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The eucalyptus- and rose-scented playground of Parc Nacional des Volcans is home to the majestic mountain gorilla – a soulful creature that shares 98.3 percent of its genetic code with humans, making them our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos. This, dear friends, is family reunion unlike any we’ve experienced – a personal encounter with one of the region’s resident dozen gorilla families is a consciousness-elevating experience of the highest order.
Located in the lush volcanic north of Rwanda, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest is our sanctuary within a sanctuary, a haven of romantic treehouses and forest-enveloped suites. From this privileged position, we’ll make the trek – something of pilgrimage, in fact – to a date with hereditary destiny: a personal encounter with the noble mountain gorilla, at home and in the wild. With a total of just over 1,000 mountain gorillas living in the wild, the protection of the 12 Families who are resident here is taken seriously; our visits are, justifiably, regulated with great care. But our curious cousins don’t bother about those details, and we delight in watching the males and females going about their primatial business, caring for their infants pretty much the same ways we do – with a good measure of hugging, tugging, grooming, and cavorting all round. There are further furry attractions, too: a hike to watch the magnificent (if naughty) golden monkeys at play is a treat, and it’s an easy hike over the relatively flat, bamboo-rich terrain they favour. So too buffalo, antelope and, occasionally, elephants are spotted on our outings.
The romantic free-standing treehouses are perfect for two, suspended over sprawling gardens, eye-to-eye with a dramatic backdrop of eucalyptus trees and verdant volcanic hills. Equally secluded one- and two-bedroomed suites appear in a variety of lavish configurations, each is a luscious lair for birding, binocular-ing, book browsing, and just being (we shouldn’t say just, of course, given how shamefully rare it can be these days). Elegant accommodations are furnished with striking local Imigongo art, hand-woven fabrics, stand-alone tubs, and glowing fireplaces. Slipping beneath the al fresco shower is a cherished moment, for who could resist the opportunity for a rain-shower in a rainforest? From sunrise to sunset, the spacious outdoor viewing deck ensures gold-standard seats to nature’s own theatre and its botanical birdsong of wonder. Trekking and traipsing are great appetite builders, so we relish the chance to dine, drink and visit in The Nest and its next door, Nest Bar where our friendly mixologists shake up sharp lemonades, spiffy cocktails and fragrant teas infused with rose petals from the garden.
Amidst the many delights of Rwandan culture, feeling the heady thrum of the traditional drums features large, manifesting a show of power and mesmerising its audience. Gather after dinner by the bonfire for fabulous concerts accompanied by dance, stories, and poetry. Hosted by local talent, these interactive performances both showcase and support Rwandan arts. A visit to a traditional village, perched in the emerald hills of Musanze, is a must. Enjoy a coffee-tasting tour or take a scenic run or e-bike ride unlike any other. An array of spa treatments awaits at the Spa, inspired by homegrown roses, locally grown coffee, and traditional African wisdom.
The pedigree of this slice of Volcanoes National Park is underscored on the grounds of Gorilla’s Nest itself, at the former residence of the late wildlife expert Jack Hanna. The charming cottage, once HQ for the famed zoologist while he studied the rare mountain gorillas and now an iconic piece of conservation history, welcomes guests to explore the extensive library centred on Rwandan conservation work, relax in the board and card games lounge, or enjoy a film in the cozy boutique cinema room. The beautiful chef’s kitchen also hosts interactive cooking classes with the resident One&Only Executive Chef.