Have you ever come across a property and instantly falling in love? Five years ago while planning a client’s trip to Rwanda I stumbled upon Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris. Bisate is built by the local community, its elegantly perched on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park in the North West Of Rwanda and it offers a type of sustainable and eco-luxury that is truly the next level.
Until arriving at Bisate there had only been two other properties that had made me emotional once I saw it for myself and now I can add Bisate as the third.
Driving down the bumpy road past the local village you finally see Bisate Lodge nestled in the mountain and its even more incredible than in pictures. Bisate is a real life version of nests built into the gorgeous green mountain. Pictures simply don’t do it justice.
Welcomed by the wonderful staff and their warm African singing, we walked up the winding steps which take you up to the property and even through it via the wine cellar/private dining room, stopping mid way at the dining and living area, and then continuing to the highest room, room 6 at the very top.
There are only 6 luxurious en suite forest villas and each one of them are so beautifully designed, each elevating above one another and offering the most dramatic vista views that provide a diffenet picture depending on the time of day. The mornings are misty and open up into the picturesque beauty of the mountains where the mountain gorillas can be found.
Managed by husband and wife duo – Ally and Jason, this is a property you instantly fall in love with. So many aspects of this impeccable hotel come with that ubiquitous ‘wow’ which to a seasoned hospitality insider like myself is a ‘wow’ onto itself. But it’s true because Bistate very elegantly adopts an extremely high level of top-end luxury yet purposely keeping very true to its environmental principals and passionately reflecting the culture of rural Rwanda, including its surrounding local villages.
From outside our room – room 6, is where the nature trail starts which can take about 45 minutes to enjoy and a guide can accompany you on request. Obviously my husband had to try it out the minute we arrived and twice the morning after our gorilla hike and in record time (17 minutes!), which he’s very modest about!, and that includes asking Patience (another beautiful member of Ally and Jason’s team) to make it a point to share with all future guests!!
Six conically shaped thatched forest huts blend traditional and modern interiors providing comfort and warmth while making the most of the scenic views. Each 91 square meter room consists of a generous yet intimate combination of bedroom, reception space and large bathroom with a central bath tub, all warmed by a fireplace that divides the bathroom and bedroom along with breathtaking views out across your private deck facing the Volcanoes Mountain range.
The mini bar is stocked with every drink you desire, with a large choice of coffee and tea along with a cutting board with lemon and ginger – just what you need while sitting by the open fire.
The rooms provide an intoxicating mix - an earthly, nature feel yet oozing luxury, sophistication and elegance. The little touches are very sweet such as the wooden gorilla at each door way – lay on its side for Do Not Disturb!
Given the intimate nature of Bisate, there is only one ‘nest’ that acts as the common area, holding the bar and restaurant and on the lower floor, a wine cellar that can also host movie nights and private intimate dinners. Holding true to its roots, Bisate’s food menu is a ‘farm-to-table’ dream. Even the simple Margherita pizza delivered to the room was simply divine.
Bisate Give Back
As a company I have always loved and admired and wanted to focus on sustainable luxury properties that showcase the best in luxury while giving back to their environment (ie) a very well thought out conservation policy that has a meaningful and consistent impact on our planet, starting in their own back yard. Bisate does just that. Each guest contributes to Bisate’s biodiversity conservation and local community projects including a far-reaching impact on an iconic Critically Endangered species: the mountain gorilla.
Bisate’s giving back is endless and while at the property, talking to the staff from the gardener to the dining staff – everyone is local, from the neighboring villages. The gardener was in fact involved in physically building Bisate which took 8 months. He is from one of the local villages and proud of his 10 minute commute! While sitting on your room balcony you can hear the singing and laughter of the villages nearby, who are proud to welcome tourists to see the gorillas and share their admiration for Bisate.
Planting a Tree
To date Bisate has planted over 60,000 trees in order to preserve conservation and offer food to the local wildlife.
A simple yet beautiful touch is that every guest can plant and name their tree, and given a certificate with the tree coordinates so as you can monitor the growth of the tree. Ally told us that during Covid, guests would request her to send pictures of their tree to monitor the growth since they last visited the property. Not only does this have a positive feedback on the environment but also means that every Bisate guest has a little piece of their heart on the land.
This to me is what luxury is all about. I say it time and time again as I really believe luxury is about living freely in wide open spaces and having time to be in the moment. We can never get time back and how we spend our time is not only a privilege but a luxury.
It would be hard for me to name check many properties that offer a day lounge for guests who arrive early for check in or leave late , quite like the Kwanda Lounge.
Just below the entrance to Bisate, closer to the villages, meaning we could hear very clearly the Sunday church service in full swing and set in a stunning organic garden designed by the same local gardener mentioned above, Kwanda Lounge is less a day lounge and more of a monument to the brilliant history of this part of Rwanda, including the gorillas and Dian Fossy’s legacy. But along with its tribute to the past, Kwanda Lounge also offers a wonderful window to the future, showcasing Bistae’s partnership with the neighboring schools and their student scholarships- as I said, this is the new type of luxury guests can expect, their tourism dollars having an immediate impact on the local environment and community. Relax in the living room around the open fire, a full dining area and also private rooms to relax in with full showers and amenities.
The greatest compliment I can give Bisate is that I can talk about it forever and keep writing and writing..
It truly is a very special place.
But it needs to be experienced for yourself. My words or my pictures can never replicate the memories I made, from meeting a gorilla family and fulfilling a long life dream to soaking my very tired legs from the gorilla trek in a heavenly hot bath, then sitting by the fire in my room with a organic bowl of warm soup.
True heaven – in this small part of Rwanda.
From the remains and ruins of a brutal civil war and the horrific genocide of over 800,000 human beings, rises a new country. Rwanda is not only a symbol of hope for Africa but a shining example for the world - when peace, tolerance, forgiveness, respect for rule of law and compassion and dignity for your fellow human being become cornerstones for a vibrant, growing and creative new community.
This was all on display as I traversed through the raw, natural beauty of Rwanda. Rwandans are exceptional people. They wear the lesson of the genocide with care and understanding, using the pain and suffering of those frightful days to keep striving towards a better society. It shows in the gentle words they speak and the love they show through their smiles.
The energy is palpable. You can feel that this is a country on the move, they have found the right path and they’re not looking back.
From the jungles in the north, the bush in the east and the lakes in the west, it is easy to see why Rwanda is fast becoming a new tourism favorite. The rawness of the natural beauty combined with the vibrancy of a new community is intoxicating. Wether you are on game drives spotting lions and leopards, making that ‘bucket-list visit to the famous mountain gorillas, or just taking in the incredible natural vistas of mountains, jungles, savannahs and bush, Rwanda has so much to offer. As those American ladies we met at Bisate, who literally make annual pilgrimages to the gorillas, can attest, one visit to Rwanda is simply not enough.
Watch my Bisate video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_45bG_gH_sc&t=121s
Watch my Gorilla Trekking video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPx2D4I1Y58&t=3s
Read my experience trekking the Mountain Gorillas: http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2022/04/08/gorilla-trekking-rwanda/
Read about Magashi Camp, by Wilderness Safari's in the Agagera National Park, where we saw the BIG 5
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