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Rwanda is open for visitors – explore it in eco-luxury!

Rwanda has adopted a tourism strategy that safeguards its attractions for the long-term: deliberately restricting visitor numbers and focusing on the high-end traveler. I love this approach, as it fosters sustainability. Moreover, you can make a difference in Rwanda, even as a family. Rwanda has experienced an influx of new eco-luxury properties: One & Only now have two properties in Rwanda: Nyungwe House for viewing chimpanzees and Gorillas Nest for, well, gorillas. And even more recently, Singita opened two properties, Singita Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House near the gorillas. And to complete the “awesome foursome”, Wilderness Safaris has opened the incredible Bisate Lodge near the gorillas and Magashi Lodge in Rwanda’s Akagera National Park. Set in the magnificent northwestern reaches of Rwanda, right on the edge of Volcanoes National Park, Singita Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House form part of an ambitious conservation partnership with the Rwandan government and local communities. The One Planet sustainability framework, which supports all of Singita’s operations, is at the core of the construction of Singita Volcanoes National Park, which was designed with respect to and in acknowledgment of its remarkable location. This conservation philosophy translates to sourcing local materials, minimising waste, saving water and conserving energy, and it’s part and parcel of Singita’s continuous commitment to sustainability. At Singita Volcanoes National Park, the décor and design of Kwitonda Lodge and the four-bedroom exclusive-use villa, Kataza House, incorporates locally sourced and produced materials for walling, ceilings and surface finishes, while celebrating the handiwork of local artisans such as stonemasons, weavers and ceramicists. Their striking handcrafted details and the prevalence of local expertise and artistry not only ensure an authentic aesthetic that is true to the lodge’s geological setting but also ties in seamlessly with Singita’s goals and desire to partner with communities in and around its lodges. The lodge and villa are set against the backdrop of the dramatic Virunga Mountain Range – home to the critically endangered mountain gorillas and also one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world, enveloping everything from steppes to swamps, lava plains, savannas, and dense high-altitude forests. 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 dramatic views of the peaks of the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes rearing up through Afro-alpine forests. Encountering one of the gorilla groups in the nearby Volcanoes National Park is a unique experience. Six opulent en-suite forest villas maximize comfort and views while adhering to environmentally responsible principles and reflecting the rich culture of rural Rwanda. Bisate is within easy driving distance of the Park Headquarters, from where gorilla treks depart daily. Walks on Bisate’s property offer birding and participation in the reforestation program. Akagera National Park is one of Africa’s great wildlife success stories, and complements the gorilla treks, and Magashi Camp is situated in the productive and phenomenally diverse north-eastern corner of Akagera National Park, overlooking beautiful Lake Rwanyakazinga. Akagera comprises some of the most scenic savannah in East Africa – open plains, woodlands, lakes, swamp, and grassy low mountains – and is home to one of Africa’s highest hippo densities, some very large crocodiles as well as well as the rare sitatunga and more than 520 bird species. Teeming with plains game, Akagera now also boasts a healthy population of lion, which were reintroduced into the park in 2015 after a 20-year absence, as well as black rhino which were reintroduced in 2017. Magashi – the only exclusive-use area in Akagera – also harbors a good density of leopard. Six spacious and airy tents offer uninterrupted views over Lake Rwanyakazinga, while Magashi’s main area comprises a luxurious lounge, dining and bar area, pool, and expansive viewing deck with a convivial fire pit. The architecture and interiors pay homage to traditional Rwandan culture. Make a difference in Rwanda whilst staying at these amazing properties You can make a difference in Rwanda by teaching English to young girls from difficult backgrounds who are eager to learn and improve their chances of finding gainful employment. So you can stay at these incredible new properties whilst making a lasting difference and leaving a legacy – explore these enchanting destinations, encountering Mountain Gorillas, Golden Monkeys and Chimpanzees in Rwanda (plus enjoy the hippos, crocs, lions and birdlife of Akagera National Park). Christopher Hill is Founder and CEO at Hands Up Holidays. Hands Up Holidays is an award-winning travel company specialising in tailor-made luxury family trips that combine sightseeing with hands-on service projects. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Christopher Hill

Christopher Hill is the Founder of both Hands Up Holidays and Impact Destinations. Hands Up Holidays specialises in sustainable luxury family trips that help kids appreciate how fortunate they are and inspire them to become future leaders by blending curated sightseeing with meaningful volunteering opportunities. For example, in Zambia, experience Victoria Falls, white-water rafting, safari, and help build a home for a widow and her children. Impact Destinations provides ultra-luxe sustainable trips that leave a legacy: a traveller’s philanthropic donation unlocks a unique experience. For example, whilst on safari in South Africa, fund and witness a rhino relocation from a heavily poached reserve to a safe one in Botswana. Christopher’s companies offer over 30 destinations worldwide and personally oversees every client’s trip.

