Bisate Lodge: Our full report
Bisate Lodge, is a luxury lodge nestled next to the Volcanoes National Park, providing a high-end base to ...... visit the famous mountain gorillas as well as the lesser-known, but very beautiful, golden monkeys.
Bisate Lodge is a lavish sanctuary, with six forest villas in a secluded location, just outside the southern border of Volcanoes National Park. The lodge is close to the town of Musanze, and just a 20-minute drive from the park headquarters, putting Bisate in a great position for trekking access.
As the lodge faces Bisoke Volcano, it offers some remarkable views. Some of the villas also have a view of two other prominent volcanoes, Mikeno and Karisimbi. The lodge itself is actually situated within a very small volcanic cone of its own - which thankfully has been extinct for a long time - the word 'bisate' means 'pieces' in English.
The lodge has been built within a 43-hectare plot of former farmland. The team at Bisate have worked very hard on a reforestation project, involving the removal of invasive species to regenerate the area with indigenous plants. This was in full swing when we stayed in December 2019, and fantastic to see. A tree nursery has also been developed and over 20,000 trees have been planted. Guests are welcome to visit the nursery with the in-house agronomist and learn more about the project.
The reforestation project should, in time, attract several types of small antelope and numerous bird species to the area. There are two short nature trails on the property which guests can walk without a guide. These follow the eroded crater rim and from here it is definitely worth getting up early to watch the sunrise.
The incredibly unique design of the lodge is inspired by the King's Palace in Butare, with beautiful thatched pods that we found reminiscent of the weaver bird nests found beside many Rwandese rivers. Unusually, the thatch is synthetic, using recycled plastic. This is apparently more durable than traditional grass thatch, and also has very good insulating qualities - beneficial at this altitude during the cold winter months. We don't know of another lodge in Africa using synthetic thatch quite like this.
Each of the six forest villas at Bisate Lodge has a small cloakroom in which to leave your boots (inevitably muddy after a morning trekking!), before opening into a spacious lounge and bedroom area. The rooms are very modern in design, and have a large double or twin beds, plus a seating area which can be used as a daybed, and a big fireplace. There is a mini bar and tea/coffee station, a writing desk and a tablet loaded with lodge information, and details on local community projects, the resident gorilla groups; Rwanda in general; the country's history; and bird and local wildlife species checklists.
The spacious en-suite bathrooms each have twin sinks, a shower and a freestanding bath tub, as well as many of the extra little touches you'd expect from such a high-end lodge, including bathrobes, slippers and Africology toiletries. Each villa has an outside balcony seating area. In-room massages can be provided, and may be welcome after trekking!
The main area of Bisate is built in the same thatched style, with three large 'nests', featuring a restaurant on one side, a lounge bar to the other and a reception in the centre. In the reception area guests are able to learn about the lodge's involvement in local projects and initiatives, and also about the local flora and fauna. Here you will also find a small selection of souvenirs and curios for sale, all locally made and sourced.
The restaurant area has an indoor and outdoor seating area. A wine cellar has been built beneath the restaurant, with wine tastings an additional feature of the lodge. There is a library with one of the world’s largest private collections of primate reference books. In the library there is also a television, which is used for showing nature documentaries.
Many of the staff at Bisate are from the local community and have been involved in the lodge since the building process. Over the years, we have found Wilderness to have a strong focus on sustainability and conservation, and this is no different at Bisate. The lodge has been planned to be as sustainable as possible, including the collection of rainwater, which is filtered then used as grey water for toilets and showers. Water for drinking is pumped from the mountain springs, then purified and filtered, with guests offered reusable drinking bottles so as to reduce the wastage of plastic water bottles.
Elsewhere in Africa, Wilderness divides its camps into three broad 'categories': Adventure; Classic and Premier. Bisate is a Premier camp – thus in the most luxurious category – which means that it's aiming to deliver very high standards. (Their other Premier camps include Vumbura Plains, Mombo Camp and Little Kulala.)
Luxurious accommodation aside, the main draw for visitors to Bisate Lodge will undoubtedly be the gorillas that inhabit the neighbouring Volcanoes National Park. Activities from the lodge therefore concentrate on morning treks up the Virunga Mountains, where more than half of the world's population of mountain gorillas live. Guests are able to rent trekking equipment from the lodge should they need it. Your first full day is usually spent with a morning trekking to find the golden monkeys, which helps with acclimatisation, then the next one or two mornings may be spent gorilla trekking. The permit costs are not included in the accommodation rates, so for more information, including details on the costs of the trekking permits, please see our page on gorilla trekking safaris.
Bisate Lodge is an exclusive place to stay in the Volcanoes area. It has been built in an area with beautiful views and is conveniently located to the park's HQ. The engaging and impressive managers are focused on a high level of personalised service. Our high expectations for Bisate have certainly been met, it is clearly one of Rwanda’s top lodges.
- Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
- Ideal length of stay
- We would recommend a stay or three or four nights at Bisate, though this will depend on how many times you wish to trek to see the mountain gorillas.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board
- Food quality
- From our experience, the food at Bisate is of a very high standard, wonderful flavours, a variety choice and well presented.
