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 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.
- 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