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  1. During lockdown-down the travel adventure that I most pined for was a safari. I’ve done a few in the past and they’ve been highly memorable. Until I read this post I’d never even considered focusing on chimpanzees and gorillas or travelling to Rwanda. I didn’t know much about eco-tourism either. Definitely some areas I need to research further. I’m not quite confident enough to get back to travelling yet but when I do there’s going to be a lot of catching up to do and I keep promising my wife that it will be the adventure of a lifetime.

    1. Thanks Ivor,
      Rwanda is a bit of a hidden gem – yes, the gorillas and chimpanzees are amazing, but that’s not all there is to Rwanda: it is incredibly beautiful, the people are amazing and so gracious, and Akagera is one of the great wildlife success stories.
      It sure would be the adventure of a lifetime!

  2. The chance to teach young girls English appeals to me not that I’ve ever done any teaching. It would be a good way to get closer to the local population and to get to know them. Helping would be great and would make it more than just a holiday.

    1. Kate – You have summed it up perfectly: helping on your holiday makes it so much more meaningful!
      And the extra-good news is that you can do so in luxury!

  3. I can just see myself sat on that wicker balcony looking out for gorillas and other wildlife as the sun sets equipped with a good pair of binoculars and a beer or cocktail.

  4. I’ve always associated Rwanda with just gorillas which has probably put me off it as a safari destination. Good to learn that Akagera National Park has so much wildlife on offer. I like the fact that you’ve got such diversity of terrain such as the lake with the unspellable name as well as plains and swamps. On the safaris that I have done the bird life is often a feature that creeps under the radar. With 520 species around the birds would be a great highlight. Rwanda is a long, long flight from the U.K. so if I’m going to travel all that way I want as much variety as possible.

    1. Yes John,
      Lions have been reintroduced to Akagera, and has been a ‘Big 5’ park since 2017, as you can also see rhino, leopard, elephants, buffaloes, and giraffe, and more!

  5. I actually bought a trip to Rwanda, but sadly it was cancelled by the corona virus :(

    I hope to reschedule next year if possible.

  6. It is reassuring to hear that Rwanda has a long term strategy for ensuring that its safari industry is sustainable and that there is an interest in building the eco-luxury tourism market. I haven’t been on a safari for many years (children are expensive things) but when I did (and it wasn’t in Rwanda) I got the impression that the tour operators were going for volume and big sales without thinking too much about the future of the land. At long last Africa seems to be understanding that it has to look after its future.

  7. I’ve never considered Rwanda as a safari destination since I’ve always had my eye on Masai Mara, Serengeti, and Kruger National Park. It seems to be a good alternative for my top 3 safaris. But truthfully, I’m somewhat afraid of gorillas. It’s probably because I haven’t seen one even in a zoo. I wonder though how costs are in Rwanda compared to the other African safari destinations. Bisate sounds and looks amazing. The unique accommodation is luxurious yet blends well into its surroundings. It even enhances instead of taking away from the beautiful millieu.

    1. Hi Arlene,
      Masai Mara, Serengeti and Kruger rightly get the limelight, as they are incredible, and hard to beat for Big 5.
      I understand apprehension about gorillas – all I can say is that it is one of the highlights of my life to observe them in the wild.
      Costs are higher than elsewhere: in order to be more sustainable, they have restricted numbers by charging $1,500 per gorilla trek. Worth it though!

  8. As somebody who has experience in teaching English online, this really sparked my interest. I would love one day to go to Africa to experience teaching English there. That would really be a dream come true for me.

  9. It’s great there are new properties popping up there, that sounds quite positive. And it’s always good when you hear there’s a focus on eco-friendly places and initiatives. I love the sound of Gorillas Nest. I’ve always liked monkeys, chimps & gorillas, but I’ve never seen them in the wild in their own habitat sadly. It must be a very humbling experience to stay among them. And I love those properties built into the mountainside that look a bit like peanuts. Pretty sure I’ve seen those before, perhaps on here. Anything we can do as travellers to give back is worth doing. I used to see holidays as being quite selfish, but now I see just how important and valuable we can be by supporting business and maybe going that extra mile to help in some way while we’re there.

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