Virunga Lodge: The Lowdown

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Very occasionally you meet a safari lodge that captures your soul. For us, this was Virunga Lodge. This isn’t the glitziest lodge we’ve ever stayed in, and nor is it the most expensive, but it’s a dead cert for the Extraordinary Africa hall of fame.

What’s Virunga Lodge Lodge really like?

What we love about Virunga Lodge is the thing we love about ancient houses, or safari camps that have been around for years- each object has found its place, and each room is perfectly in tune with its surroundings. Virunga isn’t glitzy- that wouldn’t feel right in Rwanda. The floors of the rooms are stone, the roofs are tiled and there’s no air-conditioning in sight. Fabrics are beautifully bright and jaunty, and where there’s a view to be had, you can be sure somewhere in your room will have it- perhaps the shower, perhaps the verandah, but somewhere, somehow, it’ll be there.

There are ten rooms scattered around the hillside, overlooking the magnificent Volcanoes National Park, the nearby lakes and the villages and countryside below. At night you’ll see the village fires twinkling from the terrace and in the morning you’ll hear the sounds of the cowbells and cooking pots as you wake up. The main lodge sits right at the top of the hill- there’s a cosy lounge where you can snuggle up by the fire with your book or a few emails and a dining room for meals-dinners inside on chilly evenings or breakfasts outside on sunny mornings.  When we stayed the food was warming and the company good- exactly what you need at the end of a day of gorilla trekking.

Logistically, it’s important that you’re aware that Virunga Lodge is around an hour from gorilla trekking at Volcanoes National Park HQ. As long as you know, we don’t think this is a problem- we’d easily travel this far again to reach such a charming spot, and to be honest, when you’re travelling to and from a gorilla trek, chances are you’ll be half asleep anyway- either just waking up, or tired after a terrific trek.

What can I do at Virunga Lodge?

One of the things we really adored about Virunga Lodge was how much you can do here.  We’d be astonished if anyone came here and didn’t do a gorilla trek (or, if budget stretches, we would absolutely recommend two gorilla treks. Or more.) You can also head back to Volcanoes National Park for golden monkey trekking and other hikes, however Virunga is so very absorbed in the real Rwanda that we’d be tempted to remain here. Your view is out over the surrounding villages, which are absolutely worth a visit, wandering down from the lodge towards the lake shore. Twitchers will also be delighted by the excellent birding, it’s lovely down on the lake, but you really don’t even need to leave the lodge if you’re not feeling that energetic.

Giving back at Virunga Lodge…

What makes Virunga Lodge so special is how much it feels part of the wider Rwandan community. They provide plastic water tanks for the villages to store water during dry season (let us know if you’d like to donate) and the lodge has helped provide a sheep per family to 140 families in the nearby area. Virunga Lodge has also helped to bring electricity to local families, and create bee-keeping and mushroom-growing micro-businesses, all helping to build a future for this rather remarkable country.

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