For the next four days, your home is the warm and welcoming Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Volcanoes National Park in the Virunga Mountains. The name ‘Virunga’ is an English version of the Kinyarwanda word ibirunga, which means ‘volcanoes’. The park was first gazetted in 1925, to protect the gorillas from poachers, and was the first national park to be created in Africa.
Rwandans are generally characterised by their friendly smiles and a can-do attitude. This is reflected at the lodge, where the personal touch is the hallmark of service. Experienced staff may help you with the settings on your camera and point you in the right direction for some excellent shots. The dining is excellent and the stone buildings of the lodge are warm and inviting, with fireplaces for the evenings in the cooler months, as well as en suite bathrooms and sheltered verandas. Curl up with warm drink after a long trek to reminisce about your day, or sip a cool cocktail outside, drinking in the view over the forests and mountains. There is also a library and games room for those relaxed moments in the day.
The main attraction at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is, of course, the gorillas and you are almost guaranteed a sighting. Mountain gorillas are critically endangered, with only a few hundred left. Trekking is strictly controlled; you need a permit and may only spend an hour with the gorillas. It may be the highlight of your stay but there is much more to do. Try a post-trek massage treatment to ease your muscles and prepare you for your next hike – perhaps to see the mischievous golden monkeys in the wild.
There are also treks and hikes to view the volcanoes and their hidden treasures: the Dian Fossey Research Camp, or Mounts Visoke, Muhabura or M'gahinga. Visit Buhanga Sacred Forest, Gishwati Forest or any of the many scenic lakes; you can take a cruise on Lake Bulera. If you are feeling energetic, grab a mountain bike for a fun way to explore the region. But to fully understand the ancient rhythms of the mountain forests, explore the villages and their cultural life. At Iby'iwacu cultural village, talk to ex-poachers have rejected their former way of life.
Discover the traditional house of a local king, watch a medicine man prepare herbal mixtures, try your hand at bow and arrow shooting or listening to the drums of Africa.
And, if you visit in June, witness Kwita Izina, the baby gorilla naming ceremony which takes place every year during the month of June in Rwanda.