the easy / medium walk.

Highly recommend to book two days with the gorillas to see different groups and also our 2nd day sighting was so much better than the first - we saw the baby twin gorillas on our 2nd visit and they are rare so it was more than worth it!

  • Stayed February 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Glamanda
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
UK
Level Contributor
192 reviews
72 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 166 helpful votes
Reviewed 13 March 2013

I didn't want to go to see the gorillas but I am glad I did even though it was hard work. The icing on the gorilla cake was Virunga Lodge. 3 nights in a nice room with a comfy bed and a hot water bottle. Laundry taken care of - boots cleaned and polished. They very quickly got the hang of a negroni and my cocktail was always ready for me. The food was good and tasty if not 3 Michelin Rosettes. The views from almost anywhere on the property took your breath away and the bird song was wonderful. The staff is well-trained and do an excellent job. The only thing that bothered our female member was the lack of a hair-dryer. A quick polish and my coiffure was finished.
The locals did a traditional dance for us - something i wouldn't normally get excited about but this was such a happy, innocent and exciting event I did. If you get the chance get one of the lads to take you birding around the lodge.
The lodge cat adopted us and came and sat on my bed but it wasn't true love he was off to another couple the next day.

Room Tip: No need - you might just want to sit on your terrace and enjoy the view BUT DON'T there are even...
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  • Stayed February 2013, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
2 Thank GeorgeDaymond
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Los Angeles
Level Contributor
118 reviews
67 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 128 helpful votes
Reviewed 3 March 2013

The lodge is set high up overlooking volcanoes and crater lakes, with wonderful views in all directions. The high elevation makes the uphill walk from the rooms to the dining area a little taxing. The staff must be used to guests being winded because they make an effort to prevent you from having to carry anything at all.

The rooms are comfortable, tending to be on the cool side, but hot water bottles are provided at night. Water is heated with solar energy, so best to take a shower late in the day. There is no electricity from about 11PM to 4 AM, flashlights and lamps are provided for use in the room.

Food was okay, treats (cakes and other nibbles) were very good. A fire keeps the main meeting area warm with enough seating to allow one to be as close or distant from the fire as one would like.

The Intori cultural dance troop can be arrange a show which takes place in a fantastic setting on top of a hill. It's about a 45 minute drive to the briefing area for gorilla and golden monkey treks.

There is a nice, easy walk on the grounds that affords views of the lakes with seating areas, or one can be accompanied by staff on a walk through the village to the local school.

  • Stayed February 2013, travelled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Livetowander
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Monmouth, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
348 reviews
63 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 367 helpful votes
Reviewed 17 February 2013

To my absolute surprise, I have to rate Rwanda as the friendliest, the cleanest and the most beautiful country we have ever visited.
Our agent booked us into Virunga Lodges and we were literally breath-taken when we arrived, not just cos it's at 8,000'; the views across lake and mountains are amazing. Nothing was too much trouble for the multitude of friendly staff and food was varied and faultless.
The accommodation was of a much higher standard than we expected, and as I work in the renewable energy industry I can say with conviction that this is truly an eco-lodge.
One of our fellow guests was so impressed he set himself a challenge to suggest one small convenience that had been overlooked. He drew a blank.
We went specifically to visit the mountain gorillas, and while Virunga Lodge is further from the park than some other lodges (it's a lovely drive!), during our stay many other drivers brought their clients to Virunga to see the spectacular view and have lunch, and all those I spoke too seemed envious of our accommodation and the wonderful location.
I'll not say any more because I seem to be repeating the very favourable comments that have been written elsewhere.
The gorilla trip itself is almost life-changing and I believe it is something we should all do once in our lives. As Sir David Attenborough has said, there is a weird and unfathomable connection between us. And you do get amazingly close.

Room Tip: Being so high can lead to breathlessness; try to book one of the lodges higher up the hill, nearer t...
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  • Stayed February 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Ian W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Virunga Lodge

Property: Virunga Lodge
Address: Lake Bulera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda
Region: Rwanda > Northern Province > Musanze District > Ruhengeri
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 17 Speciality Lodging in Ruhengeri
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
In a spectacular location overlooking the Virunga volcanoes and shimmering lakes Ruhondo and Bulera.The magnificent Virunga Safari Lodge, set on a stunning hillside, has eight bandas with a panoramic view of the Virunga volcanoes and the lakes Ruhondo and Bulera. The terraced gardens on this high ridge are now well established, with a magical sunken paradise garden as their focal point. Aside from gorilla tracking , clients can climb a volcano, track the golden monkey, visit Dian Fossey's grave or go for gentle strolls around the picturesque villages near the lakes. Three hours' drive from Kigali or a long day's drive from Kampala. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Virunga Hotel Ruhengeri
Virunga Lodge Rwanda/Ruhengeri

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