There are no strict set meal times, and guests are encouraged to be as relaxed as they wish, although meals largely follow the standard 'trekking times' of the Volcanoes area.–
An early continental buffet breakfast, will accommodate trekkers, and packed snacks will be provided for trekking days if guests wish.
If you are not trekking and have time for a more leisurely breakfast you can choose from a selection of hot dishes cooked to order, from the à la carte menu.
Lunch is usually à la carte and is served between midday and 3.00pm, but this will be flexible, again to accommodate trekkers, as the length of treks can vary greatly.
Dinner is a three-course affair and is also chosen from an à la carte menu, with a couple of options for each course. During our stay we enjoyed a blue cheese salad, a delicately flavored pea risotto and bread and butter pudding.
Vegetarian options are readily available, and with advance notice special diets and requests can be catered.
- For a luxurious honeymoon in Rwanda Bisate is fantastic option. Trek the mountain gorillas in the morning then retreat to the privacy of your luxurious forest villas. Indulge in an in room massage and watch the sunset over the volcanoes.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Photography holidays
- Bisate has a scenic setting with wonderful views over Mount Bisoke and the surrounding volcanoes. Small antelopes and numerous species of birds can be seen from the nature trail and the golden evening light can produce wonderful photos.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Cultural experiences
- Bisate works very closely with the local community and complimentary village walks are offered to all guests, this is a good way to get a feel for the rural way of life in Rwanda. Many of the staff come from the local area and Bisate has invested in a number of community projects.
- See ideas for Cultural experiences
- Walking safaris
- Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a must for most visitors, and would be the highlight of a stay at Bisate Lodge. Other primates, such as golden monkeys and colobus monkeys, can also be seen during the walking safaris.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Bisate Lodge has been designed as an excellent base for gorilla trekking, offering its guests an unforgettable experience. There are just six sumptuous forest villas, each with its own viewing deck, fire place and cosy lounge area. A stay here promises the best in pure luxury.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- This is a very smart lodge, with a mature atmosphere, and the focus is on catering to adults.
- Property’s age restrictions
- 12+ on request
- Generally recommended for children
- Bisate has no family rooms, and is clearly aiming for a mature, adult market: there are no concessions at all for children. Because gorilla trekking is only possible for children over the age of 15 years, we’d generally recommend staying here only with children over 15.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Bisate Lodge
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Bisate Lodge have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There’s a generator as back-up.
- WiFi is available in each forest villa, though not in the main area.
There is limited cellphone reception, but a phone is available at reception if guests need it.
Each villa is provided with an iPad, filled with documentaries, extra info on the gorillas, the groups, other wildlife, birds and wildlife species checklists, as well as any additional guest information.
Each villa is also provided with a handheld radio to communicate with management if necessary.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Water for the lodge is pumped from the mountains and filtered on site.
A reverse osmosis filtration & water purification system is in place for drinking water. Rainwater is collected and filtered, then used for the toilets and showers, to conserve the amount of water used at the lodge.
Bisate’s indigenous reforestation project
The team at Bisate are aiming to foster a mutually beneficial partnership with the local Volcanoes community.
As part of this partnership, during construction of the lodge 172 previously abandoned or unused plots of land were purchased from local community members – giving a significant monetary boost to the community in the process. A reforestation project is underway to rejuvenate an initial 42-hectares of this land. 15,000 indigenous species of trees were planted by the Bisate team, in sections of bamboo and forest woodland, to mimic and follow the existing natural vegetation zones. It is hoped that this reforested area will allow for a natural re-colonisation by various bird, insect and mammal species, and the results are already promising - Rwenzori chameleon and admiral butterflies have already been sighted in the forested area, as well as spoor from side-striped jackal and genets.
Eucalyptus trees have been planted, to create a sustainable firewood supply for the lodge. Space has also been set aside for the planting of pyrethrum, a local cash crop used locally to make insecticide, which will help fund the conservation efforts.
This reforested land will add to the existing ‘buffer zone’ between the Volcanoes National Park, where families of mountain gorillas live, and nearby agricultural land. This zone strengthens the protection of the gorillas’ habitat, and enlarges the space that they can use without encroaching on nearby farmland, thus helping to mitigate any conflict between the gorillas and the human population living close to the park.
Guests to the lodge can also contribute directly to the project by taking part in tree-planting during their stay.
See more great sustainability projects in Rwanda
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- We’re promised (and would expect) that a qualified first aider will be on site at all times. A doctor will be available on Skype, and there is a helipad if necessary for medical evacuations.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Guards are on site 24-7 and the lodge has trained up local community members for much of their security work.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in all villas and around camp. All staff have been trained to use them. Carbon monoxide detectors are located in each room that houses a log fire.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Same day laundry service is included.
- A personal safe is provided in each villa.
- Accepted payment on location
- Visa and Mastercard are accepted; Amex is not. Cash payments may be made in US dollars, UK pounds, ZAR, Euro and Rwandan francs.
Other lodges in Volcanoes National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.