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In honour of one legend, we happily introduce another. Named in celebration of a beloved silverback gorilla, Kwitonda – he wisely made the verdant, high-altitude forests of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) his home – the extraordinary Kwitonda Lodge provides a beautiful base for the meeting of his, and our, magical relations. (It’s likely worth saying: time and again, people tell us their gorilla-get-togethers formed one of their life’s most touching moments.) Neatly tucked on the edges of well-protected, fern-and-bamboo-rich Volcanoes National Park, more than one-third of the world’s mountain gorillas find refuge here; our eminently capable guides know just where to find them. And then morning and night (and any other time it suits, actually) the lodge awaits your return – something of a sanctuary of intelligent luxury. Dine well in the indoor-outdoor restaurant, the bar, or the casual deli. Ponder the wonders of evolution and recount the day’s experiences round one of many crackling outdoor fireplaces. Surrounded by stunning views over the Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes, it feels as if we’ve received an invitation to the social event of the century, forever grateful to be part of the magic.
Set within a living landscape of wetlands and lush meadows, Kwitonda Lodge is an intimate clutch of just seven one-bedroom suites and one two-bedroom suite. Each is its own bijou cocoon of comfort – spacious en-suite bathrooms include deep tub, as well as both indoor and outdoor showers. A cozy sitting area and a covered veranda are ideal for gazing over forest-draped mountaintops and large timber-framed windows bring the mists and luxuriant Rwandan flora close enough to touch. There’s a separate dressing room and in-room massage area (one of the great pleasures: massage in a room of one’s own) as well as a private heated plunge pool and indoor and outdoor fireplaces. All elements have been thoughtfully constructed using locally sourced volcanic rock, river stone, with intricate woven ceilings and hand-fired terracotta brickwork and ceramic tiles crafted by local artisans. The heart of the stunning lodge is a hub of welcoming indoor-outdoor living and dining spaces, an outdoor fire pit, and a rather impressive wine cellar.
Naturally, the resident mountain gorillas are the superstars of the show here, but there’s also much ado for befores and afters. A range of activities are on the menu: from yoga and cycling to total pampering in the private massage space of your own suite. Browse a book or a map or use the iMacs or big-screen television in The Conservation Room – a fascinating trove of background about mountain gorillas and their habitat. Just a half an hour from the lodge, we recommend a guided visit to the small village of Gasura to visit crafts-makers and food producers. Also a short drive from the lodge, recently opened Ellen DeGeneres Campus delves into the story of mountain gorilla research and conservation from famed American primatologist and conservationist Dian Fossey’s time to the present day.
All ages are welcome at the lodge, but the minimum age for gorilla trekking is 15 years. Childminding services are readily to hand, and there’s much to be done to keep kids entertained from a cooking camp, to stargazing expeditions, and golden monkey treks for the over-12s.