The 4 best eco-lodges to go gorilla watching

The mountain gorilla has become an icon of eco-tourism and of conservation. In the last 30 years since we saw David Attenborough being surrounded by our giant cousins, many documentaries have told their story. Silverbacks have even knuckle-walked across the silver screen in Gorillas in the Mist . These are four great eco-lodges from where you can experience them first hand.

Gorilla

Virunga Safari Lodge, Rwanda

The magnificent Virunga Lodge is set on a stunning hilltop with a panoramic view of the shimmering lakes Ruhondo and Bulera and the Virunga volcanoes. The lodge has been described as having “the best view in the world”. There are eight bandas offering elegance and great comfort, with their ‘organic, bush-chic’ design. Luxurious with full facilities running solar hot water, allow you to enjoy all the comforts of home, while still being sensitive to the environment. Each banda has its own terrace with spectacular views of the volcanoes or lakes. Aside from gorilla tracking, you 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.

Bwindi Safari Lodge, Uganda

Bwindi Lodge overlooks the primeval Bwindi forest, home to gorillas, monkeys, chimpanzees and birds. The lodge has recently been completely refurbished and now offers unequalled comfort and style. The eight bandas overlook the forest canopy, each with a private terrace from which guests can watch birds and monkeys in the tree tops. Each ensuite stone bathroom consists of double sinks, hot running showers, low flushing toilets and the same unique, stylish décor.

The main lodge building also maximises on the beautiful views of the forest canopy, with both open and covered terraces providing optimum viewing platforms facing the forest. A cosy fireside bar and lounge area enables guests to enjoy a drink while swapping stories of their gorilla tracking experiences.The food, service and hospitality are first class and regularly commented on by guests. Many famous guests have stayed here, including Rahm Emmanuel, former Chief of Staff to President Obama and now Mayor of Chicago.

Go gorilla tracking, visit nearby community projects or discover the ancient traditions of the Batwa Pygmies. The walk to the river through regenerated bush has been carefully nurtured as a buffer zone and is magical. It is a favourite haunt for the gorillas and they often sleep at the lodge.

Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge, Uganda

Mount Gahinga Lodge nestles in the foothills of the Virunga volcanoes on the border of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. Mounts Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhuvura provide an impressive backdrop to this unique lodge, whose nine bandas all named after volcanoes in the Virunga chain are based around traditional pygmy huts – albeit with modern comforts. The mature tropical garden setting and rustic style rooms/cottages combine to give the impression of staying in the bygone era of Hemmingway.

Spend the day with the Batwa Pygmies, widely regarded to be the oldest surviving peoples of central Africa, to experience their ancient life. The area because of its varied habitats, is also famous for birding with about 180 birds species and for tracking the endangered golden monkeys.

Kyambura Gorge Safari Lodge, Uganda

Situated on the edge of the Kyambura Gorge and Queen Elizabeth National Park, in Uganda, one of Africa’s finest national parks, the Kyambura Gorge Lodge, has stunning views over the Gorge and the lush savannah of the park, with the peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains in the distance.

The main lodge building was originally a coffee store and processing plant, surrounded by coffee plantations. The original structure has been sensitively restored to create a stunning living space, balancing the history of the building with the location and creating a series of distinct luxurious contemporary spaces for its’ guests. Eight beautiful, spacious bandas have been carefully nestled into the hillside, each with their own luxury bathroom. Each room has a different aspect of the panoramic views across the gorge, savannah and mythical Rwenzoris.

From the lodge you can go chimp tracking in the Kyambura Gorge or Kalinzu forest. You can also take a game drive on the plains of Queen Elizabeth to spot lions, elephant, antelope, buffalo and some of the 600 birds species that live in this national park such as the spoonbill stork, or take a boat out onto the Kazinga Channel to spot the many birds and animals which come to cool off at the waters’ edge.

Andrew Loyd is Founder and Chairman of The Bespoke Travel Club.

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Comments (2)

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  1. susan njoki says:

    Thanks for sharing. Watching these gentle giants at their territory is an amazing and fulfilling experience.

  2. Michael Gane says:

    It’s also worth considering the Congo for gorilla safaris. The Republic of Congo (not to be mistaken with the Democratic Republic of Congo) is relatively safe these days – at least along the tourist trails – and incredibly beautiful. There are stunning accommodation options in Odzala-Kokoua National Park

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