Advertisement
Advertisement
Bisate Lodge, Lampoon
WORDS
REPORTING
TAG
BROWSING
SHARE
Facebook
WhatsApp
Pinterest
LinkedIn
Email
Twitter

Bisate Lodge, Rwanda. An eco-resort surrounded by dormant volcanoes and wild gorillas

Responsible tourism and the four C’s. Culture, conservation, community and commerce. In conversation with Rob Baas, Managing Director of Wilderness Safaris and Bisate Lodge

Bisate Lodge – an eco-lodge in Rwanda

Located on the cusp of Volcano National Park is Bisate Lodge. An eco-lodge dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the Rwandan jungle. The foundation of Bisate Lodge took place in 2017 after a nine-month build. It is the vision of the key stakeholders behind its parent company, Wilderness Safaris, which operate forty camps in Africa. Its mission, and the vision for Bisate Lodge and its sister brands, are selfsame. The four C’s, which are culture, conservation, community and commerce.

«Wilderness Safaris started in 1983. When it first began, its goal was [to offer] African experiences and preserve Africa for the long-term future. Wilderness Safaris, in fact, protects and conserves millions of hectares of land in Africa. In Rwanda, for Bisate Lodge, it was no different. We came to Rwanda and founded the lodge because we saw there was a need to protect Mother Nature», explains Rob Baas, Managing Director of Wilderness Safaris.

Volcano National Park  

The lodge, situated on the slopes of an ancient volcanic crater, comprises six freestanding villas. The location is in the west of Rwanda, a two-hour drive from the capital, Kigali. Volcano National Park is Bisate Lodge’s neighbour and from its villas guests spy Mount Bisoke, Mount Karisimbi as well as the lesser-known Mikeno Volcano, towering in the distance, dormant today.

«The last activity was during the fifties. Since then, it has been quiet. There is an active volcano. But it is standing further away from the property, outside of Volcano National Park», says Baas. The lodge pays homage to the village communities and the surrounding environment.

«When choosing the site for Bisate Lodge it took time to find the right location. The team’s goal was, in fact, to find a site along a crater of a volcano. The Bisate area is the sole place where you can do that. There were farm fields and local communities. [We had] talks with the community where we explained the vision of Wilderness Safaris, and [what our goals are for] the long-term future. Then, with good relationships and in harmony with the communities, we finally chose this location».

Bisate Lodge, Lampoon
The pointed roofs elude to the hills which pepper the African landscape

Bisate’s Rwandan heritage style of architecture

The design of Bisate Lodge is a direct response to its location. Grassy exteriors nod to the Rwandan heritage style of architecture in the surrounding communities and the pointed roofs elude to the hills which pepper the African landscape. «From a cultural perspective, the design is key and there is also a link between Bisate Lodge and the wilderness of the landscape». The region, home to a wealth of volcanic rock, played a significant role in the design of Bisate Lodge.

«Forty to fifty percent of the lodge is built with it. While we were building Bisate Lodge, on a daily basis, three-hundred-and-fifty community members helped us in its construction. The volcanic rock played a role when developing pathways, chimneys, foundations of the communal areas as well as villas. It was technically difficult to construct Bisate Lodge because we could not use heavy machinery. Community members [who help in its construction] carried up every material, from heavy metal to bags of cement and volcanic rock. It was a community effort». The word Bisate, which translates to pieces alludes to the endless fragments of volcanic rock scattered in the landscape and the components of the property itself. 

 Bisate Lodge’s architectural design

As for its architectural development, it was a challenge to find the level of quality Bisate Lodge was striving for locally in Rwanda, explains Baas. Nicholas Plewman Architects from Cape Town in South Africa was, therefore, consulted. The end result for Bisate Lodge, as envisioned by the firm, was an expansive property with the lodges and communal space woven closely together, while remaining entirely independent of one another. «When guests arrive at Bisate Lodge they are at two-thousand-and-five-hundred meters above sea level. Then the management takes you along the pathways [to the villas and the communal area]».

With a maximum capacity of twelve guests, Bisate is an intimate experience. As for interior design, Baas explains the goal was to ensure that Rwandan heritage was being reflected throughout. Connecting Cape Town-based interior decorator, Caline Williams, with a local designer, Teta Isibo from Inzuki Designs, a balance between high-end interiors and community craftsmanship was created for Bisate Lodge.

To achieve this balance was a challenge, says Baas. «There is always a fine line when you are in the high-end market. Immediately linked to that market is quality and [in Rwanda] we were not always able to find the quality that we needed [for Bisate Lodge]. For this reason, we tried to combine the quality that we could not find in Rwanda, with the local materials that we could. In certain instances we approached the Bisate community and showed them a visual of what we wanted, to see if local craft people could deliver». If design and building expertise could not be found locally, it would be sourced elsewhere.

Commitment to natural environment

Further, sustainability is a cornerstone of Bisate Lodge. «We attempt to be as local and natural as possible. Within our property, we have vegetable gardens that we use for produce. We also source from our local community vegetable gardens. Sixty to seventy percent of what we do and the source is local», says Baas.

