VIRUNGA LODGE – VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK – NORTH WEST RWANDA

Volcanoes Virunga Lodge is perched high on a ridge with stunning views of the Virunga Volcanoes and the Musanze valley to the west and Lake Bulera and Ruhondo to the east.  Newly refurbished and decorated this lodge offers some of the finest views in Africa.

The lodge has just ten luxurious bandas with private terraces to watch the sunrise over the dramatic landscape of mountains and lakes. Additionally, there are two deluxe bandas called Ibirunga and Ibiyaga which have their own private sitting room and more refined interiors.

Apart from relaxing and soaking up the amazing views there are many activities to the lodge to keep you busy – gorilla and golden monkey tracking, birding, hiking to Dian Fossey’s Grave, and the many community projects the lodge has established within the area.

LOCATION

Virunga Lodge is located around 40 minutes’ drive from the park headquarters near the Verunga National Park in north west Rwanda.  Access is via a 3-hour drive or a 20-minute helicopter flight from Kigali.

LODGE

The lodge has 10 luxurious standard bandas which have a private terrace to watch the sunrise over the dramatic landscape of mountains and lakes. The bandas are beautifully appointed with the accent on vibrant Rwandese fabrics and stylish locally inspired furniture and have comfortable beds, ensuite bathrooms with flushing toilet, double vanity and shower with hot and cold running water.  There is a fireplace for cooler evenings and a small seating area, and the rooms have power sockets/charging facilities and a hair dryer – but no air conditioners. All the bandas are individually named after lakes in the area.

The two deluxe bandas – called Ibirunga and Ibiyaga – have their own private sitting room and more refined interiors and also include a hot tub and a larger terrace overlooking the Virunga volcanoes or the twin lakes.  Both levels of banda enjoy a personal butler service.

The main area features a stunning lounge area with dining room and the Dian Fossey Map room is available for conservation lectures.  Ikiringa Spa and Sauna offers relaxing therapies after your trekking and there is WIFI in the main lodge buildings.  The lodge is a 40-minute drive from the Park Headquarters to start trekking.

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ACTIVITIES AND WILDLIFE

Gorilla Tracking – tracking mountain gorillas through the dense African forests is a magical experience. Only eight visitors are allowed per gorilla group each day and to minimise possible transmission of human diseases visitors are asked to maintain a distance of 7m (about 22 feet) from the gorillas. Typically, tracking can take from 3 to 8 hours and requires some agility and fitness; however all fitness levels can be accommodated and no one should feel deterred from missing this once in a lifetime experience.  It is also possible to enjoy an exclusive gorilla tracking experience – please ask!

Golden Monkey Tracking – with only a small number remaining in the world the Golden Monkey can be found in the foothills of the volcanic mountains of Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Characterized by its bright golden body, cheeks and tail with contrasting black limbs, crown and tail end, these playful primates are a pleasure to watch. The walk will take you from the bamboo stands and forested gorge on the lower levels of the volcanoes to the elevated heath and moorland higher up.

Intore Dancers – the group of Intore Dancers is made up of 24 dancers and two dance trainers. The troupe perform the traditional Rwandan ballet called The Intore – also known as The Heroes which is based on the courtly victory dance of the Rwandan Mwami (kings). Being selected as an Intore in times of old was a great honour – they would receive a privileged education, intensive combat training and they held a high status within the court. Today, the dancers use traditional weapons such as spears and bows and wear brightly coloured clothes and long flowing white hairpieces.

Visit Dian Fossey’s Grave – located in a beautiful meadow nestled between the Karisimbi and Visoke volcanoes are the graves of Dian Fossey and some of her beloved research gorillas. For anyone interested in gorilla conservation in Rwanda, or interested in Fossey’s personal story, the trek to her grave is highly recommended. This trek starts early in the morning, can take 6-8 hours and is operated by the National Park.

Birding – Rwanda offers some of the world’s best bird watching, with a vast diversity of bird species – over 700 – and is home to the second highest number of Albertine endemics in the Albertine region.

Climb a Volcano – the three most popular volcanoes to climb are Mt. Gahinga, Mt. Sabyinyo and Mt. Muhavura. These hikes are of varying difficulty and typically take a full day. The treks starts at 7:00am from the park headquarters from where visitors will have to drive to the base of the volcano.

Lake Bulera Village Walk – on a free afternoon at Virunga Lodge we recommend taking advantage of the lodge’s unique position by meandering down the mountain slope, through local villages, and to Lake Bulera which sits at its foot. Passing through the local communities offers an insight into village life and opportunities to visit local schools and community centres.

Virunga Water Tank Project – although it rains heavily around Virunga Lodge there are very few facilities for water catchment and storage and in the dry season there is an acute shortage of water. The villagers in Sunzu village around the lodge where 138 families live do not have enough clean water for drinking or for growing crops.  Starting in 2016, Virunga Lodge has been providing plastic water tanks to the local community and with the support of guests.

Virunga “One Sheep per Family” Community Project – in June 2014 Virunga Lodge launched the “One Sheep per Family” project to provide one sheep to each of the 140 families in the Sunzu community. The sheep manure provides natural and effective fertiliser for growing crops. As well as providing manure, selling lambs provide income for the family.  For the project to work effectively, the community is divided up into 14 groups and each group is given nine females and one male. After all females produce an offspring the breeding males are rotated to a different group for genetic diversity. A new family takes over caring for the male and donates one female offspring back to the previous ram caretaker.

Dian Fossey Map Room – the Dian Fossey Map Room at Virunga Lodge has been built in honour of Dr Dian Fossey, the pioneer primatologist who set up the Karisoke Center high in the Virunga volcanoes in 1967. The exploration and conservation of the Virunga volcanoes is a very interesting and unique story and has been brought together for the first time in the amazing exhibition at the Dian Fossey Map Room at Virunga Lodge.

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GIVING BACK

The Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT) established in 2009 is a non-profit organisation that connects Volcanoes’ Rwanda and Uganda luxury lodges to the neighbouring communities and conservation activities. The VSPT receives funding through Volcanoes Safaris, which contributes $100 from safari bookings, as well as private donations by our guests and others.

The VSPT aims to create long-term, self-sustaining projects that enrich the livelihoods of local communities, promote the conservation of the great apes, restore natural habitats and work with communities and institutions to reduce human-wildlife conflict. As part of their stay at Volcanoes Lodges, guests get an opportunity to visit VSPT projects and to share the lives of the local communities.

VIRUNGA LODGE IS OPEN ALL YEAR ROUND 

THE CAMP WELCOMES FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN AGED 12 YEARS AND OLDER

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE MINIMUM AGE FOR GORILLA TREKKING IS 12 YEARS  

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Call +44 1386 830264 or Email [email protected]

Our expert staff are on-hand, happy to assist with any enquiry you have.

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