The lodge is plastic-free from front of house to back of house. This commitment to the natural environment and ecosystem, says Baas, is fundamental. Natural waste generated by Bisate Lodge is collected and repurposed for use as stock feed and compost for the local community and the farmlands. Water treatment plants avoid contamination of the environment.

Rainwater is another natural resource at Bisate. Annually, two-hundred thousand liters of rainwater are harvested for use on the property. «Bisate Lodge is located on forty-three hectares of land that was purchased from the local community. From the moment that we started with Bisate Lodge, we began our reforestation programme. We have planted forty-seven thousand indigenous trees». These consist of hagenia, dombeya, neuboutonia, lobelia, monospora and bamboo.

«It is incredible to see how the land has changed over the last four years. Mother nature has taken over. Because of this, wildlife is now returning. The endemic golden monkey that you will find in Volcano National Park has returned and we have a troop on our property. These are the results of a process that started four years ago». Other returning species include the tree hyrax, side-striped jackal, and Egyptian mongoose. Today, as a result of collective conservation efforts by Bisate Lodge and the Rwandan government, twelve habituated gorilla groups can be tracked and observed in Volcano National Park near the property.

Bisate Lodge, Ph Crooks and Jackson, Lampoon
Exploring the surrounding nature, Ph Crooks and Jackson

Conservation tourism to support communities

The community has played a vital role in Bisate Lodge’s success, says Baas. «Conservation tourism has the goal of supporting the surrounding communities. Along with conservation, we support the economies within the surrounding communities. Without the community supporting our ethos and what we stand for, we would not be successful. Our first goal at Bisate Lodge was, in fact, to build a relationship with the community, have discussions with Chiefs, establish committees and have them play crucial roles in the development of our projects».

Today, across Wilderness Safaris properties, including Bisate Lodge, local employment accounts for eighty-five percent of its staff. Flourishing wildlife and responsible tourism are elements of Bisate Lodge’s offering attractive to guests. «Volcano National Park’s most famous resident would be the gorilla. That is what our visitors come to see. Less known animals who live in the Volcano National Park are golden monkeys, bush pigs, and buffalos. There are even forest elephants».

Adventure activities and wildlife excursions are at the core of the Bisate Lodge experience, explains Baas. «The majority of activities are based within Volcano National Park. This is where people can do gorilla trekking and golden monkey trekking. It is popular to climb the Bisoke volcano. Even Karisimbi is climbed by our guests. It is almost four-thousand-and-five-hundred meters. Nearby in Musanze you can find markets, or go to the Musanze gates. We also have three nature trails on the property, and two community nature guides on our team. While you can go [on the trails] by yourself, our guests generally go with a nature guide, as you will learn about the community around us, about the lodge, and our reforestation program». 

Bisate Lodge’s culinary offering

With adventure at the centre of Bisate Lodge, features synonymous with exclusive resorts, such as a swimming pool or exercise facilities, have been excluded. «If you are a visitor to the area you go on a daily basis into the Volcano National Park. When people return from their day of activity, they are usually exhausted, cold and wet. What people want at that moment is a room or reception area where they can sit in an armchair beside the fireplace with a warm drink or have a massage».

While conventional facilities are absent, the eco-lodge delivers on services. Exclusivity, privacy as well as personalized experience characterize the finishing touches, like a private butler for each villa to build a sense of community between the guests and staff. There is a quick dry laundry facility for guests returning from the jungle. Within two hours, your clothes and shoes are clean, dry and returned to your villa.

Bisate Lodge’s culinary offering promotes the concept of finding the balance between local culture and high-end standards. «When we launched Bisate Lodge we hired an executive chef from South Africa who was with us for six or eight months. During that time, he taught our local chefs. We stay as local as possible. You will find on the Bisate menu dishes native to the region. We cater to every dietary requirement. Whatever our guests request, we offer it».

Future development at Bisate Lodge

Gorilla trekking and safaris in Volcano National ParkBisate Lodge is intimate in size, set on expansive lands and open to exclusive bookings for the entire property. While it is not wheelchair accessible, it is suitable for children and adults alike. Regardless, the minimum age for staying guests at Bisate Lodge is fifteen. This, in fact, is the minimum age for gorilla trekking in Volcano National Park.

Looking to the future, Baas does not rule out the possibility of Bisate Lodge expanding in Rwanda. For him, and for Wilderness Safaris, it always comes back to the same vision: to protect Mother Nature. «The reason that we started in Volcano National Park was to conserve and preserve the park, the gorillas, and the forty-three hectares which the Bisate property is on. Our end goal is to donate it back to the Rwandan government, and in that way, donate it back to Volcano National Park. That is the core reason we are there».

Bisate Lodge 

Volcanoes National Park Ruhengeri, Rwanda
Bisate Lodge, adjacent to Volcanoes National Park, combines the bucket-list gorilla trek with a pioneering vision of reforestation and community partnership. Bisate is located in the natural amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, with views of the peaks of the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes rearing up through Afro-alpine forests.

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

SHARE
Facebook
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Email
WhatsApp
Twitter